“Am I good enough?” There’s a part in Martin Scorsese’s short film Life Lessons, when Rosanna Arquette’s character (a young painter, struggling to establish her career in New York) asks Nick Nolte (a revered artist who is obsessed with Arquette’s character) if he thinks whether or not she is any good at painting and if he thinks she will be any good in the future. He doesn’t give her an answer, and the effect is crippling to her self-worth and confidence. In the film, Nolte’s character is consistently creating work for a solo exhibition of his paintings, the expulsion of his creativity is a key visual retreat throughout. However, we are never shown Arquette painting or creating art in the film. You can’t help but correlate the lack of her being seen working with the lack of worth she sees in herself and her abilities.
This question of doubt is one of the most instinctive and inherent tools within us that internally beats you into a state of paralysis; personally, professionally and creatively. It’s a frustrating catch 22 because if you are passionate about something — writing, music or cooking — self-doubt can come out of hibernation at the most inopportune times. Mostly, when you sit down to a blank page. What if I make a mess? Why can’t I think of an idea that’s good. Why can’t I be good like the people I admire that seem to effortlessly make music, write a poem, bake a soufflé or fill a canvas with so much life that it dances in the room? These are thoughts that can stop you from even trying, which deepens the doubt because the individuality in your expression is not allowed to be practiced. It’s a viciously regressive spiral that you can come out of so easily by just making that initial mess on the page.
Kool A.D. is a really good example of someone who commits themselves to write with abandon and with no cares about consequence. He has been prolifically writing and releasing mixtapes and albums at an astonishing pace this year alone because it’s clearly an impulsive need to articulate the ideas, colours and visuals in his head and subsequently share them. You need to get out of your head so that you can creatively articulate what’s in your head. If you constantly prevent yourself from doing then how will you ever be able judge whether you are, in fact, good? Think of all the amazing songs, books, paintings, movies and music videos that wouldn’t exist if we all gave into that niggling voice in our heads. While it’s nice to hear from people around you that they think you’re good enough, that validation can be easily forgotten or even meaningless unless you fully believe it in yourself. Other people won’t always be there in that moment when you’re at the page, only you. I often think about a line in Peter Pan, which J.M. Barrie wrote, “The moment you you doubt you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
KOOL A.D. Feat. Toro Y Moi – ‘Visualize’
It has only been a little over a month since Kool A.D. released Peyote Karaoke, a hundred song mixtape and his seventh offering in 2016. This week, the Californian rapper and visual artist unveiled yet another album entitled Have a Nice Dream. The announcement of more new material was enhanced with a video for ‘Visualize’, featuring Victor Vazquez’s most recent collaborator, Toro Y Moi. The video is incredibly captivating with its overall aesthetic (really beautiful psychedelic combination of hues, distorted glitches which add an extra dimension to the rhythm) and the use of vintage and contemporary scenes of traditional native dancing. It makes you aware of indigenous rituals that have survived by the presence of music and how it has been used as a medium to gather groups together. While you may think of rituals mostly in that way, it cannot be ignored that clearly making music in the prolific and constant way that Kool A.D. has been, particularly in these past eleven months, illuminates a sort of ritual for the artist. Also, fantastic use of the Michael Jordan crying face in the video. Everything about ‘Visualize’ has, for me, earned the title of Video of the Year.
Martin Courtney – ‘Asleep’ (Domino)
The pathway of Real Estate’s future has reached a crossroads that is as colourfully bright as the yellow brick road. Despite losing Matt Mondanile earlier this year to concentrate on his band, Ducktails, and frontman Martin Courtney taking time out to write and record a solo album, Many Moons which came out last year, Real Estate are simultaneously on hiatus and working on new material for their forthcoming fifth album to follow 2014’s Atlas. However, it may take a while for that to reach your ears as Courtney is currently touring his solo work which he is promoting with his latest video for ‘Asleep’, animated by Evan Cohen. The solid colours and crude lines are reminiscent of the illustrative style associated with Parquet Courts’ Monastic Living and the liner notes of Human Performance. All in all, this is a good song and a great video. God speed, Martin.
Atmosphere – ‘Seismic Waves’ (Rhymesayers Entertainment)
“I’m a big fan of carbs and the artist Prince.” You know you can trust someone who appreciates the finer things in life like pasta and ‘Purple Rain’, which is why you can feel at ease listening to the latest single from Atmosphere. The video for ‘Seismic Waves’ sees Slug incarcerated and walking around the confines of the prison, exuding a dismal aesthetic similar to when Louis Theroux became fixated on documenting the lives of inmates in America’s most extreme prisons and correctional facilities, only for things to become slightly Orange is the New Black by the end of the four minute video.
Julia Jacklin – ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win’
Julia Jacklin released one of the finest debut albums in 2016, Don’t Let The Kids Win, full of songs inspired by growing up and coming to a point in your twenties when you start to realise the gravity of your age. This is then followed by the “What am I doing?” internal series of self -doubt (see “Am I good?” intro). The Australian sing-songwriter captures this weird feeling that you can’t do anything to stop yourself and everyone around you from getting older and finding different paths in life. It’s just a natural part of maturing that can be troublesome and seem unexpected even though it is one of the universal and certain things in life; knowing that you can’t predict what’s going to happen so you may as well embrace it. The video brings this to life with Jacklin going through the motions both on her own and with the people closest to her, sharing the mundane and the extraordinary moments that turn into memories, and songs. Jacklin is playing in Dublin on the 11th of November so, should you enjoy what you see in this video then I would advise that you head along to see her live in the Grand Social.