Posts Tagged ‘randomness


I’m Ready…

Opportunity may strike at your lowest point. It seems to hunt you down when you’re least expecting it. You’re down and out at work; but oh, shit, an exciting project now has your name on it. The day was already long enough, and you’re scheduled to attend this meeting; but oh, shit, it was just canceled – a gift of time. 60 minutes ago you were psyched to step into a workout, now you’re far from your house and out of gas; but damn, look what just rolled on.

There are different states during a ride for me no matter the duration and intensity: warm-up, huff and puff, feelin’ good, beginning to lag, and the adrenaline rush of near completion. Though I know a well-timed and appropriately themed playlist would generate more ummph and tenacity, creating a synchronized set of songs isn’t my thing. Instead, it’s a few E.P.s and albums placed in my queue upon sitting on my saddle. My spontaneous choices have been working.

The energy, the nostalgia, the impeccable songwriting, and the combustible instrumentation of Triple Fast Action’s Cattlemen Don’t is what I continue to return to. A great majority of this record is fully charged and ends up exploding sonically. Albums deserve to be experienced with headphones, the brilliance shines brighter, all the expressive nuances of each song ring truer when you’re immersed within that song’s world. Headphones almost force you to be present and one with the song.

While in the huff and puff phase of my ride, after a gradual, loose climb, my energy was waning. I was capable of staying in motion but the pace was the speed where being passed was likely. On a beautiful day, in a heavily populated open space, there is always someone creeping up. I own my age and how my muscle fibers aren’t what they once were. But like electrical paddles hoping to resurrect a normal heart rhythm, an under three-minute song possesses a similar capability: let’s rip! The surge that courses through my body upon hearing “I’m Ready” gave me an instant restart. I was ready for whatever was left ahead. This jolt of opportunity hit right when I needed it.


The Offspring’s We Don’t Have Sex Anymore…

It’s not a surprise this is 2021 Offspring. Back in ’95, they were expressing similar concerns: his girl was sleeping with his friends because she pegged him as a disease. The self-reflective “Self Esteem”, off 1994’s Smash, clearly stated its protagonist wasn’t capable of communication. He was okay with being steamrolled by his ex. Speaking up is hard, not many have the confidence and tools to initiate it, let alone be effective.

Well, I guess I should stick up for myself/But I really think it’s better this way

The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care/Right? Yeah, yeah, yeah

And as desired as sex is, it’s often the most challenging topic to discuss. The Offspring don’t have sex anymore. This is according to their latest single, “We Never Have Sex Anymore”, off forthcoming record Let The Bad Times Roll. Perhaps it’s because of their inability to voice their opinion, or simply state their instinctual needs. Maybe it’s a long-term relationship and no one wants anything to do with the other anymore.

Its lively energy presents itself as the ideal walk out song. Or theme song to some slapstick comedy of a TV series. A rolling rhythm, quirky antics, and horns make this sad and dark topic sound as playful as you wish your current relationship was today.

As corny as many of their hits were, there are hooks galore, sing-along choruses, and instant nostalgia. Cringe-worthy songs seem to never truly leave our psyche. It’s not a mistake this Orange County act is over three decades old and appears to still be pumping fists, creating potential anthems, and showing up in my Release Radar. Like you, Smash was on repeat for me in the mid-90s. Those singles off that record were hard to ignore. Any rock-based station had them on regular rotation. Props, Gentlemen. The industry isn’t conducive to you putting out more than a record, let alone 10. Let this single be a reminder for you and your relationship: speak up, keep lines of communication open, and know that if alt/punk veterans The Offspring are on a dry spell, it’s okay that you are, too.


I ain’t gonna work here no more!

We’ve all had moments where we want to tell someone to take this job and shove it. The day sucked, your co-workers are all morons, or you’re way better than this. When I was in high school, a friend of mine inspired us all. He set the bar high for going out in style.

His short-lived employer was the national restaurant chain Chili’s. Just about everything they did and offered was sub-par except for their ability to police their employee’s choice in dress. My friend was a busboy, and per Chili’s dress code, he was required to wear black Levi’s 501 Regular Fit jeans. He’s young, an aspiring busboy, and broke. He chose to wear what he had in his drawer: black Wrangler jeans. After a few shifts, he’s been warned about his attire. A ridiculous expectation, and my friend had had enough. After his boss reprimanded him again about his lack of Levi’s during a dinner rush, my friend instinctively ripped off his Chili’s t-shirt, chucked it at the wall, and paraded through the dining room heckling and ridiculing as he stomped out the front door bare chested.

Back in ’65, the exemplary songwriting folk-king Bob Dylan was tired of being taken advantage of by his record label. He penned “Maggie’s Farm” to voice his frustrations. Dylan wrote “Maggie’s Farm” through the lens of a slave to the record label. It was his protest song against the commodification of artists. The music industry had, and still continues to have, one objective: squeezing every cent out of their artists. Instead of directly attacking the suits, Dylan places himself on Maggie’s Farm, a place of dirty floors, menial compensation, unapproachable bosses, and pressure to fit in even if you’re not like the rest.

I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more/No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more/Well, he hands you a nickel, he hands you a dime/He asks you with a grin if you’re havin’ a good time/Then he fines you every time you slam the door/I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more

The same year, the King of Rock N Soul, Solomon Burke made an immediate connection to Dylan’s stomper: blacks are not inferior citizens. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is still fresh. A groundbreaking law takes time for people to acclimate to. Most would argue today the nation continues to adjust.

My guess is Burke hears Dylan’s rallying cries and viscerally senses connection after connection to the original. Are the dirty floors the equivalent of most people of color not having equal job opportunities? Are the nickels and dimes the scraps he sees people like himself receiving in place of quarters and half-dollars? Is Maggie’s Pa the White Man? Are the pressures to be like the masses a form of conforming to who and what society says you are? Or maybe it’s not a rallying cry against social injustice, Burke saw the potential to put his unique sonic signature on recording history. And that he does: the track smokes with its jazzy horn stabs, a relentless groove, scratchy rockabilly guitar all complemented by Burke’s formidably frustrated-sounding vocals. When I throw my shirt off and go out with a ruckus, a soundtrack is a must.


Black Pumas and Catnip…

I don’t consider myself the average listener. Casually listening to the radio was never my thing. It’s my time, I know what I want to hear. When using Spotify, I select the music and cue the queue to my desire. Those curated playlists and the scientifically algorithmic “State of Music Today” folders don’t get play. It’s not that I don’t listen to popular music, it’s I’m lost inside of my musical bubble that rarely do I know what tops the charts or is up for awards. But clearly, I’m immersed in at least one mainstream artist. And now I can’t steer clear of blurbs and dedicated articles to this weekend’s Grammy’s.

Speculating on potential Grammy nominees and winners is irrelevant. Is the committee of this six decade plus tradition still relevant? Was it ever? When an artist I do respect is nominated for an award, it makes me smile. This is great exposure, most likely positive press, and an opportunity for the masses to experience a worthwhile act.

Stereogum, the self-described world’s best music blog, recently upped an article that is intriguing but also pains me. Their Senior Editor helps his viewers to understand why an act like Black Pumas are so coveted by the Grammy’s. He’s making an “anthropological observation”. They’re digestible, do what they do well, and perform in classic genres. The ideal formula to create “catnip for TV Producers and certain kinds of yuppie authenticity fetishists”.

Ultimately, though, Black Pumas is a deeply conservative listen, a painstaking re-creation of throwback sounds. Whereas someone like Michael Kiwanuka (a nominee for Best Rock Album this year) will step these kinds of sounds into the present in surprising and rewarding ways, Black Pumas pretty much play it straight.

The discourse on the Grammy’s race dilemma is engaging, as is why the Pumas are nominated for top-tier awards. But criticism on their lack of originality is banal. Pumas are label mates with Alabama Shakes and My Morning Jacket on ATO Records, two acts that Stereo’s writer considers more adventurous than the Austin soulful duo.

Do those adventurous acts warrant repeatable listens next year and half a decade later? I recall my own previous Best of Year lists and question what I was thinking. When I randomly retrieve a Best Album list from a Stereogum or Pitchfork-like site from say 2008, that at the time had a list of novel sounds, today more often than not falls flat.

Yes, Pumas are a revival act, one masterly taking the soulful sounds of yesterday to create original songs on topics of today. The blueprint for this trusted and dusty sound the Pumas utilize works. It’s a pick me up sound, it’s one I can play no matter the company I keep, it’s a throwback theatrical production. Where many albums are mood and time of the day dependent, the Pumas concoct a timeless sound. Morning, evening, during a meal, or five years from now, I want to drop the needle on this sound.

This author’s profile pic is none other than the cover of Emergency & I, the spastic, indie darling, genre-bending 1999 album from Dismemberment Plan. An album where this D.C. act’s influences are crammed in an industrial blender and placed on high until their indescribable creation is a sonic puree. Historically, fans of this holier than thou record think that no song, album, or movement could ever create something better than Emergency & I. And it’s with that sentiment I realize Black Pumas are up against impossible odds.

Last year Pumas one upped themselves with a Deluxe Edition of their self-titled debut. This week they take it to another level as they unleash the Expanded Deluxe Edition, a collection of everything from the Deluxe Edition plus 11 additional tracks; including the hypnotic “Colors” rendition done up big by Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and the Pumas’ Capitol Studio A sessions. If they are a less adventurous sound it would be fitting for the me of today. I’ve already owned prioritizing bedtime over shows. Why not transition into enjoying a sound that’s engineered for the Recording Academy and the masses?


But I am down with Prince…

We all want credibility. There is a desire to one up the next guy, be more in the know. This was never more prevalent than when I was coming up as a music fan. I strived to listen to the unknown, wouldn’t waste my time with someone mainstream, and claimed to know more than I truly did. A poseur of sorts, one claiming to be down with something or someone hip to appear hip. London’s Hot Chip, a quintet of laptop totin’ hip-hop lovin’ funk fans simply don’t play that.

On “Down With Prince” they have zero tolerance for fake-ass credibility whores. Frontman Alexis Taylor, in his best you don’t want to step to me impression, states, “I’m sick of motherfuckers trying to tell me that they’re down with Prince/I was just a baby when I heard him playing Vanity 6.” That right there, that name drop of the early 80s female trio orchestrated by Prince is his chest puff, a warning to the amateurs that you can’t begin to step to his long term standing relationship with Minnesota’s most coveted treasure. Alexis’ entourage flexes hard behind his words. There is enough bounce, absolute madness, and body movin’ eccentricities to do the Purple One proud.

Coming on Strong, Hot Chip’s debut from 2005 is seeing a special wax release.


Right. About. Now.

Even though I busted through that barrier, I continue to step out and build upon what I surpassed. It feels good. I can think and enjoy myself for 75-120 minutes. The mental health benefits alone are worthwhile, the physical ones are an added bonus. But the greatest motivation is the ability to spin albums from front to back.

If I were an indoor cycling instructor, my playlist would be strategic. A sprint might mean an uptempo pop number raging at over 120 BPMs; if it’s time to climb in a hard to turn over gear, the tempo might be still high but not at a chaotic level. My protocol is simple: queue up two albums I’m excited to listen to uninterrupted. I opt for one from my past and a current record. This ride’s record from another era was Fatboy Slim’s hook-heavy You’ve Come A Long Way Baby.

Fatboy Slim and his music equal pleasure. A live set makes people lose all inhibitions – I caught him in a small club once. His ability to dig deep in the crate, with a gigantic and enthusiastic smile upon his face is contagious; if he finds a snippet of something he knows to hold potential, it will be sampled and placed on endless repeat over heavy beats. Positive vibes galore, music to immerse yourself in and let it rip. As I’m winding a sharp corner, only a few hundred feet from the descent, “Right Here, Right Now” fades out as Brad phones into WBCN and requests the band of the 90s. “It’s funk soul brother, check it out….right about now, the funk soul brother…” Brad energetically mimics his favorite artist as the seamless transition into the big-beat anthem “Rockafeller Skank” pounds into my ears.

Gravity takes over on a descent; you can choose to fight it by braking or embrace it and push the pedals over and over. With a beat like this, I chose the latter. As the wind is smacking my face, my eyes are beginning to tear and Lord Finesse is propelling me faster and faster down at over 150 BPMs…

The timing of when a track drops is forever intriguing. This miraculous transition into Fatboy Slim’s hard to sit still banger couldn’t have hit at a better time. I climb up to rip down. Thanks, Slim.


Sandpaper with Jamie Lidell…

It’s reassuring to know that the mastermind who created “Multiply” might have relationship woes, too. We all are imperfect. All relationships have their ups and downs. The ones with our significant others can be the most trying from day-to-day. You’re running smoothly as a unit and then, POP, all of a sudden all shit is awry and both parties are flying off the rails. “If I play this game, what of me remains?” It’s those little things that beat you up over time and as Jamie attests, “wear me down like sandpaper…”.

My Release Radar typically contains artists I’m aware of. It trends towards anyone I have played over the course of my subscription. While perusing this past week’s, an unknown name was near the top. I clicked into the album to dig deeper and discovered the single had multiple tracks; one was a collaboration with soul meets beat boxer Jamie Lidell. The song in my Release Radar playlist was an instrumental by Lorenz Rhodes. But the algorithmic powers that be knew me as a fan of Jamie. This exploration of the unknown isn’t common practice – I question all the singles that have went past my ear by not opening up an unknown artist’s album/single.

Eight years ago Lidell teamed up with producer Lorenz Rhode to create the electric soulful “Any Kind of Pressure”. The experimental, let’s create a bounce duo have returned with “Sandpaper”, a rousing house explosion proclaiming the challenges of living, loving, and longing for others. Feel the bounce, bass, and commiserate with Lorenz and Jamie….


The Great Motivator…

Music just picked me up over a steep and intimidating wall. Thanks to its propulsive powers, year end physical feats have been met. I didn’t need 12 months to break through annual barriers. All I required was a soundtrack.

During this surreal period, I lost motivation to do what brings me great happiness: ride my bike. I took a chance while cycling and incorporated what the majority of my day entails: music. Safety had been my rationale for not listening. But riding brings joy. I rolled the dice and realized how motivational and simply blissful this addition can be.

I used music to push me on cold days, mornings where most were still sleeping or sipping warm drinks, and as an integral soundtrack to consistent movement. But also to be engaged with albums of my past and records deserving my ear. The sad reality is when listening to anything, I’m multi-tasking. Music was the lesser of the two simultaneous tasks taking place; sure, I heard it, but how engaged was I?

This became a time to dive deeply in records. My playlists became irrelevant, this was going to be uninterrupted time experiencing albums from front to back. The formula was simple: a sound that continued to propel me forward. Staples like Local H, LCD Soundsystem, and Soulwax were in regular rotation; but also pulled new releases out of the crate to analyze their worthiness. Besides plugging into a record player and simply sitting, me, two wheels, and my chosen sound let me hear all of an album.

As someone who monitors physical feats on the bike, I look to the previous season when comparing performance stats. 2020 has been a mess, but I was confident smashing last year’s totals was in reach. Time and flexibility contributed to reaching new heights. But without the extra push from music, I question if I would have had the mental stamina and physical strength to crush last year and set a new standard.


Marshall Knows Best…

Preview(opens in a new tab)

24 hours ago I wouldn’t have considered my Bluetooth speaker a smart device. This technology knows what’s happening within your house and knows what’s best for its inhabitants ears now, too.

Marshall’s Kilburn II has become our go-to Bluetooth speaker. One of its features is “multi-host functionality”; multiple devices can simultaneously connect to the speaker. If our Bluetooth is enabled on our mobiles while we’re in close proximity, and the speaker is ON, both phones will connect. A function my wife and I never knowingly utilized.

She’s hip to my latest find, and while preparing dinner, was listening to Laura Marling’s “Song For Our Daughter” episode. Upon sitting down to our meal, Laura was still dissecting her art. We encourage dinner conversation, a podcast doesn’t make for ideal background noise if you care to focus on the episode’s contents.

My wife asked if I wanted music on, my face had to declare: fuck, of course. But I politely said it’s more conducive to our meal. She hit next on her mobile to advance to the next file in her queue; but without anything queued up, the Marshall defaulted to another queue and began playing Roisin Murphy’s sizzling “We Got Together”. No one thought much of it.

She utilizes Spotify’s radio feature. You play an artist or song you enjoy and it creates an on the go playlist based on that artist’s sound. Since we do share similarities in – some – artists – it’s not abnormal for her radio station to play something we both gravitate towards. But as “We Got Together” faded out and “Murphy’s Law” faded in, we both became intrigued.

I questioned if her device was still playing and walked over to my phone. The speaker reverted to my queue. I proudly displayed Roisin’s sultry LP to my wife.

My musical transitions can be rather jarring; a Charles Mingus jazz improvisation doesn’t lend itself well to crossfading into a hard-hitting, angst-ridden Local H bomb. But hot damn, Marshall, this surprise transition was seamless and gave me the keys to the dinner’s DJ booth; my wife smirked and annoyingly said, “The speaker obviously prefers your music over mine.” (duh!)


Song Exploder

I fumble and fail miserably when confronted with musical heroes. Something inside of me becomes confused, the anxiety explodes through the roof, and I do the exact opposite of what I intended. Once I spilled my beer on Matt Mahaffey of sElf fame and when he graced the radio waves and opened up the phone lines to fans, I verbally vomited as I nervously eeked out a question and told a narrative that went nowhere – this Internet radio show was rumored to have been recorded; for an unknown reason, this particular show never saw the light of day. (huge sigh of relief) Thankfully, there’s a podcast for incapables like myself.

The informative, highly engaging Song Exploder removes my idiotic self from the equation. Hrishikesh Hirway has a bi-weekly song dissection lab where he wants artists to answer his driving question: “How did you get from nothing to this?”

Each 15-30 minute episode is centered around one song from an artist’s catalog. Not all compositions become a fully functioning, super engaging, head nodding track in 10 minutes. Inspiration might begin with a stroll through a park, a minimalistic strum on an acoustic, or the need to push out unhealthy emotion. Artists speak of the need to write for therapeutic purposes; to push through a break-up, a deceased loved one, or simply to vent about frustration of life on the road.

We learn about writer’s block, happy accidents in the studio, why a constant reiteration is integral to so many artists final product. A fascinating listen from beginning to end.

This is the closest you might get to your favorite artist. Ideally, we’d sit next to our musical hero, buy them a few drinks, and hear their narrative of how your favorite song went from nothing to sheer brilliance.

Many respected acts this site has featured are guests breaking down their creative process; Black Pumas, Bat for Lashes, Raphael Saadiq, DJ Shadow, Will Butler, etc.

Song Exploder’s premiere episode dissected The Postal Service’s “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”.

The New Yorker’s profile masterly states why a podcast like this was lacking from your listening repertoire:

For fans who favor streaming services, the absence of liner notes, which once offered detailed production and songwriting credits, only exaggerates the mystery. Is that an actual violin, a synthesizer that sounds like a violin, a sample of a synthesizer that sounds like a violin, or a raccoon playing a kazoo that has been digitally manipulated to sound like a violin?

For an interested listener, the episode can feel like briefly putting on a pair of X-ray specs

New Yorker’s Secret Sounds of Song Exploder

Upcoming Shows:


May 2021