Saturday, May 22, 2010

My mind? Bent. My ears? Baptized.



It's been many years since I've heard an album that sounded like a place, but Janelle Monae's new album The ArchAndroid sounds like little Five Points in downtown Atlanta, where she now resides.

There is already a tendency for music critics to gush about the dance, R&B and Outkast-y qualities of her full-length debut album (Big Boi appears on the most obvious single, "Tightrope"). But the few times I've been to five points, the lovely people I saw there couldn't possibly be defined by one musical genre. Judging the Monae book by its cover, it's obvious this is a young lady just as likely to jam out to Animal Collective or David Bowie as Puff Daddy or Outkast. Case in point? Members of indie rock grandfathers Of Montreal appear on this album.

Now how to describe the music? The term "genre-bending" held no meaning until The ArchAndroid. My best attempt at explaining the masterpiece would be to call it Outkast in its prime meets Gnarls Barkley with indie rock production. When Monae rocks out, like on my favorite track "Come Alive (War of the Roses)" she does so better than most of the indie rockers that fill my iPod.

Her most accessible songs will probably appear on top 40 radio, and she's bound to get love from blah mainstream media like Rollingstone, MTV, etc. But this is also a sci-fi concept album that would make Bowie disciples intrigued. What's she talking about? Cyber-fairies, robot time travel? "We're dancing in the dungeon every Monday night/ Like a schitzo runnin wild is when I come alive."

There isn't a category of music fan who can't find at least one element of this album that they will absolutely love. This is music for the Lost-age of entertainment. These are songs that make nerdy weirdos feel right at home. Go download it now.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Post-flood

There's a moment at every wake when a buncha old friends are standing around talking. Maybe one of their parents or grandparents is the one who passed away. The grief is so redundant nothing needs to be said, especially among old friends who know better than anybody how badly their buddy is hurting. One question remains: when is it finally appropriate to tell a borderline inappropriate ice-breaking joke?

That is sort of how I've felt the past few weeks since Nashville suffered its worst flooding in recorded history. During the weekend when the rain inundated our city, Ali and I went about our business pretty normally. We went to Target and registered for fetus. We ate out, we made two separate trips to the grocery store. It wasn't until early afternoon on Sunday when we knew something serious was happening.

Since then, life has changed. I've seen things with my own eyes that I'd only ever seen on television. Rubble pulled from ruined houses five minutes from where I live is stacked over my head. Strangers are pitching in, running trash to the front of the house to be picked up by the city. What is trash today was a person's couch, or DVD collection or even family photo album yesterday. I have never had so many strangers cry openly in front of me as I have during interviews I've conducted for the Tennessean in the past two weeks.

If you care to read more about the great Nashville flood, go to www.tennessean.com. There's plenty of coverage there. Me, I'm ready to talk about something else if only as a diversion. So I'm planning to jump back into the same frivolous topics I typically fill this blog with -- Bulls basketball, indie music, movies, etc. Life goes on.