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Major Lazer ft. Pharrell Williams – Aerosol Can

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Pharrell Williams is everywhere these days, following his smash guest appearance on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” production on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and solo chart-topper “Happy.” He’s a 40-year old who somehow looks EXACTLY THE SAME as he did at age 20. He is a vampire.

Mr. Williams has been churning out big hits since the late 1990s, both as a solo producer and as a member of The Neptunes and N*E*R*D. Oh, you knew that already? Take a gander at this partial list of productions: Wreckx N’ Effect – “Rump Shaker,” Ol’ Dirty Bastard – “Got Your Money,” Ludacris– “Southern Hospitality,” Mystikal – “Shake Ya Ass,”  Britney Spears – “I’m A Slave 4 U,” Fabolous – “Holla Back,” Justin Timberlake – “Rock Your Body,” Nelly – “Hot in Herre,” Snoop Dogg – “Beautiful” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Jay-Z – “Change Clothes,” Gwen Stefani – “Hollaback Girl.”

Please read that list again. It’s insane, and a tiny fraction of a discography that includes a number of rock acts (The Hives, Scissor Sisters, Fall Out Boy) and two film scores (“Despicable Me”). Over the past 16 years, Pharrell has improbably defined the sound of a generation, and he is now bigger than ever. Is that a good thing?

For most of his career, Pharrell was a super-guest or unseen influence, lending a song just what it needed to get over the hump and onto the radio. His laconic raps exude worldly confidence that skip between the mean streets and Milan: “Up in Donatella’s crib, me and like ten hoes/call from the cell phone, give me that Enzo.” And his joyful singing (best exemplified on Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful”) allowed rap songs to be poolside anthems.

But with his immense rise in fame, Pharrell finds himself in a new role, one that longtime fans may find disconcerting. He’s the new Quincy Jones, the most in demand producer in the world with a following comprised of youth and old folks alike. Can he really dip his toes back into the world of cocaine rap?

Judging by this feature on Major Lazer’s recently released “Aerosol Can,” the answer is unequivocally yes. Diplo’s trendsetting continues with an aggressively simple beat that fits with his Major Lazer project’s dancehall leanings; tight, tuned up toms layered with a bubble-bass give Pharrell an avenue to show off his word wizardry in a way he hasn’t on his “pop” tracks.

And make no mistake, this is coke rap at its most referential. Along with references to reggae legend Eek-A-Mouse, Mario Kart, Mulan and fancy cars, Pharrell drops lines like:

Look around, everybody on Sinatra
I ain’t talking bout this shit they call Coke and vodka
I’m talking bout this shit you short and go ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

You know, in case you weren’t sure.

This track is HYPE. Like, is it tonight yet? I’m tryna get out on the floor and dance up in someone’s grill, to get strobe-blind and make some mistakes. Songs like this are the drug.

Major Lazer ft. Pharrell Williams – Aerosol Can 

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Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – All Wash Out (Löwenherz Bootleg Edit)

This is a good traveling song. We have fully entered a time of change for the year. Even London is sunny today. You can see all of the business people and walkers avoiding the common shadows for a stroll in the sun. Light hitting the ground of Liverpool Street. Spring has taken hold and thus has begun the yearly chance to retire the large coverups and start planning your big summer escape.

I had chosen to jump the ship earlier. This being a week of accomplishing one of my life goals I had written down on a tattered piece of paper in Florida at the ripe age of 11. I wanted to move to London. I also wanted to meet Bruce Willis, move to New York, move to Los Angeles, use a llama in a bartering system. Although, I still have yet to meet Bruce Willis or have a llama in my possession that I am free to trade as needed, I can finally tick off every place I had set out to live in landing in London on a 1-year stint. What I needed to really make the move was incentive. It is hard and expensive and feels impossible to make a move like that. Out of country. Out of arms reach of your family. Out of your comfort zone. You really have to just let it go. What would it take to drive you to make a change this big? What would it take you to make any change? What is on your list?

I wish I could give 11-year old me a high-five for making that list. I memorized it. I lived by it. I was in it for the long con. But I found my incentive 2 years ago to make a move like this. Love is a powerful drug. It makes you move mountains. Or in this case, countries. This has always been my dream, and it was harder than I thought. And took years longer. But now I know I can move mountains.  Make the list and start ticking things off.

After all is said, I think we need to invent a word that means “one is excited,scared, happy, sad, exhausted, and eager all at once”. Because that is what getting on the plane and the feeling after you decide to change your life feels like.

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This mix comes from Löwenherz, a young producer based in Tübingen. This mix adds another layer of base following the whistles and versus of the original Edward Sharpe track. Playing along with the folky tone of the original, this remix creates a punchy baseline to a song that yearns to inspire change in ones life.

“A prayer and the sea
And twenty tons of me
Crying love, love is something to believe in.”

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – All Wash Out (Löwenherz Bootleg Edit)

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Movement – Us (Shmallen Remix)

Both Sydney-based trio Movement and East Coast bedroom producer Shmallen were total unknowns to me until recently. Movement is one of the smaller names on the Modular label (Tame Impala, Presets, Klaxons, Darkside, Robyn etc.), while Shmallen remains unsigned and grinding hard to make a name for himself in a crowded space.

Shamallen’s downtempo-house remix preserves the breathy falsetto vocals of the original, along with its melancholic plea: “Did you believe in us? Did you believe in trust?” But here, what was a fairly empty soundspace is activated with a light tough: reverbed highhats, a soft arppegiator and brief but effective piano stabs.

The idea that an artist could become “big” based solely on remixes is troubling to me. Someone poured themselves into writing those lyrics and crafting that song, and the final product was the way they, the artist, meant it to be. What gives some rando in a basement the right to completely alter that artistic vision in pursuit of personal enrichment and notoriety?

And yet, there is significant artistry involved in remixing (at least, in good remixing). Artistic appropriation is hailed in other mediums…why not in music? The key is in the degree of “remixing.” Adding a 4/4 beat to a slow song takes no thought or effort. Adding a DROP doesn’t either. But when cutting and pasting bits and pieces while adding your personal nuance leads to a fully realized, new piece of art, there is some commendation deserved.

In the case of “Us,” I vastly prefer the remix to the original, which I find extremely boring. That is not to say I discredit the artist, because that was his (their) vision and I respect it in that capacity. Putting your art out there is a big step, and you can’t care whether people like it or not.

But we at EMPT care about you, dear readers, and that’s why I’m posting the remix,  fraught with questions of artistic integrity, paradoxical reasoning and all the other philosophical junk I’ve piled on top of it. The track is hot, and these artists deserve a deeper dive.

Movement – Us (Shmallen Remix)

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Mos Def – Ms. Fat Booty (Louis Futon Remix)

What I love about hip-hop is its ability to straddle and pull from many different genres and backgrounds to create a greater message. The original track from Mos Def took samples from Aretha Franklin and formed a track that has remained a staple of hip-hop for over a decade. This remix adds in jazz and funk to bring to another place. Another level.

This past week, I was asked to be wing-woman to one of my girlfriends. Fine. The rest of the night took a turn for one of those nights you can’t make up. And shouldn’t turn down. One of the guys in our little pack of miscreants was a performer for Totem, the Cirque de Soleil show in Santa Monica and mentioned some of the other performers were at a show at Harvelle’s in Santa Monica. The night was jazz and hip-hop. We walked in to a man wearing a suit onesie that only he could have ever pulled off. He was chain smoking in the center of the stage with red and white lights rotating on him as he calming let out vocals which sounded like an angrier James Brown. It was amazing. Once your eyes adjust to the haze of the stage you start to make out a writhing human figure along the pole in the corner. His eyes rarely leave her but also not give off more than look which says “You are here to entertain me. Move.” And she did. The packed railroad style bar stood in silence. An MC was in the crowed singing among us with a mic and would sometime’s call the spotlight on him. The girl in her torn fishnets and tattered lingerie crawled along enticing us all as we watched hungrily with our whisky’s to the side filling our ears with his words and our eyes with the vision of an old chorus line dancer and dusty blues singer creating music. The show ends after a climactic parade of various dancers bending and turning in from of him, his face was never seen behind the smoke.

When the music stopped and the DJ came on to wrap up the night, I requested Gang StarrAbove the Clouds” and he laughed at me, then proceeded to put it on. A full dance took hold of the floor and the performers all came on stage. The best dance partners you can find are from Cirque, and also the best show. The night ended when we all poured in to cabs much after last call was yelled and the floor had a sticky film of spilled beer and grime from the patrons of the night.

I appreciate the musicians of today and their curiousness, their ability to join genres and sounds and create something new from something things we hold to be classic.

This duo from funky Philly has done a fantastic job at that. Tyler Minford and Logan Zoghby of Louis Futon splice the classic Mos Def track and drop in a base that punches through the vocals at the opening and then crescendo into a synth-filled heady, groove. The two will be releasing an upcoming EP, Mojitos.

Mos Def – Ms. Fat Booty (Louis Futon Remix)

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Phantogram — Black Out Days

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Hide the sun
I will leave your face out of my mind.”

Some music is made to be listened to loudly at clubs. Other music is made to be listened to at your local cafe in Paris as you read your latest book, or pen your latest work. Some music is curated to make you pop more bottles while you’re out with friends having the time of your lives, and other music is made to get you to shuffle dollar bills out of your hand feverishly at your local strip club. Some music is simply designed for you to cry to, or for you to YELL out at the top of your lungs to with a fist in the air, while other music is made to soothingly make you feel good as you light up a joint and just mellow out. Black Out Days” by Phantogram was made to revive your soul after a relationship that almost left you, it, and your heart for dead. 

Cue any Santogold-like sample (P.S. I actually know Santi, but the best samples are taken from her album and former moniker Santogold, so I will forever go with that.) and insert it into the hook on this song, throw in some heavy hip hop basslines, some sleek electronic synths, and more mesmerizing harmonies courtesy of Ms. Barthel, mix it all together for three minutes and fourty-seven seconds, and VOILÁ!, you have sonic magic fit for a permanent position on that repeat button.

Black Out Days” is the bad bitch alert that just went off and the snooze button just won’t work on. She’s the girl that you dumped in high school and came back with a vengeance, only, she didn’t come back for you, just everything else in the world.

Dig a hole
Fireworks exploding in my hands
If I could paint the sky
Would all the stars be shining bloody red.”

If we could dig a hole in the ground we stand on and burry ourselves deep in it, well sometimes we would. Those moments where you know you messed something up stick with us sometimes until we have no choice but to let them go. It could be an interview or a presentation at work, a new girl/guy you just met, or even a new jacket you just bought, the accountability has to be placed on our own selves for the silly mistakes we make no matter what the outcome. We should only learn from these mistakes, even though in all of that process of learning from them we may just feel a LOT of pain.

Whose fault is it when you hold on to a firecracker for too long and it explodes in your hand nearly taking a digit or two, forever, with it? Whose fault is it when you do the same with relationships that parallel those fireworks—in the process taking pieces of you with them forever that you soon regret giving away?

Some relationships are meant to be savored for all time because of how beautiful the moments within them were; others, not so much. Others are meant to be forgotten altogether, but since time does not exist they are meant to be forgotten: NOW, and with them all that was felt, taught, learned, experienced, and once remembered; forgotten as if they never even existed because sometimes that is the only way to get rid of the cancerous thoughts that have been embedded in your head—by completely removing the cancer all at once.

This is what “Black Out Days” is. It is the willpower given to us by Phantogram to remove the cancer because:

Black out days.
I don’t recognize you—anymore.”

Phantogram — Black Out Days

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Daughter – Youth (Alle Farben Remix)

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“And if you’re still bleeding, you’re the lucky ones.
‘Cause most of our feelings, they are dead and they are gone.
We’re setting fire to our insides for fun.
Collecting pictures from the flood that wrecked our home,
It was a flood that wrecked this home.”

This song. The lyrics. I recently read in article in a hilarious, but always inspiring monthly publication that talked about a disease where you actually become addicted to someone you used to love. The reactions your brain has to being with them is similar to cocaine. There is a rush. Your senses have heightened. Your mind actually will react as if you did a line of this person.

Some of us would call that first love. For some it is the last love. But the idea that you, your body, your mind can become dependent on the love of another, well that is science. I love songs like this though. I can sit comfortably in my happy relationship and then hear this song and feel pangs of remembrance. An uncomfortable feeling like your insides are burning and you feel it rise up your esophagus and all that comes out a little noise. A gasp. The sensation of a lover past races through my veins. I can feel my mind slightly romanticizing the breakup. To do this would be similar to romanticizing a train getting derailed and burning slowing to a stop leaving me as one survivor to have this memory. The one person who knows how it felt. We are the lucky ones who can look back on it and somehow still have a feeling that rushes at the very thought of them, even if just for a moment.

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Just shy of one year after their debut album If You Leave released, Daughter has been turning heads with their heartbroken tunes and their whimsical sounds. The threesome have given way for their music to take shape in the hands of producers and has lead to many tantalizing remixes of the tunes found on their recent album, The Wild Youth.

Alle Farben, or Franz Zimmer of Berlin, is a young producer who has been releasing remixes since 2010, but plans to release his debut album come May 2014. This edit created by Alle Farben gives this solemn but relatable tune a tweak by adding in the sounds of a broken reverb and traces of an electric guitar riff paired with the synth. These elements combined create a new tone of melancholy hope for a bitter twirl on a dance floor.

Daughter – Youth (Alle Farben Remix)

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Junior Boys – So This Is Goodbye

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In an era of overnight celebrity, we tend to take the difficult road for granted. It’s easy to listen to a track on Spotify and never know who the artist is, let alone their story. How many nights did they sleep in a dingy van, schlepping from town to town, trying to make ends meet while they slaved away producing new music that almost no one heard?

The Internet has offered aspiring artists an avenue to larger listenership, but our listening and sharing culture prioritizes the music over the artist (which may not be wrong) and generates little to know actual income for the tired hands behind the scenes. If someone gets big overnight, even through virality, you can almost assume that some serious money is behind them. Think Lorde was an organic hit? Think again. She was signed to Universal before anyone in the US had heard of her, and blew up once Sean Parker (of Facebook fame) shared “Royals” with his social media networks.

Junior Boys is a duo from Canada that originally formed in 1999, before going through some lineup changes and years of minor recognition. Eventually, they started getting some larger festival bookings and even had a successful solo tour (they’ve also toured in support of fellow Canadian Caribou). The last I heard of them was two years ago.

This is how it happens. A band bubbles up for a few moments, before fading away for good. It is at once inspiring and crushing; the dream is attainable, but not sustainable. And if you don’t have corporate backing, good luck. Every small band that bubbles up and eventually makes it to the big time gained that backing along the way. At least these days.

“So This Is Goodbye” came out in’08, the title track to an LP of the same name. When I hear it now, it sounds infinitely dated. The Internet is awash in music like this, bedroom beats with mediocre vocals. None of it gets me.

But this track does, because I know the story and care about the journey of not only this band, but of every artist. The plastic plucks of Junior Boys take on a new life, as I imagine them sitting in a dark studio in dark Canada, shaving in a truck stop bathroom, or playing to a constantly talking crowd. To succeed in art, you have to grind. Sure, connections help, but what really matters is the product. Junior Boys simply weren’t good enough or special enough to stand out.

And neither are 99% of the artists on this earth. That doesn’t me we shouldn’t celebrate them and their work. In fact, that work is often better and more personal than “successful” art. “So This Is Goodbye” will strike a cord with anyone who gave it a go before saying “fuck it” and filling out a W9.

Junior Boys – So This Is Goodbye

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BlakRoc – What You Do To Me (Feat. Billy Danze, Nikki Wray, and Jim Jones)

Just some bad ass blues rock for no cot damn reason. Jim Jones, The Black Keys, Billy Danze (M.O.P.) & Nikki Wray, I mean…

This type of shit it (doesn’t) happen everyday.” – De La Soul (Ego Trippin’)

Dame Dash was on to something and had it not been for bad politics a lot more great music like this may have made its way to the airwaves. That’s why as fake and lame as it is to play the game, you always have to remember that in life we’re dealing with egos left and right. Not only those of others but also our own. Often times we can be our own worst enemies and so learning when to hold strong is equally as important as knowing when to fall back. A good team mate knows his role and a good team knows it’s goal, everything in between is usually egos at play and counterproductive to the objective. As we journey to accomplish great things in our efforts to contribute to the human experience, it’s important to realize that to create something worthy of the world we must step outside of ourselves at all times during that process.

Anyways, as I sit in my office playing this much louder than anyone around me would like I can’t help but think of New York. I mean this track is gushing NYC. Raw, dirty, edgy, soulful and resilient. Anything is possible in NY man, I love that energy. Like every other kid I use to hop the train growing up to save a few bucks for snacks at school, that’s one memory. Another is me and Cyrus riding around Manhattan in a Maybach club hoppin’ and having the time of our lives. I love that, I really do.

I’ve been on a constant come up since I was aware of it, hustlers spirit within me I’m never quite satisfied or comfortable. Innovating, being artful and creative to survive becomes engrained in you.

All I see is new to me…”

You seek that spirit in those around you, it’s a beautiful thing. Anyways, play this shit, get hyped, much to do.

BlakRoc – What You Do To Me (Feat. Billy Danze, Nikki Wray, and Jim Jones)

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Seinabo Sey – Younger

I love songs that ask questions and linger in my head. It’s only fitting that this song found its way to my ears at the end of one week and beginning of another — literally. It’s one in the morning, the freshness of a new week on my horizon, yet last week lingers over my head like a mysterious house guest. This song painted a picture in my head immediately, and somehow managed intertwine itself with my life’s thoughts. The positively piercing vocals of Seinabo Sey scribed themselves to the inner walls of my ears and brain, and within moments, I was transfixed. I’d heard this song previously, I think as a remix by Kygo, but never the original, and I felt physically moved by the musicality and sonic adventure that I found myself embarking on. There’s a duality that I’m always in search of — one that exists in perfect equilibrium and forces me to sit at my computer at one in the morning on a Sunday, just as I think I’m about to go to bed, and crank out a post — because that duality is the perfect blend of music and lyric. It sounds cliche, but you know what? Cliches are rooted in next level emotions and feelings, too real to communicate, and because it’s so hard to translate those emotions and feelings into words and proper descriptors, we give them these blanket terms that are supposed to, you know, do the job.

They don’t.

There is a light to all this darkness, I will tell you this
There’s redemption in you asking them just why it is
Some answers are better left unspoken when you know you ain’t getting any
Younger, younger, younger
Are you?”

This set of words went in one ear and painted a mural inside the walls of my curly haired head, danced for a while as I smiled and reflected on the notion of youth and youngness. Just earlier tonight, I had discussed my twenties with someone over the telephone, in which we both agreed that these were years better spent in search of self. That means embodying selfishness, welcoming it, allowing it to take hold of yourself, because during no other decade of your life is it known and excusable. Isn’t that silly? You can try, in your thirties, but it will feel tiring, particularly because it’s less talked about, particularly in our society. You can do whatever you want, but there’s always going to be more people in your life married with babies in your thirties, than in your twenties. All I ever hear from other twenty somethings is, “I feel” and “I think” and “Sometimes you make me feel” and it’s amazing. Because it’s okay to feel. But think of it this way — you spend your baby years discovering. You spend your teenage years understanding. And your twenties? You discover and understand all at once. And you learn. That’s the beauty, because there are so many different things going on at the same time, for the first time in your life and for the first time for many of you, in your independent life, that it’s only natural to be selfish.

So the next time you think, man, I should have my sh*t together and get grown, remember. You ain’t getting any younger. And now is the time to discover and remember that life is equal parts answer and equal parts mystery.

Seinabo Sey – Younger

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The Black Keys – Dearest (Buddy Holly Cover)

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Dearest – though you’re the nearest to my heart

please don’t ever – umm ya
ever say we’ll part

You scold and you were so bold
yes together – umm ya
our love will grow old – umm ya
our love will grow old

You may be a million miles away
please believe me – umm ya
when you hear me say
I love you – I love you

Come home – keep me from these sleepless nights
try my love again – umm ya
I’m gonna treat you right – umm ya
I’m gonna treat you right.”

I love track and have loved the original since I was a wee one.  I think what draws me is the simplicity of the lyrics that even a little girl can easily grasp, maybe not understand the message that lies within the lyrics but grasp the beauty in them none the less.  It’s sad that we can’t keep our innocence and naiveness, especially when it comes to love.  We look at the word love as young children as such a simple word, a word we say to our parents or our best friends, we don’t realize that the older we get the more this word (probably one of the most complex words that I have come to know), is going to make us cry, make our hearts pound faster then we could have ever imagined, make us question the world, make us angry, disappoint us, and make us realize that there is no true definitive answer to what this word really is or means.  I try to remember the innocence of what I felt when I first heard and used the word love, because it’s shown me a lot of disappointment in my 27 years of life, but I am an optimist and I don’t easily give up, so bring it on love, show me what you got, I’m ready for you!

Music is a love that has also shown me many faces, has shaped who I am and my perspectives.  Music is the universal language and it all starts from when the world was created.  Buddy Holly was such a powerful influence to the rock and roll world in his short short life.  The way he shaped the way some of our greatest musicians create their music is quite amazing.  I think to be able to be such a creative force like Buddy is to be able to bring back innocence into your adulthood, to let go of insecurities and let everything be organic and just happen.  The type of rock and roll we think of now is much different than what Buddy Holly created.  There is a softness, a happier energy that rock and roll once was, and I think music was once much more positive in it’s sound and lyrics because even though we are always dealing with some harshness in this world music was once an expression of optimism.  Now I feel as though artists and even myself express all of our anger and frustration in our music.

I love a feel good track like this one on a mellow Sunday, and The Black Keys brought justice and kept the innocence to this already stellar song.  Press play, relax, and remember what it was like to feel love without all the strings, enjoy!

The Black Keys – Dearest (Buddy Holly Cover)

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