Sometimes I worry my vocabulary isn’t as comprehensive as I think it may be. This always happens to me when I hear music by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (ORL). It’s as if I’m trying to describe magical realism, but none of the words really explain what the phenomenon embodies. Perhaps there is a connection to the Latin American writing style and ORL‘s work. In his latest solo album Old Money, ORL, much like the literary geniuses behind the artistic genre, tells a story that is almost too grand to believe.
I can’t get enough of Old Money. It may just be because this is one of the first albums of 2009 that has spoken to my own political and social ideologies. With the stock market sinking, unemployment rates increasing, and our first African-American President trying to clean up the mess he’s inherited, ORL’s album makes one thing clear: there’s a reason why we got here. ORL tries to convey a part of our lives that is often covered up, and that’s just with the title of his album! For a New Yorker like me, Old Money hits home, as one of his themes is the Rockefeller legacy. His overall targets: elitism, wealth, the few who control it, and the many who played a role in colonization.
Old Money is familiar ORL, but there’s something different too, something bittersweet. The first few notes from “Power of Myth” instantly relaxes me. I’m mesmerized by the strings and am swept in all the ways ORL demands my attention. I can listen to this track for hours and will always discover something new. The single “Population Council’s Wet Dream,” not only touches on his humor, but the tune also encourages listeners to see how communities are treated outside the US. The nostalgic melody of “Private Fortunes” takes me back to the days of waking up to my father playing his records of some of the greatest guitarists from the ‘70s. Much like magical realism’s most notable mascot Gabriel Garcia Marquez, ORL never hesitates to make his listeners feel.
Just when you think ORL slows things down, the rest of Old Money becomes more intense. Some may read it as melancholy, but I hear self-determination, as well as attacks at new and old forms of colonization. ORL helps us realize we can still use music to raise consciousness. “Trilateral Commission As Dinner Guests” and “Family War Funding (Love Those Rothchilds)” are two songs that have so much going on, and for good reason. What should be heard first? How can I consume this song without it consuming me? These are questions I ask myself when I hear these tracks. By the time I get to the final title, I’m weeping. It’s been so long since an album captures and represents the collective current socio-political experiences of its listeners. Thankfully, ORL is brave enough to command his audience with a message.
If you’re procrastinating on hearing what ORL or his progressive rock band The Mars Volta have to offer, it‘s time to make your own journey into magical realism. The time is ripe for Old Money, so don’t be afraid to peel its many layers to see the world from the perspective of a musical mastermind.