In a couple of days, New York veteran Aesop Rock will turn 40. In his latest release, The Impossible Kid, Aes gives listeners his reflections while stroking a proverbial beard matching the hues of his silver tongue. In a “Lotta Years,” he feels eons behind as a child of the 80s: “The future is amazing, I feel so fucking old / I bet you clone your pets and ride a hover-board to work… I was bumping New Edition, dragging acne into Hades.”
His hallmark witticisms and complex, cryptic abstractions carry this album noticeably less; while still prevalent, there’s a distinctly autobiographical and introspective quality to this LP. In “Get out the Car,” he reflects on his life since his close friend and fellow artist Camu Tao died (2008). There’s a candid, confessional tone to the song as he confronts a static, paralyzing grief. Aesop Rock’s music has always been surreal: his ambiguous images and lofty language can often leave listeners probing to find meaning. Perhaps a larger trend of his later years, Aes writes about concrete situations and makes his meaning accessible in TIK—like in “Blood Sandwich” in which he recollects memories of his two brothers.
For fans who love the sport of digging through the intricate layers of Aes’ lyrics without a treasure map hoping to find gold, TIK will still satiate. In “Defender,” Aes weaves a narrative through dynamic hooks about bobcats, coyotes, and bears tearing through New Salem while he attempts to “defend the whole block.” Aes, in his ambitious ability to impact concepts, is not haphazard or superfluous. He said of the song, “Defender is about dealing with multiple, unrelated problems at once. Both require your attention but couldn’t be more different.” TIK is a balanced and cohesive mesh of the overt and the obscure.
The productions are stock beats. Not mediocre, just typical for Aes: synth-lined discordant rhythms with pronounced bass lines and neck-breaking drums. “Get out the Car” stands out with a simple set of strings backed by soft drums to create a melancholy and pensive atmosphere. Aes has perfected a recognizable sound, but the novelty of this song is desirable. “Blood Sandwich” even had a nostalgic and ethereal impression. Virtually the same mood is created out of every song beyond these two; the similarity of sound creates solidarity, but variety is compromised. Nonetheless, every track is crafted.
TIK is a testament to Aes’ relevance. Some of his cohorts (I won’t name names) have seemed to decline in their later years—becoming complacent rather than culminating. Aes obstinately remains at a caliber he first proved he had the capacity for, then showed he could maintain. In TIK, Aes seems to have the desire to remove the distance from his audience. His abstruseness is lessened, and it’s good. Still a master of metaphor, still instep with his idiosyncratic diction, Aes has removed the veil from his lyrics to make his content available. The album can be streamed on YouTube, accompanied by a dollhouse recreation of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and is directed by Rob Shaw – the unique spectacle is undoubtedly worth a playthrough, if only for the comic and creepy video. Eat your heart out Jack Nicholson.