The Newsletter

The Newsletter. No. 3: muse, musings, and wtf does the root “mus” mean?

follow me for a sec

I was talking to Stacey the other day about how the greatest things in life, to me, are the things that consume your existence when you’re in it. These things include sex, music, reading, writing, etc. It’s one reason why I hate when people interrupt me while I’m doing any of these things. When I’m interrupted I’m violently yanked back into this reality world. And not everything in the reality world is as pleasurable as my non-reality worlds. But I’m learning to be thankful for the lessons reality world grants me. It makes me a stronger reality person who is more appreciative of his non-reality world activities.

on to the music.

The Internet – Ego Death

ego death – a complete loss of subjective self-identity

I’ve lost hope in opening the minds of those who can’t listen to music newer than 1975. One strange commonality I’ve discovered in that group is that many of them have a huge obsession with Led Zeppelin. They literally can’t get the Led out. Jon Bonham died in 1980, but if Jimmy Page or Robert Plant are any indication, there wasn’t much of a musical point in his existence past 1980. I guess the first song off of Plant’s album with Allison Krauss was good, but that’s pretty much all I can think of. I’ve never actually listened to Physical Graffiti, but it’s not like anyone has ever sat me down and been like, “Dude this album is so great. You MUST listen.” Keeping that in mind, I’m further cemented in my belief that we shouldn’t grasp the idea that there was any good to come from Jon Bonham’s hypothetically surviving 1980. Or from the projection that Led Zeppelin’s music was following. Regardless,  I wish people would stop acting like new music all sucks.
The Internet is a group I stumbled on through Spotify’s discover playlist feature. Another group who found success through OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolfgang Kill them All for those not in-the-know), Ego Death signifies all the good that’s coming from new artists. This is another group I’d point out to the naysayers who can’t admit there’s good music that’s come to fruition in the past five to ten years.

Yusef Lateef – Psychicemotus

What needs to be said beyond “jazz flute?”  Seriously.

This album is a spiritual journey. Two of the four albums on this list NEED to be listened to as a whole, and this is one of them. (The other one being I heard you twice the first time.)

There’s some funkiness, a cover of Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 1, and a Monk-like piano piece to close the album. In many ways I feel nostalgic listening to Psychicemotus and this is weird because I didn’t grow up listening to jazz so I’m not sure where these feelings come from. I’ll have to reflect and get back to you on what I find out.

Jimi Hendrix – People, Hell, and Angels

My dear friend Ian Blackwood introduced me to the second track off this album way back when. Up until recently I hadn’t listened to the whole album and I wouldn’t really necessarily recommend you do either. But the gems that do exist, namely “Somewhere,” “Easy Blues,” and “Villanova Junction Blues,” are largely unrecognized gold flakes that help to further Jimi’s catalog.
While those three tracks are the most accessible of the album, they still might not appeal to general music enthusiasts. The mixes are raw and unpolished. The songwriting is largely incomplete or loosely composed. But these are all the untarnished versions of songs that Hendrix had brewing before his death. And the rawness of the tracks might be what appeals to me most. It also features Steven Stills from CSNY playing some bass for a couple tracks. If you ask me, that’s pretty neat.

Branford Marsalis – I Heard You Twice the First Time

In 1992 Marsalis won a Grammy for “Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Individual or Group” for this album. Setting the music aside for a second, this album is interesting to me for two reasons.
First, like classical, most people don’t listen to jazz outside of academics, those who study music, and a small percentage of music enthusiasts. This makes me wonder what jazz artists think about Grammy’s. I think the Grammy’s are pretty stupid, especially considering how they’re picked and the air of pretension that surrounds anything called an “academy.”
The second thing that interests me is this: a song off of J. Cole’s latest, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, tipped me off to this album and its journey through the different styles of blues throughout history. What’s peculiar about this sample is that Cole sampled “Berta, Berta”–a slave spiritual that was recorded by Marsalis to sound like a chain gang working on a railroad in pre-1863 America–in his song G.O.M.D. You might wonder, “What’s that stand for?” For fun, take a few guesses then highlight the blank space below to find out the answer.

|Get off My Dick|

More than I wonder what Marsalis thinks about the Grammy’s, I wonder what Marsalis thinks about being sampled in such a gloriously titled song. Funny thing is, telling someone to “get off my dick” is just a more explicit way of telling someone off, as opposed to the more subtle “I heard you twice the first time.” So Marsalis and Cole aren’t separated by such great lengths after all!

YouTube Gem of the month:

ze Wood Brothers new song “I got Loaded.” Performed live from one of those cool live performance videos.This one’s in Louisiana and gives me all the feels. Love this shit. Yummmmmmm.

‘And up in the clouds I can imagine UFO’s joke with themselves, laughing and sayin, “Those people so up tight. They sure know how to make a mess.”‘

— Jimi Hendrix

The Newsletter

The Newsletter. No. 2: The Classics

This month I’m taking a musical trip down memory lane.

Middle School

Sublime – 40 oz. to Freedom

When I first started listening to 40 oz. to Freedom I didn’t actually like the music. I didn’t understand the entrepreneurial significance of the album’s title.

Hell, I didn’t even know Sublime had music beyond “Santeria,” “Wrong Way,” and “What I got.” And none of these songs were even on the album.

What initially drew me to the album was its vulgarity. I’d been listening to rap for a while. But, to me, the tone of the music in rap matched what was being said.

40 oz. was the first time I’d heard, “I want to fuck you,” sung in a melody atop the peaceful soundscape of reggae. And it made me uncomfortable at first. I suppose the argument could be made that most music is suggesting the same statement, Sublime was just one of my first run-ins with lyrics that overtly stated what other musicians suggested through lyrical innuendo, moaning, and emulated sex sounds created by instruments.

This album quickly grew into an obsession and also served as my entry point into roots artists being covered on the album like Toots and the Maytals. If you had to pick one, listen to “5446/Ball and Chain.”

Nirvana – Nevermind

The same year I fell in love with Sublime I also found Nevermind tucked in my mom’s car under a bunch of terrible 80’s glam metal albums. Not only did this album beat out MJ, but it also popularized a new genre and created, at the time, a powerhouse of a music scene in Seattle that overtook airwaves and record stores–the most dominant music mediums in the early nineties.

I have a certain reader in mind who would argue that it’s all about The Melvins. Yes, I know Nirvana stole some of their sound and that Kurt Cobain loved The Melvins–they were hugely influential to many bands. But it doesn’t pain me to say that Nirvana wrote better songs. Like actual songs that weren’t rambly ten minute heavy jams. And that’s one of the reasons Nirvana became so huge. Their songs are undeniable. Alice Cooper said in an interview once how more bands need to study The Beatles to get a sense of how to write a song. This album displays what happens when a creative mind has internalized The Beatles catalog and writes songs inspired by his other musical interests.

I really became obsessed with this album in middle school when I was raking leaves for my grandparents. Each summer/fall they would head out to this camp in the woods–which was like a retirement home for old people–and just live. It never really struck me as odd at the time, but looking back it was kind-of just like a displaced trailer park. Everyone built screened-in porches onto the front of their campers. They even grew grass and mowed said grass. In the middle of the woods let me remind you.

Anyway, this specific fall season I was in charge of raking their plot of land in the woods trailer park. While I raked, I listened to Nevermind on repeat. So I suppose you could try that out this fall when you’re raking too.

YouTube Gem of the month:

Elliot Smith feat. Jon Brion and Brad Mehldau. Click here.

Jon Brion is a genius and has produced many other geniuses the likes of Kanye West, Elliot Smith, Brad Mehldau, Fiona Apple. And the list goes on.

elementary school

Sure elementary school doesn’t follow middle school, but screw humans and their insistence on chronology.

Jay-Z – Roc La Familia: The Dynasty 
This album was a big hit at our local YMCA on Friday “Fun Nights.” Any time a song from the album would play, all my friends would pause and start rapping in each other’s faces to display our bravado and knowledge of the hottest album out. It was 7pm in suburbia but we were the hardest motherfuckers around rapping to Jay-Z.

high school

Kanye West – The College Dropout 
This album reintroduced me to rap. In middle school I stopped listening to rap/hip-hop in attempt to fit in with the “punks” at school. At that point showing allegiance to the punk or prep crowd was integral to social survival. And I wasn’t ready for alienation, so ascribe to social norms I did. One day at recess this particular year the punk and prep social circles lined up at recess to brawl. It was like a game of red rover except the two complete lines ran at each other, rather than individuals. After this recess debacle, for the rest of the week, the school called groups of 3-4 students to the office to discuss how we would prevent future conflict. There were even talks of introducing uniforms to the school so that the two groups couldn’t signal their allegiance through dress, much like how gangs wear colors, except for us it was Abercrombie vs Hot Topic, instead of red v. blue. The irony that Hot Topic is just as much a consumerist, popular establishment as Abercrombie was unrecognized by me and my punk friends. By 9th grade my idiotic allegiance to the punks had waned–and thankfully so because this was the year I first heard The College Dropout.

I am the type of person who struggles with my proclivity toward laziness. Because I am relatively smart, I often fight the nagging idea that things should come easily to those who are smart. Logically I know it’s not true, but that doesn’t keep me from wondering why an intelligent person like myself is stuck in a cycle of low-paying shitty jobs. College Dropout caters to these struggles, along with some others. Sure I’m not a black man working at The GAP who’s searched for stolen goods every night before leaving work, but I was a college dropout at one point. I can relate to the seemingly valueless degree that so many pressured me toward getting in my youth. Now that I have a degree I can say it hasn’t helped me pay off loans so far. (I do value my degree though, but for many reasons that defy the assumption that a degree guarantees employment. Enrichment is unmeasurable and therefore worthless to many in our society, or so it seems.)

The Newsletter

The Newsletter. No. 1


First on the list is D’angelo. Each of his three albums has a different flavor, but for now I’m recommending Voodoo as a good entry point into the world of instantaneous-orgasm-while-eating-ice-cream music. D’angelo is god. I love him so much I stand by my belief that he is better than Marvin Gaye. I feel kinda gross saying that, so maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but anway…

This album has so much to offer. From groove, to songwriting, to angelic falsetto, Voodoo will open your world to modern soul and restore faith in current music. Sure there’s the Crazytowns and the Miley Cyruses and Biebers, and then there’s D’angelo. I don’t support the idea that many people hold about how good music is dead. There’s more music available through online places like Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp, etc. than there has ever been available to people in the world. So much music that you could sift through it eighteen hours a day for years and you’d just barely scratch the surface of what exists. And people want to try to say that there’s no good music. BUT, if I had to subscribe to that stupid idea, D’angelo would single handedly makes up for all the McDonaldized nonsense in existence.

Voodoo was also my introduction to Charlie Hunter and custom eight string guitar playing. YouTube him; you won’t regret it.


Next up–Mac Miller: Watching Movies with no Sound.

I know. I thought the same thing. Mac Miller sucks, right? Rap/hip-hop is overpopulated with awful white boy rappers the likes of Riff Raff and Bubba Sparxxx. Even worse was the wave of college white boy rappers a la Sammy Adams, Mike Posner, Asher Roth, etc.

Associating the previously mentioned disgraces with Miller, I gave no mind to Watching Movies when it came out. Even worse, I dismissed him after a quick listen while riding with my brother on the way to a hockey practice in high school. I didn’t even know Watching Movies existed until this summer when a close friend whose rap tastes I trusted recommended the album.

I later regretted my assumptions. Mac Miller is to rap what MGMT is to poppy-psychedelic-rock. Both started off with some gems but mostly catered to abstractly conceived pop audiences that could guarantee an income. The second album comes out and WHAM BAM        Art.

Also, Jay Electronica kills it in his feature. Those who claim new rap is all shit are stupid. Find the good stuff and quit complaining.