So, just casually, over a hastily prepared meal of tuna/generic pasta sauce/under/over-cooked pasta (my burgeoning specialty), we here at OAD notched up a 1500th post. Which is ridiculous. Demonstrating the site to a friend who’d never seen it before, I realised that we were sitting on the precipice of what is after all an arbitrary milestone (rounds nicely, factors into hundreds wonderfully) and felt moved to mark the occasion in some way. But in reality, not much needs to be said as we silently glide across 1500, gradually making our way towards The 4400 and hoping to avoid that horrible TV show’s fate. Instead, a killer song is in order and with Canadian Ryan Hemsworth’s take on Cat Power (that name I’ve consistently heard good things about but never looked into) featuring my It girl of the moment Angel Haze, I feel like we have something nuanced and profound enough to usher in the next fat slab of introspective naval-gazing, sonic deliberations, cultural treatises and the like. It’s rare for a song to so strongly resonate right off the bat. The combination of names anchoring this one might have had something to do with it. But ‘Manhattan’ is a darker, more sultry proposition than three mere names alone could ever conjure up.
Haze is one to watch. On ‘Hell Could Freeze’, the latest Rudimental track to receive gushing praise from yours truly, she anchored a glitchy song and met the excitement factor that the London quartet inevitably bring to anything they produce. With Hemsworth, who was last featured on this blog for his calming qualities, Angel Haze meets the mood with startling ease, toning down some of the latent aggression typical to her lyricism and taking on a certain mellifluous character that reminds me of Drake when he’s at his best. Angel is in her element when she can just riff. Firing the song’s opening salvo with her introductory 50-second set-piece, she sounds like someone who truly believes in what she’s saying. Where rap is so often contrived to fit within the bounds of rhyme scheme or popular taste, Angel Haze leaves the strictures of everything behind so that instead of overpowering the song with her presence, she becomes an integral part of it.
The best part about ‘Manhattan’ is not Haze, however. Regardless of how high the nascent stocks in the Virginia local climb, what grabs me about this song is not the Azealia Banks challenger, not Hemsworth’s production and not Cat Power’s whimsical musings on the town that everyone has whimsical musings about. It’s the synergy of all these elements that really inspires. To be sure, each part alone is well executed. Haze is a talent, Hemsworth clearly knows what he’s doing behind the decks and Cat Power’s 9 album discography since 1995 suggests that she’s tinkered with her art until it borders on a science. The unlikely confluence of all these seemingly arbitrary channels of musical know-how is what makes this song such a joy. Cat Power’s vocals lend themselves to being mashed up by Hemsworth whose woozy beat provides the perfect counterpoint for Haze’s expressive raps. The one rolls into the other seamlessly as though they were created to coexist. More Haze later in the piece wouldn’t have gone astray but as it is, the mix strikes me as near-perfect. Nothing about it makes sense: the genre clash, the random artist combination, the languid pace of the whole thing. But 1500 in, you realise it doesn’t have to make sense to make good music. Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening.
Cat Power – Manhattan (Ryan Hemsworth Remix Ft. Angel Haze)