It has been a year that repeatedly thrust people into mourning with the passing of music’s most influential figures such as David Bowie, Prince, Lemmy and Leonard Cohen. Once these artists made their unexpected departures, the collective feeling of loss for these innovators seemed palpable; perhaps some people felt that their appreciation could have been greater while they were still alive and making music. How is it, then, during a time so unforgiving and unsettling that people can be so relentless to a living artist facing personal turmoil, someone who can be strengthened and brought back to life by the same compassion and appreciation given so freely to the dead. We make demi-gods of the deceased and vilify those drowning in personal struggles at their lowest ebb.
Earlier this week Kanye West was admitted to hospital following a breakdown induced by severe depression, paranoia and stress. While there were people extending their support for the rapper via social media, the mockery and criticism of his mental health outweighed the positivity. Accusations were made of his mental health being a publicity stunt, derogatory comments were shared to apparently validate his madness from his lifestyle choices to his constant reworking of The Life of Pablo. Interviewed this week, Kate Bush claimed that rarely are artists completely satisfied with what they create. This could not be more relevant to the ethic of Kanye West, which has inevitably taken its toll on him. Working towards perfection and across mediums like fashion and music can be thankless and tiresome. In recent years, it has been easy for the media and internet trolls to create a demonic egotistical caricature out of Kanye West. Yes, he has likened the quality of his creative language to the levels of the greatest innovators (Einstein, Disney, Bill Gates) which has aligned him to the highest form of arrogance in the opinions of many. However, self-deprecation stunts positive creativity and nowadays people are often insincere with their disbelief in themselves – especially those that put their work out openly for public consumption. You have to question the motives and the egos behind those people instead of ones who endorse their own talents. I am not saying that we shouldn’t be humble and modest because they are rare and endearing qualities, but equally, is it not admirable for a person to be confident and proud of their work? To not need the constant confirmation of everyone around them to feel fulfilled?
If you take time to actually listen to Kanye West’s lyrics or read his tweets you will get to know a man who is intelligent and insightful with incredible self-belief, an admirably supportive and loving family man, a perpetually passionate and prolific artist. And yet, he is an immensely misunderstood human. It is a shame that our society is so quick to condemn and criticise those that are trying to be better and different, to make memorable art and to resonate with people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures. It feels like we’re witnessing the death of humanity along with the original pioneers of creating music and personas. One of my favourite Kanye West tweets of wisdom is, “We will find freedom in truth as opposed to ridicule.” Get well soon, Kanye.
Kate Bush – ‘And Dream of Sheep’
Kate Bush is one of the greatest enigmas with her ability to write songs with such eloquent ease. This is someone who wrote one of the most iconic songs of all time, ‘Wuthering Heights’, based upon the equally familiar love story of Heathcliff and Cathy at the age of seventeen without reading the book. This sense of instinct in how Bush captured that story and translated it to song through her own interpretation is what has made her so beloved amongst her fans and critics. She has a very definite vision of how she wants to articulate her ideas creatively and it always works because Bush is completely committed to her craft. An example of how this passion has remained with the singer comes from her latest music video, ‘And Dream of Sheep’ which sees Bush lost at sea and singing the song live. Whilst filming the video Bush developed a very mild bout of hypothermia because she remained in the water for such a long period of time. The discomfort of this adds to the realism of the premise of the video, again making it her art look and feel so natural.
Cass McCombs – ‘Run Sister Run’ (Anti-Records)
I listened to Cass McComb’s most recent and ninth studio album, Mangy Love almost exclusively over the last few days. This was my introduction to Cass McCombs, a delayed one that I always knew would happen but I kept prolonging as McCombs would regularly appear when I mooched through the related artists sections on Spotify. When I read that he had toured with Ariel Pink, The Walkmen, Arcade Fire and Meat Puppets (amongst many others), I decided it was finally time to explore a new musical avenue. What I really liked about Mangy Love was how unassuming but incredibly accomplished the compositions are throughout the album, there’s so much diversity and unity in the arrangements which means you can be presented with a six minute long song, such as ‘Run Sister Run’, and not feel that it is laborious. The video features a girl running, in a pair of enviably comfortable slippers, to visit a grave to remember missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
OK Go – ‘The One Moment’ (Universal)
OK Go are not always celebrated for their music, instead garnering a lot of praise and intrigue for their experimental music videos. Whether they’re flitting between treadmills or wearing bright Crayola inspired outfits, OK Go are capable of creating very striking and viral-ready visuals. Their latest video, ‘The One Moment’ begins with an onslaught of colourful destruction lasting a mere 4.2 seconds. These actions are slowed down so that you can see in glorious detail balloons bursting, guitars exploding and colour dispersing everywhere. Fair play, lads.
Big Thief – ‘Humans’ (Saddle Creek)
Big Thief are a Brooklyn based quartet that released their debut album, Masterpiece at the beginning of the summer through Saddle Creek. Their songs are swayed by the lazed Brooklyn indie guitar band sound, the ultimate Sunday morning brunch music. The video for ‘Humans’ is a near four minute long compilation of moments from their tour of this year as well as scenes of the band putting the finishing touches on their album. Again, it’s all very Sunday friendly.