Electric Guest – Oh Devil

You probably recognize Electric Guest from This Head I Hold. The song is doing laps around other pop tracks on Spotify. It’s upbeat hop and skip is part of a recent movement to revitalize soul. Maybe you heard Pharrell’s Happy?

The L.A. band is mastering a crucial balancing act, teetering somewhere in between indie and mainstream circles. They’ve performed on Fallon, Conan and Letterman, but avoid the corporate sell out label.

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With their new album, Plural, Electric Guest shows off an unabashed sentimentality, most intense on the track,  “Dear to Me.” It’s sweet, but too sweet. Sickly sweet. And the clear stand out on the album is Electric Guest’s confrontation with a darker side, on “Oh Devil,” a tune that will undoubtedly light the radio on fire.

Ivy Lab – 20 Questions

South African dance music has a certain depth of sound. It’s hollow. Spacious. Fleet of foot. And when it’s accompanied by the chatter of drum and base, it’s infectious on a dance floor.

Years ago WalterCronkTight and I would cruise down Long Street, SA listening for rattling speakers, hoping to discover a DJ or even just a song that hadn’t made the transcontinental journey to Europe or North America.

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When these jewels surfaced, we’d write down lyrics or maybe turn to someone flexing in the crowd, “yo, you know what this is?” 

Some nights, WalterCronkTight, more ballsy than me, would approach the DJ, drink in hand, feet still moving to the base. The DJ would pull one ear from his headphones and lean in.

“I can’t hear you, mate…” he’d mouth.

In the spirit of musical adventure, test your ears on 20 questions by Ivy Lab. (Not South African) but undeniably influenced by the crisp SMACK of o.g. drum n’ base.

HNNY – Nothing (Original Mix)

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As the Chainsmokers and other teeny-boppin’ trap has become painfully sweet, lo-fi house and it’s blissfully underwhelming sound has started to creep into the musical zeitgeist.

Unlike it’s counterpart, lo-fi house is quiet and unassuming. At first glance you may mischaracterize it as elevator music – background beats to pass the time between floors.

Careful.

Good lo-fi house is infectious. It’s elemental. The sum of simple parts coming together to unlock a primordial foot tap and the overwhelming urge to shimmy and shake. Probably best characterized by the viral YouTube sensation: Russian kid dancing at club can’t be bothered.

HNNY’s Nothing (Original Mix) invokes a similar reaction. Your joints loosen, instantly feeling less mechanical, less bound at the knees. Dip. Hop. Snap. Then, your arms unhinge. You start to make wild gestures. Fingers wave, hands twirl. And when the beat drops, you realize that you and the rest of the blurry dancefloor are grooving to a new frequency.

One Fast Move or I’m Gone

“Duncan?” said a voice in the doorway.

I turned to see a young, Asian man wearing a black leather jacket. His hair was spiked like a mountaintop and his leather boots were worn and dusty. He moved into my room and introduced himself as, “the guy moving in.”

I welcomed him. Surprised he was here so early. My lease wasn’t up until the next day. But he set his motorcycle helmet on a dusty dresser and began surveying the room.

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There was a leaning tower of clothes, a stack of valuables (my passport, a knife wrapped in a stuff sack and a collection of birthday cards) and a pile of uncategorized stuff – dusty soccer cleats, an expired ID and an orange t-shirt with a rip through the chest.

The move was a chance to embrace minimalism. To enter a headspace where possessions were just material things, like empty beer bottles. But by grouping everything into piles, I’d magnified the emotional impact. I was no longer just throwing away a pennant flag but the entire 2004 Red Sox World Series.

“What’s the plan for the dings on the wall?” said the new guy, running a fingernail over one of the divots.

There were a network of scratches, mostly from tacks and nails jammed into the wall to support a string of prayer flags stretched across the room. I told him to take it up with the landlord. The larger dents in the wall weren’t mine though. I’d inherited them. The new guy snapped a few photos, muttering something about, “due diligence.”

He moved towards the window and eyed a reddish stain. I’d tried scrubbing it off but the wine must have set into the wood. Years ago, I’d kicked over a bottle of red while eating dinner with my girlfriend. I didn’t own any furniture at the time so we sat on the floor, legs crossed like Indian chiefs.

I offered some of the remaining furniture to the new guy. I’d found most of it on the sidewalk. But he shook his head and clasped his hands behind his back. He had blueprints for a new layout and as soon as I left, he was going to cover the walls with a fresh coat of grey paint.

The new guy motioned towards the leftover dresser and offered to help move it out to the street. So we took out the drawers and lifted, using the edges to maneuver through the front door, dropping the dresser by the trash.

“It’ll be gone in minutes,” I said. “Nothing lasts long in this neighborhood.”

It was true. Earlier I’d left thirty pound dumbbells by the curb to load into the car. Five minutes later they disappeared.

“How is the neighborhood around here?” the new guy asked, glancing at the apartments across the street.

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I told him it was ok and thought about the night someone threw a vodka bottle through our front window. The house had also survived two shootings – drive by’s that chopped up our front door with pockmarks. And most mornings the ground shimmered with broken glass from car windows getting beat to a pulp.

“Well, I have a scooter so I should be fine,” said the new guy. He must have seen me eyeing a shattered window.

The sun was getting low and I sensed that I only had a few more minutes, maybe seconds left. Cars sped up the hill, drivers squinting as they accelerated. Turk Street framed the setting sun, cradling it like a pearl.

I turned and jogged back inside to grab as much as I could from the three piles on the floor. I stuffed the Red Sox pennant and prayer flags into an empty guitar case. Out in the hall I could hear the new guy breathing steadily. He leaned on a squeaky floorboard and repeated something about a safety hazard. I heard the click of his camera.

He shook my hand as I walked out of the front door for the last time. A car pulled into the driveway next door. I leaned down to see if it was my pot smoking neighbor. He liked to sit out there rolling doobies. We usually exchanged head nods. My way of letting him know I wasn’t an asshole. Then, one day he rolled down his window as I climbed on my bike, and shouted something through a smoky haze.

“Hey cowboy! You riding off into the sunset?”

New Find: MADEIRA – Manipulator

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It takes a lot to get noticed. Especially these days with the flux of accessibility. Everyone’s on all the time.

Music is at the centerpiece of this voracious cycle. It’s never been easier to access mixes, remixes, mashups, albums, timeless classics and covers. It’s all there on your phone. Options. Millions of them. Limitless choice.

So we build playlists and subscribe to music discovery algorithms to minimize the agony of choice. Just give me the music. We discover when we need to. Star songs because we want something to go back to.

But the irony is that even though how we access music has changed, there’s a great constant. The best music is the stuff you can’t forget.

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.