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.

Advertisements

The Case for Not Knowing

I’ve been wrestling with an idea for a while now and can’t shake it. Our lives have become detached from unbiased experiences.

Yelp tells us if we should expect a good meal, Rotten Tomatoes dictates our viewing choices, Airbnb photo galleries are the basis of lodging selection, dating apps remove any mystery around meeting someone, and Instagram gives us utopian expectations of vacation destinations long before we step on the plane. The list goes on.

Put simply, we actively avoid going into things blindly. And this is a problem. Our bodies and minds need elements of the unexpected and unprejudiced; of this I am certain. Without them, how do we stay sharp. How do we remain curious. How do we feel alive.

Think on this, and dive blindly into the sounds of Volta Jazz. Let it take you wherever it takes you.

Volta h/t Tommy

D-Man’s 2017

It occurred to me in 2017 that experiencing music is much different than hearing it. Let’s imagine you’re at work and you give Discover Weekly a go. A carousel of data-driven reccomendations is wheeled out and you’re presented billboard climbers and diamonds in the rough – all with some potential (at least algorithmic potential) of resonating with your current state.

The reality is that most of the sounds slide right off you, disappearing back into the internet from whence they came. But some songs produce a type of friction – a sudden awareness that pulls you into the moment.

It’s kind of like Tinder. You may be compelled to believe that there are thousands of potential matches, but there’s really only a handful of people willing to meet in person and even fewer who want to connect on a deeper level.

We want to write about those second dates. The solid matches. The songs that make you experience music as an active force. The tunes you play again and again, as if by listening once more, you may get to the bottom of what’s important.

In the spirit of experience, here are a few songs that defined my 2017.

-D-man


Chris Stapleton – Tennessee Whiskey

**

Despite my best efforts, I can’t get into country. Once, while visiting my brother in Montana I got close, enjoying how the sharp Southern drawl made wheel lines seem like religious labor. What could be more important than driving to feed the cows? Then, I’d hear pop country (the genre Wheeler Walker has used to shit-talk his way to fame) and would return a skeptic.

Which is all to say I didn’t expect to like Chris Stapleton, a soft-spoken Southerner who seems to inhabit a different musical universe than Luke Bryan or Florida Georgia Line. Like any country star, Chris Stapleton loves to sing about whiskey bottles and desert winds, but unlike his counterparts, he seems to bridge a transcendental gap, crafting music that can ring from the inside of honkey tonk bars to a gridlocked work commute.


Beach Fossils – Be Nothing

**

You always had something

You wish you had nothing

Still a loosely defined genre, indietronica blends two disparate worlds, running an electronic current through the traditional live band set up. Imagine long hair swaying over delay peddles, downtrodden beats, and the celebration of total melancholy. Give in and there’s relief – a weightlessness or what I imagine a sensory deprivation pool to feel like.

Of course there’s a limit to so much reverb, a line that Washed Out pushes, sometimes approaching numbness. Where Beach Fossils excels is the rush of the bridge, as the song builds to a crucial guitar solo, forty seconds of intense exhilaration – a shot of adrenaline to pull us out of our stupor.


Shagabond – Sweet Magma / Kraak & Smaak – Stumble (feat. Parcels)

2017 was a hell of a year for Soundcloud. In July multiple news outlets reported that a shutdown of the music streaming service seemed imminent. Money was drying up and when you stopped to think about it, who owns a Soundcloud Pro account anyways?

Then, an emotional response surfaced, as bloggers and users ran through their lists of remixes, mashups, and bootleg tunes that only Soundcloud could produce. Anticipating the shutdown, a few engineers rushed to archive everything. I got ready to mourn my “like” tab on Soundcloud – a nostalgic tour de force of electronic misfits.

Soundcloud was saved and appears (for the moment) to be stable. Out of the turmoil, one thing became apparent, Soundcloud is valued more than it’s bottom line may indicate, and it’s still a treasure trove of galaxy hop and other futuristic sounds.


ODESZA – Higher Ground

**

A few weeks after ODESZA’s new album, A Moment Apart, debuted, I still hadn’t listened. I felt like maybe I was over their brand of music. Since hearing How Did I Get Here almost five years ago, the masses had taken notice, followed by sellout shows in Berkeley and major commercial spots with top-notch brands.

That and Anthony Fantano, “the internet’s busiest music nerd,” waved off the album with a single Tweet.

When I finally did listen, I was struck by the odd sensation of parting the seas on some degree of musical snobbery. I was aware of a public persona and a private one. There was me, the music blogger, and me, the listener – both with their own agendas. One thinks about music, and the other simply enjoys it.

ODESZA’s classic refrain, a chattering, metallic rhythm section that powers their music like a locomotive train, made me realize that you should never turn your back on guilty pleasures. They’re too much fun.

Tash Sultana

Every time I start up Spotify I’m introduced to a new artist. Some good, some bad; some to add to a playlist, others forgettable.  Then there are those that make you stop everything because it is something entirely different. Who is this person? Where are they from?  What’s their story?

I want to tell you about Tash Sultana. She’s a 22 year old Australian with an incredible story, and we’re already late to the game.

**

At 15 years old she started playing on the streets of Melbourne after school and on the weekends. On any given day she could’ve been performing one of the ten instruments she taught herself how to play. Fast forward some years, and she’s battling a year-long episode of psychosis thanks to a bad mushroom trip. She misses school for months, loses 35 pounds, but it was music that kept her from losing her mind.  Then, last year, she creates Jungle, posts it on YouTube and she’s a star.

Her Tiny Desk Concert is time well spent.  Not only is it remarkable to see her musical talent (looping all of her sounds), but Tash performing is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Khai

I’m into Khai and his sound – the drag of a soothing synth interrupted by the slap of an electronic drum snare, all held together by clean vocals.

As I rummaged around his Facebook looking for some eye-glazing info to introduce this young talent to listeners, I smiled as I found the single line on the bio tab of his page:

Midi-chlorian count: 7,200″