November 19, 2012

There is a commonly held consensus by music writers that forward progression is the only important metric. Of course, this idea is commonly discarded for convenience’s sake. We all like Tame Impala, so people blissfully ignore the simple mathematics of the Australian psych-rockers: Dungen + Revolver-era Beatles + Todd Rundgren. What it masks is the subjectivity of this shit: people like what they like when they think it sounds good. It never needs to be more complex.

Most music fans never have this problem. Like wine or weed, you either think the music is most often good or bad. There is a utility involved: you want to listen again and again or you don’t. And sometimes the most impressive artistic achievements don’t sit well with repeated viewings or listening. Charlie Kauffman might be my favorite working screenwriter not named Woody Allen. I own all of his movies and they’re still shrink-wrapped. They are innovative and original and heavy enough to be strapped to your body in an attempt to drown.

Many of the most critically feted albums fit into the same category. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Granfalloon might be Kanye’s greatest achievement, but I’ll take Graduation any day of the week. Sunset Rubdown is one of my favorite bands, but I rarely listen to their music anymore. Doesn’t change the fact that I think it’s mostly brilliant. This brings me to Roku’s Oyasumi — the exact opposite of the impenetrable epic. This is a warm and inviting record, simple in its concept and pinpoint in its execution. It’s jazz-tinted instrumental hip hop. The sort of thing that has been tried thousands of times before to varying results. Most of the beats use loops. There’s not an excessive amount of chopping. No skits. No samples. No ideas original, nothing new under the sun.

But Oyasumi creates a mood that keeps me returning. It’s hazy and familiar, but with a mysterious remove that stops it from being pure comfort food. At times, it reminds me of Nujabes. At others, it reminds me of Flying Lotus’ July Heat beat tape.  It also sounds beautiful — which reminds you that there is a pure aesthetic component that you can never ignore.

There really isn’t much to say about an album like this. No narrative that I know of. No need to to over-think a dozen overreaching adjectives for album that just sounds gorgeous and dream-like. Am I supposed to call it “cinematic.” There’s a song called “Mise En Scene” for that. Am I supposed to conceive some exotic scenario in which this album approximates. I’m not in that kind of mood. Let’s just say that it’s the sort of album you want to listen to right before you drift off to sleep — and you do that often enough. After all, Oyasumi translates to Japanese for “Good Night.”

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