The last song

It was nearing the end of the night. Two more songs maybe? Just one? Ben looked around and could tell everyone was getting anxious to wrap it up and move onwards to their parties, their open houses…their freedom.

“Alright everyone, last song of the night. You know what that means..find that special someone one last time. Class of 2016, this is for you!”  Was it possible for the DJs at these dances not to sound corny?

Ben’s eyes flickered frantically around the dim room. His heart rate picked up. The time had come. In his mind, he’d put himself in this exact moment countless times. It was his last shot to impress her, to make a statement, to look into her eyes.  There was no afterparty for Ben. There was no next opportunity.  After tonight was a summer of lethargic boredom and the foreboding unknowns of college.

Where was she?

There. Her yellow dress caught his eye. She was laughing with a friend.  The colorful lights of the dance floor shimmered in her eyes; those eyes that first grabbed Ben’s attention sophomore year. He smiled.

Ben took a deep breath, walked over to her, and put his hand on her shoulder. She turned.

May I have this dance? 



Future Islands – Ran

It took an eccentric, chest-beating performance on Letterman to open people’s eyes to Future Islands’ sticky appeal. Slow and methodical, against drums that beat like a throbbing heart, people found solace in Future Islands’ emotive sound. Or maybe just stopped to stare and listen to Sam Herring’s ghoulish voice.

But since their rise in 2014, we haven’t heard any new music from the trio. Until now, after the band released a single from its upcoming album, The Far Field.

Ran, the new single, fits nicely into Future Islands’ gothic past, opening with a sweet, ambient soundscape, before turning to ascend into the oxygen depleted realms of the high country.

Mark those calendars! (4/7/17)


Soft Hair – Lying Has to Stop

The image of two men plastered in green body paint holding a giant yellow boa constrictor dominated Cymbal for a week. But for some reason I kept scrolling past Soft Hair’s Lying Has to Stop. It was part sensory overload. Part nostalgic terror at their Emperor Palpatine-like eyes.

Soft Hair’s music is just as weird. Characterized by velvety synth, bubbly vocals and an undulating beat, Lying Has to Stop feels hyperbolic right from the first lyric, “You’ll find there’s never any time for babes and wine.” But Sam and Connan pick up steam and settle into a nice, perpetual groove.


Bonobo’s Migration


I was reading Grayson Schaffer’s, “A Healthy Dose,” when I remembered Bonobo’s new album, Migration, had just been released. Grayson is a senior editor at Outside Magazine and his article is a confessional about experimentation with ayahuasca, a potent drug that gives users hallucinatory revelations. For Grayson, it was the catalyst for a spiritual and physical metamorphosis. He dropped ten pounds, lost interest in booze, and shed a heavy, more burdened version of himself.

Despite a lingering skepticism of drugs, I like reading about psychedelics. It’s fun to think about a spiritual realm where Hells Angels befriend Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, to flirt with the idea of interconnectedness and build a greater architecture of being that reveals a burning curiosity for life. It’s trippy shit, but basically water cooler talk for ayahuasca disciples.

As I read, I flipped on Bonobo’s new album, Migration. An experienced DJ and producer, Migration is Bonobo’s sixth album. With guest appearances from Nick Murphy (formerly Chet Faker) and indie white unicorn, Rhye, anticipation was high.

By pairing Bonobo’s downtempo, electronica with Grayson Schaffer’s fervid transformation from Patagonia bro to Dean Potter reincarnated, I was intentionally creating my own concoction. I wanted to slip into the subconscious. Find that sweet spot where reading and understanding coalesce.

It takes concentration. Often we’re yanked out by something discordant or we simply lack the attention span. But Bonobo’s new album Migrations (and his music in general) is designed to be played front to back. To pluck and pick at individual songs doesn’t do justice to Bonobo’s uncanny ability to link music into a cohesive journey. He’s a modern composer, using strings and percussion to orchestrate an out of body experience and lead the listener into a hyper focused state.

I became blissfully unaware that there was work to be done and lay the magazine across my keyboard, bobbing my head up and down to Bonobo’s Migrations.

Since the North Borders, the majority of my time has been spent in transit. For a year living unrooted between cities whilst touring. A large part of this record was conceived during that time in unfamiliar spaces and within the constraints of temporary workspaces and the lack of a permanent home or base, something I feel contributed to the process and ultimately made this record something I’m immensely proud of.” – Bonobo


The Rebrand

All the thief left was a pair of shoes, which Sam picked up 45 minutes South of San Francisco. Everything else – pants, socks, work shirt, countless pieces of memorabilia, familiar fits and wrinkles – were gone.

The audacity of it hit Sam as soon as he saw the broken glass shining on the concrete, but the feelings of loss took some time to develop. He’d reach for something, before realizing it was gone.

The optimistic type, Sam began to rebuild. We called it a re-brand. It was an opportunity to try out a new look, buy the shit he really wanted. It would be a total revamp of Sam.

He bought his first round of new shirts, then went home and washed them. Walking around in starchy, pressed cotton made him feel like a mannequin. Like humans, clothes take time to gather character. A scratch at the elbow. A roughening of the material.

To help with the transition, Sam started reading about Buddhism. Most relevant was the idea that we are more than our material possessions. Sam doesn’t derive meaning from a t-shirt. His essence is more innate. Constant.

That sounds pretty good on paper, but the reality is much more materialistic. Passerby’s judge you in seconds based on your branded chest. The leap to Buddhist indifference was a little much and Sam was thrown into a existentialist crisis of self discovery. The jean jacket he’d bought was still dangling on a hanger. This went beyond clothes.

In any rebrand, it’s important to have a goal. A North star to lead the way in times of darkness. But Sam went into this whole thing unwillingly. A thief in the night, pulling on a Hamilton College soccer t-shirt. But he soon found his anchor.

Narrative. We construct them without even thinking. We assess, judge and make it fact, all from the fenceposts of our own cranium. Sam might construct the narrative that his clothes were stolen because of bad karma. Or that the thief was some type of divine intervention forcing his hand into a much needed rebrand.

Or the truth is much less theatrical. His shit got stolen. There’s no narrative beyond that, no need for the dramatic coloring of simple details. And with that as a mind pump, Sam began to notice other narratives that were unfurling around him, pulling them in to inspect the source.