The Weeknd “The Morning”

Here’s that moment, almost 5 years ago, when I realized The Weeknd was my jam.

While Abel Tesfaye is currently riding a wave of stardom with Can’t Feel My Face and spots on the Fifty Shades soundtrack, here’s the original slow jam that seduced the world. It’s called The Morning.

It’s great seeing more of my friends finally recognizing this dude, thanks to his latest single, but I’ve been proselytizing for years now. For all the fine work he’s done since, the original Trilogy of albums from 2011 stands as his obvious masterpiece. I’ve got fond memories of walking down the sidewalk with friends in San Francisco, belting out the verses to this tune. We were ecstatic and laughing at the seemingly sudden and magical way R&B had re-entered our lives as a vital force. It had returned older, wiser, and a lot more psychedelic than we remembered from the 90s.

I’ll just leave you with a link to those evocative lyrics. It’s just not the same to quote them in print; you’ve gotta sing ’em.

Freddie Gibbs – Shadow of a Doubt

I’ve been listening all week and I can tell you that Freddie Gibbs‘ new album is sublime.

Shadow of a Doubt is a beyond-worthy follow up to last year’s best music of 2014 list-making Piñata, where he paired with prolific beat scientist Madlib. While he comes with a bevy of producers this time, the sound is surprisingly cohesive and tightly wrapped. This is one of the best hiphop albums in a year full of strong material.

Since the album is releasing today and I’m working too hard to spend time on a proper review just yet, I’m leaving you with the haunting video for first single Fuckin’ Up The Count. Sporting a thematically spot-on sample from everyone’s favorite drug drama, The Wire, it’s a tense but spacey jam that sets the mood for the rest of the album pretty well.

It also seems to place the album cover into context, shadows obscuring Gibbs’ visage, as a slow motion chain of events spiral ever darker.


The album is out on itunes and Spotify of course, and you can buy the CD edition from Amazon. Not sure about a vinyl release yet, but I’m hoping for it. The last album had superb packaging. I’d love to have that evocative artwork writ large on a 12″ sleeve in my collection.

If you’re not already listening, stream the whole thing below:

Don Cherry’s Spiritual Jazz Masterpiece: Brown Rice

Today is Don Cherry‘s birthday. He would have been 79 years old. To celebrate the inimitable jazz explorer’s life, I’m sharing my favorite album of his.

Here’s Brown Rice streaming in full. It’s one of the most warmly engaging releases of the entire free jazz universe and, as such, is a great entry point for those who have yet to experience the furthest reaches of the genre.

While many people not-incorrectly associate free jazz with confrontational, abrasive music, the notion only reveals a sliver of the big picture. It’s an umbrella term that eventually encompassed everything from John Coltrane’s latter experiments in dissonance and noise to the devotional new age purr of his widow, Alice Coltrane, in the late 70s and early 80s. Cherry’s work, at various times, covers the entire spectrum. His Eternal Rhythm was a fiery gauntlet thrown down in the wake of Coltrane’s passing, carving raucous jams into thought sculptures that are still picked apart today. This album, however, floats somewhere in the interstellar in-between.

Right from the opening notes of that space age electric piano, the album goes out of its way to pull the listener into its world. Even when floating off the surface, exploring its own textures in a meandering, introspective passage at the heart of the album, the sound is compulsively engaging.


There’s a definite Eastern tinge to the whole affair, a nod toward the alien-to-American tones that were infiltrating many forward looking jazz releases of the day. It’s used more as texture than anything, lending an otherness to the lightly funky album. Cherry’s pocket trumpet is the star, of course, erupting in crystalline crescendos against both the tightly coiled opening and closing tracks, and the atmospheric soundscapes filling out the middle of the set. The similarity of his tone to peak-era Miles Davis was what initially attracted me to the artist, but here he makes the spacey vanguard all his own. Once you’ve heard this album, you’ll never associate the sound with anyone else.

The album has unfortunately never been properly reissued or remastered for vinyl, but you can pick up the “jazz heritage” CD edition from 1989 for very cheap, like I did. It’s a perfectly adequate mastering and the only way to properly enjoy the album at the moment. I’ve got my eyes to the horizon, though, vigilant for a nice vinyl edition. With a smattering of his work being reissued in the past couple years, it’s a definite possibility.

Gorillaz – Empire Ants

The second half of this song was my ringtone for over two years.

That’s pretty much all you need to know about how insanely listenable Empire Ants is.

Gorillaz have been both an open favorite and a hidden pleasure over the years. From their first massive single Clint Eastwood arriving at the tail end of high school, to the height of their acclaim in 2005, appearing on Apple commercials with De La Soul, to their underrated, kaleidoscopic farewell album in 2010, the virtual supergroup occupied a unique space just outside the center of pop culture. They’re one of the few acts to rope in both top 40 lovers and weirdos like myself, projecting crowd pleasing beats with out-there sounds borrowed from dub, hip-hop, techno, and noisy punk. Each of their three major albums struck the zeitgeist in an off-kilter but welcome way.

This song, though. It transcended anything they’d done before, veering off into pure ecstatic revery. I couldn’t handle it. I actually purchased a ringtone – and yes, that was still a thing in 2010. Even weirder is that, despite hearing the intro literally hundreds, if not thousands of times over the couple years I owned that phone, I never got sick of it. I’m smiling right now as I listen again.


I seem to write a reminder like this every few months. It’s good to remember how Gorillaz crafted some of the only welcoming spots on the pop landscape over a decade that stretched from my alienated teenage days to the end of my twenties. Like the very best pop music, they treated fluffy escapism as a true art form.

Oneohtrix Point Never “Ezra”

This is the final bit of Oneohtrix Point Never news before the new album, Garden Of Delete, drops tomorrow.

OPN, aka Daniel Lopatin, has finally released the first real song, Ezra, as a single on Soundcloud. I really want to share this with everyone because it’s not only a great introduction to the new sound; it’s a layered world of sound unto itself. Enjoy:

Please allow myself to quote… myself here:

“Ezra, the first proper track, leaps from the midi-fired dreams of the previous album, reaching speed behind sheets of Philip Glass-like shrill arpeggios. It appears to crest before the two minute mark, suddenly projecting the nanomachine-clogged cyberpunk future of 2000’s Deus Ex in silhouette. Maybe it’s a sample?”

I think it is a sample. Decide for yourself.

Speaking of this game, the original Deus Ex is both an action-RPG masterpiece, and a definitive work in the cyberpunk canon. It’s the precursor to modern games like Fallout. It’s got a great soundtrack too. Sounds like Lopatin might have played it, too. It’s about $7 on Steam if you’ve never played it.

So I’ve written a lot about Lopatin’s work lately, partly out of excitement for this work, and partly out of a desire to connect with what I see as the most forward-thinking, interesting music being made today. If this is the first piece on the site you’re reading, you might want to see these:

Review of Garden of Delete

First single: “I Bite Through It”

Oneohtrix Point Never “Mutant Standard”

Oneohtrix Point Never’s Mindbending “Sticky Drama” Video


Garden of Delete drops tomorrow! It’s his first full length in 2 years, so be sure to check the album out on Spotify or wherever, if you’ve been a good kid and ignored the leak. I’m just hoping that gorgeous 2LP vinyl arrives on time.

The Best Music From Fallout

We’re in the final stretch, guys. Fallout 4 will arrive in just three days. The hype train is barreling full steam ahead, and I don’t mind feeling caught up. The last two games in the series are easily the most played in my adult life. Also, have you seen that launch trailer?


The above screenshot is from my last play through of Fallout: New Vegas. My character is a hard-nosed woman named Scotch, who often travels with a flying eyebot and a cowgirl who chugs whiskey. I’ve got 234 hours logged, according to Steam, and I’d be happy to double that if there weren’t so many other great games to play.

I’m avoiding replaying the old games in this final stretch, but not in an effort to cultivate a fresher experience. Instead, I’m trying to finish Witcher 3 in a last-ditch weekend effort. This game is easily the best open world I’ve experienced since the last Fallout game, a universe more rich with storytelling than any game before it. Sure, the world is massive and full of things to do, but it’s the sharp writing and rich sense of narrative that makes this game special. If you’re a literary type who enjoys games, often lamenting their shortcomings in this area, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I mention this game only to show how high the stakes are. Bethesda could release the same old game in a new setting and it would be fun, but 8 years since their last developed Fallout game, the world has changed. A handful of games have shown that even chaotic, open ended structures can yield moments of beauty, insight, and wonder. I remember how wrapped up I got with Fallout 3 and New Vegas and think, they’re going to nail this. I have high hopes that the sequel to the only other open world I’ve been totally drawn into will deliver on the storytelling front.

Because I was ridiculous and ordered that Pip-Boy edition, I’m even looking forward to wearing an actual, no-shit Pip-Boy on my wrist one single time before probably putting it on display at the office. If any coworkers are reading this, consider it fair warning for your inevitable eye rolling.

I felt like indulging in a bit of nostalgia today, listening to some of my favorite songs from the last two games. I’ve got to seriously credit the former for getting me into Billie Holiday, now one of my favorite vocalists of all time. I always enjoyed hearing her, to be sure, but I never understood the stark beauty of her music until hearing it in that game. Billie’s heartbreaking laments soundtracked my often aimless wandering through a desolate, bombed out wasteland, the most striking juxtaposition of music and visuals I’d ever known in a video game.

The seven following songs are my very favorites from Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas:

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Drexciya “Andraean Sand Dunes”

Drexciya is an enigma of an act that left behind some of the greatest and strangest techno and electro music ever recorded. From the debut album Neptune’s Lair, here’s the first song I heard, the tune that hooked me and opened up an entire new world of sound.

I’d never known the outer reaches of techno until I listened to Andraean Sand Dunes.

It’s a pure exploration of genre constructs littering the ocean floor, an aquatic adventure full of energetic machine-funk pulses and glistening columns of light reaching down from the surface. This is techno for adventuring, the kind of track that makes me want to kick open my front door and run through the night, rather than dance at all. In other words, it’s more My Kind Of Thing.

While the production itself springs from the sounds and structures of classic electro, the music leans hard into futuristic Detroit techno, with a cascading synth repetition begging hypnosis rather than hip shaking. The bass line is as funky as this kind of music gets, but it’s sunk into an atmospheric wash of melody, dropping out for moments of pure untethered synthesizer flight. Head nodding never felt so aerodynamic.


Despite my years-long love of Drexicya, I have never previously written about them on this blog. The mysterious duo of James Stinson and Gerald Donald may have dissolved after Stinson’s untimely death in 2002, but their legacy has only grown over the years. After a host of single and b-side collections were issued, their original album label Tresor began repressing the classic trio of full-lengths on vinyl. This is important, because it means that I was finally able to pick up a copy of Neptune’s Lair and own a piece of techno’s weirdest mythology. It’s not just an important and brilliant album; it’s incredibly easy to get into and enjoy. You can find a copy via Discogs or even on Amazon, though the latter’s price is outrageous.