Our favorite things this week include "Lotta Sea Lice," a pro wrestling doc, non-binary poetry, new jack pop, and the musical onset of dementia in six parts.
On Lotta Sea Lice, Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile trade bars like a modern-day June Carter and Johnny Cash—if Carter and Cash and been awkward millennials in an entirely platonic friendship. Instead of tossing around sexual innuendos, they compare songwriting strategies, dropping pithy insights into their respective musical philosophies.
“When I’m all alone on my own by my lonesome / And there ain’t a single ’nother soul around, / I wanna dig into my guitar and bend a blues riff that hangs / Over everything,” sings Vile, the current king of hazy psych-folk. “When I’m by myself and it’s daytime ‘cause Down Under / Or wherever it is I live when it’s evening, / You know I like to speed-read the morning news and come up with my own little song also,” sings Barnett, the Aussie queen of existential angst, who makes music that plays like a news reel of her life.
The rest of the record never achieves the improbable poppy perfection of “Over Everything,” but it does delve into Vile and Barnett’s long-distance friendship, which seems to run deeper than mutual professional respect. Over the course of the album, they cover one of each other’s songs, muse about intercontinental friendships over continental breakfasts, and harmonize mournfully on the album’s outro, a cover of Belly’s “Untogether.” On the whole, the project isn’t as thoughtful or as interesting as Barnett’s best work, which makes sense since Barnett is by far the more thoughtful and interesting of the pair. But there are moments when their voices fuse together just right, hitting a sweet spot in my soul I didn’t know I had before. For Barnett’s sake, I wouldn’t recommend a permanent pairing with Vile, but as a one-off collab, Lotta Sea Lice works well as an ode to a close but fleeting friendship. (Raphael Helfand)
The Nature Boy makes Nature Boy. The ESPN “30 for 30” documentary on professional wrestler Ric Flair ultimately tells a conventional story of an improbable rise to stardom, years in the limelight, domestic costs, and eventual decline. It hits all the usual beats and punctuates them with a soundtrack of solo piano and small string ensembles to make sure that nobody misses the melancholy human condition stuff. Basically, the movie says that being Ric Flair was far more fun than being Richard Fliehr, so Flair was his domestic self as little as possible, even when he was home.
Still, the doc is well worth your time because Flair in his prime was a rock star, and all footage of him from the ‘80s is electric in a way that short circuits criticisms. Lousy dad? Philanderer? Wastrel? Sexist? All sense of the moments before and the moments after disappear when he’s on the screen, bragging with eye-popping energy about his jet set life. His trademark “WOOOO” comes off as an expression of a core vitality so overflowing that it can only be expressed as pure sound. These days, it’s hard to hear Flair brag about his Rolex, his limo, his jet and how all the ladies love him and not think of Trump, but Trump radiates a needy desire for approval, whereas Flair splashed on a little Who Gives a Fuck About You before every promo.
Nature Boy performs a public service because Flair’s prime came when he was in the NWA, wrestling primarily in mid-Atlantic region. Because of that, much of the country never saw Flair until he went national with WCW on TBS in 1988. He made his first appearance with the WWF in 1991, where some of the Flair’s genius with a promo was on display, but the WWF’s soap operatic storylines slowed him down.
The film is anchored by interviews with Flair today. What’s left of his long, bleached white hair is combed back, and his skin’s mottled by age with a few speed bumps on his forehead from years of blading. Filmmaker Rory Karpf interviews him in a ring, and even though the life choices he made broke up two marriages, left him financially strapped and cost him his son, Flair’s smile in those segments says it may not have been worth it, but it was worth it. (Alex Rawls)
“What is a man but a private repression made public made prophet made policy? What is a man but a question mark so lonely it wrapped around itself so many times it began to resemble a body?” If this speaks to you—or it sounds like millennial psychobabble—I recommend Femme in Public, the new poetry chapbook by performance artist, activist, and writer Alok Vaid-Menon.
In Femme in Public, Vaid-Menon (who uses “they” and “them” as identifying pronouns) tries to imagine a world without the habitual violence against and erasure of gender-nonconforming people. “what would it mean to leave the house and not be bashed?" they ask. "is it that i don't remember anymore or that i never knew?" Throughout the chapbook, they are constantly trying to make sense of a world that refuses to make sense of them, alternatively asking questions (What are their harassers scared of? What does shame steal from queer people?) and creating lists of observations and principles to live by ("2. AFFIRM PEOPLE FOR BEING VULNERABLE AND NEEDY IN PUBLIC").
Vaid-Menon's curiosity comes from a need for self-preservation, but also from a desire to illuminate a path for all of us out of identities based on fear. They know much of our pain is similar, even if the causes vary. That's why the poems are relatable even to readers who aren't nonbinary. Vaid-Menon plays with the pronouns to create as little a divide between themself and the audience as possible, using "you" to refer to potentially themself or the reader, and heavily using "we" to rope the reader into their loss and frustration. We might be able to deny someone's beliefs, but most of us can't deny someone's pain.
"i do not believe we will win. i do not believe hope should be a prerequisite for trying anyway." Femme in Public is a reminder that empathy is more effective and more interesting than bitterness or despair. (Cara Lahr)
The Caretaker’s mind is decaying. The Caretaker is a musical identity that electronic artist James Leyland Kirby created to explore dementia through a six-part series titled Everywhere at the Edge of Time. Kirby’s work under a number of identities deals with memory, identity and impermanence, and for Everything at the Edge of Time, he will release installments that document The Caretaker’s fall into memory loss until he reaches post-awareness, total decay, and eventually death. The third stage was released last month, and the compositions become increasingly dissociated with every note.
Kirby samples old 78 records, emphasizing each physical groove and crackle in the vinyl in his compositions. As dementia overtakes The Caretaker, the tracks become loose and disorienting, draped with a dark veil of confusion. Kirby resamples tracks from the first and second stages, slowing them down or speeding them up while adding echoing effects and bass beats as if to say that although singular memories are still in his mind, they are becoming more disturbed and distant. The titles of the songs have the same jumbled quality. A song on the first stage is titled “Slightly Bewildered,” while one song on the third stage is titled “Bewildered in Other Eyes.” These tracks are both based on the piano, but the latter is pitched up and less melodic, with faded chimes running scales to create an ethereal and tangled soundscape.
This provocative concept series provides new insight into the process of a degrading mind. The dark and murky compositions on stage three suggest that the slow processing project will become more difficult to understand. Now halfway through The project, The Caretaker is on the brink of nightmare, destined to plummet into the pits of complete disorder. Somehow, Kirby is able to make decay beautiful. (Lisa Chupp)
Lido is done with being backstage. Peder Losnegård—Lido—is a Norwegian musician who has released seven EPs and received recognition for writing, recording and mixing songs for Halsey, Chance the Rapper, and The Weeknd among others. On this summer’s “Not Enough (feat. THEY),” Lido takes center stage on his most fun track, which builds on new jack swing to sound fresh and nostalgic. When he performs live, Lido reverses the idea that DJs are just there to press play. In fact, he sings, plays various instruments, and mixes live to the ecstasy of his audience.
Rolling Stone described Lido as an “auto-tuned Kanye hanging off French house’s Eiffel Tower” and having moved into a space where “EDM, bass and gospel intersect.” The Kanye reference makes sense after Lido remixed Life of Pablo last year into a single song titled “Life of Peder.” Earlier this year, he also released Everything Remixed—a remix of his own 2016 album, Everything. While on tour with Portugal. The Man this year, he told an audience in Austin, “These guys have been good to me, and when people have been good to you there’s really one rule: don’t fuck with their music. But, I did.” He then remixed “Feel It Still” by layering the original lyrics over a series of beats and drums that lend it an all new R&B feeling. His remix slows down the song but intensifies the feelings of the original, with rising and falling beats over the repeated phrase, “Let me kick it like its 1986.”
Lido has been so prolific that he’s even doing features. Wednesday French DJ Petit Biscuit dropped “Problems,” with Lido’s signature upbeat additions coming as the chorus “This is love” kicks in. (Lexie Kirkwood)