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Whitney – “Golden Days”


This is my first year of skipping winter, and there was something perfect about this song debuting just as New Orleans reached a stretch of 70+ degree weather. This song is made for crushing beers on the porch or riding around with your friends. Continue reading ‘Whitney – “Golden Days”’

Death Is Not The End: A Mixtape For Marques Gaines


When I first met Marques, things in my life were changing. I was rapidly coming out of my shell and becoming the kind of person I’d always wanted to be, and I was just starting to see Katie, the girl I’m marrying this September. I hadn’t met any of Katie’s friends from Chicago at that point, which made me a bit nervous when she said that she wanted me to meet her good friend Marques, describing him as her male equivalent. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but that feeling dissipated the minute I walked into a Manhattan gay bar and shook his hand. Instant connections are extremely rare for me: friendships happen over time, gradually. With Marques, though, it was like lightning striking in a crowded room. The coolest guy in the vicinity wanted to talk to me in a hurry about bands, books, music festivals, mutual friends, the scene in New York. Continue reading ‘Death Is Not The End: A Mixtape For Marques Gaines’

Cullen Omori and Whitney: The Dreamy Ashes of the Smith Westerns


Once every few years, a rock band comes along that encapsulates the “forever young” ethos for a particular age group (much like Joy Again), and Chicago’s Smith Westerns were that band for a moment. 2011’s Dye It Blonde, which contained the classic tune “Weekend,” was a hazy memorial to hazy late nights and romantic yearning. It was a bit of a lightning in a bottle situation, since 2013’s Soft Will was pleasant and fun but forgettable. It didn’t come as a surprise, then, to find out that the album was made out of obligation and that it caused the band to formally break up not long after. Thankfully, the brains behind the operation are now putting out incredible music of their own, with singer Cullen Omori debuting his new solo project and guitarist Max Kakacek debuting his new band, Whitney. Continue reading ‘Cullen Omori and Whitney: The Dreamy Ashes of the Smith Westerns’

Joy Again – “Looking Out For You” / “How You Feel”

It hasn’t felt like it with back-to-back think pieces on the blog, but music brings as much happiness as it does sadness and introspection. To end the week, I thought I’d share a newer band that’s been making me happy: Philadelphia’s Joy Again. It tends to fade sooner rather than later, but some bands know how to perfectly exude that forever young slack-rock feeling in the best way possible. Their first 7″ see its release today, and both tracks are well worth your time. Joy Again first came to my attention via none other than Shamir, who appears in the band’s video above. This is a track meant to put a smile on your face. Stream the downbeat b-side, “How You Feel,” after the jump and make sure to support the band’s new release if you dig it! Continue reading ‘Joy Again – “Looking Out For You” / “How You Feel”’

Time, He’s Waiting in the Wings: David Bowie Returns Home


The first time I heard the name David Bowie, it was through my older brother, Brian. He’d been begging my father to take the free company tickets he’d been offered to see Bowie on tour with the Nine Inch Nails and tried to have me join in the act to procure the tickets in question. I was eight years old at the time, and wasn’t quite sure what to make of the music, but soon I saw a picture of Bowie and realized that I’d known who he was for years: he was Jareth, the Goblin King from Labyrinth.

I’d been in a NyQuil haze when I checked my phone and saw a frantic text, and I didn’t fall back asleep for hours. Instead I thought about that Nine Inch Nails tour and that amazing Henson movie, of Ziggy Stardust and the Berlin Trilogy, of “Let’s Dance.” I told my fiancé the news and kissed our dog, Bowie, goodnight while telling him that his namesake was no longer on the Earth. As “Life On Mars?” played in my head for the next few hours, I thought about that anecdote with my brother, the fact that Bowie had existed in my subconscious even as a toddler.

For anyone who ever gave a damn about their relationship with music and culture, for anyone who ever felt like an outsider and knew something better was out there, for anyone who felt alone and different in ways the rest of us can only pretend to imagine, David Bowie was a confirmation, his songs a series of subconscious ideas that we could acknowledge and not have a name for. Bowie’s best songs were a wink and a nod to every growing teen in the world, seeds planted that would grow and shape us in the years to come, that would blossom when we finally let them.

I’ve written a lot about death privately and publicly over the last few years, and some cliches on the subject become popular simply because they are true. Our time here is short, and we should make the most of it, which is easier said than done. Bowie seemed like such an unapproachable figure to me growing up, so cool and otherworldly that he wasn’t human to me, he still isn’t. Reading a 1996 interview with him during my bout of insomnia, though, I remembered that becoming as cool and forward-thinking as Bowie means putting in the work in the short time we had. He was always learning and consuming and creating in ways the rest of us can only dream of. We should aspire to do even a fraction of what he did with his life, a life that was given to art and freedom and pushing everything to the limit.

Like a lot of people, I spent my Friday night celebrating the release of Bowie’s latest album, Blackstar, in addition to the man’s birthday. Seemingly every bar in every city dedicated Friday to celebrating the man and dancing to the beautiful music he’d given us. No one could have known how fitting that was, but if there was ever a life worth celebrating, it was his. January 11th, 2016 is a day where people are mourning when they aren’t dancing in the streets. It’s best to do both, and it’s best to feel anything at all because it’s the one thing you shouldn’t do in life is squander them. “Thank you for our good times, Brian. They will never rot.

David Bowie, to me, was the definition of a star. I don’t mean this in the Hollywood sense, but rather the celestial: I think he came from the cosmos, that he was a being of pure light guiding us in the sky who felt kind enough to grace us with his presence for just a few days past 69 years. His physical time visiting the planet Earth is gone, but that subconscious figure — the one burrowed in so many of our heads (and so many more to come)— is immortal. Listening to Blackstar over the last week or so had been harrowing and sobering before his death, and with the news that it was meant to coincide with his death only makes it more poignant. He gave himself a viking funeral in the form of a final album, not to mention the extremely on-the-nose video for “Lazarus.” After so much silence, he returned for one last gift. In the case of truly massive stars, they go supernova, exploding and shining brighter than ever, which Bowie did before returning to whichever galaxy he once called home.

This Is Happening Again: Coming To Terms With LCD Soundsystem’s Reunion


1. There are a plethora of catchphrases you can (and probably do) take from LCD Soundsystem’s catalog. Only one of them can be used in almost any emotional style you can imagine: “I was there.” The song “Losing My Edge” inhabited a gray area between self-serious and self-deprecating, the idea that you’re worried about maintaining your cool while acknowledging that it’s a stupid thing to worry about. I’ve found myself coming back to the phrase repeatedly this week.

2. I was there for LCD Soundsystem’s final show at Madison Square Garden in 2011. It almost didn’t happen, because I was shut out of tickets in the 30 seconds it took for the show to sell out in advance, similar to anyone else who wasn’t a ticket-scalping robot. A funny thing happened, though: while I was picking up a case of Four Loko in Queens for my 24th birthday party (oh God, that happened), my friend Tye managed to get four tickets from a friend at MSG and invited me since he knew they were my favorite band. I was ecstatic. The night itself was everything I could ask for short of Daft Punk themselves appearing on stage. I was, to put it mildly, extremely inebriated and sentimental and filled with joy that I got to experience this moment. This paragraph is a pretty good snapshot of my life nearly five years ago.

3. If you haven’t put it together by now, I was one of the people James Murphy was referring to in his blog post announcing the band’s return earlier this week. When the band’s reunion hit the rumor mill a few months ago, my gut instinct was that this was a terrible idea. You went out on top, why ruin that? In addition to fearing that the band’s legacy would be tarnished, I had my own selfish worry that my MSG experience would be ruined. Then again, I didn’t think they’d consider making another album, either. As Rob Harvilla noted in the cool dad version of this essay, James Murphy doesn’t owe me shit.

4. As a naive teenager, the idea of indie band reunions seemed great. I wasn’t there for the Pixies or Neutral Milk Hotel or Mission of Burma, letting these bands of my youth live like mythical creatures in my head and wishing for their return. As we’ve all learned over the past decade of festival culture’s toxic reunion cycle, it’s always sadder than you think. Your favorite bands come back balder and fatter and older, and so does the crowd. So do you. These reunion shows are a treat for people with kids calling in the babysitter, for people who got too old for shows and going out in general. It’s a sad, anxiety-inducing mirror if you’re prone to that mental state. Most of the time, I saw snapshots of my own future as one of the younger people in the crowd for something like the Dismemberment Plan or Guided By Voices reunion.

5. This anxiety was also mentioned by Murphy, pointing out that he always looked a stocky and disheveled. It’s a timeless look, in a way. Most of the other band members were older at the start, and keyboardist Nancy Whang will never not look like the raddest person on the planet. The more I’ve been chewing on the reunion, the more I’ve realized that this was a band built to last and rise from their self-imposed ashes. As a fan, we have subjective, increasingly complicated relationships with the bands we love.

6. I’ve changed in five years, and so have the members of LCD Soundsytem, for that matter. Most of the people I saw before, during, and after that final show have drifted into occasional acquaintances if I keep up with them at all. I got engaged, got a dog, left New York for New Orleans, and kept partying. I’ve stupidly spent chunks of my 20s feeling anxious and worried about getting older and feeling unfulfilled, that I wasted time that I can’t get back. I’ve learned, in a way, that I’m not worried about getting older, not really: I’m worried about losing my curiosity, my need to keep learning and seeking things out, about losing my capacity for joy. I don’t know if that means I’m worried about losing my edge, but I do know that plenty of people never lose the things I described.

7. James Murphy has always been one of the aforementioned people. As he’s mentioned in interviews, his 20s were essentially a wash before founding DFA Records and releasing his first singles under the LCD Soundsystem moniker at age 32. Now 45, he’s released three full-length albums in addition to running a label. His music, if anything, got better at an age where many lose their talents, their ideas, their curiosity.

8. A mentor of Murphy’s, Alex for Holy Ghost!, mentioned on the eve of the band’s final show that he thought James wanted to become David Byrne: to have his fingers in a ton of good ideas, to be a figure of eternal cool in New York, to not just be known as the guy from that one band. This proved to be a bad idea: Murphy started out innocently enough with some DJ gigs, producing an occasionally great Arcade Fire record, and being a man about town in a way he hadn’t in years thanks to his band’s time constraints. Over time, though, he began to have no filter for ideas: a coffee bean of his own design, a wine bar in Williamsburg, a whimsical idea to add music to a subway station that has a million problems to solve first. In a way, the Byrne experiment went awry only to show that even the coolest among us can represent the worst side of New York City’s increasingly food-obsessed, 1%-championing playground culture.

9. In that sense, LCD Soundsystem’s return should bring a sigh of relief, as Murphy himself says. The whacky side projects could have made us think he was finished, but this whole time it’s been trying to keep one thing at bay: the one thing James Murphy was put on Earth to do was make music with this band, and the fact that he had songs coming at him at such a rapid rate affirms that. He needs the band as much as the band needs him. They represented the city of New York’s underground cool for so long. As the songs noted, the city changes rapidly, now more than ever. Who knows which New York they’ll represent, if they bother with that charade at all. What made LCD Soundsystem my favorite band, though, aside from the music, is that as my life changed, my relationship to the songs changed in surprising, gratifying ways. I can only hope that continues from here.

10. It seems downright insane that, even for a moment, my favorite band returning would bring me anything but happiness. Chalk it up to those other reunions, chalk it up to my depressingly salty nature, whatever. On Christmas Eve, I was wrapping up an uncharacteristically fancy dinner the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans when I found out that LCD Soundsystem had dropped a surprise holiday single, “Christmas Will Break Your Heart.” The song, as many of the band’s past songs have, captured the moment for me: I had just gone through the pains of moving to another city for the first time in my life, had just finished a cushy job that drove me insane, and I was away from my family for the first time on Christmas to boot. “Christmas will break your heart / if your world is feeling small.” After dinner, we stopped home to change into comfortable clothes and get wasted with new friends at our new local bar in our new city. While my fiancé took the dog out, I listened to the song for the first time and felt a wave of relief and understanding wash over me. Then I played it again. It hit me as my fiancé did a series of twirls in our empty apartment: LCD Soundsytem are going to reunite, they have a new song, and it’s really fucking good. This is happening.

100 For 2015: The Blog Awakens


2015 has been a truly wild year. Personally, I kicked it off by getting engaged to my lovely lady and ended it by saying farewell to Apple and hello to my new home of New Orleans. I’ll let you take a guess as to which of these things led to this blog’s resurrection, even if I’m a bit too swamped to host downloads still.

Politically and musically, though, things seemed to start and end on similar notes, with Kendrick Lamar releasing “The Blacker The Berry” (and its funkier cousin, song of the year winner “King Kunta”), while pop savior Dev Hynes summed up another exhausting year of protest and tragedy with “Sandra’s Smile” (clocking it in at number four). After political music has been in the wilderness or poorly mishandled over the last decade and change (Black Messiah notwithstanding), it’s been a year of anger and nuance meeting more often than not, and it’s about time.

Tangents aside, this has been one of the best years for music in recent memory, whether artists were blurring the lines between every genre imaginable or bringing back jheri funk and ‘70s singer-songwriter tropes. After the jump are my 100 favorite tracks of 2015 in all their streaming glory, and I might add that I could have easily made this “200 for 2015” if I really wanted to. Stay tuned, and see you in 2016!

Continue reading ‘100 For 2015: The Blog Awakens’

Mixtape Monday: Juan MacLean


It is, appropriately, raining on a Monday here in New York. After a weekend that ranged from perfect weather to tropical storm conditions, we’re back to having weather that makes us want to hole up indoors and check out some jams. Enter Juan MacLean, delivering some pure fire for this week’s mixtape Monday. Continue reading ‘Mixtape Monday: Juan MacLean’

Mixtape Monday: Larry Levan, James Murphy and Dope Jams


So, this is a Monday of huge, significant mixes for you… This is how to start the week out right. Let’s cut right to the chase: you’re in for some serious treats on a dreary day. Continue reading ‘Mixtape Monday: Larry Levan, James Murphy and Dope Jams’

Mixtape Monday: Todd Edwards and Skream


Happy Memorial Day! Once you’ve (hopefully) called your veteran friends and relatives for a quick thank you, it’s time to hang outside, grill various meats, and listen to awesome tunes. I’m here to help you with that last part before I leave for the day. After a work-related absence last week, mixtape Monday returns with an unreal mix from Todd Edwards. Continue reading ‘Mixtape Monday: Todd Edwards and Skream’

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