Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Year. Interlude: Grand Pocket Orchestra

As is customary, I try not to write about this especially in list context, but have asked Ruan, mogul of Popical Island and drummer in the awesome Squarehead and Tieranniesaur, to do a guest post on the topic instead. Here’s what he came up with.

I find it really hard to write at the best of times, but i was honoured to be asked to write this post and psyched to talk about an amazing album by one of my favourite bands. I failed, it’s proven too hard. At first i thought it’s because of my friendship with the band (one of them is sitting beside me right now, i have my monitor turned towards the wall). But that’d be odd, the music that’s excited me most this year has mostly been made by friends.

So i think that maybe i just listened to it too much, it reminds me of everything. ‘The Ice Cream’ is my 2010. Most of my memories, good and bad, are wrapped up in it. How can i put that into words? Really i just want to thank them so i drew this picture, the band as the Happy Tree Friends, I hope they like it.

And here’s a No Monster Club song.

No Monster Club – Wish Me Well

Steven O’Rourke’s Thesis.

So a gentleman called Steven O’Rourke did a Master’s thesis called Is There A Future In Dancing About Architecture? An examination of the role of the professional music journalist in Ireland in an era of citizen journalism which you can read in summary form or in full in pdf at his website. Nay posted about it today, responding fairly scathingly to it. Along with the two of us, Asleep On The Compost Heap, 2UIBestow and Swear I’m Not Paul were interviewed, plus Nialler9, John Meagher of the Irish Independent, Jim Carroll of the Irish Times and Stuart Clarke of Hot Press.

I encouraged Steven to post the thesis online to stimulate some debate on a piece of work done to academic standards, so at some point I should probably respond at length with my own thoughts on it and my thoughts on what Nay said. But for now, I’ll follow something else she did and post the full transcript of what I said to him here. Fuck how I look.

Sent 2nd July 2010 from Dave Chappelle’s block, Bed-Stuy, New York.

1. What is your opinion on the current state of Irish music journalism and what publications do you read/websites do you visit?

There’s definitely a sense of doom surrounding the whole Irish music press. There’s Hot Press, but I don’t read Hot Press and I don’t think many of the people I hang around with and talk about music with do either, so I’m not sure they’re necessarily credible. Beyond that, a string of magazines (Foggy, Analogue, State) tried to set themselves up as alternatives but ended up going bust or “going online”, which is essentially slang and to a certain degree self-deception for “failed as print magazine, willing to try the next best thing”. That said, I don’t think the absence of a credible sort of press hegemon in Ireland is a bad thing. It’s because we grew up in the NME/Melody Maker/Smash Hits/Q sphere that we believe music journalists are the be all and end all, but they’re not really. America was never as press-led as that, and Ireland doesn’t have to be.

In terms of Irish print publications with music coverage, I write for Totally Dublin and Alternative Ulster, and I read almost anything. The Ticket, Day and Night, Hot Press in scenarios where it’s to be got for free, any of the rotating cast of freesheets that show up in Dublin, student papers, and then the whole gamut of British stuff (Wire, The Guardian, Sunday Times, NME, Plan B [RIP]. Online I read a blogroll worth of Irish music/personal blogs, especially Hardcore For Nerds (http://hardcorefornerds.tumblr.com) and Asleep on The Compost Heap (http://onavery.blogspot.com), and then Vice, Onion AV Club, Pitchfork, Cokemachineglow, State, Drowned In Sound – but not religiously. Dipping in and out, which is the way nowadays.

2. How does it compare with music journalism in this country 10 years ago?

Evidently it’s in a worse position per music journalism, but that doesn’t mean the world’s in a worse state. It’s harder to work as a journalist, and it’s harder to have a magazine. But it’s not the world’s job to support an industry that considers itself particularly important, even if I consider it important too. So I’m not necessarily lamenting the decline.

3. In your opinion, what is most important role of the professional music journalist in Ireland at this time?

Having good and honest ears, basically. There’s nothing particularly white knight-y about being a music journalist, but if you’re not open to everything, honest about it when you hear it (especially if it’s Irish – hello Hot Press and your two extra stars for anything Irish with a bit of promise), and non-jaded enough to want to make other people excited when you get excited, there’s no point. If you do that, you’ll be doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Specifically, I suppose, Jim Carroll gets a lot of people to a lot of gigs. Nialler9 is the kind of guy who can save an Irish band 9 months of small gigs by hyping them up enough right at the start.

4. How does Irish music journalism (both professionally and in terms of blogging) compare – in terms of quality/diversity – with music journalism you’ve experienced in other countries?

It’s worse, and less diverse. We don’t have enough people. It’s not our fault. There are some great writers, and there have been some scattered salad days in terms of print journalism, but we don’t have a critical mass to provide an audience for good music criticism, really. That’s partly why Analogue and Foggy Notions went under I think. They were, to Mr X. who’s into Arcade Fire but also Richard Reed Parry’s side-project or something, clearly more worth reading than Hot Press, but if not enough people think that, it can’t exist. Blogging is much less reliant on having a mass following. It’s more hinged on specific personalities, specific places and specific stuff, so I would say that Irish blogging is about equal to blogging elsehwere, if you compare like with like. I mean, compare Irish blogging with Atlanta blogging or something on a similar scale. I read way more Irish blogs than foreign blogs and that’s not conscious, so we must doing something right.

5. How has the Internet changed music journalism in Ireland?

The biggest change the internet made anywhere was about access. Instead of trusting five magazines, you read ten magazine-style sites and twenty blogs, and pick out what you like. In Ireland, that translates to one or two magazines in the past, but the same amount of magazine-style sites and blogs. And obviously with the advent of music being free whether it likes it or not, the grip that print journalism has on what people listen to is loosened even more. So now the only purpose of music journalism in Ireland is to be good, to be worth reading ahead of the alternatives. Some is, some isn’t.

6. Is its new role generally positive or negative?

Is music journalism’s role positive or negative? It’s positive. The internet’s influence on print journalism has been negative, its influence on music journalism in general has been softly positive, and its influence on music listeners has been strongly positive.

7. Who do you believe has the bigger influence on the music buying/gig going public, professional music journalists or music bloggers (with the exception of Nialler9 – who we’ll come to next)?

This is a difficult question, because the money-spending public aren’t necessarily who bloggers are talking to. Jim Carroll harping about the Hold Steady probably sold a few hundred more copies of that album in Ireland than Patrick Kelleher winning Nialler9’s end of year Irish album poll, but Nialler9’s not necessarily out to break anyone. Neither am I, and neither are most of the bloggers I know. We’re out to let people who are interested know about things we’ve heard and are excited about. It’s about sharing, not imparting. I would say pro journalists still have more influence, but the community that read blogs are a large part of what’s keeping Irish music existing, keeping the scene great and keeping smaller touring bands coming.

8. Taking Nialler9 as an example of someone with a foot in both camps, which of the following scenarios do you believe is most likely to happen in Irish music journalism and why?
a) There will be no requirement for professional music journalists in the future, music bloggers will saturate the market.
b) Professional music journalists will publish more of their material online squeezing music bloggers out of the market.
c) There is a future for both professional music journalists and music bloggers, the status quo will remain.
d) Your own prediction for the future of music journalism, please explain.

There is a future for both, but it’s not status quo. There’ll be pro music journalism as long as there’s an Irish Times or whatever, but it takes nothing to start a blog, and nothing but enthusiasm to keep it going. Blogs will start and end and do what they do in terms of spreading music to each other and to other readers, and music journalists will write and interview with a slightly more structured approach. There’ll be fewer of them than there are now, but they’ll be there.

9. What three reasons do you think people have for visiting a site like Those Geese Were Stupefied instead of going to an print publication like the Irish Times or Hot Press?

No matter what I say here I’m going to sound in love with myself, but I’ll try to be honest.

1. I cover what I consider to be exclusively good Irish music in interviews and stuff. I don’t cover stuff just because it’s Irish, but I cover a lot. A lot of bands would do their first interview, or their first vaguely heavy thinking about themselves on that project on my blog. And I have space to do that whenever I want, with Villagers (who lots of people care about) or Porn on Vinyl (who fewer people care about). Print can’t do that.

2. A writer’s personality I suppose has something to do with it. That’s a lot of why I read other blogs, so maybe that’s why people read mine.

3. It’s free and not many clicks away at any given time, if you’re trying to fill up time while you’re running a bath or something.

That said, I would discourage people from reading Those Geese INSTEAD of print journalism. It’ll still be there when they have recycled their Irish Times.

10. What do you think the future holds for professional music journalists in Ireland and why?

As I said, there’ll be fewer of them than there are now, but presuming Hot Press survives on its large subscriber base, and there are newspapers still around, there’ll be professional music journalists. But print is contracting in general. And the thing is, there is no dividing line between bloggers and professional music journalists. I write for print and occasionally get paid very small sums of money for doing so. I have a friend who was a blogger for a long time and now writes for the NME, Independent, Irish Times and loads of other things. Ireland’s so small that that hybrid caste is probably what’s going to end up doing most of the writing. Bloggers are people willing to write about music at length for no money in their own time. Logical that they’d do it for little money for print in the future as well. Plus a journalism degree doesn’t automatically make you an un-stuffy well-informed music journalist, any more than screen-gazing and making snarky comments on Stereogum posts, so there’s no difference there really.

The Year. 20-16

20. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach [UK]

How many classic albums have a different featured guest on every track? Not a whole lot, but then Music Is Changing, right? And Gorillaz are Not Your Favourite Band. So, with Snoop Dogg, Mark E. Smith, the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music, Lou Reed, Bobby Womack and Mos Def in tow, they have a go at a concept album about indefinitely accumulating rubbish and postmodern artifice being a good thing. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and when you’re Damon Albarn, your friends and peers aren’t necessarily the freshest thing out. But sometimes it does. Though lesser names, relatively speaking, UK MCs Bashy, Kano and the aforementioned orchestra combine to make the best track, White Flag, a tag team rap over SNES beats and Arabic classical music. De La Soul and Gruff Rhys do a decent update of old school hip hop on Superfast Jellyfish, imbued with all the slight plastic discomfort of the whole. Strange stuff for the pop it is, and better for it.
Gorillaz’ incredibly busy-looking website and a BBC session with an XX cover via State.

Gorillaz feat. Bashy, Kano, National Orchestra for Arabic Music – White Flag

19. These New Puritans – Hidden [UK]

As well as witch house, this year had some genuinely, elementally frightening music, made up of war drums, stately woodwinds, deadpan singing and a heap of noise. Hidden plays like a reaction to the tendency to reverb and overdrive last year and this year. Jack Burnett famously once mentioned a pre-Renaissance Florentine poet as an influence during the height of the band’s first sonic iteration, dance-punk. It’s that kind of wanton awkwardness that makes Hidden so interesting. It’s tribal but it’s quantised, it’s orchestral but it’s undersung too. It can be great in a dozen different ways. Orion’s core is church choral music, and it plays like the breeze in a cavernous cathedral with some errant private school kids mumbling and hitting drums in it. We Want War is more like MIA if she knew how to sound like she probably wants to sound, with the distinct feeling that if you were about to lead a horde of lads with spears and shields into a battle, it’d be the song you choose to play loud.
Famed music journalist Paul Morley talks to TNP at the Guardian, and a music video.

These New Puritans – We Want War

18. Liars – Sisterworld [US]

Heady music is great, music you can count beats to or decoct intricate production. But what is also great is when songs and soft and then get very heavy. That’s how Sisterworld starts. It’s visceral, and all those other worlds you use to describe shit when it makes you accidentally punch the wall of your bedroom as you mosh obliviously to it by yourself. But on Scissor and elsewhere, that seminal moment where Thom Yorke decided he was a Liars fan and brought them on tour is becoming a thing. It’s not that they all of a sudden sound like Radiohead, but their experimental urges have rounded out into something coherent and only repellent, when it wants to be repellent, because of the music, not the atmospheric mulch of Drum’s Not Dead. Plus they never forgot how to move you.
Angus having Earl as one of his albums of the year and an interview, both from Pitchfork.

Liars – Scissor


17. Four Tet – There Is Love In You
[UK]

Electronic music’s interesting, cos y’know, it’s a new art form and a set of aesthetic criteria haven’t emerged yet. Or something like that. Kieran Hebden’s everywhere though, remixing, DJing, having chess nights with Dan Snaith, Steve Reid and Burial in my imagination, so he must be countenanced on some terms, and it’s not on him to find them. Four Tet operates on perpetual motion, but its own particular kind. A Four Tet beat is instantly recognisable. There’s something in the drag on the drum hits, or the way busy interacting rhythms can still end up sounding sparse and minimal. Something in the way a guy who used to be in a post-rock band who was tagged as “folktronica” for a decade can end up within the fence of what’s now post-J Dilla instrumental hip hop in America. And sure, he blisses out. I wonder what it looks like naked.
Four Tet’s Soundcloud, full of mixes and remixes, and an interview from the AV Club.

Four Tet – Sing

16. Vampire Weekend – Contra [US]

Having won a ring in their rookie season as far as this blog is concerned, Vampire Weekend released their second album from a position of privilege but also one of pressure. From a totally subjective standpoint, how do you follow up something “clamped to my ears for 12 months”? Well, if the s/t was the sound of white (or sorry, Jewish, Persian, Italian and Ukrainian) boys backpacking through sound, then Contra is just more of that in a different direction. Diplomat’s Son does an African rhythm on programmed bloops with chamber string backing, White Sky stands as a decent shot at the ultimately doomed post-AnCo genre and I Think Ur A Contra, by virtue of its butterfly-wing production and away-better-than-X-Factor vocal performance from Ezra Koenig, turns a bleary-eyed piano ballad into something that sounds like it might crumble to dust if you trod too heavy near it. But at the bottom of all of this is what Vampire Weekend do. Melody.
Explaining how White Sky was written to the Guardian and a BBC radio session version of Cousins that’s good.

Vampire Weekend – Cousins

Them’s The Vagaries

Hey, so I know you were there at home going, “why doesn’t the internet have more of (Ah Here podcast presenter, blogger, tweeter, Newswhip and Awl writer) Seán Mc Tiernan and (guy whose blog I evidently read because I am reading this) Karl McDonald, especially talking to each other.”

Conveniently, we’re now doing a thing called Them’s The Vagaries for new collective blog thing 4FortyFour where we discuss a topic on Gmail chat and then post the transcript. This first one is on the topic of whether people’s personality influences your enjoyment of their music, via Ted Leo, Jogger, Odd Future, Morrissey, Rubberbandits and also Inevitably Via Kanye. You know it’s authentic cos I go to make toast in the middle of it. Check it out if you have a few minutes and want a fairly light read.

BIN MEN THIN MEN LEXICOGRAPHERS

The Year. Interlude: 2010, A Year of Reconciliation

This is a guest post by Quarter Inch Collective mogul and Ginola singer Ian Maleney. As Quarter Inch he’s putting out an excellent-seeming compilation featuring Squarehead, Patrick Kelleher, Cloud Castle Lake, No Monster Club and others covering their favourite song of 2010. Soon. Check it out.

I’m going to warn you: I’ve spent the hours preceding my writing of this here post reading Mark Richardson archives and struggling with a head cold. It may border on the incoherent at times, though that may emphasize the point I’m trying to make. Or not make. Or something. Anyway, I guess what I want to do with this little particle of your time is explore with you the idea I found most interesting in 2k10. Not really sure what that idea is yet, but hopefully that’ll be somewhat clearer by the end.

Mountain Man – Soft Skin

I’m going to start with Mountain Man and their rather special debut album, ‘Made The Harbour’. ‘Made The Harbour’ is a unique bit of work, being just about as bare as it’s really possible for a record to be at this point. It’s three girls in a room, sometimes with a guitar though more often not, singing songs that
(on a strictly musical level) could have been written just about anytime in the last century and a half. There’s a bit more to it than that though. The recording space of an abandoned, century-old ice-cream parlour pervades the record, adding a timeless, isolated air to the whole album. Then there’s songs like ‘How’m I Doin?’ and ‘Sewee Sewee’, that are in essence nothing more than throwaway showcases of startlingly beautiful harmony married to a pair of age-old melodies. All of this might lead you to think that Mountain Man are operating on a different plane to the rest of the world, locating themselves
firmly upon some fog-covered mountain high among the Rockies. Not quite so.

Through their total embrace of the form they work in, this fireside folk music made for dewy nights beneath the stars, they have brought it right up to date. Listen to the lyrics. I mean, really listen. For such a naturalistic album, these are three very worldly girls. Images of farm-girls at harvest time aside,
it’s not often such a wholesome sound is wrought with such youthful passion – ‘We’re so wet and we’re so tight, knead me down into the floor tonight. Can’t you understand I’m trying to be a good woman?’ It’s this odd mix of free-spirited, liberated minds with such a staid and traditional sound that gives the album it’s unique essence. This frank openness, both in intention and execution, allows ‘Made The Harbour’ to sit happily among the best records of the year, tied to them through a bond of subtle confidence in it’s own voice, making no excuses for its shortcomings, its silences or its honesty.

Careful now, we’re about to make a short leap across a musical divide. I’d like to bring in everybody’s favourite electronic boy wonder into the equation. Enter James Blake. In 2010, this young Londoner released some of the most interesting and progressive slices of electronic music to be found anywhere.
What does this have to do with Mountain Man? Well, I see the same combination of past and present in his work as I do in Mountain Man’s, the same ability to utilise the past, thrive in the present and go some way towards defining the future. Blake revels in space, though his is a digitally created one. No
old, creaky buildings here, just reams of cutting edge technology and carefully manipulated reverb algorithms. Where Mountain Man communicate with intensely emotional lyrics and sensuous images (I’m back in Leaving Cert English, help!), Blake subverts language, going for a more abstract, though no less powerful, emotional pull. Blake understands the underlying nature of sound and texture better than most, turning unintelligible vocal samples into heart-rending melodies. Like his peers, Mount Kimbie and Joy Orbison, he has the knack of making the most inherently mechanic and computerized sounds into something that appears human-made.

James Blake – CMYK

Blake also seems to have twigged the necessity for such a form. His future live shows promise a full band, no laptops in sight, bringing the barrier between man and machine ever lower. Blake’s music is the riposte to the likes of Kraftwerk, who envisaged a robotic future and defined popular electronic music for almost forty years. Blake and his ilk are re-imagining that definition, just like Mountain Man, and dragging a traditional form into brave new territories.

So I guess this is what I see in 2010, a year of reconciliation, though one with a distinctly forward trajectory. I don’t mean to imply that all, or even most, of the music of the year fits this bill but there’s enough to make it something of a trend. You need only look at Mount Kimbie, How To Dress Well, Flying Lotus, Baths, Laura Marling or Perfume Genius for further examples. There’s a lot more but
there’s no need to turn this into a list. After a decade where the musical world fragmented and changed beyond belief, our musicians are finding their feet again. They are building on the past, embracing traditions and understanding that everything is open to interpretation. We’ve been released from the
shackles and we’re learning a new way to move.

The Year. 25-21

25. Salem – King Night [US]

At times it feels like Salem exist solely to create disdain. Witch house is a stupid name for a genre, especially one that doesn’t sound like house, rapegaze is even stupider, and its happier older cousin chillwave was pretty much ruined integrity-wise by being named by HRO in the first place. But this is obviously emotionally affecting stuff, textured and – though this has been used as a criticism – eerily dispassionate. You can look at it as deracinated hip hop, and the weird dude rapping occasionally can make that happen, or you can take it alongside the anhedonia of someone like Grouper, pumped with a little more drama and underpinned with basic drum machine beats. Sometimes it whispers, sometimes it roars, but it always does it with a set of dead eyes that do strange things to your stomach. Like a witch, in your house. Or something like that.
The actual Witch House in Salem that I walked past once, and Chris Weingarten’s angry anti-Salem hip hop mixtape.

Salem – King Night

24. Pantha du Prince – Black Noise [D]

This is techno music that seems to move with your mood, to say different things. Or maybe it just alters your mood. But still, it feels mapped to the day, sitting, lying down or walking, it shades in the space behind fleeting thoughts. Techno is something I never got past the hall with, but in this theory, that’s because not all techno’s for everybody. Find the beats that are fit to you, and play them to death. The careful chimes of Abglanz and the busy stasis of Es Schneit are nothing less than hypnotic. And Panda Bear’s appearance on Stick To My Sides? Pretty good too.
Interview with The Quietus and a Pitchfork Guest List

Pantha du Prince – Abglanz

23. Tinchy Stryder – Third Strike [UK]

Hah, only joking.

23. Tinchy Stryer – Third Strike [UK]

Oh no wait, no, I wasn’t joking. Even though Tinchy Stryder is consummate bus-back phone-speaker fodder, there’s an argument to be made for huge-sounding, commercial rap music when it’s good, even if it’s British. And here it is. There’s cautious, considered-sounding music, introspective stuff. And then there’s the other thing. If you’re going to do it, you may as well do it on a grand scale. Third Strike is full of cheesy session vocalist hooks, but it’s also full of a guy with a flow that’s as polished as salad days Jay-Z, over beats that, at their best, snap enough to break necks (Gangsta?), pop with immediacy like the best club tracks (Never Know) or drive worms out of the ground in terror for miles around with their disgusting, distorted sub bass (Game Over). Not grime, but grimy.
The video to Game Over with a billion guests, and his Twitter.

Tinchy Stryder – Gangsta?

22. Domo Genesis – Rolling Papers [US]

Domo Genesis is Odd Future’s weed guy. It’s pretty much as straightforward as that. Tyler and Earl might rap about fucking Goldilocks and masturbating to Asher Roth (for some reason), but this is Domo and his album is called Rolling Papers, because he likes smoking weed. But, contrary to the discourse, OF’s not just about saying weird shit. It’s, and forgive this, a certain swagger. The beats shuffle along reluctantly, dragged out and slow with signature change ups, and Domo just rides that, expressing himself. That’s all he needs to do. On Kickin It, he’s so laid back, the beat’s backwards. On Drunk, he steps out a little and shows something. And when Tyler shows up – first as Wolf Haley on the title track and then as Ace Creator on the ridiculous and brilliant stoner-vs-non-stoner-in-a-shop-queue track Super Market – even better. If it’s not obvious by now, you gotta smoke a bean on this one.
Download literally everything available here and then read Domo talk about cereal.

Domo Genesis feat. Ace Creator – Super Market

21. Male Bonding – Nothing Hurts

The reverb thing is a good way to make overtly poppy punk music seem less cloying, to let obvious melodies have to come up and find you. There are no songs over 2.41 on this, and that’s how it should be. Noise fights with what could sometimes (say Nothing Used To Hurt) could be a Blink 182 album track, but it’s the sense of abandon that makes it so attractive, the slight bump in tempo when any song resolves back to the main riff and the drums go back to smashing cymbals. And then there are the bits that are more obviously indebted to the proto-indie rock canon, back when it was still mail order, zines and taping shit off people who have it. I wasn’t there, but Male Bonding is what I want it to have sounded like in my head.
Interview from The Line of Best Fit and them on p4ktv

Male Bonding – All Things This Way

The Internet Needs More Writing About Kanye #2: TN2

This is the second review I did of this, longer, for the college culture supplement I edit.

Kanye’s had a rough couple of years. Either you know the story or you don’t care, so I’ll skip it. There is only one important story now, and it has nothing to do with Rolling Stone’s confused 5/5 review, Pitchfork’s breathless 10.0 or the Guardian’s strange, condescending 2/5 that showed up at some point during the critical discourse. Kanye West has a new album, and it is fucking amazing.

The first thing that’s striking is the scope. It opens with Nicki Minaj pulling a faux-British accent on a fairytale opening: “Gather round children, zip it, listen.” It’s not the first time Kanye’s crafted a little world in one of his albums, but that was not particularly funny humour, Bernie Mac asking him where his bookbag was on Late Registration. This is earnest stuff. Look at the title of the album. You have two options. You can stick with the Kanye Interrupts guy in your mind and find it funny, further evidence of insanity and hubris. If you do, stop reading, you’re excused. Otherwise, take a deep breath. It’s a journey. Thirty seconds from when Minaj stops, a RZA beat drops and, for the first time in too many years, Kanye the Rapper shows up.

He’s always been in the shadows as an MC, owing partly to his production genius on his and other people’s stuff and partly to the fact that he stands near erstwhile ‘Best Rapper Alive’ Jay-Z a lot, but he’s stepped up his game. And he’s not just rhyming either. He’s Saying Something.
In essence, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is two albums struggling with each other for precedence. The one we meet first is devoted to redressing Kanye’s grievances – the cast of Saturday Night Live can kiss his asshole – and reminding the world that he is an abnormally talented man, capable of making incredible music and trying his hardest to do so. Call this half Power, after the most intense song, that one that commands immediate attention. It’s pure swagger, not the projected braggadocio of a Birdman or even a Jay-Z, but the strut of a man who knows that, regardless of bad PR, he’s on top of his game, and it’s a height rarely hit. By anyone. “I know damn well y’all feelin’ this shit,” he retorts to claims that he’s the “abomination of Obama’s nation.” But don’t forget the hook – “21st century schizoid man.” Well, whatever works, I guess.

It’s mostly like this up until So Appalled, halfway through the 68 minute runtime. Gorgeous in particular seems to wrestle with the ‘bigger’ implications of Kanye’s position. “And what’s a black Beatle anyway, a fucking roach?”” he asks. That’s a pretty loaded question. First, obviously, comparing yourself to the Beatles is pretty much equivalent to the Beatles comparing themselves to Jesus, especially if you’re coming from a ‘rock music’ background, where hip hop seems to exist in a vacuum if at all. Secondly – does Kanye think he’s hated for being black? Maybe. But he’s going to fight the course.

After the huff and puff of the guest-heavy drone So Appalled (easily the worst song on the album, and that is meant as a direct diss to both Swizz Beats and Cyhi the Prince), things change. There’s a slow soul loop and the second half of the album comes into focus with Devil In A New Dress. But it’s the next song that dominates. Runaway.

If you watched the video Kanye released to trail the album, you’ll know this side. It was thirty-five minutes long and featured a phoenix-woman who crashed from space and ended up becoming his girlfriend. That’s her on the cover, I guess. The pinnacle came with Kanye sitting down at a piano in a warehouse during a large dinner party and singing – yes, singing, even though he was Kanye The Rapper twenty-five minutes ago – mournfully over a driven beat.
It’s self-aggrandisement vs. self-doubt. That’s Kanye’s dark fantasy, the conflict between two different people he wants to be. He wants to be the egoist, world-conquering musical genius, sure, and he plays it well. But he also wants to be less of a fuck up. “24-7, 365, pussy stays on my mind/I- I- I- did it. Alright, alright, I admit it,” he equivocates. Sums it up pretty well.

The interesting thing is that if you parse the album into its individual components – songs, loops, verses – you’ll find some flaws. So Appalled, Chris Rock’s weird skit about Kanye teaching his girl tricks, Jay-Z’s let down verse on Monster. You’ll also find some of the best most innovative pop music around today. The rip of All Of The Lights, the weird autotune spiritual hook of Lost In The World, Nicki Minaj’s scene-stealing verse on Monster. But that’s like reading chapters of a book you didn’t start at the beginning. This is a fairytale, remember? Nicki told you. It’s fascinating, huge and almost shockingly good. Millions of people are going to enjoy this, and VH1 are going to do documentaries on it some day. It deserves it.