Sean Michaels received the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel Us Conductors. He is the editor of the music blog Said the Gramophone.
The Acorn- In Silence (2015)
If you have ever visited the Banff Centre then you know that its principal topics of conversation are (1) food and (2) bears. Not truth or beauty, not paint strokes or metaphors, not ceramic glazes or critical theory: Gathered in the privilege of this mountain retreat, artists find themselves discussing the merits of the free buffet, their odds of getting gored by a grizzly.
This isn’t just Banff: Wherever you are, it’s rare to find a novelist or choreographer who devotes more than a sliver of her day to actual novels or choreography. Most hours are spent daydreaming, staring at websites, panicking about money/deadlines, or (often) working a part-time job. It’s like the fib about human beings using just 10 per cent of their brains. Call it “wasting time,” call it “stalling” – I like to think of it as “buffering”: an artwork preparing to get made.
And yet – not always. Not quite always. Masterpieces have been started or finished in the space between depositing a kid at daycare and binge-watching a season of Adventure Time. The virtue of a retreat is not that its denizens transform abruptly into unsleeping, ultra-efficient art commandos: It’s that the needle gets nudged just a little. The proportion changes. Walking among the glass, firs and fog, there’s enough space to imagine a few more mysteries.
The Acorn’s In Silence has nothing to do with a sprawling cultural complex in a Rocky Mountain valley. Although Rolf Klausener and his bandmates have probably visited these halls, sampled from these salad bars, this song has soundtracked my week because of the way it mesmerizes and unfolds, because it too rests on the force of a gradually nudging needle. “Why don’t you fall / once in a while?” Klausener sings, “Follow everything that you need to.” The song’s a song of funky, uncanny folk – pearly voice, prowling bass, – and then suddenly the balance has been upset, the avalanche triggered, all the air in the room has been rearranged by the exhilaration of drums.
Lil Mama- Sausage (2015)
Lil Mama’s new summer single is exultantly absurd, a banger and mash of reconstituted Vine clips, reappropriated raps and throwback hip-hop rhythm. Among its allusions: Slick Rick, Wu-Tang Clan, Kelis, Fetty Wap, Dionne Warwick, Mary J. Blige. I think there’s some sexism in the backlash that has been sent its way – that this is “mere” copycatting, that it’s “juvenile.” If Kanye West had dropped this number, everyone’d be marvelling at his daring. Most of pop music rests on giddy juvenilia, and Sausage is assured, virtuosic, the magpie act of a brilliant collagist. Put it in your bun.