bending notes bottoming out on a beer soaked floor

When I was fourteen I used to practice the solo from Smells Like Teen Spirit with the guitar hoisted over my left shoulder. Not looking at the frets was a total rock and roll move – one step removed from playing with your teeth or mastering the hammer ons for Eruption but come on – still very rock and roll.

I ran through the progression over and over again so it would seem effortless, but that’s about as far as my guitar playing abilities went. I was discouraged when I couldn’t make it through what I considered to be the most desirable solo of all time – the six minute mark of Stairway to Heaven – even when Damien, the instructor with curling fingernails tabbed it all out on lined paper. I sold my hefty Line 6 amp at a pawn shop for cash, and got really into digitized beats.

The EDM-blitz lasted quite awhile, but the gravitational pull of guitar is tugging me back. I’ve re-discovered classics (Crosby, Stills & Nash), geeked out on Mac DeMarco antics, and bit off pieces of jam bands, shoe gaze, and slacker rock – a slow, dystopian groove that’s both haunting and energizing (Japanese Breakfast).

I like the introspective nature of slacker rock. I like that you can lean back in your car and let the reverb wash over you. I like that I’m not listening to a long-haired rocker rifling through a million notes. It’s sleek and slow and kinda sad.

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Outside Lands

“They’re going up by the inflatable squid.”

It wasn’t until D-Man shouted this that I actually took stock of our surroundings. The squid? That tiny fucking squid way up there? It seemed a mile away, within the heart of chaos and excess. I figured we’d lose those two for the rest of the night. “Meet at the empanada stand if you get lost”, we had said earlier.

The scene was grander than I had imagined – more people, bigger stages. The only other time I was in a confluence of energy so giant was Munich, six years ago.

Odesza was impressive. It was what it needed to be. In a way, they delivered what I expected them to – positivity, movement, energy – and it was fulfilling. Seeing them was long overdue.

The shirtless guy, however? The nutcase chugging wine, doing brainless sketches with his bandmates between songs? Even with flowebrother’s insight, I wasn’t prepared for Mac DeMarco. He was a maniac. A carefree goon. An accidental superstar. I wasn’t witnessing a polished band play for a paycheck, I was watching a crew of pals – jokesters – simply making music and having fun. Bravo, Mac, bravo.


Day Two brought sunshine, and with it, steadily flowing beer. When we gathered the motivation to leave the backyard and head to the park, we arrived to the experimental sounds of Bon Iver. It wasn’t the vibe we desired – too calming. Give us something to move to.

We found it at Jamie xx. Mesmerizing, intense and unpredictable, he wasn’t there to cater to the casual fan; he was there to craft a genuine DJ set. He played songs I’d never heard; songs that made the crowd uncomfortable; songs that gave me flashbacks to warehouses in southern Spain.  He did not play two of his biggest hits. As daylight faded and darkness took over, he turned the crowd into a frenzy, and I loved it. Charley didn’t quite get it. Sam was a goner. Everybody was doing something.


It’s a surreal feeling to see a performer after they’ve only previously existed ever so frequently within your headphones.  Since I first learned about Tash Sultana, she has captivated me. Her energy, her spirit, her flare. I saw her come alive on that final afternoon, and she did not disappoint. As the sun set – physically on the evening, metaphorically on the festival – we tapped our feet to the vibes. It was tribal, passionate, authentic.

I never even saw the damn empanada stand.

Song! Song! Song!

Last month my mom sent me an Easter package. Inside was chocolate from Wilbur’s of Maine, a plastic baseball and a special issue from the New York Times Magazine, “25 Songs that Tell us Where Music is Going.”

The list is non-judgmental but analytical as hell. How did one of the world’s most revered pop stars (the Biebs) produce one of the most successful albums of the year? He met Diplo and Skrillex (forming Jack Ü), produced a banger and let the music speak louder than his dreaded hair or pot smoking antics.

Why is Mac Demarco slacker rock’s golden child? Because of his larger than life personality. He’s known for public nudity, chain smoking cigarettes, and his Enter Sandman cover at live shows. After giving out his home address on his most recent EP, people flocked to Demarco’s house in Queens to sip coffee and eat gluten-free banana bread.

As expected, the New York Times Magazine gets myopic – especially in regards to song.

So these days it’s the song, and the scale of the event surrounding it. One song, one digestible thing, with millions of people standing in a circle around it, pointing and shouting and writing about it, conducting one gigantic online undergraduate seminar about it, metabolizing it on roughly the same level that cable-news debate shows metabolize a political speech.” – Nitsuh Abebe

That sparked something. A thought that’s been germinating on The Aftermath since we started writing about music.

We’re hyper focused on song. We replay them again and again until the choruses and bridges are as familiar as a childhood memory. We worship them. Recommend them. We’re heartbroken when someone else doesn’t recognize their worth and feel the same surge of inspiration.

For a music enthusiast, song has the power to turn a day around, change a relationship, solidify philosophical credence – things will get better. For a series of melodic vibrations that tickle our eardrums, the affects of song are genuine and cerebral.

So, if you get a chance, scroll through 25 Songs that Tell us Where Music is Going and think about song – the tiny, little thing that is becoming more and more powerful.