Ke$ha – Warrior

With 20+ writers and a full dozen producers, I feel it’s hard to call “Warrior” Kesha Rose Sebert’s album by any stretch of the imagination. You could say that its her voice on the album, but with the heavy use of auto-tune, you can’t even credit that robotic squeal of a voice as hers. This is yet another formulaic money-making Frankenstein monster. It is a perfect picture of everything that is destroying integrity and artistry in the musical world. It is the ultimate picture of music as industry and not as art. But, philosophical ranting aside, Does it suck?

Let me say this first and foremost: I am not going to be having the same kind of song by song breakdown of this album. I would have to participate in some sort of ritual bleeding to cleanse myself if I did that. Instead, I am going to break this album down into three simple sections: The Music, The Lyrics, and The Past.

The Music

I will say, if you could isolate the music of this album, it would be, for the most part, an enjoyable electronic dance album. There were a few parts that the Music Business Conglomerate really made me stop and go, Huh…that didn’t completely suck. There is a breakdown in the title track “Warrior” that was particularly fun. Unique? Not at all. But fun? Yeah. There is also a particularly fun vocoder solo during the bridge of “Thinking of You” which builds to a predictable but fun reprise of the chorus. Not to say the music is all fun. There are still songs like “Crazy Kids” which as unbelievably bad verse track and the completely overused whistle over acoustic guitar pre-chorus. I wonder if they took the whistle track straight from Moves Like Jagger. Like any pop album I have listened to in the past five years (with the exception of Mama Monster, of course) the music starts to wear on you. By the time you hit the end of the album, you are so worn out by tired and overused cliché chords, forms, and breakdowns that you just want it to end.

The Lyrics

I really thought this album was going to show a maturing in the lyrical quality of the many people who write Ke$has lyrics. The first song almost had me tricked. It was no deeply written sonnet or heartstring plucking ballad, but it showed some level of promise. It was about more than just partying and being sleazy. It was about fighting for what is right and standing up. I have always said that one of the things that puts Lady Gaga on a different level than most pop artists is that her lyrics work on a lot of levels. They tend to support more than just partying and being generally whorish. This was what always kept me from being able to listen to more than four minutes or so of Ke$ha in a given month. Her lyrics were always so stupid. Not to mention her voice is annoying, her music is atrocious and she is one of many symbols of the death of art in the eyes of most of America, but I digress. All I mean to say is I thought there might be some growth in the lyrics on this album. Then the second song started and this line was uttered.

“That magic in your pants is making me blush.”

From that point on, the album just continued to prove to me that there is no growth or maturity for Ke$ha. Only magical penises, shots, and young hunks.

The Past

I can’t help but try to compare this to Ke$has previous work, in hopes of finding some level of redeeming quality. Once again, the album started strong (relatively). Warrior showed a strong electronic track, mildly meaningful lyrics and the possibility that we might find maturity on this album. But that is the one and only time on the entire album that you will find that. As it progresses you find the same tired and worn tricks that Ke$ha used on her last album and a half. You could practically play many her classics right over the top of this album and it would fit perfectly. Both “C’mon” and “Thinking of You” sound very similar to “Tik Tok”. The “newer” songs are not good. Iggy Pop’s feature is disgraceful in all forms of the word. Wonderland is what I can assume to be Ke$has attempt to be more like Taylor Swift (I cant say for sure because I don’t listen to Taylor Swift because it’s against my religion). And honestly, by that point, I gave up. Maybe the last few songs are a mini-epic with deep thematic material that works on multiple levels, but I think I can say with some assurance, that this is not going to be the case.

DOES IT SUCK? >_>     yeah. It sucks. It is slightly less sucky than her previous work. It is slightly less sucky than the other suckfilled garbage in the pop world, but not by much. It still sucks hardcore. Take my advice, don’t bother.

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Lowercase Noises – Passage

I first found Lowercase Noises from a bandcamp search for the word ambient. I had just started listening to artists like Chihei Hatakeyama and Loscil and was falling in love with the simple beauty of ambient music. It had more emotion than the Brian Eno and Phillip Glass that I had previously associated with the word and was simpler and quieter than the post rock greats that I listened to. In browsing the large collection of ambient artists on bandcamp, I was drawn to Lowercase Noises because of the album art. It presented a pregnant woman with the name “Marshall” written on her belly and a heart. My wife was pregnant with my son, Mark at the time, so this intrigued me. As I went on to read that this album was inspired by his son, I immediately downloaded it. I loved it. It was simply gorgeous. Ever since that day I have kept my eye on Andy Othling and his music, Lowercase Noises. Tonight, as I checked my email one last time before drifting off to sleep, I noticed an email sent to me from Lowercase Noises announcing the availability of his new EP, Passage. Normally, I would put down my phone, go to sleep, and likely lose the email in a stream of Facebook updates and garbage. But, tonight something compelled me to get up, go up to my office, and check it out. I am very, very happy I did. This album moved me in such a way that instead of leaving the link open for the morning, I am now still awake, listening to Passage on repeat, writing this: my first review.

As the first song, Prevailing Winds starts, I am immediately drawn in. I expected slow building guitar swells, but I am unexpectedly and warmly greeted by banjo, harmonium, and Anathallo-eque drum clicks and hits. Cymbal swells and arpeggiated banjo leads you through the first section of the song, as haunting guitar swells build until it drops into an interlude of guitar and bells. The bells are greeted by the returning banjo. This simple and stunning section could well be an ambient track of its own, and as a listener to ambient music, I expected the song to trail off and end with that. But, to my surprise it the song comes back full force with marching drums and harmonium. This song alone made my night. Expertly crafted, from the composition to the engineering.  Songs like Roaring Forties and Passage evoked deep emotions akin to the feeling I had first listening to Sigur Ros’ “Valtari” or anything by Hammock. The brilliant mixture of effects, ambient electronics and natural instruments resonated deep within the musician in me. Beauty Into Wreck, the fourth and penultimate track on the EP is possibly the most beautiful song I have heard since “Untitled 3” off of ( ) by Sigur Ros (One of my all time favorite songs). The floating ambiance,  the cries of the guitar. The way it feels like time just ebbs and flows. The subtle and profound chord changes pull you through as you become more enraptured in the swirls of Tenori-like beeps and blips. The moment you get lost in the lush atmosphere created, the deep chords come back and pull you forward. Such profound simplicity that captures you and takes you to a moment of perfect clarity is something much of modern music needs to take from profoundly talented artists like Lowercase Noises. The final track, “A Gold Earring” starts much like the last with slowly building atmosphere and ambient glory. I expected something very similar to the last track, but Andy keeps me on my toes by bringing back the banjo and incorporating claps and percussion. It continues to build, slowly never reaching the rushing climax you expect it to, which only adds to the beauty. I always say the one thing a band can do better than a dramatic build from a quiet moment to a full fortissimo is a dynamic build that never breaks mezzo-forte. Like the end of “What Sarah Said” by Death Cab for Cutie, this song never loses steam, but never needs to bash you over the head with a soaring pinnacle of sound. It is in the subtly that I find a deep artistry, and something that inspires me as a musician to remember: Less is More.

This album was more than just good music to me, it was a profoundly impacting experience. It resonated and inspired me as a musician. It was a powerfully good experience that I am very happy to have spent the last hour listening to. On his bandcamp, the notes simply read: This album is about transition. I eagerly await the future of Lowercase Noises as he transitions into something I know is going to continue to impress and amaze me.

DOES IT SUCK? Absolutely not. This EP has not only disrupted my best albums of the year list, but it has me breaking my rule that EPs do not go on the list. It’s that good. Take the time, download this album and listen. Don’t just play it in the background, listen. Turn off everything else you are doing and allow the music to take you where you need to go. It’s worth it.