Friday, July 10, 2015

Food Flavored Album Review: Beautiful Words EP by Oscar

Late last week I joined some red and purple potatoes, beets, kale and onion together in a large metal bowl. I threw in some olive oil, soy sauce and a smattering of dried spices. I wasn't expecting much from the dish. But with each bite my expectations slowly shifted. This stuff was good. By the end of the meal I was perusing the pantry to figure out what ingredients I needed to purchase at the store so I could make the dish again. Sooner, rather than later.

I realized this dish, which I called Red and Purple Hash, was the food equivalent of Beautiful Words, the new EP from 23-year-old Londoner Oscar Scheller. Oscar is a bit of a melody savant. He crafts Brit-Pop numbers that combine sampled breakbeats from 90's East Coast rap with beautiful lyrics, notes and chords. Oscar has been going at it, this music thing, for pretty much his entire life. His father was a new waver who morphed into an acid house producer. Perhaps this is why Oscar picked up the piano as a baby, learning Erik Satie numbers.

My introduction to Beautiful Words (well, the North American version of the EP) came in the form of "Daffodil Days", the fourth track on the album. I'm not sure when I heard it the first time (a trip back through Hypem didn't clear this up). What I do know is that I was intrigued by the song right away. I blame this completely on Oscar's rich baritone voice. I just couldn't turn away from it. Even so, I didn't necessarily like the song. I listened to it more in the way that a rubbernecker gazes at a deadly accident. But with each listen my feelings slowly shifted. Now I have it on a list of my favorite tracks of the year. I liken "Daffodil Days" to the potatoes in this recipe. Potatoes have been a staple in my diet for years. They are what initially intrigued me about the recipe. While I enjoy potatoes immensely now, there was a time when I would actually remove them from recipes because I couldn't stand their taste. One french fry, baked potato, tater tot or home fry at a time, I fell in love.

Beets are a pretty new thing to me. I hated the smell they produced when they were cooking and for years would not even give them a try. Then a friend of mine wrapped them in puff pastry, added in some orange juice and cheese, and forced me to taste one. I loved that earthy citrus taste. I loved it so much that I ate puff pastry square after puff pastry square. I ate so much that it scared the piss out of me the next day when I peed red. I had to google to make sure my body wasn't falling apart. The album opener (and title track) "Beautiful Words" works in the same way the beets do. It's the newcomer, the one I resisted. Despite my enjoyment of "Daffodil Days" I didn't immediately jump on the "Beautiful Words" express. Listening to it now, I have no idea what I was thinking. This song seems to be exactly like what I enjoy. It's catchy and upbeat, has an uplifting feel to it and, again, displays that baritone front and center. But now that I'm on board, I listen to this thing religiously. It has yet to change the color of my piss but there is no doubt in my mind that that's coming soon.

Oscar's lyrics tend to deal with family things, loss, pain or girls. Sometimes they do two or three of these at once. The topics, sampled breakbeats and baritone lyrics all work to give Beautiful Words a melancholic feel. The biggest buzz kill is the closer "Stay." It addresses the loss that a person feels when someone walks out on them. When he sings repeatedly "Don't go, everything is fine when you're around" he captures what most of us think in those moments right before or right after a relationship dies. You can't see yourself ever again being able to walk out in public and face the world. No one will be smiling out there, life will just be somber from here on out. We tell ourselves, everything will be better if that person just sticks around. Holding on to something that is already gone is just about the saddest thing a person can do. This recipe captures loss by incorporating the worlds saddest vegetable, the onion. You can peel back those layers, really get to know what's on the inside and make a connection, but the more visceral you get with that onion, the more it reduces you to tears. Stay surface level and the pain won't come but neither will the vegetable buy in. You'll taste the difference if you push through the feelings

In "Grow Up" Oscar talks about his desire to be young forever. It may be impossible to stop aging but science suggests you can certainly slow it by taking in some antioxidants (which counteract oxidative damage, a driver of the aging process). Guess what is full of antioxidants? You got it, that leafy green, nutrient dense, kale. 

Red and Purple Hash and Beautiful Words by Oscar. A food pairing made in a painfully melancholic acid house if ever there was one. That is to say, a perfect type of pairing.

Check out the new video for "Beautiful Words" which was inspired by American visual artist James Turrell:

"Daffodil Days" in video form: