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Mos Def – Umi Says

Sometimes I find myself with little to no desire to be a functioning bolt in the money machine that rules in the 3rd dimension. Sometimes I just want to be an artist, fully engaged in the place the mind goes to when listening to an amazing song, when writing poetry, when emerged in romance, when overtaken by the power of nature. Sometimes I want to be a scientist or a business man, seeing all details, executing, making and developing. Sometimes I want to zone out in meditation, sometimes I want to be with someone, sometimes I want to be alone. Sometimes I want to hear a song and cry, indifferent to how my expression is perceived. Sometimes I want to be myself without having to explain myself…

A flower instinctively goes toward the light. It doesn’t spend time worrying if people will mistake it for a weed or if it’s taking too much sun. It wisely and simply follows it’s primal flower gut instincts to attain it’s highest level of flowerosity.”

Sometimes I don’t want to feel like my capacity to love should be limited to one thing or one person, sometimes I feel like everything is everything and there’s no distinction between anything, sometimes I can’t see the distinction between a person and a tree. Sometimes I want to see reality beyond physical form. Sometimes I want to put my heart into something just because, sometimes I don’t need a reason, I don’t need a reward, I don’t need expectations. Sometimes I think history isn’t what we know, sometimes I think everything that’s happened in the world, our entire lineage, all the knowledge of the world is written and passed down not by books or stories but in our DNA. Sometimes I wanna be a kid riding my BMX like a madman through SoHo, a man curating the sounds of the world, a son learning from his father, a father teaching his children, all at the same damn time. Sometimes I wanna be formless, free from this body, a timeless time-traveler. Sometimes I want to be more than me, sometimes I don’t want to know what me means, what “I” means, what self means, what anything means. Sometimes I just wanna feel, sometimes just I wanna tell you how I feel…

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Made In Heights — Murakami

It’s just a story though
Is it a story though?
I can’t tell if it happened cause it felt impossible
Don’t know whether it was real or a dream
Imagination playing tricks on me”

For a while after the divorce of my last relationship, I could feel those exact words that you just read above in quotes as if Made In Heights read my own mind and created these lyrics from it. I lost a girl from my dreams and one of the greatest loves of my life to severe depression. No, she did not pass away or commit suicide, but to be honest it felt as if she had.

We tried living on the Amalfi Coast for a while because ‘why would heaven on earth not be able to cure anyone?’, I thought. But it was as if I was living there by myself with a ghost most of the time. The girl that once gave me back my inspiration was gone, and there was nothing that I could say or do to pull her out of it. I knew, after some time, that there was no room in her broken heart for me. She was mourning and grieving the death of a parent that she loved more than life itself, and I had to either just wait for her to get over it while myself dying slowly in the process, or, I had to leave her be.

Back in NYC I had to learn to breathe on my own again. You see, in my culture it is taboo to speak about your problems to others, especially because everyone else has their own problems to deal with, and why should we so selfishly burden others. We don’t seek therapy in other people who don’t know much better than us, no. We seek the answers to our problems within ourselves, and so that’s what I did. I decided to figure out what else life has in store for me, and slowly, I moved on.

I hear the bells I hear the wind
I hear a song in my heart again
In the tenderness moves all things
Like a poltergeist in the streets”

Today I realize that life is truly a gift, and that wasting away that gift doing anything else but enjoying the moment is an assumption about life that I’m not willing to bet on because I really don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I do know that love will always follow me, and that those loves will always continue to be of the best kinds. I do still catch glimpses of her in my dreams which all feel very real, but my heart started cranking up again and spinning so profoundly that I just can’t afford to let it die once more.

What’s the difference in my love or scheme?
The difference in what you say what you mean?
What you mean you don’t really know?
I’m losing touch with the physical
I’m showing up in the future like I’ve been here before
Ain’t that a story though?
Like you ain’t even know
Somebody switching the digits up on my Casio
Don’t know whether this is real or a dream
Imagination playing tricks on me”

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The 2 Bears – The Night is Young

Multi-tasking is no easy task. I’m trying to do five things at once right now and I feel like I’m stuck in a bubble going up a hill. It takes patience, know-how, confidence, and of course, time. Sometimes, it feel easier to just give up on them all and rip my bong. At other times, I try to do all five at once. Neither strategy works.

So artists with two successful and innovative projects amaze me. The ability to create diverse musical sounds with diverse amounts of people is a skill I imagine you’re born with. It’s not easy being Clark Kent one minute and throwing on the cape a minute later.

And by day, Joe Goddard is best known for his efforts in Hot Chip. By night, Joe Goddard is half of The 2 Bears. The dude has skills.

Goddard’s day job (of which I’m minimally acquainted) comes with more critical acclaim and renown, but it’s the latter project’s time to shine. And with all due respect to Hot ChipThe 2 Bears’ sound offers far more intrigue and range, at least for me.

If you’re into genres, you can describe The 2 Bears sound as “Comfort House” to your friends. At its core, Goddard and partner Raf Rundell deliver relaxing house music–“house” with a knowing soul and a kind backbone. It’s a sound that’s increasingly difficult to find when discussing “electronic dance music” or as we once called it: House.

Two weeks ago, they released The Night is Young, and it doesn’t seem like enough people have noticed the stellar follow-up to Be Strong (also very nice). That’s probably because like the men behind the album, The Night is Young features a ton of exciting artists you won’t see on billboards and likely have never heard of.

It also probably definitely lacks a hardcore, major ($$$) marketing campaign from a mainstream label, as it’s out on the independent but always stellar Southern Fried Records.

But as noted earlier, this album has got what a lot of today’s electronic music lacks: roots and passion. Goddard and Rundell will take you to the wild jungle one song, the tranquil train station the next, and then to an enclaved beach party.

The iTunes description for the album notes African roots, and it’s obvious these guys draw from a wide variety of influences, from the tribal to the funky to the all-out housey.

And that’s fitting for a duo that formed as an homage to the godfathers of house.

Despite the “Bears” image portrayed, both Goddard and Rundell are heterosexual. The name honors house music’s gay roots, of which “Bear” is an associated term.

With an effort like this, you have to think the house lords like Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles (both openly gay) are smiling down upon this effort as they bop their heads in heaven.

I’m kind of amazing the title track doesn’t have more plays. Pure balearic melody and musical melatonin, it deserves your attention and more of the internet’s:

This modern reggae interpretation may be the coolest track on the album:

“Not This Time” is the catchiest tune on the album and perhaps the oddest music video you’ll see all year.

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Mozambo x Pakem x Kungs x Julia Church – Soulmate

I usually go into detail about the elements of the songs I’m writing about. But not today. All you really need to know about this song is you should listen to it. Let it consume you for a few minutes.

Now, the important part- the content. Not only is it presented in a pleasurable way (that sultry voice!), but it conjures up thoughts in my mind that other songs can’t quite possibly. I used to have a notion of a “soulmate”- that one person I was destined to meet. Now I’m a skeptic. Thank you, men that have been in my love life. Thank you, college, for my first “soulmate” (or so I thought). I’m not saying I was extremely crushed, but I felt an intense connection, one that has not since been replicated, and it makes me wonder WHY this one person had such an impact on my love life. What was this “connection”? Was it innate, or did it evolve? What was it about just a simple kiss that transported my soul to another universe? A universe with just this moment, and him. I wanted so very badly to believe a connection is the sign of a soulmate, but the realistic side of me wants to brush the notion of a “soulmate” from my consciousness.

Is a “connection” enough? A lot of other factors are forced, by nature, into the mix. Maybe I was naive in college and believed that those forces were mere details. ‘We have a connection, that must mean something, right?’ Thoughts like this kept me going back to the possibility of an us. My idyllic views have changed slightly since this encounter, yet I stay optimistic about the idea of someone out there who fits me just right, whose quirks I find cute and not annoying, and with whom I feel a prolonged spark.

For now, my quest for a life partner continues…

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Vanic X K.Flay – Can’t Sleep

The most common word used to be “fine” when someone was asked how they are. If you think about anytime you are learning parts of a new language, one of the first things you learn is how to answer to your name and respond to ‘how are you’.

More recently, however the most common word to respond to ‘how are you’ is now busy. The collective shift from fine to busy has occurred in the recent years. The constant treadmill of daily life, riddled with gadgets and apps that are supposed to help us organise better, work more efficiently, remember to meditate are now just adding more clutter than there was before, but because we make it through our stacks of work and emails faster, we just fill the time with more stacks and email.

I thought more on this as a recent FaceTime with my Mom which generally starts with a pleasant “Love you/Miss you” was punctuated with more of a concerned “You look tired”.

“Maybe I been freaking out, moving quick, burning the wick at both ends. Screaming loud, stupid shit, scaring all of my old friends. Fell down on Bedford, hope that it’s not broken.”

During this conversation we also talked about old friends as she ran into one who was working at the local supermarket in town. She has two kids and the same job she had when we were in high school. We used to be inseparable. I remember there was switch that went off before I left home to go to school. I wanted to live anywhere else in a faster life. I didn’t want to be bored anymore, but never quite learned how to stop adding to the lifestyle. Never saying no.

I spoke to a friend in London here the other day who was saying the same thing about going home and seeing old friends, the bit of guilt you feel when you say anything about your life you built. They built theirs too, but there is the constant sliding doors feeling, like all of the choices you have made, what-ifs. At the end of this talk, and after both of us working long hours in long meetings. Who has the better life? She seemed happy. She had a house and lifestyle she was surviving in. And was content.

Perhaps we are those who are not content. Who can’t stop once you see the next step up. Once you get a few stamps in a passport, you will save all you have and apply to everything you can to get to the next location or position. We can’t sleep.

“My mother told me that the world has got its plans. I wanna hold until it burn right through my hands.”

This mix comes from Vanic, of Vancouver. The perfect mix of dark lyrics and dancey tunes.

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Kero Kero Bonito – Flamingo

Black, white, green or blue. Show off your natural hue. 

Here’s something interesting for you. A song that embraces our differences- the “flamingo” in all of us! Sarah, Gus, and Jamie, the trio that make up Kero Kero Bonito put diversity into a very positive light in “Flamingo”. They also mix English and Japanese lyrics throughout the song. I was pleasantly suprised by this, and liked how it further exemplifies the message the band is spreading.

If you’re multicolored that’s cool too

In addition to the positive message, the elements and tempo tie together to produce a kick-ass song. From the pan-flute before the first verse, to the disco-like interlude after the second, this song screams “random”! (In a good way). Randomness of life is what makes it exciting. I didn’t remember much from statistics class, but I vividly remember my professor stating that “Life is random”. So simple, yet absolutely true. Life is composed of randomness; randomness is nature.

As the result of mult-cultural parents, I have been forced to embrace differences in life, and at the same time, accept that not everyone is so open to such diversity. I was quite a shy child, but as I grew up and went to college, I was able to be around people who reveled in my differences- a weird trans-atlantic accent, crazy curly hair, and a zany sense of humor. I could BE myself, and found people who let me! The diversity that college brought me enabled me to find myself without restriction. Now, several years later, I care much less about what outsiders “think” of me.

I hope you can find positive people to be around so that you’re able to find yourself without restraint. BE weird and DON’T apologize for it!!

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Feist – Caught A Long Wind (Nicolas Jaar edit)

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Nicolas Jaar‘s essential mix never gets old. It’s been over two years since its release and it still gives me the chills. To me it still completely reeks of Autumn 2012, one of the most intense seasons I’ve yet to endure— Hurricane Sandy and the End of the World all in the span of a couple months, say what? I was living in downtown Manhattan at the time, surrounded by constant stimulation and sleeping hardly at all finishing up my last semester of undergrad. Needless to say, it was already set and setting super conducive to the cray, but Sandy took the intensity to a whole new level…

This Feist track from the mix specifically conjures up memories of my hurricane tribe and the vibe we had going in our makeshift refugee camp (my apartment). There were 7 or 8 of us, mostly my Ave C homies who rolled by last minute to escape their flood zone-age. None of us realized the impending zombie apocalyptic doom we were to face in the aftermath of dear Sandy. We were in the dark. Literally and metaphorically.

Caught me a long wind
Where will we go?
Keep ourselves afloat

Venturing outside after the storm was a trip and a half. Everything was dark, much more dark than I could have ever imagined. The city that never sleeps, knocked out and unconscious for days. Blacked out beyond belief. I couldn’t be more grateful for the group I was with at the time, all creative artsy weird types. We totally thrived on the lack of electricity. I remember my friends drawing by candle light while I played my sax. Writing poetry on my typewriter, Exquisite Corpse style was something I’ll never forget. Highly recommended. In short, it was fucking cold and the most real of times. Waking up to that which endures beyond the scurf of daily existence– whether in the form of values or things, is a fucking invaluable experience. Being stripped to the bare bones of existence, you’ve no choice but to channel that inner strength in all its inexhaustible glory; survival mode does wonders for eliminating the distractions.

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2Pac – Changes (Vijay & Sofia Zlatko, Kasùal Remix)

One of my favourite studies is called The Marshmallow Test. If you are not familiar, it was a test done in the ’60s that tested 600 children but putting them individually in a room and placed a marshmallow in front of them. The child was told they could either eat the one marshmallow or wait 15 minutes and the person doing the testing would give them another marshmallow so they can have two.

The theory coming from this being those children who were able to wait longer for twice the marshmallow had better self control and displays the ability to delay gratification. Basically they could restrain impulse.

The test was redone a few years ago in the same structure, adding an encounter with an adult who would offer art supplies. Some of the adults were reliable to bring supplies and some weren’t. The outcome supporting the idea that children could actually be using rational decision making, if they had an unreliable encounter, it would likely happen again so there was no need to wait for the second marshmallow.

The takeaway I got from this is empathy.

Honestly, I read the report on the original, which is awesome (if I believed I could retire studying sociology or anthropology for my career, I would leave advertising yesterday). And that is what I got from it. I do have good self control and honestly felt like that is something I harvested, I gained. Perhaps I did. But I also looked at people who couldn’t have it, as, I don’t know, less strong? Because it is hard, but some people seem to be able to handle it better than others.

And then I read this study revisited (in 2012, 50 years later) and I just got more from that. You never really know what the other person was raised with or dealt with. You don’t know when they are having a bad day or someone lied to them or let them down. I get that, you grab what you can then.

And that is fine too.

I really, really love hip hop for this. There is this great tone and feeling from songs, Changes being an obvious fit for this, that take a look at society and how we are viewing people and not allowing the full back story to come out to see why they did something, what they believe. Perhaps their logic and action makes more sense than others, or mine.

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I hope this reaches the writers,

I have never left a comment here before, but I have been following EMPT for some time now and I feel like I should tell you what your words meant for me.

I have felt sad, happy, excited, and so much more reading your posts and listening to the songs you put with them. Although I am a DJ and an entrepreneur, I came to EMPT for the music, but I stayed for the feelings that your words brought onto me. I have held back on crying more times than I care to remember from reading the posts and thinking about my life. So, if anyone should be thankful here it is me. I thank you for taking the time to write and having the courage to open yourself up like you do often in your writing.

Thank you for everything you made me feel.

I wish you all the luck in the world on your future endeavors.

Take care.

Ivan C. Pereira
São Paulo, Brazil

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War — The World Is A Ghetto (1972)

Hatred is not a choice, it is simply a form of programming the way that the language that you speak is. You are not born knowing anything in this life, but you are born seeing, hearing, feeling, touching, tasting and then absorbing every inch of what is brought into your space as you grow. What else is a human being if it is not constantly learning, and how else could it function for not what we design it to function as, right?

Walkin’ down the street, smoggy-eyed
Looking at the sky, starry-eyed”

I remember being very little when my mother taught me that people in this city hate one another for the color of their skin, and being so confused by that notion. Up until that point, my mom never said anything like that to me before. She always made sure I played with everyone, and until then I had never really known that people saw skin color as something that could make us so different. Had you shown me a giraffe or a rhino or a jellyfish, I could tell that they were different, but the kids that I played with from very little, well they all had ears like me, eyes, noses, hair, and they were all around my height, so everyone, to me, was the same… She told me this because I was about to embark on a journey into another failed system that never teaches us what we should be learning in order to thrive in America, but rather what we should know to barely survive instead; enter, the public school system. It was there that I understood what she was trying to show me, and it was then that I came to learn what a ghetto was.

War‘s “The World Is A Ghetto”, was playing last night at the underground pub on Broadway that I walked into for a beer. I had just been out with friends and just been basking in my glory about how things with work are going, so I wasn’t really in the mood to stop celebrating. Knowing that I could walk in there and grab a beer and just relax was all the driver for the night that I needed to walk inside. I ordered a beer and as I sat there ready to engage with the hot little number that was sitting next to me, I heard the most amazing sounds coming out of the worst speakers:

When I think of the world as a whole, with no language barriers and stupid color-prejudices, I think of one giant ghetto because it is. The filthy rich became that way by methods and ideas that are illegal in themselves. Think of all the big banks in this country, the steel and oil bandits in others. Think of the bootleggers from our very own history whose great great grandkids are trustafarians. Now think of everyone else, and what do you see? The same thing I saw growing up. The rich drug dealers and mafia gangsters living lavishly in their palaces, and then there is everyone else. The electrician, the bodega owner, the mail lady, the nurse, the students, the disabled, the elderly, the weak, the mentally challenged, and the soldiers, all struggling in the same hamster wheel of their own ghettos which we simply call life.

The World Is A Ghetto is a sonic masterpiece. In order for any song to sound good on every set of speakers and headphones, including the shittiest kinds, the song needs to contain the kind of dynamic mixes and sounds found on this tune. Mixes that are perfected by absolutely very detailed recording methods in which instruments have several mics to capture every natural sound, vocals have backup singers, and new methods like Quadrophonic mixing are incorporated; new to 1970, and 2 years before this was recorded. Mixes that are able to capture the sounds in an entire room are the kind of mixes that just don’t die.

While some of the other guys focus on the latest and very newest songs out there, we continue to focus on quality, so we write in order to tell you why we feel what we do as we reflect on who we are continuing to become.

There’s no need to search anywhere
Happiness is here, have your share
If you know you’re loved, be secure
Paradise is love to be sure”

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