8/27/17: Toulouse, Jamila Woods, BROCKHAMPTON

Toulouse – Hurtin’

Toulouse is hurting on his debut single, which was released last year, but just recently became available on streaming services. He’s struggling, sinking, drowning in a sea of trumpets. He’s uncomfortable.

Tense.

The kind of seemingly permanent tense. The kind of tense exemplified by a gaggle of aunts asking about your love life. The strain of stale silly putty stretching and stretching, but never exhibiting the satisfying pop of becoming two globs. Toulouse “doesn’t wanna hurt no more,” but the song provides no hint that the hurting will stop. Just continuous “hurtin’.”

While learning to play the flute in 6th grade, I, along with every band kid in the country, learned that most music is based on tension and release. Dissonance is added until the listener craves consonance, and the artist obliges. Toulouse ignores this conventional wisdom. Instead, he focuses entirely on the tension. Ascending trumpet runs do not resolve with a blast. Descending vocal runs fade into obscurity before landing on a satisfactory tone. The climax (2:07) is just a lot of tension followed up by less tension. And somehow, even though I know there’ll be no release, I’m hooked until the end. Finally, Toulouse declares, “I’ve got no more love left in store,” and gives up.

“Hurtin’” is a journey without a happy ending. Fortunately, Toulouse’s masterful beginning and middle are enough to keep me pressing replay. I’ve been searching for release all week – for that, Toulouse is my Sunday’s Best.

Jamila Woods – Holy

Life’s been hectic the last few weeks, and finding time to write seemed like a luxury I could not afford. Jamila Woods’ album, HEAVN, reminded me why I can always afford to take time on a Sunday to write. Growing up, church and football provided me with the relaxation necessary to get through stressful weeks.  Now, music does the same, especially when it’s from a soothing soul like Jamila Woods.

The country’s been going through a hectic few weeks too. Neo-nazis ravaged Charlottesville, VA backed by the hateful rhetoric of our president, who then traveled to Arizona to pardon a man convicted of racially profiling Latinxs (here’s a great summary of Joe Arpaio’s crimes from the Phoenix New Times), and returned to DC to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military. Lots of hate (from one side) going around. We all need a little Jamila Woods in our life.

Throughout HEAVN, Woods is soothing and sensitive, but strong and relentless. She is “VRY BLK,” and wants you to know that “your tongue too lazy” to pronounce the long “I” in her name. In “Blk Girl Soldier,” she honors the black female activists who “taught us how to fight.” Woods intensely wants us to continue that fight, while granting opportunities for self-care.

“Holy” reminds us to care for ourselves amid this turbulent, disgusting political landscape. At its core, it’s a gospel song complete with allusions to bible verses (“Though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no love”), and reassurances that what she has is enough.  She sings, “woke up this morning with my mind set on loving me,” a necessary sentiment near the end of an album so cognizant of the difficult times we’re in.

It can be difficult to love yourself, and difficult to feel like you’re doing enough to curb the tide of racist nationalism fueling our government. Jamila Woods calms me a bit, and refocuses my attention on where I can help. And damn it, maybe 18 years of church got to me, and I just subconsciously like gospel music now. A little cultish, but either way, Jamila Woods’ motivational love is what Sunday’s Best is all about.

BROCKHAMPTON – SWEET

This summer, we were lucky enough to get two albums from the Kevin Abstract-led BROCKHAMPTON. Both albums were packed with distinct verses, sick beats, fun videos, and banging choruses. A true rap collective, every verse’s style is unique. On “SWEET,” it took me four listens to get past Matt Champion’s verse because I kept starting over. Others may prefer Ameer Vann or Don McLennon, but that’s the beauty of a rap collective. While I get a kick out of Matt’s clever back and forth between himself and a computer voice, others may rock to the (almost) unhinged, powerful voice of Merlyn Wood. There’s a little something for everyone, all over a beat that goes hard.

Happy Sunday y’all! Remember to care for yourself this week. Find your collective, get some motivational love from Jamila Woods, and stop “hurtin’.”

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