The people who ‘don’t care about lyrics’ need not apply for this one, not that the suggestion that language is all flat ever made much sense to me in the first place. (Serious questions for these people: what’s your favorite Frank O’Hara poem, and why? Who is your favorite living poet?)
This album is its language. It’s certainly not the beats, which are its main problem and rectified by Milo’s later releases. The beats here are merely functional and not varied enough; they’re atmospheric insofar as rainy backdrops are atmospheric. (Some details to note: the background vocals illuminating the last word of each line in the choruses of “Ought Implies I Can and I Cannot” (such a good title: a 6-word story that deserves publication on its own right); the saxophone of “Just us” that’s all too quickly forgotten about.) And the album’s magic is certainly not in the constant and wearying hipster name-drops: Sigur Ros, Big Star, Danger Mouse, multiple references to Arthur Schopenhauer as philosopher of choice (of course he is). No one is reading Anis Mojgani poems in public bathroom stalls, and I love him to death, but I think if DFW were brought back, he would be sadder at how the situation’s gotten worse. Elsewhere, Kool AD drops “I feel like Leonard Cohen / And I don’t even know if I can name a Leonard Cohen track / Is Leonard Cohen wack? / That’s rhetorical, you don’t need to answer that” and “Fuck the Beatles, go Yoko” on “In Gaol”, and hopefully I don’t need to highlight what’s wrong with those lines.
Why this album is worth your time is because it’s rare to see such unique language. This can be inventive double-rhymes, like “sesame seed buns” with “sesame street reruns” or “Ouija boards” with “squeegee floors”; the parallelism in “I’ve known the nothingness of chaos / I’ve known the somethingness of fake Gods.” There’s nothing to be gained from rhyming “Echolalia” with “Lisztomania” immediately afterwards, but there’s something to behold when he follows that up with “I played my ukelele on the way to La Grange, bruh.” But I’m even more impressed by how common sentiment is expressed through uncommon ways: “Felt good like snow days when the driveway is plowed first” or “A mansion is a place with plenty of couch space for all my friends / Real brothers don’t care if you’re an hour late to make amends” or “Two sensitive people can make a really tough baby / I think that’s fucking amazing” (the latter-most, courtesy of Open Mike Eagle).
It’s stuff like this that makes this one a really likable album, despite all of its flaws; in addition to the stuff I’ve already talked to: the juvenile fart jokes, Busdriver’s tedious choruses on “Argyle Sox” that brings you out of the album’s atmosphere, Anderson .Paak not given enough to do on “A Day Trip to the Nightosphere” (though it’s fun to hear him ponder “I’ve never been on that website with the Pitchfork, I’m dead right?” two years before being covered by Pitchfork). And some of the lines don’t catch fire: “I’m staring in the mirror for too long like Bob Rocksalt / Except Bob Rocksalt is a linguistic construct” and Open Mike Eagle’s “All of my exes live in Tetris” are lines that don’t mean anything, even with Genius‘s annotations. The title is great; as is the cover, like an autobiographical graphic novel full of strange but real accounts. Overall, for window-gazing during bus rides on early evenings with overcast skies; he made us something pretty with his words today.