I can’t analytically define why I fall in love with certain sounds more than others, (although there are probably algorithms or something to explain such aesthetic phenomena), but the reality for me is that I can’t help but vibe with the Beatles. I pretty much always enjoy listening to them; it doesn’t really matter where I am, who I’m with, what time of day it is, what I’m doing, etc. The Beatles have a this rare, all-encompassing power to them. And I am happy to say that I hold the same praise for the artist known as Milo.
The purpose of the Tomorrow Never Knows series is to consider the more intangible connections of today’s rising music to yesteryear’s, to compare and draw attention to the similarities present in the essences, the lifeblood, even, of today’s new music and the classics of rock & roll (and any music in general).
For this week, I am going to go a little more in-depth into how the Beatles and Milo are on the same wave:
Rory Ferreira, more commonly known by his stage name Milo (also stylized as milo), is unapologetic in all ways necessary to create. He is unapologetic, yet humble. The 26 year old rapper, hailing from Illinois, then Maine, then Wisconsin, then back to Maine, where he currently runs his own label, is bold, to say the least. Milo is compelling not only in his autonomous operation of his own label (which is reminiscent of the Beatles’ self-run Apple Records from 1968), but also through his full commitment to an experimental, artistic, yet popularly appealing musical career.
Milo approaches and challenges the fine line between pop and art, and in this way he is instantly reminiscent of the musical avant-gardism of the Fab Four. His lyrics are self-effacing, powerful, and socially charged (often dealing with death, life, love, identity, family… and everything in between), all-the-while flowing gracefully within his raw, seemingly minimalist beats; the Beatles were (are) great in their ability to do just this: to create catchy, yet purposeful music while embracing a completely new, unique, and often psychedelic sound.
While the Beatles’s first few albums were very much in line with the prevailing pop sounds of the late 50’s/early 60’s, their release of Rubber Soul in 1965, then Revolver in 1966, instantly canonized them as perhaps the first simultaneously artistic and commercially successful band. Transcending a more playful “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (1963), the Beatles embraced the reality of maturation, isolation, and human relationships with “Girl” (1965), “Yesterday” (1965), “Eleanor Rigby” (1966), and “She’s Leaving Home” (1967)… to name a few.
While the Beatles developed over years into a more experimental and lyrically-charged group, Milo has been embracing these artistic motives from his inception. On his latest album, budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies (released on the 21st of September as his second full-length album release of 2018, and sixth album since his flourishing solo-career began in 2013), Milo is distinctly redolent of the Beatles’s 1969 album Abbey Road, as each song transitions seamlessly from one to another in a medley that is essential to both albums.
Here is how Milo describes his latest release, quoted from his bandcamp:
“all of my songs become spells. i go out into the world, corralling small groups together and we yell and cry and howl and laugh around these words, some being gorgeous lies that come true. with 7 years of urban shamanism under my belt i no longer seek the story of the adventurer, i seek the experience.”
Dropping out of college to pursue rapping and producing, Milo’s philosophical undergrad studies are gracefully intertwined with his beats. Evocative of John Lennon’s lyrics, Milo confronts social issues regarding race, gender, socioeconomic disparities, and sex with intellectual and artistic grace. He is tactful like the Beatles in that one can enjoy his music at a purely aesthetic, poetic level, in which the sounds of his songs, regardless of the lyrics, are emotionally provocative. The emotional value of his music is then intensified through the context of his lyrics.
He currently lacks the widespread, mainstream following of many other rising rappers, perhaps because he does not embrace any particular popular sound of today’s rap scene…. and this is exactly what makes him so great.
Everything feels conscious, intentional, and fleeting with Milo: his voice is melodic, and his lyrics complement his beats (another clear intersection with the Beatles). In the latter part of the Beatles’s career, there exists a distinct vulnerability in their lyrics (that challenged the musical norms of the time), and in many ways their songs can be described as a synergy of poetry and melody (i.e: “Your day breaks/ Your mind aches/ You find that all her words of kindness linger on/ When she no longer needs you…” from “For No One” off of their 1966 release, Revolver). Milo is equally vulnerable in his music: “Do-gooders are closest to evil, I note as I stroll the cathedral… Anxiety in car fulls and car ride… I could never keep my focus right/Locus always shifting/Lonely like weekend only visits” [“Sanssouci Palace (4 Years Later)”]
All music that passes through your speakers (or preferably headphones… I feel he is best listened to alone and with a certain level of focus) is not only aesthetically pleasing, but unapologetically telling of one person’s voice, one person’s world-view, which (as is the case of great art) can be extrapolated into a sort of synergy with our own individual world-views to understand something larger of the human condition. “Unfurl the dormant barking, do not become a beast/Mutual exclusivity is fucking with me” (“stet”).
As Milo puts it, and as the Beatles would agree, “art speaks to people, that’s why they use it against you” (from “Aubergine Cloak”). Both Milo and the Beatles are monumental, ahead of their respective times, and perfectly emblematic of the intersection of popular music and art. I wonder which rising artists will be bold enough to challenge our musical paradigms next; as they say, tomorrow never knows.
See Milo live on October 6th at Sonia, Cambridge!
Listen to his newest album: budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies