aesop rock

A Low Flying Panic Attack

Radiohead has returned, and they’re brandishing pitchforks and torches set ablaze.

The evolution of Radiohead will go down in history as being one of the most fascinating processes in alternative music history.  Although Radiohead has always been a band drawn to the eerie and isolated, their transition from alternative grunge to atmospheric, haunting art rock now comes to a fascinating climax with their new single, “Burn The Witch.”

They’ve brilliantly set this up too, ominously teasing new music, sending out cryptic messages branded with the toothy grin of their bear logo, then deleting themselves from the internet (which seems to be one of the most frightening things someone can do these days), only to return with the premiere of both the new single and the fascinating, disquieting music video to accompany it.  This is a unique opportunity for many to evaluate both a song release and the accompanying visuals, which seems to be a big draw to a lot of artists recently with Beyonce’s Lemonade HBO special and Aesop Rock’s Impossible Kid album set to an animated shot for shot remake of The Shining.

The pinpricks of uneasily plucked string instruments open up “Burn The Witch” while we’re introduced to the deceptively colorful, rounded, and friendly looking animated world of the video.  The familiar and haunting howls of Thom Yorke float over electronic flourishes that weave in and out of the minor key strings section.

In the music video, an unsuspecting man visits a quaint little town full of rosy cheeked residents.  The place seems like the perfect little neighborhood.

The smiling faces and the pastels of the music video’s world slowly become more and more untrustworthy as the little leader of the town gives the man a tour of the town, nonchalantly introducing things like sacrificial dances and rotting meat being sold in the market as if they were everyday occurrences.  The world devolves into The Wicker Man filtered through the sensibilities of Davey and Goliath which is the bow on this delightfully creepy package.

If this is a sign of what we should expect to come next, certainly we shouldn’t shoot the messenger.  This is the best news he’s delivered in years.

A Whole Lotta Years With a Lot To Say

Aesop Rock has been an influential and prolific underground hip hop presence since 1997.  It may have been a few years since his last solo outing, Skelethon, but he has always managed to keep himself busy with projects like Hail Mary Mallon and The Uncluded.  Now he has returned to the scene of his solo music, packing a punch with the fantastic The Impossible Kid.

Of all the admirable albums in Aesop’s discography, The Impossible Kid may be his finest hour.  He’s reached this achievement by maintaining his catchy earworm hooks, crystal smooth flow, and challenging yet undeniably fun lyricism, while also crafting a record that is deeply heartfelt and personal.

Aesop maintains a coy sense of humor and playful self-awareness while also wearing a lot of thoughts and early memories on his sleeves.  Songs like “Lotta Years” and “Shrunk” gleefully make snarky asides at his own ego while remaining honest about those insecurities and their roots.  Some songs like “Water Tower” or “Dorks” are less playful about the subjects of depression and mental illness but are never unbearably heavy.  The singles “Rings” and “Blood Sandwich” as well as the track “Get Out Of The Car” are so personal they are essentially auto-biographical.  Rock admits to regrets, reminisces on childhood memories, and gives his brothers a touching tribute.  Particularly in “Blood Sandwich” Rock’s fascinating lyrics and attentive eye for detail paint a perfect picture in the head of the listener, putting them in the middle of highly realized scenes like the gopher execution at a little league baseball game.

What makes this album so great is that absolutely everything about the record is tied together so perfectly.  All tracks are expertly ordered to flow seamlessly together, guided by a musical tone that is distinctively Aesop Rock, but with a strange new electronic note that makes it sound like it would fit perfectly as a soundtrack to a dystopian science fiction film.  This music is complimented by album artwork that reflects and partners itself with the music of the album in a wonderful way.  Like any great album that is remembered through the years, all aspects of The Impossible Kid work with each other and seamlessly mix and match.  The Impossible Kid is a product made by a musical veteran who has honed his skills over years and years and has revealed what could possibly be his magnum opus.