Yoni & Geti — “Wassup (Uh Huh)”
Every indie geek whose taste has ever skewed eclectic and depressive should consider it a true-blue blessing that Yoni Wolf (WHY?, Clouddead) and David Cohn aka Serengeti transformed their friendship into musical collaboration. True, Serengeti’s 2011 Family & Friends saw Wolf take the production reigns, and his influence could be heard on Serengeti tracks like “Goddamnit” that channel his kitsch-as-loneliness approach. A nagging feeling, however, remained that Serengeti and Wolf still hadn’t truly pushed their collaboration into exciting territory that maximized each wordsmith’s staggering potential.
The time has come. The duo has a match-matchy name (Yoni & Geti), an album title (Testarossa) and a release date (May 6). Over the past few weeks, Yoni & Geti have been slipping out singles one at a time, allowing listeners to guess which part of both artists’ expansive and ever-changing careers Testarossa will approximate. First came “Lunchline,” which seemed to harken back to Family & Friends-era Serengeti, with sweeping synths and lyrics that swab a twee patina on to deep sadness. “Outside, inside, in the lunchline / I see my kids only sometimes,” Serengeti raps over a track that evidences Wolf’s Alopecia-style production.
“Madeline,” the second single fell in line with WHY?’s most recent albums — 2013’s Golden Tickets and 2012’s Mumps, etc. — and grew from Wolf’s comfort zone as of late: a simple arrangement of his nasally vocals over ambling, melancholy keyboards. However, listeners also get to hear Serengeti sing sans sarcasm or gimmick. It’s a revelatory moment; Serengeti’s lower, understated voice fills in provides an earnest somberness that always seemed out of reach for Wolf.
The duo’s third single, “Wassup (Uh Huh)” evidences the most complete synthesis of the two artists’ styles thus far. The track’s repetitive, constant structure draws on many of Serengeti’s rap arrangements, but the bells and acoustic guitar used to construct the beat come straight from the early-WHY? playbook. Like “Lunchline” and “Madeline,” “Wassup (Uh Huh)” is more of a quick taste of what’s to come on Testarossa than a full-fledged demonstration of Yoni or ’Geti’s talent, but if Testarossa is even close to as interesting as the singles indicate, it’s going to be a gem of an album.
Beyoncé — “Hold Up”
About halfway through this track, Beyoncé straight up and outright calls herself the baddest woman in the game. For all the braggadocio that’s been pumped into the rap game for the past, well, it’s entire history, has there ever been an artist of either gender who deserves to claim such a title more than her?
Of course not.
And goddammit, does she deserve it.
What makes that line even more badass is that Queen Bey uses it to position herself as the source of Jay’s philandering power: had he never gotten famous, had he never made the money, had he never had the baddest woman in the game up in his shee-ee-eets, would any other woman have been “down to ride?”
If Beyoncé is to be believed, of course not.
And while all of that, in one way or another, is what this song is about, it’s not all that’s there. What we get is a lot more: namely, a bizarre backstory involving Twitter, Ezra Koenig and Maps, a surprising amount of genre-bending and dynamism for a three-and-a-half minute pop cut, perhaps the only tasteful use of an air horn, like, ever and, probably most importantly in the end, a dry-throated, confessional vituperation equal parts liberated from and trapped inside of the bitter doldrums that are that bottomlessly shitty feeling of getting cheated on.
Brian Eno — “Fickle Sun (iii) I’m Set Free”
Concluding Brian Eno’s recent album The Ship, “Fickle Sun (iii) I’m Set Free” is a beautifully produced cover of the Velvet Underground’s 1969 piece of the same name. Despite its “electronic” classification on Pitchfork, it is a tune that transcends the limits of genre, a feature present in only the most creative and thoughtful pieces of art. In one instant, it is certainly an electronic piece, with synthesizer waves and strings echoing throughout the track and augmenting Eno’s pensive and contented baritone voice. Yet, in the same moment, “I’m Set Free” possesses all of the psychedelic charm that characterizes the Velvet Underground’s 1960s rock tone.
From what exactly is Eno “set free?” The chorus of the piece, resonant and major (and with a brilliant harmony that more closely emulates the sound of Crosby, Stills and Nash than that of Velvet Underground), suggests blissful liberation from a particularly strained relationship. However, the more ambiguous and dissonant harmonies established in the song’s introduction suggest a more existential abolition. Indeed, the lyrics read “I’m set free / I’m set free to find a new illusion.” In writing, Eno has made clear his departure from the notion of reality or apparent truth, and instead believes that “we go from one workable solution to another more workable solution.” Perhaps this includes the abandoning of one relationship for another, but it may also refer to more significant societal divisions, like religious values and political beliefs. Eno’s arrangement of “I’m Set Free” blurs the creative confines of music and similarly encompassing lyrics, those that seek to characterize humanity without regards to its inherent differences.