Watch of the Week Edition 1: Edward Yang’s Yi Yi

How can one begin to tackle the condition of living a life? What binds us together? Which observations do we make that affect our future? How could we live without sorrow? There are too many questions that can be asked about life and the purpose we should fulfill before our eventual end. Edward Yang, director, writer, and pioneer during the Taiwanese New Wave, poses these questions with such authentic grace and subtle care that they slip by our minds only to hit like a truck when we’re knocking on death's door. 

Yi Yi establishes itself as a humble family drama, beginning with a wedding and ending with a funeral. Brushing its characters like a Jackson Pollock painting; weaving in and out of events, both significant and insignificant, driven by an unseeable motive. And with the grandest canvas Yang crafts an intimate portrait of life with five characters. A keenly curious child, a teen seeking for a stable foundation, a middle-aged man caught in the energy-draining tedium of work, a middle-aged woman in search of happiness and purpose, and an old woman in a coma acting as a somber reminder of life’s end for our family. 

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February 17: The 5 tracks we're following this week

1. Rebecca Black - Friday (REMIX) [feat. 3OH!3, Big Freedia, & Dorian Electra]
10 years after the original song took the Internet by storm, Rebecca Black returns with a remix of her iconic track “Friday.” 10 years on, Black has matured as an artist, and the pop scene has shifted along with her; everything that made the original video so maligned by certain sects of the net has now been co-opted by the recent hyperpop wave, the blaring synths, the gauche delivery, and the uber auto tuned vocals. All that returns without irony or shame. Dylan Brady (100 Gecs) lends his familiar hyperkinetic and plasticky production through the multiphase redux to create an instrumental that is in one moment a faithful reinterpretation of the original and in the next a SOPHIE-esque deconstructed club banger. The features here all wow, though the standout of the entire track is, perhaps predictably, Big Freedia who introduces the track and supplies the final verse, sounding larger than life as she delivers dance hymns to the weekend. Black’s return to her teenage pop years is an unabashed ode to the simple fun and indulgence of youth. 

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Belan: EA's college football news is exciting, but let's temper expectations

Fans of the NCAA Football video game franchise were given a new lifeline Monday, as EA Sports announced a new game would be released in the coming years.

The news has come as an unexpected yet entirely welcomed surprise. Most thought that EA would never make another college football game after the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit that sought compensation for using student athletes’ image and likeness. 

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5 tracks we're following this week

An unexpected swan song for one of modern music's great innovators, “UNISIL” is the final single to be released by experimental pop and electronic musician SOPHIE before her tragic passing Saturday. A B-Side recorded originally for her debut album “Product,” it displays what made much of SOPHIE’s music so revelatory in the first place. Hyperkinetic rubbery synths overlay industrial percussion and squelching bass for a kind of electro-club banger that sounds not quite of this world. The layout here is simple; it is first and foremost a dance track, but the execution is as breathtaking as ever. It is a reminder to value every piece of art she shared with us. 

Brent Faiyaz & DJ Dahi - Gravity (feat. Tyler, The Creator)
Tyler, the Creator teams up with R&B crooner Brent Faiyaz and DJ Dahi for this chill, subtly psychedelic soul track. The production from Dahi is textured and dusty, creating an instantly pleasant vintage feel and Tyler plays the guest role well, dropping a quick verse in the third leg of the track and leaving plenty of room for Faiyaz’s butter-smooth vocals and layered harmonies. Together, they have crafted a track that's set to keep the vibes light on an evening drive.

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On SOPHIE, Avant-Club, & Queerness

The following article is a reprint from the original 2019 U92 Zine following the tragic death this week of SOPHIE at just 34 years old.

Combining abrasive, experimental club sounds with the glamor and gloss of pop music, the Scottish-born, LA-based musician Sophie (stylized as SOPHIE) is one of the first transgender artists to break through the barriers of the pop industry. Having caught the attention of major artists such as Lady Gaga, Madonna, Charli XCX, and Vince Staples, Sophie has made a name for herself from the inside. Prior to the release of her Grammy nominated debut album “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides” in 2018, Sophie primarily produced for other artists while making smaller experimental pop singles on the side. Taking a sonical left turn, her debut dived deep into a niche and experimental subgenre of electronic music. 

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U92 Year-End Review: The 5 Best Albums of 2020

5. Black Dresses - Peaceful as Hell (Blacksquares)

The bandcamp bio for “Peaceful as Hell," Ada Rook and Devi McCallion’s final album as Black Dresses, reads simply “SONGS MADE IN 2020 ABOUT VARIOUS TOPICS." It’s an apt description. Sometimes an album this dense and chaotic can only be summed up so simply. “Peaceful as Hell” follows a string of well received records that were self-released throughout 2019 which garnered the duo a strong cult following; each of these releases built upon the sonic pallets of the last, leading to this one which takes unique elements of electronica, power-pop, hip-hop, nu-metal, screamo, and noise and covers them in saccharine glitchy textures to create a blissfully chaotic and thoroughly modern noise-pop opus. The album is raw, abrasive, and unapologetic while still managing to be infectious and catchy. Lyrically songs here deal heavily with empathy, with subjects covering life with mental illness, a general sense of unbelonging, and how hard it can be to feel safe when you are hated, ignored, denied, or cast aside due to your identity. The duo don’t claim to have the answer, but with these songs they sort of outstretch a hand to their audience reminding them that they’re not alone. Ada Rook and Devi McCallion have no shortage of music outside of this project -- much of which is excellent in it’s own right. Still, no matter where their artistic paths take them from this point, this record feels like it will always be heralded as a unique high point in the internet-era of self-released music. - Griffin McMorrow

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U92 Year-End Review: The Best Albums of 2020 (10-6)

10. Okay Kaya - Watch This Liquid Pour Itself (Jagjaguwar)

Just from the cover, you could probably guess that “Watch This Liquid Pour Itself” by Okay Kaya probably won’t be your run of the mill singer/songwriter album. Said cover presents this naturalistic, green tinted, night-vision photograph of the singer (real name Kaya Wilkins) with a sort of blank look of curiosity on her face, as though she is an animal studying another creature for signs that they may be a threat. This pointed imagery ends up being the perfect parallel for an album whose most consistent themes are anxiety, longing, confusion, and, most crucially, isolation. Wilkins writing here is immediately idiosyncratic, from the vulgar first lines of opener “Baby Little Tween” (“I ride the mood, baby little tween, mood riding, riding on your d**k”) to strange but genuinely heartfelt metaphors like those heard on “Symbiosis” (“I can be algae, you can be fungi, we’ll call it symbiosis, it’s a trade off baby”). Between the sex jam for people who aren’t into sex, the upbeat ditty about life in the psych ward, and the closer which finds Kaya alone (well, with her parasite) in the zero-interaction ramen bar, the songs here are humorous and surreal but never in a way that’s insincere or detached. On this record, Okay Kaya creates a unique and timely listen about the necessity for human social interaction even when such things freak you out. Speaking personally as an introvert living in the year 2020, it hits close to home. - Griffin McMorrow

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