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Alaska in Winter – Berlin

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Calling Alaska in Winter, the musical project fronted by Brandon Bethancourt, elusive would be selling it short. I probably found “Berlin” when it bubbled to the top of early Hype Machine for a day. And though Bethancourt’s debut album, “Dance Party in the Balkans,” is a brilliant mélange of pop sensibility, anguish and bloggy-electo, the band seemingly dropped off the earth after 2008.

They didn’t, not really. Aside from a dissipated sophomore effort that same year, the rest of their releases have been either extremely limited issue or sold only in nu-vintage format ie. micro-cassette. I guess theirs an argument to be made that releasing your music in such an inaccessible format maintains a level of credibility and alliance to your true fans…oh wait, no there isn’t.

Music press has a strange obsession with forgotten acts or rare recordings. I get it, especially in the case of total unknown geniuses who recorded in third world countries decades ago. The rock music of pre-Khmer Rouge Cambodia, for instance, or the genius William Onyeabor, who was recording funk fusion in the vein Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem circa 1970s Nigeria. In other cases, (I’m thinking of Pitchfork’s recent love affair with Lewis) the narrative centers entirely on the fact that “you haven’t heard of this guy” rather than “this music will change your life.”

You’d hope that the press would take their (our?) soapbox seriously. I’d guess that any of you who’ve read this far are actually interested in what writers have to say about music, and that you can see through bullshit. Have I written some bullshit posts? Sure, and I honestly regret that. But when you’re writing for Pitchfork, you just can’t. I get that the corporations need their clicks and shares, and that writers need to pay the bills, but journalistic integrity does still mean something to many who ply the trade. If I were paid for these posts, there would be no bullshit, ever.

But artists don’t share that responsibility. Though there is no argument I can make in favor of restrictive releases, I say do art your way. If Alaska in Winter doesn’t want me to hear their music, so be it. At least I’ve got Berlin and the entire first album (which you should really listen to, it’s great autumn/winter music). And now you do too.

Alaska in Winter – Berlin

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Zella Day – Compass (Louis The Child Remix)

Sometimes it is hard to think of something inspiring, moving, worth reading each week. Today, I found myself wishing that I could write as I used to, a time filled with a string of bad decisions, destruction and floundering for air. But the poetry and short stories of that time, now years in my past, were the best, darkest, most articulate thoughts I had expressed. Was it the drugs? The weather? The boy? The girl? The fights? The place?

I thought that if I could find this place again I would be able to write like that again.

I was listening to a TED talk from Elizabeth Gilbert (Writer of Eat Pray Love – whatever haters,  she is a remarkable speaker) today where she was talking about creativity and how hard it is to find and pin it down. Creativity is also so closely associated with being linked to sadness. We see this sadness and ability to capture it as an artist or writer or speaker and hold it to such a high esteem in our society, like darkness and depression is where the best will source their work. The 27 club being a prime example, a group of young talent that were our creative gods. We worship their words, their work.

It is this same trend we see in so many songs and and the musicians putting them out now. That sadness we relate to, they articulate it so well. That hole we feel, they dig it and show us the picture. But is that what we are still promoting in our creative brethren?

I highly recommend listening to it as I assume many of the readers here are creators in some way or another, we all need inspiration to do what we do. This was such a revelation of thought to have, but it still begs the question, where do we find our inspiration? Does it need to be in the dark? Can’t we find something bigger in the light? In the happiness? How do you get inspired or do you feel like your best inspiration has come and gone?

I would hope that that time would not have been my most fluid thought. The trick is to find things that continue to inspire you and embrace them. Like this track. I heard it last week and man, oh man. Zella Day is oft described as a “happier Lana del Ray” with punchy, youthful vocals ringing of amore and contentment. Thriving to be content should be the goal of expressing creativity, shouldn’t that be the sound of doing something well? We create as a release, to express, to arrive there is like ohm.

This mix from Louis the Child encompasses that Flume sounding drop and some well-placed kick drums making this track an inspiring Wednesday tune.

Zella Day – Compass (Louis the Child Remix)

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Portugal. The Man — Purple Yellow Red & Blue (Passion Pit Remix)

We fail to recognize our very own bad habits, or at least be aware of them, and this is exactly what is wrong with our world today. Take for instance the climate change march that just went down this past weekend in NYC. You have 400k+ people marching for mother nature and nearly half of them discarding their Starbucks coffee cups in places that they should have not. Awesome for the Earth, right? No.

We love to tell others about not walking ahead of people while you are smoking as to not blow unwelcome second-hand smoke in anyones faces, yet we sit there and take up the entire sidewalk whenever we are walking with our friends, oblivious to the fact that some people are in a rush to get to where they are going because like I just said before: ‘we just don’t care to recognize our very own bad habits‘, and yet we are the first to point them out in everyone else. Why do we do this? How come it is so hard to be honest with our own selves these days that when someone else does point out our own truths we manage to get pissed at them rather than be thankful?

All I
Wanna do is
Live in ecstasy
I know what’s best for me
I can’t help it
It’s this hopeless itch
I just wanna feel (wanna feel)
Purple yellow red and blue”

Passion Pit‘s Remix of Purple Yellow Red & Blue speeds up the original masterpiece by Portugal. The Man and adds some starry synths and widely-stacked transient claps while keeping the hypnotizing piano chords of the original. It’s a remix that manages to make you feel the lyrics a little more and quite possibly connect with them, without the need for a visual. Maybe it’s the fast-paced footing of the track that hurries your attention into what’s going on in the vocals, or maybe it’s the wobbly synth sounds that take place throughout the track and draw your attention to the more audible aspects in the higher spaces. Whatever it is, it is excellent and definitely a Tuesday tune to rock out with to at your desk before the trek home or your nearest pub for happy hour.

Enjoy, be courteous, and try to recognize your own bad habits if you can because life all around us, and music, are just better when we do.

 

Portugal. The Man — Purple Yellow Red & Blue (Passion Pit Remix)

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DJ Agent 86 – All About the Money

Ownership: being in total control. If you don’t have ownership over yourself, than is it possible to really be free at all?

As I venture onto my next unknown venture in life,  keep asking myself this question. Without ownership and without control, it feels impossible to truly create your own, desired path in life. Both figuratively and literally. If you’re not in total control of yourself–your emotions, your body, your desires–than you’ll likely end up unhappy. Without some sort of inner peace and an internal compass knowingly guiding us, we’re all lost. If you don’t know yourself and can’t control yourself, you won’t get far in life.

And then there’s the money. Most of us can’t be our own “bosses”. We work jobs because we have to make a living, and it’s expected of us. We do it for the money, and for the luxuries that whatever that money can afford us. But without being your figurative boss, you’ll never be a literal boss. Successful people’s success often stems from supreme, unquestioned confidence. You need that cockiness to run your own ship. And if you’re never your literal boss, it will be come increasingly harder, with age, to be the figurative boss of yourself. You will find yourself questioning your existence. You will find yourself waiting for that clock to hit 6 PM every day.

You will lose ambition and the desire to stretch your wings.

To choose the course of your life, you need to know your ultimate destination or at least the route you hope to take to get there. For me, that means starting my own “thing,” because if I don’t, I know I’ll look back in 30 years and what one of my many half-baked ideas could’ve turned into. Without trying, I’ll never know. And course, we all need money. At some point and time (preferably before you turn 30), you need to look yourself in a mirror and ask what you want. Is it a ritzy pent house on the Upper East side or a quiet cottage in upstate New York? It’s just to what degree we need that money. You can run your own hedge fund and accomplish the first, or you be a personal tutor (while writing a novel) and perhaps accomplish the second. But without that control and awareness of what you want, you’ll never be in control.

And for some of us, when you boil it down, sadly but truly, it can often be all about the money. If you don’t own a piece of some pie, you won’t ever have your own pie.

DJ Agent 86 – All About the Money (Instrumental Version)

DJ Agent 86 – All About the Money (DJ Butcher’s Maguire Edit)

 

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Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa

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Trance music isn’t just for ravers. The past two decades have seen that term attached to a specific type of electronic music, but you can’t deny that other types of music serve the same purpose. I recently saw Omar Souleyman perform, and damn, the entire crowd was undeniably in a trance – eyes rolling back, arms waving wildly, feet flying – the whole shebang.

The concept of “the trance” goes way back. Ancient shamanic figures assumed such states, as did the famed Oracle at Delphi, to predict the future or commune with spirits. Warriors, including the Viking Berserkers, threw themselves into a blind frenzy in which they could feel no pain and see nothing but rage. Each and every one of us drifts into daydreams, losing touch with the present moment and settling into the unconscious.

Music was born with humanity. The earliest thumping beat inspired movement. A few million years later, we aren’t so different. Sonic repetition and tonal consistency still bring us out of our shells and into a freer state. Consider vedic chanting: the voices of one or many, looping rhythmic and sonorous. After a while, you cease to hear yourself or the others, and the concept of time that controls our lives fades to unimportance. After a time, you wake up, without ever sleeping.

One of my favorite types of trance music is Afrobeat, popularized by Fela Kuti but practiced by many others, including the Cameroonian Manu Dibango. “Soul Makossa” feels over before starting, even though it runs over six minutes. The key to trance, I think, is a steady beat paired with an uncommon treble (in this case, the group chanting and plucky horns). The electronic version offers the 4×4 beat with synthesized sounds that our brains force into a natural order. The Afrobeat strain, however, offers a more human element, a wild desire that brings sweat to the brow of any listener.

Embrace that humanity, join your primate ancestors, and step into the trance.

Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa 

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Emoh Instead – Why Can’t You (Say So…)

At first I didn’t know what to think of Emoh Instead’s “Why Can’t You (Say So…)”. At first, you’re exposed to a voice manipulated to become low-pitched and slow-tempoed, accompanied by a highly contrasting woman’s soprano whining in the background. Quickly thereafter, the mood is flipped as trappy horns hit you right in the face. Horns are all the rage these days, but Emoh has his unique twist on it. Short, accented trombone works really well with the woman’s vocals. For some reason, the abrupt stops and starts are quite appealing to me in this instance.

I really don’t know what to classify this song as. I’ve noticed that a lot lately about eclectic songs in general. How does one classify new genres of music other than “different”, or “a little bit of this and a little bit of that”. It’s pretty awesome to live in an age where unique style is embraced rather than frowned upon. As the world continues to grow its diversity, who knows what obscure, cool, catchy genres will reveal themselves! As long as you have an open mind (and ears!), you should be reveling in this genre-renaissance.

Emoh Instead has collaborated and learned from Flume for the past couple of years. They formed What So Not, of which I’m a definitely a fan. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of Emoh’s work in the near future.

Emoh Instead – Why Can’t You (Say So…)

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Treasure Fingers & BOSCO – Names

Fresh.

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The Juan MacLean – You Were A Runaway

Something that seems to be the norm more than ever is declaring a need to escape, to take holidays, to runaway. There is something we hold to be romantic and the highest form of freedom – being away from our lives.

I was feeling sad,
Can’t help looking back
Highways flew by…
Run, run, run away
No sense of time
I’d like you to stay,
Want keep you inside” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

When I first started moving around more, by sister used to sing the “when you’re coming home Dad I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then…” song. There was something so haunting about that. I have wanted to be a traveller for as soon as I knew it was an option. My car at 16 was always stocked with a to-go bag that was packed with enough stuff to get me through a few days, a week if needed although I never really needed it. I knew I had to find something that would let me get out. I thought that was where comfort was, or home.

R-r-ru-ru-ru-run away
Run away from me, baby- Kanye West

Whether it is a business trip or well planned escape, we all have our reasons for wanting to grab the bag and go. But so often now, it is such a documented event. Pictures of feet up with the beach in the distance, shots from 12A or 34F as you take off or pass through clouds, we see these pictures as confirmation of exiting.

Why, why, why, why, why
She ran away

And I wonder
Where she will stay
My little runaway
A-run, run, run, run, runaway- Del Shannon

Your character, the things that really scare you, what you do in the 4th day alone in a foreign place, who you call when you have enough money and time for one phone call, that is who you find. There is a hunger to be less connected, go away and leave for a bit, and I think as much as we are excited for the ability to give away so much and go explore a new place, you never really know who you will find. But travellers are selfish in a way. The real reason you go is for yourself, for your mind. You meet people and see things and it is to fill your head with more, fill holes you feel are in your life, create and disconnect connections. We are told to be selfish and to question norms though, and then we are set out. My sister used to say since we moved so much that we were bred for it. Like there are people who just feel better with a trip planned or a bag ready to go in their trunk, but really it appears be something more. Like a human rite of passage and one that we all crave.

This track, an nod to ’80s dance hall and deep lady vocals, give you that movement. The recent release can be found on the new album ‘In A Dream’ that was just released.

The Juan MacLean – You Were A Runaway

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Panama — Stay Forever

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I don’t get it man. As a writer I look forward to my day on here because the page I open up and start writing on is one of the most beautiful blank canvases I get to see. I love filling these canvases with words. I get such a high off of knowing that somewhere in this giant planet of ours someone will be reading this and connecting with the letters that I have strategically placed together; words becoming phrases and phrases becoming culture. That’s how our society lives these days, for the moment, and it is within those moments when we choose to let loose that we find the most bliss.

I would complain about my EMPT comrades missing their days and cheating the world of words that inspire, but what would be the point when you can’t force anyone to care about anything in life—and we shouldn’t. I won’t complain about finding new music to write about only to find out that it wasn’t placed into the used folder, again. I won’t complain about the rain today in New York, and I won’t complain about these allergies that I have that are completely fucking me because I have learned that life is so much better when we choose to be positive. There it is boys and girls. There is the answer that you have all been looking for these past few weeks, days, months and years. The answer to any and all questions in life is the fact that we have one choice to make from the moment we wake up in the mornings, and that choice is to either be positive about everything regardless of what that day may bring, or, to be negative.

Stay Forever by Panama is like listening to M83‘s Midnight City all over again. That feeling in your gut when you immediately know that you’ll love a song. That feeling of knowing that you will be raising a hand up in the air and chanting along at some point soon, as if no one is watching and as if the rain on a busy city street becomes more of a welcomed shower than a wet annoyance. Stay Forever is my version of singing in the rain today, and I love it for that because it is my version of my choice to remain positive no matter what petty shit is happening all around me. Yea, I know that the world is in chaos. I know that climate change is serious, and that ISIS  threatens the very fabrics of our freedom, and that our financial facade of a system is on the brink of melting down, and that domestic violence and child abuse and the militarization of our police are all very horrendous things that are a reality in our worlds, but I choose to remain positive because that, is quite simply, my, choice.

Anyway, maybe my words here make you change your mind about how your day is going to go and how the rest of your week will transpire, or maybe it’s just Panama‘s airy vocals, bright synths and cool progressions that add that shimmer to your step and pave a brightly lit path to your next dance floor.

It did for me.

Panama — Stay Forever

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Kaytranada – Leave Me Alone ft. Shay Lia

Foggy city from Bernal Heights

He’s been hot for a minute already, but if you haven’t yet booked your ticket on the overnight bus to the netherworld that is the Kaytranada bandwagon, step right up. It isn’t that the songs are downers – in fact, they all feature an inignorable positivity – but rather that they are down. They don’t take you soaring through the clouds, blasting towards the stars in blinding flashed of energy; they slither you through the settled fog, close to the wet, living earth. The bass is organic, the samples (his music is heavily sample centric) soulful. It’s as if an ancient griot stumbled across RZA’s EPS16+.

One thing Kaytranada is not, at least in my eyes, is an EDM artist. EDM has come to connote a specific type of electronic music, and in many ways has become a super-subgenre that no one applies correctly. I’m not saying I know what it is, but this isn’t it. In interviews, Kaytranada cites Flying Lotus as a contemporary influence, and you can really hear it: the jazzy undertones, unsyncopated drums and late-nite vocals. If he’d been performing in the 30’s, Kevin would have been one cool cat.

And not only because of his music. This guy is clearly very cool and original. Born in Haiti and raised in Montreal, he had this to say about living in Canada: “I usually chill around at the part or I’ll just go to bars because I don’t really go to clubs. The bars play the best music. I see finer girls in there. Clubs aren’t that cool but bars are awesome.” And this to say on “trap music”: “I think it’s kinda corny…all of that kind of cliché trap stuff is so annoying. But, I ain’t gonna lie, I was hot on that shit before, but now it’s turned out to be corny.” (both quotes from an interview with Noisey)

Voice of a generation? I’m kidding, but seriously, who doesn’t agree with both of those statements.

“Leave Me Alone” is a fair representation of his music. It is both dense and spatial, allowing the listener to breath but not catch a breath. As we transition into the autumn, it’s songs like this that begin to take hold, leading us away from the sunny skies and into a contemplative realm.

 

Kaytranada – Leave Me Alone ft. Shay Lia

 

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