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Published September 3, 2020
Last updated January 3, 2021
PICKS OF THE MONTH
August 2020 Picks
(Fashion line, Fashion collection)
photo of AraPilak's new plainwoven cotton fabric-based Ba'law Clothing line. [Photo from mb.com.ph]
Palawan-based AraPilak launched on Monday the Ba?law (Cuyonon word for awareness) Clothing to promote environmentally-conscious and sustainable fashion to lessen people's carbon footprint. pic.twitter.com/Tx2Qmj6pwo— The Philippine Star (@PhilippineStar) September 1, 2020
The Philippine Star's tweet regarding the newly-launched Ba'law Clothing line. [Embedded tweet won't load? Go to the Twitter post and also read TPS's other tweets about the subject and for quotes from AraPilak here]
Ba'law Clothing line
(Launched 31 August by AraPilak Zero Waste Products Palawan)
UHH, this is the spot where we provide our readers notes about the just-announced picks entry under this number. However, this time we think AraPilak's tweets provide enough notes about this newly-launched line that is the subject of our salute, so let us just invoke the right to give way to the organization's already-pregnant discourse. Discourse, those are, after all, where every line seems to speak the world about us, truth be told.
Embedded throwback Facebook post captioned "One of the best shots of Archie Oclos' mural 'Bakwit'...," about the photo taken by Choie Funk, posted by the Center for Campus Art, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde on Saturday, 22 August 2020
"One of the best shots of Archie Oclos' Bakwit"
(Posted 22 August 2020 by the Center for Campus Art, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde)
SO this throwback Facebook post is about a shot of a mural painting concept the implementation of which was made possible by the Cultural Center of the Philippines' 2018 Thirteen Artists project.
2018, we said. But, somehow, in the last months where we heard the Duterte government's attacks on "oligarchs" (except the oligarchs not-so-well-hidden inside its circle and behind its policies), and then news about attacks on advocates for Lumads, this photo taken by bluprint magazine's Choie Funk, posted just this August 22 by De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde's Center for Campus Art, seems to bring a contextual-significance-for-the-image update to the table.
In this photo there is Archie Oclos' visceral mural painting Bakwit, and then there's the college building with its clean windows and walls, and finally a small representation of the college's not-so-few students looking up from a parking lot below the mural. And then there's the longish caption that talks about this photo being "one of the best shots..."
With the campus's welcome of this Oclos work, given that we didn't hear of any protestation towards that mural's approval in 2018, we would now like to read the photo and post as the ultra-high-tuition-fee-raking college's, and the college's privileged students', continuing embrace of the Lumads' desperate cause to save themselves from harm by military personnel inside their supposed domain, a domain many mining interests (nickel and what-not, Australian or Canadian or Chinese) ostensibly have had for a long time now been keen on (keeping).
If this mural was put up in Oclos' alma mater, the public University of the Philippines, the context would have been different, in spite of that university's own roster of alumni who've been deemed later-corrupted by either corporate or ruling party interests. But this was put up in De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, the students of which college may have parents directly involved in regulation-evasive mining, or at least in some other business that may not have anything to do with "landgrabbing" or mining but may still be similar in essence (you know what we mean, or do we have to spell such Philippine essences out for you?).
The painting is almost a presence solicitous about the creation of, say, Patty Hearsts from the university, Patty Hearsts not for a Symbionese Liberation Army but for something like the Earth Liberation Front perhaps. Or solicitous about maybe the creation of an at least moderate Joma Sison (son of landlords). Otherwise what could be the point of this picture being displayed in this very venue? To provide mere educational illustration that one can spit out from one's senses after graduation on one's way to job-hunting in the lucrative corporate world? Or is it there as just another potential selfie background for a La Salle-St. Benildean's "thoughts and prayers" post?
Or did Oclos and the Center's staff went along with the CCP project fully aware of the tough shot they would be making with that painting's sympathy-seeking mission? Unless they all did this half with their tongues in cheek, all of them cynical, quite like a Banksy in a conservative country feeling he just has to do what one needs to do inside it, his pessimistic fingers crossed.
(Facebook post, Music performance)
Embed of Danny Fabella's new performance of his song "Baliktad na ang Mundo," posted by the singer-songwriter complete with lyrics and chords on Friday, August 21, 2020
Danny Fabella's Facebook post of a home performance of his 2018 song "Baliktad na ang Mundo," complete with lyrics and chords
(Posted on Facebook 21 August 2020 by Danny Fabella)
THAT "perfect" Danny Fabella song aside, as Donald Trump might articulate that track's impact if Trump were a progressive instead of one of today's leading voices of the alt right, this pandemic-lockdown-period Facebook post by the songwriter of a new performance of his song is a timely one. Not just because Fabella's lyrics here has just increased its significance this year among would-be fans of this kind of protest lyrics, but also because it reminds us once again of the kind of democracy we, the Philippines, actually have always had.
It's like this. If Fabella were American, his sort of progressive folk rock would be picked up by an indie label other than DistroKid, and successful indie labels are mostly subcontractors to the major labels in the United States. True, his product would be given a Wall of Sound upgrade (not necessarily involving many instruments) to make it come out like something by, say, the Talking Heads or R.E.M., but that's not necessarily bad, is it?
What we're saying here is . . . that sort of tradition in signing up artists doesn't happen in our archipelago. A major label in the Philippines would sign up a Filipino Bob Dylan only if his protest tracks belong to the ruling party. See? Only protest songs, therefore, protesting the opposition's image (or purported image) would be welcome.
So, why would Philippine record labels be afraid of political songs and politically-inclined songwriters? Or be afraid of manufacturing political songs, other than the single-issue cause-oriented rap ones, of course, that the government can conscript the messages of for its lip service? Now, in the answer to that question lies the synecdochic detail of the kind of fearsome democracy our country has always had, a democracy wherein businesses have always operated under political pressure.
And where does that put songwriters like Fabella? Well, like Trump, people in government would love to label voices like Fabella's as of the "alt left," which would actually be a form of ironic red-tagging. Ironic, we say, since many of these red-taggers have recently been touting themselves as close friends of the ruling faction of Communist China.
Alanis Morissette - "Ablaze." [Uploaded by Alanis Morissette, 5 August 2020]
(click on "CC" icon at bottom of video player to get the song lyrics)
Alanis Morissette - "Sandbox Love." [Lyrics video by Lyric Baby, uploaded 16 August 2020]
"Ablaze" and "Sandbox Love"
(Both songs launched 31 July 2020 by Epiphany Music and Thirty Tigers in North America and by RCA and Sony Music in Europe; music video for "Ablaze" launched 5 August by Alanis Morissette and Epiphany Music)
Finally, in the last four years of both heightened sexism and anti-intellectualism propagated by the pseudo-intellectuals of the global Right, here's a song that takes a jab at this political niche without addressing that part of the world's population that will never listen, choosing instead to sing to the next generation whose future we―of the worried part of the globe's people―must make sure will both be informed with that generation's own rounded knowledge of things and a constant vigilance towards the eternally-emergent threat of lies.
Like all the songs in the newly-released Alanis Morissette pop-rock album Such Pretty Forks in the Road, "Ablaze" has lyrics written by Morissette with music co-written by Michael Farrell. It is a mother's song to Morissette's three children, and it leaves these children with the moral about the power of knowledge, or, rather, with a plea for them to abide by the light of knowledge as the basic tool for attaining happiness. This is a quite moving tune with astute lyrics, timely in this sad period in our global history captained by figures who refuse to acknowledge the virtue of reading (inviting the masses to listen instead to, and believe in, the deceptions and full or half-lies generously broadcast by either these leaders' own shameless voices or their communications machinery) and would ask you to question the veracity of facts as well as historical documents in the most expert evolution of the gaslighting art.
The song's opening lines remind singer-songwriter Morissette's children of the presence of sexist philosophies, telling her boy later in the refrain to "love your hues and your blues in equal measure" and her girls in the second refrain about (we think) that feminist bond between and among women, or between daughters and mothers. Meanwhile, in the song's second verse stanza, Morissette proceeds to also reference the divisions created by religious and political or politico-economic beliefs, singing "Everyone was pitted against each other, conflict ruled the realm / All our devotions and temperaments are pulled from different wells," closing this stanza with an allusion to population genetics and evolutionary biology studies using mitochondrial DNAs.
After the first refrain, Morissette then goes on to paint the fearsome reality or threat of financial problems or even poverty, promptly bleeding these verses into the concept of an eternally-present filial bond, present even after the demise of parents. While a track about eternal family bonds and happiness, "Ablaze" can also be extended to read as a political pop-rock song about the strength of community or an erstwhile oneness that was grossly divided by the strategies of patriarchic internal conquerors for personal or corporate gain. This latter appreciation of the track can't be wrong, especially when you connect the gist of its lyrics to that other song in the album, about the miracle of civil relationships within differences, "Missing the Miracle." . . .
This other song from Such Pretty Forks... might feed listeners the same emotional intensity that they drank from "Ablaze," though its flavor might be more bitter than worried. This song's verses allow you and me to glimpse that struggle in the sex life (within marriage) of a formerly sexually-assaulted woman. Now, the basic use of this theme should qualify the track as a gem from this decade, if only for being rare (one other song on this theme that comes to mind is the Stone Temple Pilots' "Lady Picture Show"). "Sandbox Love" even starts with a general rejection of a sexist male fantasy (the cum shot or the creampie), all in four lines. . . .
There are other gems in this album released as singles before the collection's outing last 31 July. There's "Reasons I Drink" (released 2 December 2019, its music video 27 February 2020), which attempts to provide insight into addictions other than what wars on drugs simplistically offer to our daily simple-headedness. Or "Diagnosis" (released 24 April 2020), another emotional insider glimpse, this time into postpartum depression, although it could, by extension and by some lines' implication, be an elliptical depiction of PTSD suffering as well (this should be helpful in these times when veterans' welfare administrators seem to be not that interested in the subject). Or "Reckoning" (released 9 July 2020), addressed to both the Harvey Weinsteins or Roger Aileses of the world and their victims.
Do give these tracks (or the album) a try, if you haven't yet. The "Ablaze" and "Sandbox Love" embeds above should work as samples of how good the pop rock in those other non-single Morissette works in the collection might be. Consequence of Sound's Laura Dzubay was on point when she wrote, "Such Pretty Forks in the Road does a clearer job than some of its 2000s-era predecessors of not sounding like it?s straining to follow something up or to prove that there are still tricks Morissette can pluck from her sleeves. And it?s this focus that ultimately makes it compelling." (We're glad Dzubay only dissed the 2000s-era collections and didn't include 1998's Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie in that first sentence premise of hers.) Meanwhile, PopMatters' Elisabeth Woronzoff articulates the anatomy of the present album's focus thus: "Such Pretty Forks in the Road urges listeners to accept Morissette for who she is now. She avows her inability to reject the expectations plaguing her, thereby revealing the album's magic."
Speaking of magic, kudos to producers Alex Hope and Catherine Marks for their sonic tastes' own with the piano and the orchestra and the mic reverbs here that made "Ablaze" light up bright and "Sandbox Love" tight.
(Television documentary series episodes)
The official trailer for Connected. [Uploaded by Netflix 21 July 2020]
The "Surveillance," "Poop," "Clouds," and "Nukes" episodes of the documentary TV series Connected: The Hidden Science of Everything
(Launched 2 August 2020 by Netflix)
HOLISM, antireductionism, emergentism, the Gaia hypothesis, organicism, and synergy. Like its late-'70s like-minded predecessor aired on BBC titled Connections (hosted by science historian James Burke), Connected, the Netflix original documentary series launched last 2 August by the OTT media service, can inspire a viewer with a philosophy-interested mind to arrive at any of these abovementioned concepts just after a few minutes of watching.
Presented by science journalist Latif Nasser and co-executive-produced by Nasser along with four others, we could actually talk about the parts of this six-episode whole, starting with the art side of it, like, for example, the work of the six-man cinematography team or the five-man editing team under the supervision of Zero Point Zero Production, to come up with an overall judgment of the work as aesthetic product for a Netflix-attending world. But all the amazing esthetics here is almost already a given in today's updated standards for fine documentary filmmaking, including that ability to illustrate things with graphics computers, so maybe we can just go back to talking about the whole philosophical idea of the series. Then again, maybe the best way to do that is also to go to particulars, focusing on just, say, four of the six episodes from where we can maybe talk about specific cases there necessary for our holiatric conclusions about a real/conceptual "whole."
Now, let us remind you that neither the series nor this episode has been intended to be displayed as film art, and we thought we had to say this (again) in case you've already been asking it: what is this doing in an art magazine's picks-of-the-month list? The answer is simple. It's not so much that this series has been intended or is being presented as art . . . as the fact that everything is art.
So, okay, there's the opening episode, titled "Surveillance." And you might remember that there is, in fact, that thing called surveillance art. Remember Warhol's Outer and Inner Space film? So, . . . any of the instances of surveillance presented in this episode can actually be seen as art, especially as they are being promoted as empirical parts of a philosophical whole, and philosophy has always been a part of art (in case you wondered why, say, Artforum would always treat Slavoj Zizek as one of its beloved figures of focus). So, in the same manner by which we would approach the surveillance art of Hasan Elahi, we can attack the episode's particulars as entries to that same art genre. Incidentally, where, really, would the difference be between that approach to Elahi's art and this episode's approach to surveillance cases? Oh, we know: the episode is loud and intermittently funny, Elahi's presentations relatively quiet in a gallery. But, . . . c'mon, now, is that all you can come up with?
Then there's episode 2, titled "Poop." What we love about this episode is the fact that this could be a vehicle by which all earlier readings of Piero Manzoni's Merda d'artista could be overhauled for a 180-degree recontextualization (suddenly Manzoni's shit becomes autobiographical), the same way that the "Clouds" episode could deepen our love for all those stratocumulus clouds in many a landscape painting that are still around in these days of acid rains.
Finally there's "Nukes," which should from now on have an effect on our appreciation of culinary art pieces that have something to do with hamburger buns containing sesame seeds (the episode uses a sesame seed from a bun to illustrate how small the uranium used for the Little Boy was). But, aside from that, it should educate you amply about finding not-fake art through the use of what's called the bomb pulse with carbon-14. Oh, did we finally get your full attention with that? Go check it out!
So, there you go. What you thought could only be knowledge material for documentary films actually connect to art's existence in our lives and minds. Context is everything in art, after all, and the context of everything changes as our knowledge expands.
the official trailer for Boys State
(Worldwide streaming release: 14 August 2020, Amazon Prime, etc.)
OKAY, so this is a peek into a summer leadership and citizenship program called the American Legion Boys State. Now, before you say anything, there's actually a paralleling leadership program called the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State.
So, okay, in this film you might be seeing quite a bunch of 17-year old conservatives and then a few 17-year old liberals and then some in between, but just remember that simply because one was an Ayn Rand fan when he was 17 (and was probably pretty mean with his being so) doesn't mean that he'd present himself at, say, age 40 as the same or worse sort of animal. This program, organized by the American Legion, would be one of those places where one's young mind would potentially see a pavement towards either radicalization or total conversion. We all learn from each other, after all.
Thanks for this, filmmakers Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss.
the cover art for Imperial Triumphant's new album Alphaville. [Photo grabbed from metalinjection.net]
(Released 31 July 2020, Century Media Records)
AVANT-GARDE metal at its darkest this year from Imperial Triumphant, utilizable as shamans-cum-oracles' theater from this masked band dancing to a vague reality in America's streets replete with gun-toting nationalists. Via seemingly-progressivist lyrical mirrors raised to reflect their country's possibly irreversible dystopian direction, terrifying music arises that combine the bravery of electric-era Miles Davis, the erstwhile deranged novelty of formerly alt-right-leaning Norwegian black metal, and the adventurism of progressive music. Truly, as per Metal Hammer, "(masked) NYC brain-melters Imperial Triumphant (are serving) up metal/jazz/avant garde/barbershop madness on majestic new album Alphaville."
the cover for Oklou's debut mixtape Galore. [Photo grabbed from highclouds.org]
(Released 25 August 2020, True Panther Records)
YOUNG French producer and singer-songwriter Oklou (Marylou Mayniel) contributes an ambient pop mixtape to this list, and it's nothing less than perhaps this year's most serene collection of (not necessarily related) tracks practically dedicated to a sort of representation of female unfettering. What that serenity-agitation combine produces for this record is a rare kind of pop discomposure that should qualify the album as a gem, particularly as it initially flaunts a weakness in "fall" and "unearth me" before it bares a side of femininity that would whisperingly celebrate liberation in "asturias" and taunt someone's emptiness in "rosebud." Enjoy the smooth-rocky ride.
(Released 21 August 2020, Concord)
PITCHFORK: "On (Nubya Garcia's) stunning debut (studio album), the tenor saxophonist and rising member of the London jazz scene meditates on her humble family heritage, the continuum of jazz history, and the power of collective action in our present moment."
The Observer: "The sax star delivers a multi-mood, guest-rich celebration of the music of the African diaspora, from reggae to cumbia."
As for us, let us just say that the fact that Garcia approaches her compositions as cultural pieces is already quite laudable. Oh yes, she'd dismiss your treatment of her jazz oeuvres as mere abstract decors for a restaurant setting, which by the way is our usual common take on jazz sounds. In the album's first track, "Pace," for instance, Garcia already divulges both a love for bopping down the roads of London, which is supposed to be represented by the piece's rhythm, . . . and a suspicion towards the breakneck speed of living that capitalism has been demanding from us, to which the piece acts as a parody soundtrack to. It's a rally piece for and against, then. See what we mean?
(Released 7 August 2020, Carrying Colour)
PITCHFORK: "On Help, his latest album, (Duval Timothy) works with a number of collaborators from the London scene—Mr. Mitch, Vegyn, and Lil Silva to name a few—to create a piece of music that takes equally from modern jazz and UK bass. With their help, Timothy sings the song of a community that he carries within him, voicing their past oppressions even in his most abstract pieces."
(Public interest ad series)
Three video ads from Havas South Africa's agency self-promo public interest digital campaign
Corona Awareness (or Don't Be a #COVIDIOT.)
(Digital video ad series launched August 2020 by Havas South Africa)
NO further comment needed for this public-interest ad campaign and agency self-promoting ad by Havas South Africa. Because if you don't get it, you won't ever get it. Ever.
(Stand-up comedy special)
Beth Stelling: Girl Daddy
(Released 20 August 2020, HBO Max)
GARRETT Martin of Paste: "Beth Stelling’s sets are lean and sharp, even when she’s expounding on a single topic or story for minutes on end. She peppers her observations with pointed one-liners that often twist in unexpected directions, or that quickly reframe a familiar premise in an original and keenly observed new light. How many times have you heard a comedian talk about the differences between how men and women view sex? Yeah, that’s like Stand-up Stereotype #1, something so thoroughly strip-mined by decades of comedians that it almost feels like an act of genius when Stelling is able to put her own personal stamp on it."
(Released 7 August 2020, Nyege Nyege Tapes)
THE Guardian: "(Martin Kanja and Sam Karugu, who form the duo Duma, are) extreme Kenyan metalheads (who) bring doom to the dancefloor. . . . (Duma, their debut album), is an artful blend of punishing industrial techno, programmed drumming and doom-laden distorted guitars; a hybrid acoustic-electronic experience."
Pitchfork: "The Kenyan noise band’s debut is inventive and abrasive, a timely distillation of global chaos and techno-dystopian dread."
Crack: "A singular glimpse into the abyss from one of the world’s most exciting labels."
(Television reality show segments)
Chefs Cook Amazing Food From Imperfect Produce | Top Chef Canada. [Uploaded by Top Chef World, 3 Aug 2020]
These Chefs Fuse Two Food Trends into One Dish | Top Chef Canada. [Uploaded by Top Chef World, 14 Aug 2020]
Two "Quickfire Challenge" segments from Top Chef Canada season 6
(Videos published 3 and 14 Aug 2020 respectively / Insight Productions, Shaw Media, Bravo, NBCUniversal / YouTube)
IN April 2020, a channel called Top Chef World joined YouTube, and thereafter video clips culled from past Top Chef shows were uploaded here. Two of these videos, taken from Top Chef Canada season 6 (2018) caught our attention and became our favorites. The first, titled Chefs Cook Amazing Food From Imperfect Produce | Top Chef Canada, contains the "Quickfire Challenge" segment of episode 2, while the other video, titled These Chefs Fuse Two Food Trends into One Dish | Top Chef Canada, was the Quickfire challenge segment in episode 3.
We salute the message or pragmatism in that first segment's challenge, which is quite obvious.
The anti-nationalist, globalist message being promoted by the second video clip, meanwhile, tugged at our awareness of the zeitgeist, being located in a time where fusion is not as shameful anymore as it was during the Bourdain era, for it has already come to pass that all sorts of cultural purism in the era of Trump have taken on a quite dark context. Thus the celebration of cultural crossroads in many a documentary series like Ugly Delicious.
the official trailer for Immigration Nation
(Streaming release: 3 August 2020, Netflix)
JEVA Lange of The Week: ". . . showing the inhumanity and unconscionable cruelty of [the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agency's tactics."
But finally, after legal threats from ICE, this series by Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz was released on 3 August 2020.
Rotten Tomatoes: "A rare and expansive look into the consequences of unfettered power, Immigration Nation is a powerful, harrowing indictment of the current state of American immigration."
(Television series season)
The official trailer for Good Girls season 3. [Video uploaded 31 January 2020 by Good Girls]
Good Girls season 3
(Series' third season launched 16 February 2020 on NBC, and then with all the episodes together 28 July 2020 on Netflix)
THERE are criminal minds, ones that this series―created by Jenna Bans―would call the real criminals. Then there are the reluctant ones, such as these three, two ordinary housewives and the cashier sister of one of them (respectively played by Christina Hendricks, Retta, and Mae Whitman), all driven by oppressive American circumstances to commit unspeakable acts such as robbing a grocery store (twice), "washing" fake money, even plotting to kill the deplorable Boomer, the cashier sister's boss (played by David Hornsby), who discovered the group's criminal secret and threatened to tell on them. Fortunately, the grocery store they robbed isn't one owned by an innocent Asian-American; though a legit business, it looks to have been put up as a front for a gang's money-laundering strategy. It's a situation that strengthens the women's moral relativist position as the female Robin Hoods for their respective families, given that they didn't victimize their own kind. Fortunately also, it's deplorable Boomer's wife (Allison Tolman) who "accidentally kills him" in season 2, and all the three did was help her dispose of his body―another incident that would free the three from the unavoidable need to commit that most mortal of sins.
In that same season two, the gang leader, Rio (Manny Montana), would lead the three deeper into the world of crime. The group would still be hindered by their old reluctance, mentally at least, but would be spurred on by both the fear of the gang leader's threats and by their real needs in this capitalist world of financial holes that don't seem to want to give the three their final break.
Sure this is comedy, brilliantly shot in the single-camera mode. But it's almost a black comedy. Almost, if only because its arguments are latent. Still, somewhere we should be able to contrast these women's reluctant criminal acts with those by both the "real" mafias and the biggest criminals of the corporate world and government in an American economic and political setup that had been putting the latter criminals nearly free from the urgent prioritizations of the police and the FBI. Or so the series seems to claim, putting big business that prey on the middle class unfettered by prosecution while making sure the underprivileged behave a 100%. That's quite a timely claim, actually, in a rightist period of American history where many American voices are once more fear-mongering about that European S-word, "socialism," while lauding as a hero a tax avoider and confidence man who merely promised to make America "great" again.
This most rightist period in American history would understandably lead a lot of citizens (especially non-whites) into a cynical view of government and to expect others to be just as deeply cynical. Just like in Good Girls season two, where our gang leader would underestimate the virtue of the virtual leader of the three women, Beth (Hendricks), who happens to be blonde and white despite being the non-racist kind. It never occurred to our ruthless crime boss that given the choice between being able to shoot the real criminal who'd been threatening the three and the police officer who'd been hungry to catch the three women, Beth would still opt to shoot him, Rio, even if she had already been led by her marital woes to have sex with him once.
And now, in season three, the struggle to be out of crime once there is no more need for crime continues. And it turns out that the gang leader survived the three bullets from Beth's gun. Added now to the threat of homelessness or losing a family member due to an underprivileged position is the threat of Rio to pay up or see heaven. It never lets up! Things pile up anew to lead the group to further themselves in the criminal path despite the absence of the crime boss's supply. For even before Rio showed up alive, the three had already been ushered by the fates to manufacture their own fake money, which turned out to be better than the gang's product, thanks to pigments from nail polish.
Oh when will the need for this middle class crime end? When the US finally becomes socialist, freed from the greed of untouchable industries, able finally to subsidize such needs as a daughter's kidney transplant? That seems to be the argument. Which is not to condone middle class crime, this being a comedy and set around lucky circumstances victimizing only the victimizers. But as black comedy, America should get the point of the laughs here.
But will America ever get that point? Or has the dumbed-down politics of divided America finally denied it its erstwhile sense of intelligent black humor?
detail of the cover of Tkay Maidza's new EP album Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2. [Photo from diymag.com]
Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2
(Released 7 August 2020, 4AD)
PITCHFORK: "Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2, is an EP/mixtape that feels like a second debut at a moment when the world might be more ready to process an artist with (Adelaide-based Tkay Maidza's) unique combination of ambition, pop aptitude, and quirkiness than it was when she released her actual debut four years ago."
DIY: "Although the second outing carries with it the powerful urgency that current times inspire, it primarily embodies the might of (Zimbabwean-Australian singer and rapper) Tkay’s continued musical self-discovery."
Two materials for the Desinfectante Desy Ultra print ad campaign launched this August in Mexico by Birth Group
Desinfectante Desy Ultra's Virus Transmission print ad campaign
(Launched August 2020 in Mexico by Birth Group)
FOR Desinfectante Desy Ultra, Mexican marketing and strategic publicity agency Birth Group launched this August a print ad campaign. It's a striking campaign about a certain trope that became big this pandemic year.
The campaign has been able to connect the abstract WHO dictate to get people's hands constantly washed or disinfected with a fearsome microscopic view of the virus in question. The usual way to do this is to do two panels, to give you something like a split-screen view. But to accompany the caption "80% of infections are transmitted by hands," Birth Group simply invoked a ready Mexican sensibility for magic realism to come up with visuals like the ones in the pictures above. The pictures reek of both horror and a sense to drive home a not-so-sci-fi-anymore point. Whatchathink, Se?or Gabriel Garcia Marquez?
Sex, Death & the Infinite Void
(Launched 31 July 2020, Roadrunner Records)
IN this sophomore work by the English band, there's bits of Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Queen, Nick Cave, The Cure, Pulp, My Chemical Romance, and others. It's an almost rock-opera of a concept album, departing from the horror punk of the group's debut album to gather the mannerisms of britpop, gothic rock, rock 'n' roll, glam rock, pop punk, and even country music. That wasn't a choice Creeper took to demonstrate versatility alone but to enable the band to present a narrative about the seven deadly sins involving seven families in a small California town.
The album opens with a woman's voice, Patricia Morrison's (of The Sisters of Mercy, The Damned, and The Gun Club) as Annabelle, whose character's voicings would pop out again in the other interludes within the album. In the album's story she marries the villain Buddy.
Ah, yet another European work of art with America as subject, and its rich contexts reverberate in this album in this period of multi-examinations of the tenuousness of America's American-ness. What's painted here is not just a portrait but a mirror picture of consequences.
Down in the Weeds Where the World Once Was
(Released 21 August 2020, Dead Oceans)
GIGWISE: "Oberst returned to his native Omaha in 2016, and once he purchased a new house close to bandmate Mike Mogis’ - with an outbuilding they turned into a studio - a tenth record was always in prospect. . . . (This) is a true Bright Eyes record, complete with everything that entails: Oberst’s sage outlook is one of only a handful of indicators to the passing of time. Much will be made of how spookily prescient it feels lyrically in this pandemic climate, but in truth, catastrophising over the apparent gloom of our collective direction is something that Oberst has been doing since he was a teenager. You could pick up any of his albums and pluck out myriad lines that feel apt in 2020. Down in the Weeds… was always going to be a song worth singing - whether that was as the warning they devised it as, or as the elegy that it’s become."
Uncut: "This fittingly titled opus finds the trio and dozens of guests, including Flea, fearlessly diving into the present and looming possible futures, the opulent orchestrations and chorales rendering Oberst’s tremulous outpouring that much more existentially fraught."
DIY: "At once bleak, grey and obsessed with morbidity, and lush, blooming and gorgeous, it’s great to have them back."
(Music composition, Music album, Music video)
the Microphones - Microphones in 2020
(Premiered on YouTube 6 August 2020)
ABOUT the 7 August-released new album by Olympia, Washington-based the Microphones titled Microphones in 2020, Crack Magazine's Emma Garland put her approach to the work this way: "Trundling through an expansive but fraught landscape, the narration is preoccupied with minutiae because the true meaning is so large, so fundamental, it’s best stirred up through feeling rather than explained."
As for the short film uploaded to YouTube on 6 August to sort of act as the one-song album's lyric video cum music video, Phil Elverum described it as "a slideshow, a PowerPoint presentation, a flip book and a documentary." Consisting of more than 800 printed photographs taken by Elverum himself, they may be read as synched to the lyrics (which come in seven or so minutes later) to act either as a program-music motive's enhancers or as contextual antagonists.
Steve King in The Philadelphia Inquirer compared the song to a good memoir as "it’s intensely personal while glimpsing universal truths (and avoiding solipsism)." The work does remind us of Manobo chants that would narrate similarly lengthily such mundane stories as one about an inter-tribe game. So here's a work that opens itself to philosophical questions, but without asking for them.
Text (c) copyright 2020 diskurso art magazine