Hidden Gems: There Existed an Addiction to Blood by Clipping

There Existed an Addiction to Blood by Clipping

Nothing sounds more contradictory than horror music; horror is usually associated with scary movies while music tends to be uplifting, inspirational, or just a lot of fun. That’s why I was so surprised when I first heard There Existed an Addiction to Blood by the experimental rap group Clipping. It’s a self-proclaimed “horrorcore” album with a modern twist, released on October 18th, 2019, just in time for Halloween. I didn’t know much about the group before I listened to the album, which added a lot to the mystery of the project, but I’ve learned a lot more about the group since then and it’s pretty incredible. The lead vocalist of Clipping is Daveed Diggs, who is best known as Marquis Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the hit musical Hamilton, for which he won a Grammy. I still can’t believe the artistic range and musical talent of Diggs, to win a Grammy for Hamilton and then go on to produce the incredible horror album There Existed an Addiction to Blood. The group also released the album Splendor & Misery, which was actually nominated for a Hugo award as an amazing work of science fiction. If it isn’t clear already, Clipping is an incredible group that produces groundbreaking music albums with thought-provoking and unique narratives. So in honor of the spooky season, I present to you the best horror album I’ve ever listened to and an absolute hidden gem: There Existed an Addiction to Blood.

My favorite track from the album is Nothing Is Safe, which was also the first single I heard from the album, and I can’t overstate the impact it had on me. It was like nothing I had ever heard, and I don’t say that often. The song starts off with a single dissonant piano key, reverberating in dense air, with a steady, hypnotic rhythm. It instantly brings to mind images of being alone in the dark, or walking down the dark hallways of an abandoned castle, with a bone-chilling fear of the unknown. Then this heavy, bouncing synth comes in, perfectly complementing the repetitive piano key and providing the perfect foundation for the rest of the song. Next up is Diggs: he comes in with an understated, menacing, and haunting vocal performance. The story starts with a sense of calm, but it doesn’t take long to realize that something is off: everything is too quiet and the suspense is tangible. Things become more frantic as the story develops, and the instrumental conveys it perfectly. The dynamics of the song are flawlessly executed, reflecting the intensity of the story and culminating in a heart-pounding chorus that is absolutely unforgettable. From start to finish this song is a masterpiece and it completely blew my mind the first time I heard it. I can’t recommend it enough; pay special attention to the lyrics and how cohesive the song is, and appreciate just how unique of an experience it is.

Some of my other favorite tracks from the album are Run For Your Life and The Show, which both read like short horror stories in the style of Edgar Allen Poe. They’re incredibly story driven with terrifying narratives written in the second person, placing the listener in life-threatening and horrifying situations. Run For Your Life is incredibly imaginative, both in the narrative in the instrumental: you’re running for your life from a killer, hiding in an alley, and cars drive by playing the instrumental, which pans from ear to ear. It sounds like a gimmick but it’s incredibly well executed and realistic, making the story immersive and a thousand times more terrifying. The Show is an extremely graphic and well written song about being tortured by a sadistic killer. It sounds awful and it is, which is perfect for the Halloween season. It’s also extremely catchy: the chorus is surprisingly addictive, although I wouldn’t recommend singing it in public. Overall, I mostly appreciate how immersive and convincing the entire album is. Clipping isn’t afraid to commit to intense storytelling, even when it crosses conventional boundaries and is legitimately terrifying. The group is truly groundbreaking in a lot of ways and it’s easy to see why. There Existed an Addiction to Blood is an outstanding example of their talent, and my favorite horror album to date. If you’re interested in Clipping as much as I am, you’ll be happy to hear that they’ll be releasing a sequel to There Existed an Addiction to Blood titled Visions of Bodies Being Burned on October 23rd, just in time for Halloween. I definitely recommend checking out both projects; there is a lot to unpack in Clipping’s albums and I hardly got started in this post. Feel free to start a discussion in the comments as well, I would love to discuss the album more!

Hidden Gems: Doom (2016)

It’s officially October and the beginning of spooky season! Whether it’s pumpkin patches, apple cider, warm sweaters, Halloween, or the general atmosphere of spookiness, October has it all. In celebration of my favorite month I’ll be posting strictly spooky hidden gems, ranging from classic horror literature to blood-curling albums and everything in-between. The first entry in this series is the video game Doom from 2016, one of the many games released over the years in the Doom series. Although Doom is recognized in popular culture and has heavily influenced the development of video games, it has been overlooked by a majority of people: most people have never played a game in the series, seen gameplay, or know the plot. Doom 2016 is the best example of everything that the series does right and is already a classic in the gaming community.

I feel like I’ve always known about Doom: that it was taboo, violent, and graphic. I had always been told to stay away from games like that, but as I got older and more into video games, I couldn’t help but be drawn towards the legendary status of the Doom series. I had heard especially profuse praise for the latest entry in the series at the time, Doom 2016; that it was intense, addictive, extremely fun, and incredibly immersive. Needless to say, I felt like it was a game I had to play, and I’m so glad that I did. Doom 2016 has perfected the concept of an addictive, arcade style game that also cares about its art and aesthetic. It’s extremely approachable, regardless of skill level, and immediately fun. Anybody can pick up a controller, start playing, and suddenly realize that they just spent 3 hours slaying demons in order to save the world from a demon invasion, and then keep playing for another 3 hours, it’s that addictive. It’s no accident either; the entire style of the game is a perfect mix between intense fighting, cartoonish enemies, and a good sense of humor. It never takes itself too seriously, which I think is the perfect way to approach a game that features demons and monsters. One of the key reasons that the series has been popular for so long is because it’s the only series that has been able to fill the niche of a fun horror game, and Doom 2016 is the best example of that quality. So although Doom 2016 hasn’t been played by a large majority of people, it is absolutely loved by those who have played it. As one of those people, I can say without a doubt that Doom 2016 a hidden gem.

Hidden Gems: Nectar by Joji

Nectar by JojiI cannot begin to explain how excited I was for Nectar to be released on September 25th. Originally scheduled to be released in early July, the project was pushed back due to the COVID pandemic, much to my dismay. The first single from the album was Sanctuary, which was released in June of 2019: that’s how long I’ve been anticipating this album. I have followed the career of Joji (the stage name of George Miller) since he was a YouTube creator, and I watched as he built a cult following in the music industry with simple lo-fi tracks that were authentic and intimate. A lot of fans are drawn to the personality and charm he displays in his music, which I can’t deny is infectious. Needless to say, I preordered Nectar and listened to it the minute it was released.  At 18 songs and 53 minutes it’s an incredibly substantial album, covering a lot of musical ground and showcasing the unique qualities of Joji’s musical style. Having listened to it countless times already, I can verify it as a hidden gem: it is well-rounded, musically intriguing, and unbelievably catchy. Here are a couple of my favorite moments from the album, which I think demonstrate what makes this album and Joji so special:


This song was one of the many singles released leading up to the album. My first impression was pretty lackluster; I dismissed it as a generic pop song with no character, thinking that it was completely contrary to Joji’s established style. Having listened to it multiple times in the context of the album, I’ve completely changed my mind. First of all, the production by Diplo is some of the best on the entire album. The instrumental is clean and vibrant, with a lot of great synths that really pop when combined with Joji’s voice. Joji’s vocal delivery is spectacular as well: he shows off such a wide range of style and emotion, and he commits to the chorus so well, it’s absolutely perfect. This is easily one of the catchiest songs on the album and I find myself replaying it constantly. It just captures this feeling of euphoria that I love, and I think it’s a great example of Joji’s musical ability.


I would argue that this song is the exact opposite of Daylight: it isn’t bright or vibrant, it’s subtle and understated, relying mostly on strong vocal performances and beautiful instrumental compositions. There’s an amazing piano and strings intro that is extremely reminiscent of Joji’s older music, which was more nostalgic and moody. It makes me happy to see that he has worked on developing the same themes from earlier projects and that they’ve come so far, both in terms of quality and emotional potency. After the intro the track takes a hard left into a simple trap beat and a flawless vocal delivery by Joji. Although the sudden change is a surprise, it perfectly complements the intro. Joji is rapping over a bare bones instrumental in this super sharp tone that feels both intimate and hypnotic and I absolutely love it. Then it develops into this beautiful chorus that brings back the piano and highlights Joji’s amazing singing voice. It’s another song that demonstrates the versatility of Joji and the outstanding quality of the album.

These are only two of my favorite songs, but together they reflect the two sides of Joji presented on Nectar. Some of my other favorite tracks include Run, Afterthought, Mr. Hollywood, and Your Man. I wish I could go into all of the reasons why, but unfortunately that would take a couple more posts. Overall, Nectar is Joji’s best work to date and I can’t recommend it enough. It certainly has low points, but every single song stands out and reveals more about the musical development of Joji. Definitely give it a listen if you can and let me know what you think!

Hidden Gems: Dreamland by Glass Animals

Dreamland by Glass Animals

First of all, welcome back to my column! I hope you had a great summer regardless of the current state of the world, and I’m glad you’ve come back to read about art that I’m passionate about. You might have noticed that my column actually has a title now! Hidden Gems is going to be a running series where I bring to light some hidden gems of art that have been overlooked or underappreciated by the majority of people. Be warned, there might also be some lumps of coal (e.g. art related topics that I’m passionately furious about). In the first entry of this series is the album Dreamland, released in August of 2020 by the band Glass Animals. I’ve been looking forward to an album by Glass Animals since their last album in 2016, and I got even more excited as they started dropping amazing singles like Tokyo Drifting. Having listened to the entire album at least 50 times now, I can guarantee it qualifies for hidden gem status. I think the album can be best summed up by my three favorite songs, which are presented here, along with some of my thoughts on what makes each one so spectacular:

Space Ghost Coast to Coast:

This is the first big moment on the album and one of my favorites by far. The intro starts with a deep, heavy strumming and a clappy beat that is so incredibly catchy and dark, it immediately grabs your attention. Then Dave (the lead singer) comes in with slightly filtered vocals in his rich and gentle style that creates this moody, atmospheric sound that complements the instrumental so well. Then halfway through there’s this amazing build up, then a crisp and hypnotizing beat breakdown that is absolutely perfect. It reminds me of monsters and cold Halloween nights, alone in the dark. The plot of the song is also notable: it’s the story of a childhood friend who goes down a dark path, and the themes of the story are exactly what the song needs. This is completely different than anything Glass Animals has released before, both in its instrumentation and its themes, which makes it extremely exciting as a Glass Animals fan. Overall it’s a perfect song, I just wish it was longer.

Tokyo Drifting  ft. Denzel Curry:

I have to be up front: if you’ve been reading my column for awhile you’ll already know this, but I’m a huge Denzel Curry fan. His style is absolutely unique and incredibly intense, and I always get so hyped when he starts a verse. It seems like Glass Animals understands the effect that Denzel has, and that they crafted this song around that same energetic and electric feeling. The synths they use are large and brassy, overlaid with one another to create this whole symphony of punchy rhythms. The lyrics and vocal delivery by Dave are subtle and cool, which perfectly align with the themes of the songs. This song also nails its transitions: there are so many spots where the song sets itself up for an amazing drop, and then totally obliterates the landing. The build up to Denzel’s verse is a stellar example of tension, and of course when Denzel comes in it’s insanely cool and perfectly executed. It’s easy to see why it’s such a great song, and I don’t think nearly enough people have heard it.

Waterfalls Coming Out Your Mouth:

This song starts with another incredible intro, featuring a plucky guitar and punchy percussion. Overall, the percussion on this album is one of its greatest achievements: each song is a completely different experience, unlike anything I’ve heard in other music. Then Dave starts singing and it’s like all the pieces fall together and the atmosphere of the song is revealed. It’s over-the-top and not afraid to experiment with multiple styles, changing instrumentation often and contrasting light vocal passages with intense responses. Halfway through the song is one of the best moments on the entire album: everything goes soft and timid, there’s a gradual build up with some carefully placed effects, and then suddenly it’s pure, outrageous insanity. I absolutely love the palette of this song and how well it demonstrates the stylistic freedom of Glass Animals. You have to give it a listen, not even just these three songs, but the entire album. It’s not a perfect project, but it’s certainly a hidden gem.

Good News by Mac Miller

Anybody who has been a long-time reader of my posts knows how much I care about Mac Miller and the musical legacy he left behind. Underappreciated during his time and recently discovered by many after his passing, there has always been more to him than people assumed. Even when I first started listening to his music and went to a concert on his Divine Feminine tour in 2016, I was under the impression that he was vulgar and overly explicit, and that his music left a lot to be desired. Looking back now, my first impression wasn’t entirely off, especially considering that The Divine Feminine is one of his raunchiest and most shallow albums. However, I eventually listened through his discography and found something strange; there was an innocence and relatability to Mac Miller, and a story that was more complicated than first realized. Eventually he released Swimming, his last album before passing, which was a somber and existential monument to his musical talent. Just recently his producer released the posthumous album Circles, which was well received by critics and fans alike. In my opinion, it didn’t encapsulate the personality of Mac Miller like Swimming did, but it gave the world his final gift: Good News. Released as a single before the album, Good News is by far the shining star, and is a tear-jerking farewell to the life of Mac Miller.

The simple, plucky instrumental that introduces the track is catchy and subtle, and is followed up by the gentle voice of Mac Miller himself. Immediately the tone of the song is set; it’s an intimate and vulnerable look into his emotional state, with a focus on his voice and lyricism. The words themselves are devastating:

Why can’t it just be easy?
Why does everybody need me to stay?

Good news, good news, good news
That’s all they wanna hear
No, they don’t like it when I’m down
But when I’m flying, oh, it make ’em so uncomfortable
So different, what’s the difference?

Well, so tired of being so tired

Mac so perfectly conveys how tired he is with his mental state, fighting his inner demons and the pressure of being in the public spotlight. It’s a feeling of giving up, which is even more tragic considering he was only 26 when he passed. On one hand, it seems as if he has finally resigned himself to his fate, and on the other hand there is a feeling of hope and nostalgia, a reason to keep living. One can’t even begin to imagine what he was struggling with, or how his life led him to this point of existential questioning. He used to be an outrageous and energetic performer who didn’t care about public opinion, but now it’s obvious that he was much more complex than he portrayed. These final few lines are some of the most gut-wrenching and self-aware in musical history:

If you know me, it ain’t anything new
Wake up to the moon, haven’t seen the sun in a while
But I heard that the skies still blue, yeah
Heard they don’t talk about me too much no more
And that’s a problem with a closed door

There’s a whole lot more for me waiting on the other side
I’m always wondering, if it feel like summer
I know maybe I’m too late, I could make it there some other time
Then I’ll finally discover

I’m not exaggerating when I say that the world cried listening to these final words. What a punch in the heart; how could he be so prophetic and aware of his fate, and yet welcome it with open arms. He finally stopped fighting himself so that he could be at peace. I would argue that these words leave no room for another album: these are the words of a man who has nothing left to say and has realized and come to terms with the meaning of his life. I have so much respect for him and everything that he made, especially at the end when it was clear that he was struggling. He managed to write his own eulogy, and in doing so left the world with his greatest gift, and for that I’ll always be thankful. Rest in peace Mac Miller.

Salvador Dali

I recently finished Dali the Paintings, an amazing collection of Salvador Dali’s works accompanied by commentary and an interesting account of his life by Robert Descharnes and Gilles Neret. I’ve written about my particular interest in surreal art before, and Salvador Dali was one of the most influential leaders of the movement; as he said himself, “the only difference between me and the Surrealists is that I am a surrealist”. He was well known in popular culture for being eccentric and arrogant, and many of his works are iconic today. In reading through his biography, I was surprised by how much depth there was to him as a person, and how much his personality and art style changed throughout his life. I definitely recommend reading Dali the Paintings if you have the time, even if you aren’t typically interested in art history; the story itself is stranger than fiction. However, instead of reviewing his life, I thought I would highlight some of the most interesting paintings, provide some context, and explain why I find them so fascinating.

Atavistic Ruins after the Rain, 1934 by Salvador Dali
Atavistic Ruins after the Rain, 1934

One of the first paintings I ever saw by Salvador Dali was Atavistic Ruins after the Rain, and it is easily one of the most memorable. I was struck by how different it was from the fine art that I was used to; it was strange and other-wordly, with a feeling of gravity and oppression that was completely unusual. After learning more about surrealism and Dali, I realized that I enjoyed the ominous and unexplainable atmosphere of surrealism just as much as the amazing technical mastery. Most of my favorite works by Dali were made around this time, when he was 30 and leaving his group of surrealists for popularity in America. I find these paintings to be the most haunting, with similar landscapes based on the Catalonian cliffs of Spain where Dali grew up. Many of his motifs were first introduced during this period, such as the crutch, the standing figures, and the soft, melting architecture. In general, this painting represents to me what makes Dali great, not only as a painter, but as an artist of atmosphere.

The Elephants, 1948 by Salvador Dali
The Elephants, 1948

Another iconic painting by Dali is The Elephants, painted in 1948. There is a lot of important context needed in order to understand this painting relative to Dali’s life. Firstly, Dali was greatly affected by the bombings of Japan in 1945; he turned to mysticism, and adopted a unique belief in the atom and nuclear physics as the closest representations of God. These new beliefs led to prominent religious imagery in his paintings and a new form of atomic surrealism. This painting in particular has a nuclear feeling, with its red sky and barren landscape, and the elephants carry giant religious obelisks. Dali was also affected by the death of his older brother who died before Dali was born. His brother’s name was also Salvador and they bore a strong resemblance; as a result, Dali often said that he felt as if he was already dead. This feeling comes across in paintings such as this; even the decay and fragility of the elephants induces anxiety.

This is an incredibly brief introduction to Dali and it’s only the tip of the iceberg as to why I find his work so fascinating. I will definitely be writing more about surrealism in the future, but in the meantime I encourage you to explore the movement yourself. I recommend learning more about Dali and his works as well; he was prolific and each painting is an entire artistic universe.