The prog-metal band issues the last of their color-themed albums.
Baroness is a rare band in the metal genre, in that they are constantly recreating themselves and redefining their sound.
Baroness is no stranger to blending disparate metal archetypes into new and vibrant sonic vistas. Although their early work relied on a denser, more purely metal sound, the Savannah, Georgia outfit reached a pinnacle of critical acclaim in the early aughts–making a name for themselves with an innovative combination of prog and noise rock, while still remaining firmly rooted in the sludge metal sound of their origins.
Their last album, 2015's Purple, brought the band into mainstream rock consciousness, catapulting them far beyond their status as the underground kings of progressive metal. Purple was adored by rock/metal critics and longtime fans alike; it even landed them a Grammy nomination. Anyone who follows the world of metal closely knows well that this is an extremely difficult line to walk–to make music that is heavy, loud, and honest enough to excite the metalheads while also being polished and commercial enough to be considered for a Grammy.
With nearly four years and a significant lineup change between the band and Purple, their latest release, Gold & Grey, has been one of the most highly anticipated prog rock albums in recent years. This record marks both the end of the band's color-themed records, seeing as—alongside Red, Blue, Green & Yellow, and Purple—Baroness has officially covered the full spectrum of the color wheel. Well, kind of. Orange would have technically been the final color, but as the band's front-man (as well as the artist responsible for all of Baroness' album covers), John Baizley explains to Revolver's Sammi Chichester, "[Orange is] the most gaudy hue that is available […] It's 100 percent why we haven't done that color yet. We kind of saved it for last."
However, Baizley goes on to hint that perhaps the combination of gold and gray could somehow imply the color orange, or perhaps strip it of its so-called gaudiness. "I was going out to see a show, brushing my teeth in my bathroom before I went out […] The walls of my bathroom are this sort of warm, neutral gray. I had a pack of Trident—like an orange, mint-flavored gum. As I lifted the package out of my pocket, I saw that package with the walls behind it. The color combination was so intriguing. It just hit me like a ton of bricks. I said, 'This is the way to do it. There's a gray element.'"
Synesthetic interpretations aside, Gold & Grey is yet another departure for a band that seems to be constantly departing. In fact, with each new release since Red, Baroness has been gradually inching away from their sludge metal roots, one small step at a time. 2012's Yellow & Green marked the band's first significant turn from a more firmly metal-oriented sound, allowing themselves to more fully explore the ambient and sonically experimental realms of progressive music. And since then, each new release seemed to leave the metal further and further in the past. Gold & Grey, however, marks the first time Baroness has come close to nearly abandoning that heavy sound all together.
The moments when that classic Baroness heaviness can be heard on Gold & Grey are fleeting—more like an allusion to their metal roots than a full-on embrace of them. The heavy metal purists are likely to skip through much of this album in search of something to bang their heads to. There is still some solid riffage, though, particularly on tracks like "Front Toward Enemy," "Borderlines," "Throw me an Anchor," and "Tourniquet."
The majority of Gold & Grey, however, sees Baroness reveling in ambiance, synth-driven prog rock, and, perhaps most uncharacteristically, acoustic songs with more traditional structures and chord progressions than fans have come to expect from the band. Songs like the piano-led, vulnerable ballad, "I'd Do Anything;" the mellow, twinkling, and lonely sound of "Emmet – Radiating Light;" and the indie-inspired instrumental interlude, "Blankets of Ash," all see Baroness moving toward more emotionally wrought and stripped-down places than they have ever gone before.
Gina Gleeson, in addition to providing stellar guitar work, has lent Baroness some new dimensions. Not only does she shred, but it sounds as if she may have been responsible for pushing the band into some very interesting and unexpected places. Another element, for example, that stands out about Gold & Grey, is how solid and, for lack of a better word, sturdy the vocals sound when compared to previous Baroness projects. This is, in part, due to Gleeson's expert backup vocal work. She lends many rich yet understated harmonies to Baizley's singing, adding a new heightened level of musicality and emotional depth to the band.
Gold & Grey is not your typical Baroness album. But, then again, there really is no such thing as a typical Baroness album. This album, though, definitely does mark the end of an era for Baroness, and it is a perfectly colorful sendoff–an album as sonically and vibrantly solid as it is authentic and dark–equal parts gold and grey.
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The Trump-Twitter Industrial Complex continues to fester and mutate.
This week, President Donald J. Trump tweeted a false statement about mail-in ballots.
He wrote that secretaries of state were sending mail-in ballots to every person, when actually states are only sending out ballot applications. For the first time, Twitter jumped in to fact-check Trump's statement, adding a link to a webpage full of information about mail-in ballots.
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Was the Jimmy Fallon Blackface Skit Intentionally Released as a Distraction from the Murder of George Floyd?
Racist police violence is a modern epidemic. So why are we talking about an SNL skit from 2000?
At this point, celebrity apologies are incredibly common. In 2020, it seems like some formerly beloved actor or TV personality is being put through the wringer of public opinion a few times a week.
Most recently, Twitter canceled Jimmy Fallon after an unquestionably racist skit from the 2000 season of SNL resurfaced online. The skit features Fallon impersonating Chris Rock, complete with black face and an offensive imitation of Rock's speech patterns.
Jimmy Fallon Blackface youtu.be
This quickly led to the hashtag #jimmyfallonisoverparty trending on Twitter. While fans seemed split on whether Fallon should be forgiven for the 20-year-old misstep, most everyone agreed that Fallon should apologize regardless. This morning, he did just that in the form of a tweet.
As far as celebrity apologies go, Fallon's is a pretty good one. He doesn't try to sidestep the blame, he doesn't bring up the fact that there were undoubtedly many, many other individuals involved in the creation of the skit, and he doesn't even mention the fact that in 2000, many people still thought it was possible for black face to be done in the spirit of fun, because the deeply racist nature of the act was largely ignored in mainstream (white) media. Of course, we know better now, and it's easy to see that a white person doing an exaggerated imitation of a black person—darkened skin included—can only be a racist, belittling act with a long, dark history of racial oppression. With that in mind, Fallon's only option was to apologize without caveat or reservation. Indeed, it's refreshing to see a celebrity apology that doesn't try to justify or minimize their own misstep. While we can all agree Fallon made a terrible, racist choice 20 years ago, we have to believe that, like all of us, he's grown since then. If cancel culture is to have any efficacy in making the world a better place, it has to leave room for forgiveness and growth. Hopefully, the whole affair will leave Fallon (and those who witnessed it) more racially sensitive.
All of that being said, one has to ask why the clip was brought up now, given that it's been circulated around the Internet before, and the specific YouTube clip that was shared was posted on the site over a year ago. It's also worth noting that the version of the clip that was going around Twitter has a text overlay that reads: "NBC FIRED MEGAN KELLY FOR MENTIONING BLACKFACE. JIMMY FALLON PERFORMED ON NBC IN BLACKFACE."
Megan Kelly, an outspoken conservative, was indeed fired from her job at NBC because she defended the use of blackface in Halloween costumes, saying on her talk show, "Truly, you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween, or a black person who put on whiteface for Halloween," she said. "When I was a kid, that was OK as long as you were dressing up as a character." While Fallon's instance of racial insensitivity was in 2000, Kelly defended blackface in 2019, long after society at large had begun to acknowledge the hurt that blackface and other forms of racial impersonation could cause. This fundamental difference aside, Kelly also has a long history of racial insensitivity that Fallon does not, even once saying, "What is the evidence that what happened to Eric Garner and what happened to Michael Brown has anything to do with race?" in a conversation about the epidemic of racist police officers in America.
Given the text overlay, it's pretty clear that whoever began the #jimmyfallonisoverparty was not necessarily seeking justice for the black community, but was instead trying to imply hypocrisy in the cancellation of Megan Kelly, given that Fallon (who has been outspoken about the flaws of the Trump administration and political pundits like Kelly) is still on the air. One even has to wonder if, given that it's obvious that the #jimmyfallonisoverparty trend was begun by a conservative individual or group, if the trend was meant to be a distraction from the widespread racist police violence that has been emphasized in recent weeks by incidents like the death of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered in Minneapolis by a white police officer on Monday. It seems oddly coincidental that the clip of Fallon should flood the Internet with controversy the day after Floyd's murder, unfortunately serving to help steer conversation away from Floyd's unjust death.
Indeed, under the unquestionably racist Donald Trump administration, more and more black people are being harassed, attacked, and murdered at the hands of racist white civilians and police officers. But Trump and his supporters don't want you to focus on that–so much so that it doesn't feel impossible that the Fallon skit was intentionally weaponized as a distraction.
In the last few weeks alone we learned that Ahmaud Arbery was murdered senselessly by a white man while simply out for a jog, and we all witnessed the harassment of Christian Cooper, a black man who was threatened by a white woman in Central Park who didn't want to put her dog on a leash. It's clear that racism in America cannot be reduced to insensitive skits from 20 years ago but is instead a current and deadly problem. What Jimmy Fallon did in 2000 was racist, yes; but don't let that distract you from the deadly consequences of racism in 2020, don't let celebrity apologies make you take your eyes of our lawmakers, who aren't doing enough to protect people of color in this country. Don't let the latest "#_____isoverparty" trend distract you from the deadly consequences of racism in our laws, culture, and criminal justice system.
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