Walking With Jesus

I had a conversation with a friend today about Christian music and why it mostly bothers the hell out of me. (ha) I realized it’s that sense of overt politeness, the way it’s crafted – an official Christian musician seems to have all rough edges sanded off, as pious as a politician tries to look – that takes away any depth and feeling in the lyrics or music itself. It lacks almost anything that I could normally grasp as enjoyable.

Then I thought, you know what? I love a lot of artists who are either Christian themselves, make music about Christ-like ideals, or simply use the forms of traditional Christian music as a foundation for their own thing. Spiritualized does the latter, employing the language of early blues and gospel to speak directly to my soul.

Here’s the band playing a timeless live staple, Walking With Jesus.

When J. Spaceman sings about Jesus, he’s hitting the idea of what Jesus means to him. He’s not singing about the historical figure or the earthen manifestation of god; he’s singing about wanting so deeply, so badly to be saved from a life of self-destruction. He’s yelling from the bottom of a well that he doesn’t know if he can do any better than this, but he wants to try. He’s pouring out his black heart and hoping, maybe futilely, that it can be revived.

He wants to be forgiven, but doesn’t know if he deserves it.

In other words, he’s hitting the exact feelings that brought about religion and spirituality in the first place. The search for meaning and the ache for redemption. He needs to feel worthy. This is something I’ve always identified with.

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I find devotional music to carry a lot more weight when it’s coming from a real and relatable place. From someone who’s known sin, who’s known trouble and heartache and failure. When you know what fucking your life up feels like – and I very much know what that feels like – you can appreciate the exultation of love and acceptance and forgiveness all that much more. It’s hard fought. It comes from a deeply honest place. It’s not simply what you grew up knowing; it’s what you learned through hardship and living. It’s what you learned because you needed to learn it.

As a non-religious person, this approach feels so nakedly sincere, stripped of the pretense and baggage that turns my stomach. This is anagogic expression. This is the essence of spiritual music for me.

PS: I feel the need to add the Acoustic Mainline version of this song. It’s achingly gorgeous and totally nails the devotional feeling a bit easier than the noisy eruption of the recording above.

PPS: I should also note that I am very eager for anyone to point out some great “officially Christian” music to me, stuff that could go over an a Christian radio station or play at a festival. As with all mediums and genres, there’s bound to be something I like, even if the whole isn’t my thing.

Tame Impala – Yes I’m Changing

They say people never change / but that’s bullshit; they do

Tame Impala‘s new album Currents is flat out fantastic. You can hear the synth-laden psych rock epic before it’s officially released or stick with the official singles for a couple weeks.

Or you can check out one of the best tracks from the album right now. It’s a deep cut called Yes I’m Changing, and it gives me some serious feels.

The backing synth pads remind me of Avalon-era Roxy Music, while the hum-worthy bassline is one of those timeless earworms that dives through pop music history, from girl groups to modern hip-hop. The lyrics evoke that goosebump-raising, optimistic-yet-spiritually-heavy yearning that the Beach Boys perfected with Pet Sounds, almost 50 years ago. The couplet posted at the top of this page, obvious as it is, puts a chill down my spine when heard in the context of this tune.

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I’ll probably share more about this album once it’s released, but in the meantime, remember that you can still preorder it right from the band!

Kendrick Lamar’s arresting new video: Alright

Watch this right now. Just do it. You don’t need to thank me.

If you want to see an artist at the peak of his powers absolutely nailing the zeitgeist, click play.

Kendrick Lamar dropped To Pimp A Butterfly just a couple months ago, and it’s already one of my favorite albums of all time.

The brazen mixture of politically, socially, and psychologically aware lyrics with an incredibly nuanced and evolved delivery; the dark and deeply funky production, shot through with an entire jazz band’s worth of all-star live players; the live-wire theatricality of the entire endeavor… all of these parts coalesce as Lamar’s ambition and talent meet in in the stratosphere.

It’s both incredibly audacious and earnest to a fault. The album feels embarrassingly personal at times, the rapper spilling his demons in a drunken crying jag. At the same time, everything’s wrapped in a sense of universal struggle, the intrinsic knowledge that we’re all in this together. There’s no wonder that it’s proven as divisive as it is beloved.

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Arca – Xen

This sounds like towering columns of shattered light, the kind of futuristic timbres that I associate with crystalline sky cathedrals in some imagined Final Fantasy game.

Arca‘s constructions remind me of the fierce creativity that bursts from the most surprising Aphex Twin singles. I don’t mean to put him on the same level; this music simply conjures that same joyful sense of surprise that only a handful of artists seem capable of. Surprise isn’t everything, but it makes a huge impression here. You haven’t heard anything quite like this before.

The music video for the title track cements that nascent Aphex Twin connection in my mind. If you’re a fan of I Care Because You Do or the Rubber Johnny video, you’re going to love this. You also know exactly what I mean about cementing the connection.

Here’s a favorite track of mine, halfway between the relaxed and spastic-laser-beam ends of the album:

The album itself is buttoned together by a sweeping sense of narrative and pacing, with slow dreams buffering the sharp edged experiments and deep bass explorations. It’s far more than an intriguing experiment; it’s lived in, thoughtful electronic storytelling.

You’ll probably find this cutting through your mind, if you’re a fan of the alien architecture of Oneohtrix Point Never, the neon contrast footwork of DJ Rashad, the depth charge techno of Andy Stott, the weird end of Warp‘s catalog, or even Kanye West – Arca helped craft his ear shattering album Yeezus.

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This was the first album I discovered well into 2015 that I might have included on my best of the year list. You can buy Xen via links on Arca’s Soundcloud page, or listen free on spotify right now.

Vote Today: November 4, 2014

For US based readers and listeners: I just thought I’d drop a friendly reminder that, however fucked our so-called democracy has become, voting still matters. It’s not only important to voice your opinion where it counts (as opposed to the internet); it’s important to exercise your primary duty as an informed citizen. One reason so many asshole Republicans get into office is that my generation lets old, cynical, fearful people dominate the polls. That is something that could change.

Since this is a music blog, I’m also sharing a song that I’ve probably listened to 40+ times this year.

Sandwell District’s Feed Forward collection is probably the best and dark techno release of the past decade. I can, and have, felt lost in this music for days at a time. Keep this playing as you brave your local polling station.

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If you need help with the local issues and candidates, as well as the location of your local station, go here: https://2014.votinginfoproject.org/

Thank you, friends!

Flying Lotus – Never Catch Me [heart stopping music video]

I’m seeing two children hop out of their caskets at a funeral and dance, running for the door. They’re grinning as they look back. I’m grinning as I watch. This is one of the most beautiful moments I’ve experienced in a while, and it’s the best music video I’ve seen in years.

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My heart is full and I’m beaming. This is the definition of life affirming cinema. Flying Lotus (aka Steven Ellison) and director Hiro Murai have rendered the joy of life on a grand scale, as only those who have lost it may experience.

As someone who’s recently lost his parents, Ellison is probably more interested in the subject of death than most folks. As someone in the same place, I can relate. We want to wrap our heads around what happens, where our loved ones have gone. We want to imagine new ways of being, new channels of experience, that might follow our journey on this plane. We try to picture what it’s like to realize you’re dead. Will I be confused? Will I be happy? Afraid? Will there be any subjective “me” at all?

None of these questions are new or original, but the music poses a cascading meteor shower of fresh replies.

The music on Flying Lotus’ upcoming album, You’re Dead!, evokes existential puzzling and euphoria without accompaniment. This video adds a gut punch that sends me reeling. Watch it now if you haven’t already. If you don’t feel at least a spark of joy, you might already be dead.

Check the album on amazon or itunes or probably spotify or just order the LP at Warp like I did.

PS: I’ve got friends who can relate all too well. I want them to know I’m thinking about ’em.

Progress [mixtape]

I made this in springtime, as I was coming out of an anxious, fearful period of my life. It’s the sound of an airlock opening, of stepping outside for the first time in years. It’s my fucked up, weird nostalgia for the future, and it works. This is the sound of me beginning to feel OK again. The future’s going to be alright.

Things have changed. This is Progress.

Stream above or download the mixtape on mp3.

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Listenability and fun are the highest priorities. That being said, It’s important to me that they have some meaning, or at least a guiding theme.

Nostalgia is borne from the mixture of optimism and apocalypse, dancing throughout this hour-long trip. Here we witness the neon digital rendering of an unsettling dream as it dissipates. I wanted that feeling I experienced as a fevered child, watching movies at home from school on my side, feeling the distance from the screen to my eyes fluctuating. I felt myself healing through the delirium. It was always something dark, sci-fi, scary, weird, beautiful. I remember those moments and I try always to conjure them, to reach that place. This is my best attempt yet. This is my cyberpunk utopia.

Without revealing the track list just yet, I will say that this mixtape draws from the sounds and moods of those fantastical stories of my adolescence. The movies and books and songs that so profoundly shaped my musical tastes have influenced the work of so many artists I now love. This sound was over 30 years in the making. Nothing here is coincidental.

Some things you might find conjured within: Akira, Nintendo dreams, analog synths, space travel, Blade Runner, reflection, rain, optimism.

Below I have shared cosmic instruction and the full track listing.

Draw an imaginary map.
Put a goal mark on the map where you want to go.
Go walking on an actual street according to your map.
If there is no street where it should be according to the map, make one by putting the obstacles aside.
When you reach the goal, ask the name of the city and give flowers to the first person you meet.
The map must be followed exactly, or the event has to be dropped altogether.

Ask your friends to write maps.
Give your friends maps.

– Yoko Ono

Some enjoy the mystery, and some are curious. Track list appears after the break.


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