Yeah, what up, Detroit? Unlike like last month, I was a powerhouse of words this December. Ideas popped into my mind like gumdrops, with articles like “How I Relate To Biggie Smalls As A White Girl” and “Why Sexualizing Classical Music Is A Great Idea” leaking out. Finals exams only slightly kicked my ass, although I got my first B ever in managerial accounting. It stung, but in the Grand Scheme of Life, it doesn’t matter. Finals are over. My sister is getting married. And Indian cousins with British accents are the cutest creatures ever. Compared to the rest of the semester, I’m not an out-of-tune piano anymore; my sound has returned and it’s melodizing Mozart, Tame Impala, and The Strokes.
Portlandian graphic design is my newest fixation (@ChrisBigalke), especially when infused with pop art and alternative rock. I also spent $17 (ridiculous!) to see Frida Kahlo at the Dali, the newest exhibition at my seaside museum. Frida will forever be my #1 bitch with her audacious lips, unibrow, and swanky clothing that suited her so well.
- Orange Tea Spill, Chris Bigalke, 2015
I impulse bought this canvas at 1:11 a.m. one bleary-eyed, smeared-zit-cream night. The unsettling images combined with the Andy Warhol pop was even more attractive at 20% off (+ free shipping). The cat clock is murderous, the checkered cloth is more disintegrating than domestic, and the guitar is lonely against a mauve cage. It’s playful vintage clashing with a disturbing MGMT music video. This work was a rejected concert poster for Wilco’s London and Manchester shows—Wilco is a band that I listen to in intense phases (all or nothing). This canvas revitalized my interest in their folksy sound and senior year shenanigans. It’s incredible how one line of bass guitar and drum is a watercolor of memories, an instant time machine that is real only in one’s mind. Bigalke moved to Portland 10 years ago and created Showdeer, his own graphic design company specializing in music posters. He also books shows for concert venues (i.e. Doug Fir)—the ultimate hipster’s dream. Read my article on him here.
- Frida Kahlo Rocking Daft Punk, Fabian Ciraolo, 2012
This is a kitschy redesign of a Mexican legend, but I adore the overused subject matter. It’s the 21st century Frida, one that was never crippled by a train or cheated on by a muralist man-slut. It’s Frida at the apex of modernism and EDM chic. Her lipstick, teenybop tattoos, and hint of belly create a badass feminist with great music taste. I only know Get Lucky, but I’m positive an American Frida in another era would’ve embraced Daft Punk’s digital persona. I can’t wait to recreate this recreated illustration—I have a Daft Punk shirt, bushy eyebrows, and fuchsia lip stain that only gets worn to clubs. Frida is an icon that transcended the unibrow and lived a true life of grit and pain. I don’t like her artwork; it’s her personal life and trials I find fascinating. The Frida exhibition at the Dali was alright, but I preferred the humble Harn collection better (more photographs, less oils). Read my Frida Kahlo essay here.
- 5, 1948, Jackson Pollock
I’m a messy person with hyperorganized writing goals, so Jackson and I would get along. His canvases seem chaotic, but every strand of paint—every acrylic fling—is precise and exactly where Jackson wanted it to live. There’s no figures or landscapes, but the soup of colors is calming. It’s so disorganized that I accept the disorder and then revel in it (i.e. final exams). Pollock was an American abstract expressionist of the 1940s. As a pioneer of this radical style, he redefined what painting—and the role of art—was. The oil on fiberboard was controversial, especially when skeptics said “You spent money on that?” (Ted Dragon). I didn’t find any revelation or moral truth hidden in the 8×4 ft artwork; I found art history lectures, stressful hours of midnight deadlines, and a visual pleasure similar to a Rothko or Newman.
- Currents, Robert Beatty, 2015
I’m in a deep throated Tame Impala phase, but you plebeians already knew that. As the album art for the 2015 masterpiece, it’s the visual counterpart for the auditory psychedelia. Staring at the divots and rivets too long makes squiggling stars out of an inanimate picture. The image sounds like Yes, I’m Changing and The Less I Know The Better and feels like skating across tightened bass strings. Beatty is “an artist and musician based in Lexington, Kentucky, USA.” Sounds like a cool bloke to me. His other works are trippy and/or existential, but the alien and abnormal are fitting for this era. He also created similar cover art for Disciples (a quick two minutes of skater riffs) and Eventually.
- Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia
Hamilton Morris: he’s got lab coat swagger and eyes as oversized as his drug ambitions. This VICE series dabbles in the illegal and insane, although it’s more educational than any weedout chemistry class. He explores exotic hallucinogens from South African Quaaludes to Mexican Psilocybin. And he even interviewed Alexander (Sasha) Shulgin, the bearded father of MDMA. Rather than hushing up drugs, he reveals their chemistry and distribution with fancy diagrams/objectivity. He’s in an intense love affair with hallucinogens. My favorite episode was The Lazy Lizard School of Hedonism—besides having a Johnny Cash-like theme song*, it revealed the controversial history behind synthetic LSD. Yes, these chemists were bell-bottomed hippies, but besides indulgence, their aim was scientific discovery. Stretching consciousness and cognition to the outskirts of sanity; it’s admirable, really, considering how terrifying madness is. Also, Hamilton started writing for VICE as a sophomore in university…he is trippy career goals. And his glasses are cute.
i.e. *This is the story of Darrell Lemaire
A Chemist risking freedom
For the keys to the mind
Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino is nearly as cool as Morgan Freeman. A groove funk saint, he can rap and spit witty one-liners on his FX show. As young father and millionaire-hopeful Earnest Marks, he becomes the manager for Paper Boi—a startup ATL rapper with a whiny personality. He’s also Marks’ cousin, his chubby cheeks and thug voice defining the first episodes. I’m only halfway through the show, but It. Is. Hilarious. Combining real LOL laughter with social commentary, it’s a tale of ghetto violence and the struggle to “make it.” I don’t relate to the characters, but the humor transcends race and journalist hubbub. I interned in Atlanta this summer (and I’ll be returning for Summer 2017!), so every drop of “MARTA,” “Decatur,” and “Buckhead” makes me feel privy. Also, Donald Glover was cast as young Lando for the next Star Wars spinoff—I CANNOT WAIT. His slip-in humor with casual sleekness will create the perfect ex-smuggler. Read an article about Atlanta on VICE here.
- Mind Mischief
Having an affair with a professor or TA has been a downlow ambition of mine for a while. It’s spicy and unexpected, two adjectives that should characterize every 20 year olds life. This golden gap of peak attractiveness, spontaneity, and freedom only lasts for so long. This five-minute video channels a Lolita vibe but in a more consensual and sensual way. It’s the classic hottie teacher hookup with a chiseled-jaw prep brat (argyle sweater and all). It flips to an 80s-style animation as the shirts unbutton and lipstick bleeds—demonic femme fatales and bulbous cartoons fly across a Star Wars galaxy. The spasms of color dizzy me, but Tame Impala’s spaced-out voice is worth it. The animations fade to reality as the teacher’s car drives away, her teenage lover breathless on the wet ground.
- Yes I’m Changing, Tame Impala, 2015
Thank goodness December was the month of decompression. Once again, Tame Impala serenaded my noontime breakfasts and late nights at the computer. Also on the Currents album, this 4 minute track of synth, chill, and mind tricks is like a Coming of Age film for music. I love these lines:
“Yes I’m changing, can’t stop it now
And even if I wanted I wouldn’t know how
Another version of myself I think I’ve found
I feel older, mentally and physically. Even if I wanted to unwind the clock to 18, I couldn’t. Too much experience has dogged my mind, leaving it smarter, jaded, and clearer. Tame Impala appeared at the perfect time, just when I needed their Australian lyrics the most. *Fun Fact: On the way to his last astronomy exam, Kevin Parker got a call from Modular Recordings—he ditched the exam and went home to make music.*
- Barely Legal, The Strokes, 2001
By definition, this tune is me; I’m 19 and unable to drink, rent a car, or pay for anything except takeout food. I discovered The Strokes this month and played Is This It (their first album in 2001) on repeat during finals. Each song was a mind-numbing croon of breakups, teenage nostalgia, and apathy. I like thin male voices (i.e. John Lennon, Kevin Parker, etc.), so headman Julian Casablancas is playlist perfection. Barely Legal lyrics are disjointed and angsty, but I love this line:
It all works somehow in the end
The things we did, the things you hide
And for the record, it’s between you and I”
I don’t know how this relates to me, but it’s got the smell of college drama. It’s being in love with and simultaneously disillusioned with people; satisfied with everything but nothing. Other stellar Strokes songs include Someday, Last Nite and Threat of Joy (newly released in June).
- Black Hole Sun, Ramin Djawadi, 2016
HBO original series are the epicenter of gore, high quality, and intrigue—Westworld included. This show premiered in October and is a sick re-imagination of a cheesy Western. I’ve loved Sci Fi since Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, so the animated humans, underlying “maze,” and meta drama are binge-worthy. Recurring piano melodies are weaved throughout the hour-long episodes—the right dose of creepy and artistic. I’m currently on episode 9 of this violent saga; it’s difficult to unglue my gaze at 2 a.m. when the characters, plotline, and moral questions are so convincing. The show revolves around a “theme park” populated with robot-like humans (hosts). “Guests” can interact with these pseudohumans, although most patrons go to fuck or kill. It’s only when the hosts start to remember—and rebel—against their creators that plotlines get messy. Westworld isn’t another Game of Thrones, but it’s better than 99% of garbage television shows; watch the trailer here. Ramin Djawadi is the HBO music mastermind, and this pithy piano piece is no exception. Like breaking glass, this work is lacey, unsettling, and beautiful—it reminds me of marionette strings, which is fitting given the host/creator dynamic.