Joel and Linnea Edin, known as The Forest & The Trees, are a Swedish folk pop duo. They live married life in an apartment in Stockholm and compose lulling, full-bodied folk anthems. This life sounds pretty idyllic; indeed, this album sounds a little like something out of a dream.
The eponymous album speaks about growing up, falling in love, and escaping. Opening with the rippling rhapsody “Mother”, Linnea lyricizes a tale of watching her mother age, also realizing that she is herself becoming the woman whose place her mother used to occupy.
For a folk-pop album, The Forest & The Trees starts with a bang. Fast-paced drumming on “To The Forest (I Need Some Peace)” highlights a message of escape from hectic city life into nature’s serenity. Then the album takes a soothing and atmospheric turn, characterized by tinkling chimes and mellifluous pump organ, banjo, guitar, percussion and bass. Most of the tracks on this album emerge like butterflies wriggling out of a still, motionless cocoon to erupt into the airwaves in a flurry of colourful activity. Final track “By The Trees” begins with an ambling glockenspiel, is joined by strolling bass and strings and suddenly somersaults into a surprisingly James Bond-worthy theme.
Like an all-weather tire, this is an album fit for a range of seasons and conditions. From sunny driving jams to mellower rainy day melodies, there are fixes on this album just waiting for lovers of both stripped-down and hearty, imaginative folk-pop styles.
The perfect poster child for the Twitter generation, Kanye West seems to invite his listeners deeper and deeper inside his own head with his every movement. Appearing both self-confident and self-conscious, he’s showcased his own inner workings, including his spiritual deliberations with the “Jesus Walks” saga (from his album The College Dropout). Now with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye opens the door wider for us to watch him process his blunders and his victories in areas like relationships and image.
Singers have long put their lives on display through their lyrics, so an introspective album is not exactly new. However, Kanye takes a public portrayal of self-awareness to a new level. Many of the tracks on this album monologue against his critics and tell stories from his perspective. Where do they come out of? Insecurity? Self-awareness? Pride? Pain? Perhaps it’s the feeling of being perpetually misunderstood. Kanye’s wit, intellect, convictions, and success have come along with some infamous actions and high profile meltdowns. Getting empathy has been a mixed bag for Kanye, yet he remains one of the most influential figures in hip-hop. There are many public figures like him who long to be truly understood; this is a world where private lives are publicised to overexposure, misrepresented and misinterpreted.
The album is big. It’s huge. It spans genres to harness the power of rock, hip-hop, electronica, neo-classicism, and thundering African beats. The tracklist is incredibly catchy, yet it is dark – making statements of resentment, frustration, or dismissal. Tracks like “Blame Game” cleverly use voices panning from one side to the other to simulate a frustrated internal conversation about a woman. Though it may be upsetting, it’s difficult not to listen with compassion as Yeezy’s aggravations drive his lyrics, darkened with obscenities and statements of resignation and even self-loathing. Kanye masterfully plays upon our sympathies, unknowingly or knowingly dabbling in emotional manipulation.
Do people want to hear singers come clean about the dark, twisted corners of their mind as they attempt to figure themselves out? Is self-centeredness a new major message in art? Decide for yourself, but this album’s sales and reviews indicate that there are a lot of people interested in what this artist has to say. Though our world is dominated by people publicizing their thoughts and actions, it still seems like people’s appetites for that information cannot be satiated. Kanye somehow keeps up intrigue, using his twitter feed, his public antics, his razor-sharp lyrics and musical fearlessness for experimentation to keep people riding the waves the creates.