Category Archives: Music

Mood Ring: Rob Milton

As an artist, music journalist, and all around connoisseur of sound, Rob Milton is always here for honoring the creatives who have helped shape his style and sound in his own words.

Here is a super short list of a few of the musical masterminds and their songs that I have studied over the years, and as I prepared to record my album Rebirth.

 

A Little Bette(R) – Gnarls Barkley

In the early 2000s the members of Gnarls Barkley joined forces solely for the purpose of changing my life. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. Both St. Elsewhere and The Odd Couple helped stretch my musical taste and helped shape the artist that I would eventually grow into in the future. While on Rebirth I re-recorded my own versions of “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” and “Transformer,” this song specifically is my favorite thing these two have ever done and has been a staple in my listening life since it was released in 2008. CeeLo and Danger Mouse blended funk and alternative sounds in a way that I immediately found fascinating, but the message is what resonated with me most. It was a message drenched in pain, yet it was resilient. It was the most honest and transparent thing that I had ever heard. This song means the world to me. It’s the “Gonna Fly Now” to my Rocky.

 

M(O)re & More – Georgia Anne Muldrow & Bilal

Georgia Anne Muldrow and Bilal are rulers of the underground soul world. They both are individually musical super heroes in my book, so when they joined forces and went straight to church with this new aged hymn I could not turn it off. This is another song that I still play frequently. It’s unapologetically black and uplifting. It also showcases impeccable songwriting skill, the type that touches me the most. Muldrow’s work is constantly inspiring me and you can hear that in “Your Love (Holding On)” from Rebirth, as well as in many other songs that I have recorded in the past.

 

The (B)east – Fugees

There’s no denying the reign of the Fugees. Growing up both a child of hip-hop and a child of New Jersey, this trio felt like family and taught me so many lessons through their music and their journey. This untouchable hip-hop troupe is one of the inspirations behind the hip-hop-honoring song “Classic” on Rebirth. While both of their albums were filled with songs that have inspired me over the years, “The Beast” is one that is especially relevant now. Unfortunately not much has changed since this was recorded in 1995 and the police are still beating and killing our brothers and sisters. The beast is still loose. This song is what the heart of hip-hop is about, being a tool of resistance against inequalities.

Mood Ring: We Are Mortals

WE ARE MORTALS® is an evolutionary gender-free urban streetwear brand.

We call ourselves MORTALS because we are the ones who understand the brevity of human life and the need to live it fully and limitlessly. We also believe that as MORTALS, we’re all equal. That is why we created our brand around this idea of a future in which we wear our personalities, not our gender identities or other stereotypical labels. Coining the phrase The Future Has No Gender, WE ARE MORTALS® seeks to challenge the conventional and outdated his/hers formula of clothing design and retail. In the future, there will be room to exist in a ‘gray area’ in which our identities don’t rely on gender, sexual, or racial classification. Ultimately, we hope that by removing the traditional gender designations from our clothing, we can facilitate a cultural shift in the way we view gender, sexuality, and each other.

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WeAreMortals living soundtrack, sonic couture for the post-structural human culture, in founder Anji Becker’s own words…

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“(W)orld Town” – M.I.A

She’s an artist that speaks up for causes, represents underprivileged people in the world. she’s fearless, a powerful woman who doesn’t accept traditional gender stereotypes.


“(E)rotica” –  Madonna

Madonna was pushing boundaries in that era, trying to make sex less taboo and exploring all types of sexuality in her videos.


“(A)ll We Perceive” – Thievery Corporation

Calling an early audible with this one, Art Nouveau jumped in with a touch of a sonic 180 but kept in the core theme within WAM: collective perception. As much the deconstruction of archaic limitations and labels, the notion of gender, humanity, mortality, and oneness is entirely built upon perception… and so, for a clothing line founded upon the shared condition of the all, the entirety is nothing more, nor anything less that the entirety of the all in shared perception.


“(R)hythm Nation” – Janet Jackson

One of my personal favorites from the 80s… loved the dancing in the video, and the song reminds me of WeAreMortals because it’s talking about bringing everybody together as one and fighting injustices.


“(E)ast 1999” – Bone Thugs-n-Harmony

They rap a lot about death, which is a theme behind the brand, and I listened to a lot of this back in the day. I’ve always been really influenced by rap and hip/hop, so it’s no surprising I’ve chosen oversized street wear as my genre of fashion.

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“(M)iracle” – Culture Club

Genderless clothing is what we represent, and Boy George was someone who was gender-fluid back in the 80s when it was way less socially acceptable. Amazing how much progress we’ve made in 30+ years!


“(O)ne” – U2

The lyrics talk about coming together as humans and not looking down upon those who are different (because we’re all different). The video also shows U2 in drag, so that was bold for their era.


“(R)eady or Not” – The Fugees

Another AN-audible… post-structuralism is here, ready or not: fashion functions in line with said societal shift #thefuturehasnogender #thefutureispresent


“(T)he Show Must Go On” – Queen

A song about death. We don’t know why we’re here on Earth, but the idea behind We Are Mortals is just to live life to the fullest while you are here, which is what the song is about.


“(A)rmy of Me” – Bjork

Bjork is a huge inspiration because nobody has really come close to replicating her creativity. She represents powerful women with this song. Personally, I feel like I’m creating this brand as an army of me right now as well!


“(L)ast Name Katz” – Zebra Katz

One of my favorite artists right now! I love everything about his music, and what he represents is change because being a queer rapper probably wouldn’t have been acceptable until now. It’s a new movement that started in NY and I hope it spreads everywhere.


“(S)oda” – Boody & Le1f

Le1f is another staple in the queer rap genre. He’s bold and fearless with his lyrics and he always makes you dance!

#WatchThisSpace // Kickstarter

Telekinetic Walrus Is All About That Heavy Bass

I’m not a fan of critiquing music.

I’m even less of a fan of categorizing the music I like. Because I’m of the opinion if you like it, that’s all that matters. So it’s extremely difficult to tell you why you should get into Telekinetic Walrus’ second full-length album The Spaceship With The Heavy Bass Bump, but, here goes.

In a world of over-saturated Rap, R&B and EDM this new age funk band is a breath of fresh air. Better yet, they’re more like a puff of some high grade sticky icky. If I had to make a comparison, they’d be a combination of their influences which include Funk, Jazz, Psychedlics, Hip Hop, Experimental Music and enough super bass to make Nicki Minaj blush. A kind of new age, electronic version of the Grateful Dead.

So instead of going into why you should get into, just listen and get into yourself.

A Listener’s Reflection: My Moment with “The Black Album”

There is a rich beauty when it comes to our anecdotes with the music we love. it’s an understated art, actually. When music is feeding you the right way, you’ll never forget it. When it comes to Jay-Z’s The Black Album, I haven’t forgotten about my first “Moment of Clarity”. Today, fifteen years later, this reflection sticks with me just as that album did back in 2003. Without further adieu, my story, my moment that I’ll never forget…

I was in the third grade when Jay-Z’s The Black Album came out. Before The Black Album, my Jay-Z fandom was on the rise, but revolved solely around “Big Pimpin”, “Excuse Me”, and “I Just Wanna Love You”. What can I say, 95.5 the Beat kept me as cultured as I could be as a white kid in the suburbs of Georgia.

2003 was the year The Black Album was released and was also no exception to my family’s annual California visit. My mom was from Santa Barbara and while she had moved to the Southeast as an early twenty-something, the rest of the family stay scattered up and down the California coast. It was my favorite place to be, my utopia, and each trip was accompanied by some sort of defining soundtrack.

Weeks prior to our departure, I had sought out The Black Album at a local Target. As a proud owner of a walkman, I prioritized my CD purchases and was now building up a collection of everything from NOW to Destiny’s Child’s Writings on the Wall to No Doubt’s Rock Steady. It’s safe to say I didn’t have much of a range. But The Black Album felt like a bold move. I’d never been so honored to own anything, and I couldn’t wait to pop it in my walkman as I walked the shores and drove the coasts of California.

When the trip at last arrived, I packed my prized possession carefully in my backpack and waited patiently until at last we were at SFO. The time was near, I knew, but I forced myself to wait until the moment was right. My sister in the back seat, and I in the passenger, sat silently as my mom drove in our Hertz rental car into the Northern California haze. That’s when I knew that it was time. The day had been long and dusk was setting upon us and my backpack looked as though it had been waiting all day anxious to be unzipped.

I pulled the walkman out, peeled off the album’s plastic sheet, and inserted the CD. Three, two, one…

Play.

After the button was pressed, nothing could permeate my mode. I was no longer nine year old me, I was no longer going or having come from somewhere. Every molecule of me was absorbed by that album. Like a first kiss, The Black Album engulfed my being. Outside of the car window, scenes fluttered by. The Golden Gate Bridge lay ahead, a rather pristine structure subjected to the thick of yet another gray afternoon. That’s when “Moment of Clarity” started.

I stared outside with awe, this grandiose red monster of a structure swallowing my family and I the second Jay-Z lets loose his first exclamation of the track. Of course, nobody else could hear it but I, which was all the more exciting.

Beneath us, the San Francisco Bay looked as morose as ever. But something about the dampened exterior felt right. Eight Black Album tracks later, it would just be wrong to desire anything but. Jay-Z rang in my ear for the rest of that day and remainder of that trip. Jumping around the city and meandering around the state, I let The Black Album do most of the talking during those two weeks of travel. Juxtaposed with the pastels of old Victorian houses stacked atop steep hills and the rolling hills that traced our Northern California beginnings to our Southern conclusion, Jay-Z’s Brooklyn bite sandwiched me between itself and my soft surroundings. Nothing about it made sense, really. Yet to me it defined how naturally something so seemingly arbitrary would resonate during that time, age, and for the next twelve years.

That album stayed with me like a committed friend, accompanying me with the brash attitude of “99 Problems” when I needed not to care and the ambitious cadence of “My First Song” when I needed to keep on moving. There was something about The Black Album that I’ll never forget – the tangibility of inserting it into my walkman, holding it close, keeping it unscathed, and relaxing my mouth to open my ears to this sound both foreign and contagiously forward.

My Black Album memory will always be tattooed in my mind and musicality. I’ve spent many moments and months with it and to this day, I have yet to tire of it.

Lyrically Speaking: “Tom’s Diner” ft. Britney Spears, Giorgio Moroder

Good music speaks volumes… rather than impose analysis, step back and expose linguistic artistry… listen, look, and linger in fantastic rhythmic reality: lyrically speaking

“Tom’s Diner”Deja Vu (2015)

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I am sitting
In the morning
At the diner
On the corner
I am waiting
At the counter
For the man
To pour the coffee
And he fills it
Only halfway

And before
I even argue
He is looking
Out the window
At somebody
Coming in

Could There Ever B

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It is always
nice to see you
Says the man
Behind the counter
To the woman
Who has come in
She is shaking
Her umbrella

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And I look
The other way

Britney Spears 2007 Umbrella On february 19 britney spears

As they are kissing
Their hellos

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And I’m pretending
Not to see them

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And Instead
I pour the milk

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[Giorgio Moroder]

Everybody is welcome
Come on, come on in
Sit yourself down
The parties never end
Love is the drug
That makes you wanna drink
Till the morning after…

I-I-I- …
I open
Up the paper
There’s a story
Of an actor
Who had died
While he was drinking

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He was no one
I had heard of


And I’m turning
To the horoscope
And looking
For the funnies

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When I’m feeling
Someone watching me
And so I raise my head

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So I raise my head

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So I raise my head

Tom's Diner Close

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No matter what the weather, through pain and pressure, never let them see you with your chin down – just keep swimming, just keep DOing – when you feel them watching, raise up and respect the shooter #spearsianlaw

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#respecttheoneinfrontofthesun #universalorder

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#watchthisspace

Never change Brit, never give a buck.

Grooves You Can Use: #APOD :: Crevette, Ep. 1

happy one year and three day anniversary, day I unironically bought artpop on vinyl – you’ve been some kind of sufficiently something

#ANDWILLCONTINUETOBESOINEXPONENTIALLYINCREASINGMEASUREWELLINTOTHEFORSEEABLEFUTURE

#artpopmeanskanyecaps #kanyeshrugsandpoplove

so… – i riffed on a random burst of audio production creativity i had to kendrick daye for the duration of a google drive invite: this is the verbatim transcription

so… i noticed i mixed every track of artpop at some point so… i decided to make a 2 1/2 anniversary ep set … based roughly around the quote: “That’s the thing that poisoned me…. That was the poisonous thing. ‘We just want you to look beautiful’ over and over and over in my head until I just wanted to look ugly all the time.” … so just mixing, mashing, vibing, crashing… it’s … sounds… just the groove for record’s sake…

#kanyeshrugs #whatevenisanartpop #loveandart

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Lyrically Speaking: Janelle Monae feat Jidenna “Yoga”

Good music speaks volumes… rather than impose analysis, step back and expose linguistic artistry… listen, look, and linger in fantastic rhythmic reality: lyrically speaking.

 

[Refrain]
Let yo booty do that yoga

[Verse 1: Janelle]
Party at the beach down in Copacabana
Sipping Killepitsch, got my black yoga pants on
Me and Brittany, we’ve been down in Atlanta
Sweating in the club, call me Dirty Diana
Flexing like a yogi, drop it down with your hands up
Do a handstand, bend it back, put your legs up
I ain’t got no worries, I’m my own private dancer
My own private dancer

[Pre-Hook]
I wanna last, wanna last forever
I wanna dance, wanna dance all night
I wanna last, wanna last forever
I wanna dance, dance, dance all night
Baby bend over, baby bend over
Baby bend over, let me see you do that yoga
Baby bend over, baby bend over
Baby bend over, let your booty do that yoga

[Hook]
Flex it (Yoga)
Flex it (Yoga)

[Verse 2: Janelle]
Crown on my head but the world on my shoulder
I’m too much a rebel, never do what I’m supposed ta
Bend it never break it, baby watch and I’ma show ya
Stretching on my cash, got my money doing yoga
Sometimes I’m peachy, and sometimes I’m vulgar
Even when I’m sleeping I got one eye open
You cannot police me, so get off my areola
Get off my areola

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[Pre-Hook + Hook]

[Verse 3: Jidenna]
I said yoga, she did that yoga
Looking for my loafers, man I woke up in a toga
She left my collar on like she my owner
So when she downward dog I jump up on her
I lo-lo-love the way you bend it
Oh Lord I’d love to break you in
Oh Lord I’d stretch you out and in
Oh Lord now you should tell a friend
Oh Lord I pray, I pray that yum-yum come on over
And let they bum-bum do that yoga

Mood Ring: Paley

A nod to the muses who have shaped me and a poetic stab at how

(THE MUSES)

dea(T)h by chocolate – sia

SIA

Sia, a voice that punctures my heart. You melt my soul, like the springtime after a frosted winter. You make me feel ways familiar, powerful and then powerless, like a flower that wilts in the cold and the next seed that blooms in its place. Your voice is the like seasons, one tumbling faithfully into the next. Holding on, moving forward.

when it (H)urts so bad – lauryn hill

LAURYN

Lauryn, you will never know what you mean to me. I listened to you like an abiding child, but then I grew up. I left home and decided to be on my own. I didn’t need you anymore; I knew what to do. But really, I didn’t. When I came back, you were still there – the scuffle in your voice, the prowess in your rhymes, and the words I praised like a hymn burning before my eyes. It was all there, and it all felt the same. I read every letter and memorized every rhyme. Neither time nor space let me escape you; you were always a part of me. The sweetest thing I’ve ever known.

b(E)st for last – adele

Adele, your voice spinning on vinyl, skipping from time to time like my heart too at 19 and 21. The needle presses down, and I let you take over. Nothing else matters. Your music, bare and unfiltered, swallows me, and I am gone.

li(M)p – fiona apple

Fiona, oh the many hours I’ve spent with you, wondering what happens when the pawn hits and when the wounds are licked. Oh, Fiona, the anomalous and biting you, the temptress who has me forever tangled in a woven web too sticky for my hands to paw through. Here, you coax me to stay, and suddenly I realize this is where I belong. You show me what it means to be unapologetic, but true. A real woman, everything that I have desired and aspired to be. I feed off of your anger and run with your fuel. Oh, Fiona, you’re All I Need….

that h(U)mp – erykah badu

Erykah

Erykah, undulating like a high tide. Your hips, your voice, rising and falling, sweeping the ocean floor. I soak my feet in your water, scraping my toes deep in the sand and watching the trees sway. Left and right, left and right. I look at your moon and watch until it submerges its skin into a pool of yellow. You are the orange moon and the light of the sun. I stand on the land, gazing at your grace from a nameless place.

(S)ome unholy war – amy winehouse

AMY

Amy, Amy, Amy, wisdom and blues. When young blood married an old soul, there was you. You are so much more than words could articulate. You were a Queen whose boundless presence outlived her years. You shared your gifts, and for that, I bow to you. Amy, Amy, Amy, wherever you are, thank you.

skin – sad(E)

SADE

Sade, the mother, the lover, and the holy spirit. You are everything – the moon and the sky. You are almost impractical, and I often wonder…are you real?

at la(S)t – etta james

ETTA

Etta, there was a time when my mother found solace in you. She held my baby sister in her arms, listening to you sing. At last, she thought, things were going to be ok. At last, there was family and prosperity, balance and hope. But, some things don’t last forever. When tragedy struck, At Last was no longer a refuge but an acknowledgment of where things once were and could, perhaps, be in brighter days to come. In our family, that song never died and neither did you. Etta, you transcend the chapters in our life to which we tend to cling. You get us through Stormy Weather while reminding us that there is such a thing as a Sunday Kind of Love.

With The River, Carly June Shares a Candid Testimony

Atlanta native Carly June shares a candid testimony of self…

in her new five track EP The River. The rock and soul singer incorporates influences of folk and americana into her music, weaving in vintage guitar tones and an old school sound. “Every note, every sound was my decision,” she says. The singer/songwriter lets listeners in, sharing thoughts about her experience with mental health, drug addiction, love, loss, and running from oneself. The River is a true reflection of Carly June’s journey, thoughts on her past experiences as told by her present.

This EP is a bold debut for Carly June whose background in musical theatre is evident in her glowing and poignant vocals. Yet, nothing in The River takes back seat. Her tracks are equal part soul-bearing lyricism, vocal precedence, and illustrious instrumentation. In The River, Carly June’s undisguised performance cements her undeniable artistry. Raw with anecdotes both dark and dense, her lyrics yield a nakedness that breaks the barrier between artist and audience.

In “My Mind”, Carly June punctures the mental turmoil inside of the “wandering little middle man” that is her mind. “The River” guides us deeper into a “dark side”, a place deceptive in its comforting facade and warm embrace. Take my hand, and I’ll wash away all your fears, and we’ll go to the river,” she sings. In “Mountaintop Removal” Carly June covers a song by one of her idols, Lissie. “I want to emulate [Lissie],” she says. “Broken Old Door” slips into this theme of what once seemed right, a perpetuation of the pushing and pulling seen in the songs above. At last, “Ride” echoes Carly June’s frame of mind. She begs the question, “Please tell me why – why must the broken be cursed and diseased?” Stewing, confiding, and intensifying, she admits a hurt, a struggle she’s grappling with. “Let’s ride, we ride, we ride,” she repeats. Alongside the thoughtful strumming of a guitar and minimalistic piano chords, Carly June leaves the audience out of breath with “Ride”.

The River jumps straight into the deep end. It’s a place where confidence coincides with vulnerability and confession collaborates with clarity. “I want to be your mystery, that ethereal girl that nobody else seems to see,” says Carly June. With that message, she tears into her identity today while alluding to a world left to be explored. This EP tears into the pangs of life, purging years worth of inquiry and introspection. The River brings this artist’s tale to life with eloquence and expansion, a story that needed to be told.

The River can now be found on Spotify, iTunesCarly’s website, and more.

Lyrically Speaking: Dorian “Mirror, Mirror”

 

Good music speaks volumes… rather than impose analysis, step back and expose linguistic artistry… listen, look, and linger in fantastic rhythmic reality: lyrically speaking.

 

Verse I

Living in my own shadow

Drowning in all these tears

Subconsciously feed my sorrow

With doubt fueling all my fears

I tend to shine a light

On all the darkest parts of me

I can’t inflict this Anymore

 

Chorus

I’ve got to find a way to love

The man inside my mirror past his flaws

He’s a reflection of

The perfect imperfection of us all

Can you help me

Mirror, Mirror on the wall

 

Verse II

Can’t chastise myself forever

It tightens this ball and chain

Visions of my displeasure

(Corrupt and pollute my brain

This pain I can’t defy

If clouds of shame still rain on me

Send me a rainbow off the shore

Chorus

I’ve got to find a way to love

The man inside my mirror past his flaws

He’s a reflection of

The perfect imperfection of us all

Can you help me

Mirror, Mirror on the wall

 

Bridge

Mirror Mirror on the wall

Who’s the fairest of them of all?

#CheckThisOut: Down-home Music Man Mike Schlenoff’s New Song, “Incomplete Man”

Vermont-based singer-songwriter Mike Schlenoff shares a new tune of his on Vermont’s WKVT 100.3 FM, entitled “Incomplete Man.”  The New Jersey transplant found love and roots in the Green Mountain State, and released his first LP, Muses Morals, last year.  #WatchThisSpace for our exclusive interview with Mike, when we talk about his influences, his experiences as a taxi driver in Martha’s Vineyard, and being an 84 year-old man at heart.

 

Purity Ring Breaks the Cycle with Sophomore LP “Another Eternity”

When Edmonton duo Purity Ring released their debut album, Shrines, in 2012, the internet basically exploded. The twosome—made up of vocalist Megan James and multi-instrumentalist Corin Roddick—delivered a brand new style of music that combined singsong vocals with minimalist production, coined as “future pop” by the bigwigs of the music blogosphere. Everyone ate it up, and rightly so; it was new and interesting and it was hard not to love.

Now it’s three years later, and after staying quiet for much of that time, they’re back with Another Eternity, a ten-song LP that dares to challenge everyone’s pre-conceived notions of the band. Gone are the esoteric titles constructed of nonsensical portmanteaus; rather this album projects a much more cohesive argument, one that is easier to follow but still rather enjoyable (in some cases, perhaps even more so). The metaphysical element of Purity Ring’s subject matter is far from being discarded, however the content on Another Eternity is more relatable and accessible.

The only track that follows Purity Ring’s former trend of weird titling is opener “Heartsigh,” which of course, is not a real word. Most of the songs on Shrines—“Lofticries” and “Belispeak” for instance—stripped away any pre-conceived notions as to how the songs would sound, because there was no real indicator in the title that one could assign meaning to. In this case, the connection is a little more visceral, as the title is made up of two words that actually mean something. “Heartsigh” has a very bright intro, with lyrics boasting reassurance and a vibe that speaks to the security and protection many of us want to feel when attached to someone romantically. The sonic elements of “Heartsigh” also hint at the overall sound of Another Eternity, with fuller instrumentation and hints of EDM/club-centric production.

Some of the album leans more towards the bands roots, as exhibited in “Stranger than Earth” and lead single “Push Pull,” both of which lend the same esoterically flavored lyricisms and scaled-back production. Being an MFA student I have come across my fair share of poetry analysis, and these two tracks have me equally enthralled in their nature, yet altogether stumped in terms of lyrical analysis (granted, poetry is not my major, so I am not the best resource). I felt the same way when listening to Shrines for the first time: most of the time I wasn’t exactly sure what Ms. James was alluding to in her lyrics, but that didn’t take away from the altogether pleasurable experience of listening to that album.

Much of this album seems to deal with coping with interpersonal relationships. I know that sounds kind of vague, but compared to Shrines the album is far more straightforward, thus easier to pick apart. The second track—and third single—“Bodyache” boasts a certain yearning for a love perhaps left unrequited. With lyrics like ‘I want to know what’s your quietest feeling/I saw you break I saw you unreeling’ lend a perspective that suggests the subject has seen heartbreak and would’ve fared better if they had answered the call of the singer. This song is gorgeous instrumentally; its percussion is non-invasive and the repeating cascades of this harp/piano hybrid seem to mirror tears.

Second single “Begin Again” is perhaps the most radio-friendly, pop-centric track on the album. The echoed, hushed vocals in the beginning are reminiscent of early ‘00s pop songs, and the production escalates in a predictable—yet altogether appropriate—manner, mixing deep synths with powerful club beats, which makes me think we will be hearing several remixes of this track from the likes of Diplo or Swedish House Mafia (if that’s still a thing). “Dust Hymn” and “Flood on the Floor” share this sort of sound, and deal with similar themes of the remaining scars of former encounters.

I saw one of Purity Ring’s first shows ever, and it was immediately evident that this band got together with a clear mission: to push the boundaries of synth-pop. At the time the band was just starting out, and so their performance, while amazing, seemed inhibited and cautious. Given the experience of this album, I doubt that will still be the case this time around. Purity Ring has come back strong, and while some of the album may feel somewhat formulaic in some ways, their continuing lyrical prowess and fascinating newfound energy is palpable. I think it’s safe to say they have successfully eluded the famed ‘sophomore slump,’ and have taken some brave steps in order to do so.

Another Eternity is now available through 4AD. They are touring Europe and North America through June. Tour dates and info can be found on their website.

Lyrically Speaking: Micah Freeman feat Father “The Red”

 

Good music speaks volumes… rather than impose analysis, step back and expose linguistic artistry… listen, look, and linger in fantastic rhythmic reality: lyrically speaking.

 

I’m coming down with a case of boogie
Tell me, what am I to do?
My suit is tailored and my girl’s good-looking
So what is it to you?
When I try with all my might
To leave yesterday in the dust
Got a fire to ignite
So don’t fuck with us

Biting and kicking and scratching
Why did I stick an attachment?
Winded up drinking this absinth
Should’ve passed it to you
Cause baby I cannot conceal that
These motherfuckers can feel that
Wig winded up getting peeled back
It was real bad.

That’s when they said
(Oh no)
You better ask around (la da da dada da)
(Oh no
I’m ’bout to paint this town Red.

You sit around playing tough in the function
I knew that wasn’t gon last
You cross the line, you can make the assumption
I’ll put my foot in yo ass
But I try with all my might
to leave yesterday in the dust
But if all I do is fight
Where does that leave us?

Biting and kicking and scratching
Why did I stick an attachment?
Winded up drinking this absinth
Should’ve passed it to you
Cause baby I cannot conceal that
These motherfuckers can feel that
Wig winded up getting peeled back
It was real bad

That’s when they said
(Oh no)
You better ask around (la da da dada da)
(Oh no
I’m ’bout to paint this town Red.

My niggas, we out here, we juugin.
Youu on the couch more than the cushions.
These bitches they out here, they lookin’
We walk in the spot and they shooken.
I feel like the Great Bambino.
Got brews in the El Camino.
Girl call your friend up for the four
‘Cause two’s not enough for me, no.
Need one in the front, two in the back
Just to paint the town red.
One with the pump, the other the sack
and another just giving me head.
Just riding around peeping the scene
Fucking some girl that you thought was your queen.
Keeping my peoples from fucking OD’ing
And this not the game, this just the loading screen.

Lyrically Speaking: LouisYork “Clair Huxtable”

Good music speaks volumes… rather than impose analysis, step back and expose linguistic artistry… listen, look, and linger in fantastic rhythmic reality: lyrically speaking.

 

 

She likes to read books on philosophy
She only eats at small cafes
She questions every single part of me
She makes me better every day

It’s not the way she styles her hair
Or the designer clothes she wears
Her silhouettes one of a kind
But most of all, she’s got a beautiful mind
She’s got a beautiful mind
She’s got a beautiful mind

So many girls I see are wild and lovable
But I’m looking for my queen
My Clair Huxtable
The black American dream it sounds so wonderful
The only thing I needs my Clair Huxtable

My Clair, Clair, My Clair Huxtable
My Clair, Clair, My Clair Huxtable,

We’ll be in a brownstone in BK
Listening to Stevie and Coltrane
I know that she out there for me
Oh Yeah

Have us a few kids one day
A couple of Lisa Bonets
I know that she out there for me
Oh Yeah

So many girls I see are wild and lovable
But I’m looking for my queen
My Clair Huxtable
The black American dream it sounds so wonderful
The only thing I need, my Clair Huxtable

My Clair, Clair, My Clair Huxtable
My Clair, Clair, My Clair Huxtable
My Clair, Clair, My Clair Huxtable
My Clair, Clair, My Clair Huxtable

We’ll be in a brownstone in BK
Listening to Stevie and Coltrane
I know that she out there for me
Clair Huxtable

Have us a few kids one day
A couple of Lisa Bonets
I know that she out there for me
Clair Huxtable

So many girls I see are wild and lovable
But I’m looking for my queen
My Clair Huxtable
The black American dream it sounds so wonderful
The only thing I needs, my Clair Huxtable

Stream Fifteen: The Hills Are Alive… with the sound of muses

I riffed on The Sound of Music tribute at The 87th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony into a recording device for ten minutes and twenty-eight seconds: this is the verbatim transcription…

So it would seem the hills are alive with the sound of music… the Hollywood Hills to be exact. This night, this beautiful night, Oscar Sunday, and amidst all of the flashing lights, Mother Monster, the pop mistress, the matriarch of music – on behalf of a flailing industry thought to be dead, thought to be gone, thought to be sold out – rose to the occasion, only to prove that all the charlatans were dead wrong.

Music is that which cements the experience of any moment, that auditory moment where those aural architects, as I said before, are able to manipulate the invisible… to be able to tap into those currents and those frequencies that you cannot see, but that you can feel stronger than any other sensory experience you’ve ever felt before… when you close your eyes, and you can feel your heart beat. When you close your eyes, and you can feel the goosebumps rising; when you can feel that ugly duckling becoming that beautiful swan, rising above it all because it found the rhythm, and it could never fall – it would falter – but never off that cliff never to never be seen again…

And even if you are blind to it, truly that sound will ascend and create some of the most beautiful artwork we have ever never seen. That artwork that cements the scene. That artwork that travels on those currents on those airwaves… with those shared denizens of that domain, those who dwell in that common assumed misery but they dance so blissfully but you cannot see it because it’s hidden…

It’s something you cannot see, as in cinema, it’s something you can only hear, and yet it’s not dialogue, it’s that beautiful rhythmic dance. It’s the choreography of conversation… the choreography of existence, it’s the motion to those the airwaves, those places you tap into beyond the profits.

That intangible space that belongs only to the prophets, those who were wrong in this place and time because they tapped only into the eternal sublime, because they did not hit the charts the way you wanted them to… because they created only art because they needed to, because that’s what the culture was missing in the midst of a marketplace: is that when you worry about the bottom line, you forgot your higher calling… and that’s what she’s here to remind us, and that’s what they’re here to remind us… the commoners, the legends, the baptists, the evangelists, they’re all here to elevate you.

No matter the fact that we’re blind to the sound of the underground, still they emerge. And in the midst of ARTPOP, in the midst of Cheek to Cheek, in the midst of artRAVE, in the midst of “ARTFLOP,” – in the midst of everything that was lost – we have gold gained. In the midst of humanity, in the midst of lost celebrity, we have alchemy. We have a star who becomes a celebrity, who fell beneath the isolation of true artistry, and who emerged a divine human.

We have that with every artist, and yet we have that on this stage. We have a 28-year-old girl who, less than a year ago was turning on a spit, bathing in neon vomit… for the sake of art at the expense of empty pop. We saw her journey. We laughed, we scoffed, we wondered – why Tony? We laid off… and slowly but surely, she popped up in Dubai, she popped up in Tel Aviv, like… why? She showed up with a dog who hearkened to the East, that beautiful, black, wonky-eyed beast, and yet – that dog hit the cover of Bazaar: how strange. And yet she mosied, just dancing around the world, cheek-to-cheek, Heaven, Rocket Number 9, Lady by day, fxxking GaGa by night, who the, what the … so we just stayed and got right – left out on the right side of history, in my case.

And yet everyone else… it would appear to be a disgrace that we forgot about that New York doll. We forget about the little Stefani Germanotta who would sing Whitney from the top of her staircase, who would play the piano at 4get into Julliard at 11, write her first song at 13 – and yet at that stage was still not good enough for pop music. The one who would start singing jazz, the one who was “too theatrical for music,” the one who got tossed in trash cans in high school, the one who left NYU, the one who was too good for Tisch – the one who would eat dirt to prove it. The one who Def Jam turned a tone deaf ear to, the one who time and time again could never prove herself to be “quite pop enough,” in the midst of defining what it meant to be post-pop, definitively.

its stefs day

In the midst of her own shadow she emerged greater than her former self, time and time and time again… and it’s not about GaGa, it is not. It is about all of the GaGas, it’s about the cliches. It’s about the “GaGas in all of us,” it’s about the freak flags. It’s about finding that spark inside you that has no eyes. It has only a soul, and that soul hears these invisible currents. That soul lives in these Hills, and it does not throw rocks when it knows it will end up in the Canyons sooner or later, because it lives in that glass house we like to call fame, because it decided: i will take a chance on this love game, because i don’t know from where i came, but i know i will find myself… and at that point i will have no shame, and there’s no one to blame.

because this rhythm is the only thing i know, and in this frequency i will forever flow, and eternally move, eternally create, and never wait to express, and to cultivate that love supreme – and that is the realized dream of music, and that is what is alive in these hills… – and that’s artpop. hate to say it, but sometimes it’s hard to see the beautiful truth in something we once found shame in, and sometimes it’s hard to find the meaning when we place a name.

artpop is music: plain and simple. artpop is the elevation of the artists amidst all of the artifice. artpop is the knife under the hood that we deliver to hollywood. artpop is what killed that false corpse and left it in a trunk on highway 10 – artpop is the reason it rained today. artpop is because she made it reign, and she was born this way. artpop is Sam Smith at the grammys two weeks ago. artpop is monster balling outta control. artpop is that unspoken… and the Oscars are so lauded, so held in high esteem.

The Oscars are the pillars upon which we posture ourselves as royalty, as American royalty: we lie better than you, we’re show business – because we said so, it’s true. There was no Botox in those hills tonight. There was only the breath in that lung. When she hit that stage, everyone in that room remembered what it was like to be creative and young. To see and to feel and to hear and to experience… nothing but limitless possibilities as to what you could conjure, what you could manifest reality, in this beautiful world of ours. Whether it be a character or a role, an emotion, a feeling, a moment, a story.

That ego is what blinds us so many times, that ego is hidden somewhere in that lens, but never forget that love supreme, never forget what it’s like before you hit that screen. Never forget what you saw in the mirror, never forget what you saw in the reflection of that other’s eyes, and never forget because that’s when you realize the greatness of who you are. The greatness of the collapse and the rise of the star. The hills are alive tonight, and every night, so long as music survives.

freedom in the music – stay jazzed, kids.

 

Lyrically Speaking: Angie Fisher “I.R.S.”

Good music speaks volumes… rather than impose analysis, step back and expose linguistic artistry… listen, look, and linger in fantastic rhythmic reality: lyrically speaking.

 

2000 bucks would save my life
200 bucks would ease the pain
The I.R.S. is on my case
But I refuse to let them make me go insane

2000 bucks would pay the rent
200 bucks and 14 cents
Right about now would be enough some complement
So that I don’t have to sell my instrument

I’m aware, I’m aware, I’m aware
That pressure makes diamonds, diamonds, diamonds
My mamma told me, that closed mouths don’t get fed

2000 bucks would save my life
200 bucks would ease the pain
But I refuse, I refuse, I refuse, I refuse
To let them make me, to let them make me go
Insane

I’m talking ’bout the I.R.S. (the I.R.S.)
The I.R.S. (the I.R.S.)
The I.R.S. (the I.R.S.)
The I.R.S. (the I.R.S.)
The I.R.S. (the I.R.S.)
There’s only 3 letters
That can cause this kind of distress
The I.R.S. (the I.R.S.)

TrapperKeeper: Amy Winehouse – Frank

Amy, Amy, Amy… born to blossom, bloom to perish, sleep to wake again.

Drake says you can’t bring the future back, but when Winehouse asks of herself in 2003’s Frank, “Where’s my moral parallel?” she defied that theory. Back to Black was the fateful answer – the artistic masterpiece, and beautiful wane – but as it preceded the U.S. release of Winehouse’s true debut, pre-“RehabFrank became the answer to its own question.

Like Darren Aronofsky‘s Requiem for a Dream, Frank and BtB ebb and flow like the seasons to weave a brilliantly authentic tale of that innate human drive for the unknown ideal. Frank is the Spring. Winehouse, at 19, brought a classic newness to the 2003 London music scene. Yet, the album is unforgettable because of its timelessness. Frank remained, in 2007, that fresh lifeline to American music years later. It was the artistic renaissance resonating the rejuvenation after the Winter-esque BtB.

Amy Winehouse has a gift, she is able to live her music; her vocals don’t merely ride along with the instruments, they reside within them. “Intro” and “Stronger Than Me” sound like a jazz club, The Blue Note. The lyrics and acoustics don’t sound, but rather feel. As she moves into “You Sent Me Flying,” one can’t help but think of SWV at a speakeasy. Winehouse nails the early 90’s R&B vibe, while holding fast to her signature old soul style.

“Flying” segues into “Cherry,” think Brownstone opening for Brubeck – versatility. Never have I heard such a mellow assault as I have on “In My Bed.” It takes Nas‘ “Made You Look” sample, and where the sound effects step back, Amy steps up and sounds off. Winehouse runs the gamut. Yet even with the distinct sounds of blues, soul, jazz, R&B, bossa nova, hip-hop, and lounge, she keeps the sum of the parts static and consistent.

Know You Now” and “(There is) No Greater Love” might best encompass the duality of sound and sentiment: contemporary yet classic, simple yet deeply soulful, authentic and personal, yet atmospheric and enigmatic. Every aspect of the album is a sonic seasonal soundtrack, reflecting cycles and transitions – both natural and human.

The 19-year old’s debut reads like a diary, in the same way Aaliyah‘s Age Ain’t Nothin’ but a Number did – and, again, it is that timelessness, that break from assumed young naivete, which makes this album so unforgettable. Wise beyond its years, Frank reflects the innate desire for the unknown ideal. It is not necessarily the search for love, but rather that something that makes one feel complete.

The focus on the ideal is unattainable largely because the goal is intangible, thus we manifest that ideal into tangible forms. If we want love, we pursue people. If we want wealth and assumed success, we pursue money. Winehouse’s album falls into the former, while Aronofsky’s Requiem, for instance, finds its characters chasing the latter. Amy’s ongoing search takes her from lover to lover finding perfection and defections in each.

From the opening “Stronger Than Me”

You should be stronger than me,
You been here 7 years longer than me.
Don’t you know you supposed to be the man,
Not pale in comparison to who you think I am.
You always wanna talk it through, I don’t care…

to “Moody’s Mood for Love,”

Pretty baby you are the soul, snaps my control,
Such a funny thing but everytime you’re near me,
I never can behave,
You give me a smile
and I’m wrapped up in your magic,
There’s music all around me

it plays both sides of love: the exhausted and the infatuated.

The underlying story though is Amy’s self-reflection. While she waxes poetic about many a distant lover, it is when she gets back to the core that she seems closest to attaining that elusive ideal. Like BtB, Frank sees Amy’s greatest affections held within the inanimate.

It is as if she is most complete when giving life to the idle.

“Cherry” sees her in absolute amour:

Her name is Cherry.
We’ve just met, but already she knows me better than you…
And when I’m lonely, Cherry’s there,
and she plays along while I sing out my blues.

Then – whether she knows it or not – it hits that her man is no match for Cherry, her new guitar

Maybe we could talk ’bout things, if you was made of wood and strings.
You’re so thick, and my patience thin.
So I got me a knew best friend.
With a pickup that puts you to shame, and Cherry is her name.
You might think I’ve gone too far…
I’m talking ’bout my new guitar.

Amy Winehouse lives her music. Cherry is as much her best friend, as it is an extension of herself. It is inanimate, and so is she – detached, lifeless, dependent on whomever it is picks her up to play – until they connect and create music, and breathe life back into the mainstream.

Amy asks “What Is It About Men?” and if “Cherry” is any indication, it is that where her guitar gives Amy life, her men take it away.

“Maybe we could talk ’bout things, if you was made of wood and strings…”

Winehouse is but a Geppetto forever reaching for her Pinocchio, while she’s got Cherry forever in the palm of her hand.

Then, in the midst of a sonic stroll through a season in the life of Amy Winehouse – right at the crest of your delve into her mindset and psyche – an emcee ushers you out. The outro comes to remind you that for all of the emotion and authenticity, Frank was just a show. For the musician who lives her art though, that stage is Winehouse’s world.

After Frank she retires and fades backstage to black, only to rise with the curtain again to introduce an Amy stronger than the former version of herself – so goes the eternal ebb and flow of the truest artist’s finest show.

Frank is an amazing illustration of the beginning, the end, and how they are both contextual parallels.

“October Song” is a masterpiece; it is a piece of art that needs no external interpretation because it is complete in and of itself.

Preface: Frank‘s overseas lapse turned BtB into a bridge between two Amys – a cause and effect, past and future, ego and moral parallel – that are one in the same. Frank serves as the Summer before the Fall into BtB‘s Winter, and the Spring rebirth:

Today my bird flew away
gone to find her big blue jay
Starlight before she took flight
I sung a lullaby of bird land every night
sung for my Ava every night

Ava was the morning, now she’s gone
she’s reborn like Sarah Vaughan
In the sanctuary she has found
birds surround her sweet sound
and Ava flies in paradise

With dread I woke in my bed
to shooting pains up in my head
Lovebird, my beautiful bird
Spoken ’til one day she couldn’t be heard
she just stopped singing

Ava was the morning, now she’s gone
she’s reborn like Sarah Vaughan
In the sanctuary she has found
birds surround her sweet sound
and Ava flies in paradise

This is the sound: Sarah Vaughan. This is the story: release and return, the chase and the wait. This is the so what: the surface, the person(a), the real: Amy; this is the substance, the soul, the ideal: Ava.

This is Frank: unforgettable.

Mood Ring: Tommy Brown

In his own words, #nowplaying the soundtrack to Grammy Nominated producer Tommy Brown‘s life.

 

 

“(T)uesday” – ILOVEMAKONNEN (featuring Drake)

Who’s not going to pick “Tuesday?” Cause who doesn’t want to turn up on a Tuesday.

 

“(O)nly One” – Ariana Grande

This is a record I did on Ariana’s album. It’s one of my favorite songs I produced. It’s really a great song, if you haven’t heard it you should check it out.

 

“(M)y Everything” – Ariana Grande

This is another Ariana song. Which is the title song for her recent album. That was really important to me, to have the title track for a Platinum album.

 

“(M)alice and Wonderland – Victoria Monet

This is a Victoria Monet song. It’s the first song we released and first video we did. I think that was an important stand for moving forward. With actually producing an artist’s full project.

 

“(Y)esterday – The Beatles

What would this playlist be if we didn’t have a Beatles song in there?

 

Lyrically Speaking: “Yours and Mine” – Beyonce

yours and mine

i sometimes wish i could just be anonymous and just walk down a street just like everyone else. before i was famous, i was the girl on the hill with the guitar. i was the girl that just wanted a beautiful view of the beach. and now that I’m famous it’s really really difficult to do very simple things. i think it’s the hardest thing to give up. but my mother always taught me to be strong: and to never be a victim, never make excuses, never expect anyone else to provide for me things that i know i can provide for myself. i have dreams. and i feel like i have a power to make those dreams become a reality.

when you’re famous no one looks at you like a human anymore. you become the property of the public. there’s nothing real about it. [just look at these dazzling women, the finest representatives of our nation. ready to reach for the stars and grab the crown!] you can’t put your finger on who i am. i can’t put my finger on who i am. i am complicated i grew up with a lot of conflict and traumas, and I’ve been through a lot. just like everyone else. my escape was always music, and i’m so lucky that that’s my job.

but if i accomplished al of these things and had no one to share it with it would be worth nothing. you know you need something real in order for any of this stuff to matter.

you have to have something that is forever. something that is invisible.

i was brought up seeing my mother try to please and make everyone comfortable. and um i always felt like it was my job to fix the problem. people-pleaser. but i’m no longer afraid of conflict, and i don’t think conflict is a bad thing. because i know that when you grow up, when you learn a few things, you no longer afraid of letting go. you’re no longer afraid of the unknown. you’re no longer afraid of going to certain places in your body and your mind and your soul that may make you feel uncomfortable.

and it all starts with if you can look yourself in the mirror and say i like that person, you know. if i hadn’t gone through some of the painful experiences in my life, i would not be me.

“I feel like my body is borrowed, and this life is very temporary.”

 

i watched my friend’s body deteriorate, and to see someone pass on so gracefully put everything into perspective. we do not value ourselves enough, especially young people don’t really appreciate how brilliant our bodies are. I’ve always been ver very specific and very choosy – very choosey – about what i do with my body and who i want to share that with. people feel like they lose something when they get married, but it doesn’t have to be that way. there’s nothing more exciting about having a witness to your life.

i always consider myself a feminist although i was always afraid of that word because people put so much on it. when honestly, it’s very simple, it’s just a person that believes in equality for men and women. men and women balance each other out and we have to get to a point where we are comfortable appreciating each other.

i have a lot of empathy for men and the pressures that they go through, and the cultures that have been created, especially for african-american men. i have the same empathy for women and the pressures we go through. the woman has to provide so many things for their children. i consider myself a humanist.

you know everybody’s not good at everything. you know, it’s okay to depend on someone. it’s actually what we’re supposed to do, we’re supposed to depend on each other. and when you find the person that you trust and you love and you feel is going to respect you and and take all of the sxxt you have a turn it around and bring out the best in you. they feed you it is the most powerful thing you can ever feel in your life. happiness comes from you, no one else can make you happy. you make you happy.

and one thing that is for sure: the love i have, for music, for my husband, for my child, is something that will last far beyond my life.

#YoursandMine


Lyrically Speaking: Madonna “Illumanti”

Good music speaks volumes… rather than impose analysis, step back and expose linguistic artistry… listen, look, and linger in fantastic rhythmic reality: lyrically speaking.

 

 

It’s not Jay Z and Beyonce
It’s not Nicki or Lil Wayne
It’s not Oprah and Obama
The Pope or Rihanna
Queen Elizabeth or Kanye
It’s not pentagrams or witchcraft
It’s not trying to s-stack for cash
Black magic or Gaga
Gucci or Prada
Riding on a golden cat

 

The all-seeing eye is watching tonight
That’s what it is
Truth and light
The all-seeing eye is watching tonight
Nothing to hide
Secrets inside
It’s like everybody in this party, shining like Illuminati

 

It’s like everybody in this party, shining like Illuminati

[Bridge]
It’s the enlightenment that started it all
The founding fathers wrote it down on the wall
And now the media’s misleading us all
To right and to wrong
It’s time to dance and turn this dark into something
So let the fire burn, this music is bumping
We’re gonna live forever, love never dies
It starts tonight

 

Rihanna don’t know the new world order
It’s not platinum encrypted corners
It’s not Isis or the phoenix, cameras of Egypt
Don’t make it into something sordid
It’s not Steve Jobs or Bill Gates
It’s not the who you love United States
It’s not beaver or the braun
Clinton or Obama
Or anyone you love to hate