[Listening] The Collective by Kim Gordon

I’ve been listening to the new Kim Gordon album The Collective (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp) a lot over the past few days. The year is still young, but I think this is the most interesting album I’ve heard in 2024.

From the Pitchfork review by Shaad D’Souza describes the album as:

Powered by ear-splitting trap beats and churning industrial guitar, anchored by lyrics in which Gordon recites packing lists or mutters about driving in Los Angeles, The Collective is a maelstrom of mundane thoughts and funny asides and flashes of pure rage whipped into a heavy, unnerving fog. It sounds how TikTok brain feels.

The album displays the brutality of attention hijacked by algorithms that know how to combine a desire for distraction with the enjoyment of being angry in ways that often bring out the worst of our inability to be alone with our minds.

In addition to this, the album rewards multiple listening sessions with different hardware/in different conditions. From The Rolling Stone review of the album by Kory Grow:

Listen closely: On “Principles,” the jarring penultimate track of Kim Gordon‘s new solo album, The Collective, are the words she’s wailing “an actress of life”? Or is that last word “light” or “lies” or “live” or something else? The line transmits differently if you listen to it on a big stereo, expensive headphones, a beach speaker, shitty AirPods, and shittier iPhone speakers, since she’s buried it so deeply in atmospheric reverb and industrial clanging. You gotta open up your earholes. With vocals mixed so opaquely, listening to The Collective is an act of discovery.

As I listen to the album and re-listen to it, I think Gordon has effectively captured the subjectivity of now and given us the album we deserve.

Kim Gordon, the person, is also very interesting. Here is a bit about her from the introduction to a New Yorker interview conducted by Amanda Petrusich after she released No Record Home (Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp), her first solo album, a few years back when she was 66.

Kim Gordon was born in upstate New York, in 1953, but was raised on the West Side of Los Angeles, where her father taught in the sociology department at U.C.L.A., and her mother worked as a seamstress. She moved to New York City in 1980, with designs on becoming an artist. In 1981, Gordon and the guitarists Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore started Sonic Youth, an experimental rock band that inadvertently helped usher in the alternative-boom of the early nineteen-nineties. Gordon was the kind of cool—vaguely aloof, impossibly chic, intimidatingly smart—that made young women like me feel equal parts terrified and enamored. During a time when it was still somewhat anomalous to see women playing in rock bands, and especially in bands as esoteric and adventurous as Sonic Youth, Gordon was a beacon.

From a review of The Collective at the Guardian.

Everyone always says Kim Gordon’s cool, so let’s get that out of the way – it may be tiresome to read repeatedly but it’s true. The Sonic Youth bassist turned California visual artist’s first solo album, No Home Record (2019), was very good and incredibly cool. Not just “cool for a 66-year-old mom”, but a remarkable work full of vim and mordant fury, thrillingly modern hip-hop post-punk

Gordon, who is now 70 years old, and Patti Smith are two case studies on how to age well.

Again, from the Pitchfork review,

It’s a provocative but fitting new mode for Gordon, who, for over 40 years, has intermingled caustic experimental art with a mordant curiosity about mainstream culture.[…] Few are better equipped than Gordon—who, at 70, is still cooler, smarter, and more fearless than most—to guide us through.

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