My Month in the Doldrums — The Heart Part 4 and HUMBLE., and a fortnight later, DAMN.


I remember so many drives spent listening to Good Kid M.A.A.D City and To Pimp a Butterfly. I would say these albums mean a lot to me, but that would be insufficient praise. Luckily, to some of the few reading this, I won’t have to explain.

K-Dot is an international phenomenon. When he signed off on The Heart Part 4 with ‘yall got til April the 7th to get yall shit together’, the internet started buying pooper-scoopers. This included my friends. That day in March, several thousand miles away from Compton, a few of of us reached for our phones and pinged each other ‘Yo new Kendrick’, ‘so good’, etc. A bunch of Indian dudes listening to an American hip-hop millionaire is not at all new, but this sort of anticipation among those with whom Kendrick shares almost no part of his landscape is a sign of some sort of sorcery. At least that’s what I think.

Anyway, The Heart Part 4 comes, The Heart Part 4 goes; I like it, but don’t replay it too much (sorry god). A week later, HUMBLE. drops, and I’m reaching for the shit-sack. If March was a month in the doldrums, all of April was guaranteed to be about ‘bich bihombo’ and ‘my left stroke just went viral’. Every day between HUMBLE. and DAMN. was hype day, checking for updates online, reading comments, the Great Disappointment of April 7th when we realised there was to be nothing more than a pre-order button until the 14th, and then finally, DAMN.

Ten-odd days later, I can confirm that DAMN. has repeatedly blown my mind to bits. I keep discovering new favourites. I’m currently tripping on LOVE. (FEAT. ZACARI.) (downtempo, haunting, autotune). Before that, DNA. (banger, spare, raw). ELEMENT. (james blake, groovy, macho), FEEL. (slow, fast, self-centred), LOYALTY. (rihanna, pop, summer song), and of course HUMBLE. have all occupied the position of favourite. I’m certain DUCKWORTH. (climax, sing-about-me-i’m-dying-of-thirst-y) will be next. XXX. (FEAT U2.) is close too.


A friend told me about the number of reviews he has seen on his twitter feed talking about how difficult it has been to review DAMN. He’s so good, most of those reviews explain, that it makes the job of reviewing it difficult, especially in the context of the zeitgeist, other albums that form a part of it, his previous efforts included. Something similar has been on my mind. Truth is, you don’t need a review of a Kendrick Lamar album from me. Those who wanted to listen to it already have. Those who haven’t are probably not that interested in listening to the album, and my saying how good it is musically, lyrically, thematically, &c., won’t convince them. So something of this sort is unlikely to lead to some sort of discovery.

Maybe you’re looking for critical analysis. And that ends up being troublesome too. I think most music-savvy people online, including music journalists and music enthu junta like me, just don’t have the capacity to be objective when it comes to a Kendrick Lamar album. By this point, all the good times I have had listening to his music, all the bad times that have been made easier listening to King Kunta, or Hood Politics, or i, or Sing About Me I’m Dying Of Thirst, or Backstreet Freestyle, or Money Trees, or any of his other songs, all the hype articles and #hype comments, have made it hard for me to be objective. So I can’t even pretend to ever write a critical review of DAMN.


In a world where refreshing the news usually leads to head-scratching, anger, or outright sorrow, it’s great that once in a while refreshing the news means you read something along the lines of ‘New Kendrick Lamar single out’.  On the 14th of April, every corner of the internet was occupied by fans of music talking about how much they loved music. And how lucky they were to be alive in a time when they got to see DAMN. drop.

The internet, or at least my internet, is not an optimistic place. So often it feels like we, and when I say we, I mostly mean I, don’t recognise how lucky we are to be alive, as humans, with opposable thumbs, and intelligence, and for most people reading this, no landmines, sarin gas, superpredator, active war zone, or immediate threat anywhere near us. Truth is, when soldiers are killed, or civilians are bombed, we don’t ‘all suffer together’, we simply aren’t ‘all bereaved’. Some suffer more than others, some are more bereaved. It’s self-centred to claim otherwise. It’s naïve to refuse to see that we are lucky. Being progressive-minded doesn’t change that. And it doesn’t change the fact that calling conservative-minded people assholes online is a bad thing to do.

When I saw how optimistic my corner of the internet was when DAMN. dropped, it helped me realise how whiny that corner has made me. It’s the same corner of the internet that moans about everything Trump does. It’s a corner with little about India’s troubles, or what we’re getting right. I’ve heard the words ‘bubble’, ‘echo’, and ‘chamber’ so often now, but all those clichés turn out to be true.

On those lines, a parting thought. Despite reading every comment about DAMN. for a week, relating to Justin Hunte, Big Quint, or Complex or whoever else when they spoke about the album, I feel I truly enjoyed DAMN. most on two occasions: one, when I was listening to it on the highway, far away from the internet, and two, when I listened to it later that day with a couple of music-nerd friends who were as excited as I was to listen to it for the nth time.

There’s a whole world out there. The internet is just a part of it. So maybe there’s another reason to read this. This isn’t a review. This is just a way for a few of us to acknowledge that we were all alive when DAMN. dropped, and it was great. It’s the same reason I watched all those videos online, and read all those comments. To relate. That’s the optimism I want to add to my corner of the internet.

Maybe everybody knows these things already. Maybe I’m the only moron just discovering them. Some camels take longer to reach the water. I hope I have.

My Month in the Doldrums — Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Continuing with the theme of recognised genre classics, I want to talk about my continued obsession with a classic of pitchfork-rock, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this album (if this lazy ***** rating counts), and I am very likely to write about it again. It’s just the love talking.

(Please buy the album or stream it, e.g. here. If you don’t want to, click on the YT links in the article, but if you like it after, consider doing the other thing.)

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

I remember a home-and-away corniche tiled to the brim with sand. The stars were 7:30 pm, haunted, flickering. A W-shaped building stood intimidatingly to my left. Fatso jogging. I remember my ears flooding with glockenspiel (I think?) sounds. Maybe it was a xylophone.

I know every word to this song. It’s one of those songs that I assumed would someday make less sense to me. That, I thought, would be the tell-tale sign of my new-found maturity. That day hasn’t come yet.

I did not really like this album minus its first two songs in my first tens of attempts, when I was in my late teens. I assumed it’s because I wasn’t American. Then I ‘got it’ when I was 25. It isn’t like you have to ‘get it’, it’s built on rock-n-roll idiom, the songs are catchy, there are moments of great relatability, there’s several instances of the word ‘love’.


But that’s not it. Turns out my not liking it had nothing to do with my nationality. It probably had nothing to do with maturity one way or an other either. Turns out, as a great man once said in a sample, I must recognise that ‘music is music’, not a nod to everything that’s important to me personally.

The pace picked up as I walked down the joggers’ track, the W-shaped building passing slowly by, the sea to my right. I’m sure as the glockenspiel hit again I must have be walking faster. I’m sure my pace of walking correlates to the tempo of the music I’m listening to. Surely this can’t be a glockenspiel if that first one was; they both sound so different.

Radio Cure

I’d like to cheer up. I’m sure there’s something wrong with me.

Enough of the whining.

Speaking of maturity, more of that sort of tough love from April on.

The oldies-but-goldies were right, the mind is a terrible master. I refused to listen to their grey-haired advice, and have learnt this the hard way, on my knees, tied and gagged, a muslin bag over my head, crying out please let me go, please let me go, I don’t want to these (shiny, shiny) shiny boots of leather.

The mind is a terrible master. It’s also a terrible thing to taste.

If distance has no way of making love understandable, neither does time, I remember thinking, as this major-key dirge closed.

War on War

I don’t think I’ll understand how I was so foolish just a couple of years ago, throwing everything away because of some phantom la-la-land concept. Fool.

In context, though, I’m lucky. Most of the couple of people who will read this are lucky too. Mostly because none of us was born in Syria in 2004 (likely). Spending time in the middle east, and considering it home-ish at the very least makes you realise exactly how much people who have never traveled there presume about its people, I remember thinking. Everybody wants to condescend somebody. Liberals, conservative, men, women, boys, girls, everybody wants to think themselves better than somebody else so they can get themselves a big, throbbing, veiny headache.


Jesus, etc.

I was playing a role there. Just playing a part. Speaking of a part, jokes apart, it doesn’t make sense to paint the Middle East with a broad brushstroke, just as it makes no sense to paint all of North America with a single brushstroke. I can think of tens of major differences between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and they’re just two major cities of the UAE, and situated less than just a couple of hours away from each other. What does that Middle East have in common with the Middle East of Syria? The Middle East of Saudi Arabia? The Middle East of Kurdistan? The Middle East of Israel?

I think the best way to really say which of the two cities (any two cities, really) you would prefer living in is to answer the question — in which of the two cities in question would you rather be hit by a car?

Ashes of American Flags

Well sure, you’d have to answer more than just a single question for you to arrive at anything reasonable. Otherwise companies like Zillow and Housing and 99acres would be put out of business by mathematical induction.

As I continued my walk down the promenade, I started to get overwhelmed with emotion. I realised as I turned to see the W-shaped building behind me that this section of the album has become my favourite. Back in my ‘I don’t get this album because I’m not American’ phase, this song was the cause of my idiotic misconception.

All this sort of thinking is the sort of stupid logicless thinking all humans occasionally indulge in, while fools like me continue to wishfully think themselves intellectually superior to ‘those dumb americans’. No one country has a monopoly on stupidity

Heavy Metal Drummer

No one person has a monopoly on condescension. We use a different phrase these days. It’s called being a dick.

I took a detour, walking past aromas of sajj, zaatar, beefburgers, donuts, and coffee. I impressed myself by not buying coffee. Ten kilometres of walking in, dehydration isn’t the best idea, I rationalised. It never occurred to sedentary old me, that maybe, ten kilometres in, it wouldn’t be the best idea to keep walking.

I’m the Man Who Loves You

If I was anywhere near a coffee shop when the distortion kicked in, I would have let myself go. I would have run to embrace an americano, belting out ‘I’m the man who loves you!’ as racially ambiguous strangers would stare at racially homogenous me, flabbergasted. Loneliness is a self-esteem killer. I’m sure you understand.

Everything about this song, everything about this album rewards repeat listening. That night, at 8-whatever pm, as this song hit, I had to start jogging just to keep myself from collapsing under the weight of all the new emotions this album was evoking in me on this my whatever-hundredth listen.

Pot Kettle Black

When it comes to music, I tend to oversell. But I also tend to get over-emotional when I listen to music. I feel weird. I feel like it’s ok to be weird. Of course it is. It’s just objectively better not to be.

I had turned back a couple of minutes ago. The beach was now to my left, the W-shaped building in front of me. And every moment’s a little bit later (more on moments soon).

Poor Places

My legs started to give. Where until a few moments ago I was hoping I wouldn’t get a call asking me to stop with my shenanigans, I was now hoping I’d get that call, so I could escape the clutches of this great album.

Sometimes great music needs to be escaped. If this sounds like exaggeration, think of listening to good music when alone in bed at 3 am, knowing you’ve got to get to work tomorrow. Imagined? Now shut up. Don’t call me weird. Don’t call anybody weird, for that matter. Words hurt oldies-but-trolledies as much as they do young ‘uns.

Don’t ask us what we’re doing, why we walk or run for miles when it’s hot outside, why we stay indoors when everybody else is outside partying, why we won’t stop making fun of ourselves. It’s because of you. And from what I’ve heard from the gang, we’ve had enough of your bullying.

I found the strength to continue walking, but slowly, and the fortitude to cut my shenanigans myself as the distortion picked up. Hello, I said.


I’m ready to be normal. I’m ready to do the normal thing normal people do at 8-something. I’m ready to get dinner. I’m ready to talk about normal things. And I’m thankful there’s people who’d like to be normal wth me.

I’m not always grateful. I’m not always ready. I often have reservations. I did that evening. I didn’t a month before it. But the mind is a terrible master. Just the word ‘master’ is a terrible word.

I can now see peace-time is here. War-time is behind. I’m so cavalier when using terms like ‘peace’ and ‘war’, in a way that only someone who has never seen war can be. I don’t think a Syrian refugee would refer to a personal crisis as ‘my personal war’, or a resolution of temporary doubt as ‘peace-time’. That’s the sort of luxury only healthy adults in peaceful nations have. That said, I want to read the copy of Art of War my dad got me.

I sat in the car with my mum. We headed out for dinner. Being on vacation is good.

My Month in the Doldrums — Madvillainy (1)

Do we need another dude on the internet talking about how ‘dope’ a rapper MF DOOM is? I’m going to say yes, because by the time this series is done, there is going to be quite some DOOM in it. Madvillainy holds a special place in DOOM’s discography. One, because it’s a combo of DOOM as emcee and Madlib as producer. Two, because it’s just so good. MF DOOM’s discography, and Madvillainy and Mm.. Food in particular were a great escape from thoughts about my self-important self.

How DOOM going to hold heat and preach non-violence?

I think about myself often, so much so that post- and self- are staple prefixes in my life. Post- because I keep inserting myself into stuff and equate my views on stuff with those of all of culture. Self- is pretty self-explanatory.

I often hear unknown voices in my head saying things like ‘he’s grown into a fine young man’, and imagine myself smiling proudly. It’s embarrassing, this self-love / self-hate dialogue in my brain.

I’m afraid I’ll alienate my friends if I don’t get with the programme, insecurity and all. I’m twenty-six and self-obsessed. What’s the point of empathy if it isn’t directed to outwards? Am I not either too young or too old for this level of introspection?

What’s the difference?

Get on this ride with me. Trust me; it’ll be fun. It’ll be like a roller-coaster. Here’s one aspect of that cliché nobody explores. No matter how many ups and downs a roller-coaster goes through, it always ends where it began, therefore intersecting heavily with another cliché — the cyclic nature of life.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Segue: I hold myself to high standards, which would be great if I actually met them. It’s safe to say it’s impossible for most to meet those standards. So I set lower, more achievable standards for myself to meet, while being constantly aware of the ‘true’ standards I don’t and can’t reach. Those around me see me flailing, at war with this imaginary adversary. They just look on, confused. Classic bi-standard effect.

Is he still a fly guy clapping if nobody ain’t hear it?

I wonder what a human is worth? This isn’t just some academic question. A lot of those old introspective questions come from a feeling of worthlessness. The d word? The not-so-great? The not-feeling-so-great?

Does a human have objective worth? If the right to life is inalienable, does that not mean that a human’s life is invaluable. But if a human being is killed due to a government’s negligence, does the government not owe the human being’s family a specific amount of money commensurate with the value of that human life (and the ability of the government to pay)?

I find it so much easier to obfuscate than to deal with the issue head on, which is why all this pseudophilosophical psychobabble. I was dealing more with questions of self-worth, especially as it relates to societal checkpoints such as income, wealth, relationship status, etc.

The argument for moving to a new (read: Western) country is that the parameters on which the worth of an individual is measured might be more holistic. But as long as the poison is within me, I can’t blame any society for my false conclusions.

I bet she tried to say she gave me her all; she played ball.

The identity question has always been front-and-centre for me. If my life were an album, what genre would it be? Maybe experimental. Maybe post-punk of the art-punk variety. Almost certainly adult alternative — the sort that plays in cafés at 5 pm. I’m just a middle-of-the-road kind of guy at heart, I guess, like the grape in Mr. Miyagi’s long-winded analogy. Just like that grape, I’ll probably go ‘squish’ if I’m run over by a car.

I’m not done milking this analogy. Whenever I step onto either pavement, the other starts to entice. So I always find myself crossing the road, often just stuck in the middle between clowns to the left of me and jokers to the right. I go from clown to joker then back to clown again. And then repeat, just like a spinning record.

(That’s right. I don’t just have an alogy. I have two alogies.)

This brings me back to my original thought. If this cyclic life of mine were an album, I have no idea what genre it would be. That said, it would probably be like Madvillainy. I’ll spend the first few spins terribly confused, getting most of it wrong. After a few spins, things will start to make sense. After many, while most of it will make little sense, it will start to become increasingly rewarding and highly enjoyable.

If not, at least I’ll have this album.

All bets off; the villain got the dice rigged.

That’s the one thing I hope to take from these doldrums to tide me over the next — there’s no hurry to get anywhere if you’re running around in circles. It then becomes more important to remain constantly engaged. As King Kendrick said in The Heart Part 4, there’s a difference between accomplishments and astonishments.

Told ya; on some get-rich shit.

If there’s anything being part of a startup ecosystem should’ve taught me, it’s that you are allowed to make your own way, to define your own worth. That’s the sort of free-thinking such ecosystems are supposed to promote. Of course, most of them, this one especially, end up having their own twisted hierarchy — the poison.

The poison is within me too, and I see ladders everywhere I look. These ladderes don’t exist, mind you. It’s just that my cataract makes them up, and my schizophrenia imagines me on them. I should make a collaborative album with myself and call it Sadvillainy.

Probably kissed her that evening; I should be hurling.

Or maybe Radvillainy.

I was feeling mighty blue, and everything looked black.

I don’t even know what the point of all of this is. I made it through March, and the grass is os much greener on this side. Lessons have been learnt. Ladders have been climbed. Not too many lessons, clearly.

I carried on.

I guess I’m like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail, throwing questions out into the abyss. That must make you Tom Hanks. He had Meg Ryan. You’ve got male.

Looks like it’s going to be a great day today.

All I hope is that as time goes by, I’ll be plagued with fewer questions of identity. The signs are positive, and as a long as I proceed with cation, an identity should crystallise. Meanwhile, all I can do is drop the weight of self bit by bit, become a little less than I (I minus), and bond with someone positive.

Forget about myself for a while.

And what a great way to start — with a little bit of autobiographical asphyxiation.

My Month in the Doldrums — Kelly Lee Owens

March ended with an album almost as wonderful as the album that started it — Kelly Lee Owens’ self-titled debut LP. With the start of April come heavy-handed thoughts like, ‘March is gone, taking with it the spectre of oppressive familiarity.’ What I meant to say is that this break away from Mumbai is doing me a world of good. Besides, since vacations end, ‘the spectre of oppressive familiarity’ could well lie ahead as well. That heavy handed thought occurred to me in a Starbucks. No matter how many thousands of miles I wander, I always find myself at a Starbucks. Yesterday, I found myself at two different Starbucks, bringing my vacation Starbucks tally to three in three days.

Over much of this vacation, I have been listening to Kelly Lee Owens’ fascinating self-titled debut LP. It’s a heady mix of minimal balaeric-inspired techno,  reverb-drenched bips and baps, and vocals that I can only describe with the magazine clichés ‘childlike’ and ‘haunting’. For music nerds, there is the added incentive of a Jenny Hval feature in song three of the album, Anxi. It’s a very interesting album that I highly recommend, especially for strollers and drivers.

The sun has set now, and I’m sitting at my balcony. The city is dark and silent, far below and to the right of me. I get the sense that a lot of this music was made against a similar backdrop, and its against this backdrop that it works best. Tomorrow, at 9 pm, I will stand silently on a beach, completely alone, staring at a neon-blue skyline, listening to Lucid, when the evening will wash over me, overwhelming me. It will be just as beautiful tomorrow as it is today.

I’ve become a softie in my old age.

My Month in the Doldrums — No Home of the Mind

Music nerddom has helped me through several patches in life. Most recently, my obsessive relationship with music helped me through a rough March ’17. I’m glad I discovered No Home of the Mind at the start of it. 

Ambient music is difficult to get right. When an ambient album manages to strike that fine balance between dynamism and stillness, it makes listening to it a cathartic experience unlike any other. By this and other measures, No Home of the Mind is a rare beauty. Through its ten-song stretch, it crosses heights so many albums within this insular genre attempt to reach, but fail to. Of these, its most impressive accomplishment is its ability to add a layer over a reality that can sometimes seem ugly, transforming it into something beautiful. Every one of my tens of listens of this album, be it in Airoli, Powai, Pune, or Dubai, at home, on foot, or behind a steering wheel, has added colour to everything around me, making life into that scene in every classic movie — the one after which amazing things happen to all its characters.

Special shout-out to La La Land for being a total bummer and not having that scene.

I’ll refrain from describing No Home of the Mind beyond calling it incredibly moving piano-driven ambient music, so as to not take away from the incredible experience that is the first listen. Instead, I’ll say this. March wasn’t kind to me. I’m sure if you asked me about February thirty days ago, I would’ve said the same thing, just as I would have about January before it. Obviously, there was nothing objectively wrong with my life then, and my life is objectively great now too. Most of what I’ve done since is recognise that fact, and in the words of Kendrick Lamar, be humble. That said, I’m glad March is over, and April looks great.