There’s a few reasons books have big raised letters on the cover. An immediate reason is well, it’s a mini-billboard. I think a far more important, more human reason, is that people want other people to know what, and who, they are reading. People want you to know when they are accomplishing something challenging. It’s no wonder then, that our culture is obsessed with Facebook “Likes,” Last FM “Scrobbles,” and ever printable permutations of the Top Ten list. A person’s taste can be a valuable commodity, and in Milo’s case, it can maybe become an artistic statement.
Enter Milo, the teacher’s pet. I call him teacher’s pet because on his January-released double EP Things That Happen at Day/Things That Happen at Night, Milo gets pretty darn academic. The guy doesn’t bat an eyelash at talking up Hegel or Schopenhauer, though in all fairness he’s just as apt to bring up Kitty Pride or George Carlin, and it says something that he gives them all equal respect.
“Things That Happen” is my first time listening to Milo, and I immediately like him because it’s obvious that he’s a well read guy, and to paraphrase "Tourette’s" guy, “He likes what I like.” He digs Neruda, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, just like I do. He says it himself on his “Bandcamp” page that, “I write songs for kids who think Spock > Kirk. Or kids who know what I was just referencing.” I love that Milo is reaching to a non-traditional hip-hop market, to the people who like Star Trek as much as they do music. Even the beats have a non-traditional feel to them, sounding more like Coke cans opening and laptop keystrokes as opposed to hyperactive snares and studio triggered gunshots. Milo clearly isn’t interested in making stereo-typical hip-hop, and as a result he is giving hip-hop more to say.
And I like the way he’s saying it all. Milo understands(presumably from reading Neruda) there is sometimes more meaning in the sound of a word as opposed to the contextual meaning of a word. When he says “Who can shout louder from the watchtower?” Milo is acting equal parts poet and orator, putting him on par with the likes of arhythmic thoughtfuls like Scroobius Pip and Mike Skinner.
However, as much as I love name-dropping philosophers and literal euphony, I found that the most interesting moments in the album are when Milo tells us his own philosophies, and that those moments were too few. Being a long-haired person myself, I identified in particular with his line from “Almost Cut My Hair (for Crosby)” in which he tells us “Yesterday I almost cut my hair, I didn’t and I wonder why...I feel like I owe it to someone.” The line, although shamelessly lifted from a Crosby, Stills, and Nash song, is original in where Milo places it. What was once a clear sign of rebellion and paranoia in the 1960’s is now an existential parable of a man trying to stay true to something that may not mean anything.
At many points in the album Milo’s references to great minds are useful and relevant, but these can only get an artist so far. As any student passionate about a given subject will soon learn, it’s far more enlightening when a teacher stops telling us about what has been done and tells us what they think is happening now and next. Being told what Plato said can be a very beautiful experience, but it will always be more beautiful to see the teacher come into his own. We want to see a Milo make his own philosophy.
I think that Milo had taken his “Likes” as far as they can go on this album, and that he’s done it very well up to this point. If he’s read all these guys, (especially Hegel) then he knows that he has to synthesize them all and make his own thesis. Though I could be wrong - after all, I haven’t cut my hair yet either.
Things That Happen at Day
1. sweet chin music (the fisher king’s anthem)
2. almost cut my hair (for Crosby)
4. legends of the hidden temple
5. almond milk paradise
Things That Happen at Night
1. a lazy coon’s obiter dictum
2. the Gus Haynes cribbage league (ft. Busdriver)
4. folk-metaphysics, 2nd ed.
5. post hoc ergo propter hoc (for Schopenhauer)