Category Archives: Music

An Appreciation for the “Screaming Eagle of Soul” Charles Bradley

“I’m gonna say it’s all right to dream, but work at it — make it come to reality”…”It took 62 years for somebody to find me, but I thank God. Some people never get found.”
—Charles Bradley

Charles Edward Bradley: November 5th, 1948—September 23rd, 2017.

On Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 the living embodiment of Soul and aural force of nature Charles Edward Bradley passed from this existence onto another spiritual plane (for a have no doubt of his transition amongst the Angels) after a long, private struggle with Cancer.

Bradley served as a link in the long, long chain of famous and unknown individuals expressing the African experience in America through song: from field songs to Gospel to Jazz to Blues to Rock n’ Roll to Soul music.

Watch him transform Black Sabbath’s Changes into a soul masterpiece and a fitting epitaph for a great artist who channeled his great pain into something beautiful.

The world is a little darker today, yet Heaven is a little brighter because of Brother Charles. He was, and is, one of the best and he will be missed.

Rest in Peace, Reside in Power.

Celebrating the Immortality of David Bowie

Gifted with the benefit of hindsight, we are aware of Bowie’s terminal illness during the conceptualization and execution of his final album Blackstar with the Donny McCaslin Quartet so it is surprising that hours before what would have been David Bowie’s 70th birthday (and several days before the anniversary of his passing) a Tom Hingston-directed video for the ironically titled “No Plan” has been released online.

Even from beyond, Bowie remains a beautifully enigmatic and otherworldly creative presence with the ability the stimulate our intellect and touch our hearts.

We are all the richer for his efforts: Peace, Blessings, and Godspeed David.

CODA: Explore the world of the album’s title track:

The Perfect Antidote for the End of the Year Blues

You’re angry, confused, and more than a little fearful as this tumultuous year draws to a close.

I feel your pain.

But no matter what the future holds for us, NOW is the time to rest our bodies, broaden our knowledge, and rejuvenate our souls to make our families, communities, and country a better place.

“The Rhythm Changes” and we are still here:

Jazz Avatar Kamasi Washington from 2015’s The Epic

Peace and Love,

Todd.

Everything Old is New Again: The Avalanches Release Their First Album in 16 Years

The Avalanches' storm back to relevance with the release of "Wildflower".
The Avalanches’ storm back to relevance with the release of “Wildflower”.

16 years ago, a group of Australian proto-punk, alternative artists turned deejays unleashed Since I Left You : a sprawling, sumptuous fin de siecle album upon an unsuspecting world.

As the 90’s drew to a close, we were witnessing the swift transformation of the music industry from guitars to turntables, record stores to Napster, analog recording to digital assembly; and the Avalanches threw themselves headlong into this brave new postmodern world inhabited by likes of Massive Attack, Portishead, Moby, Air, Thievery Corporation, and DJ Shadow.

Like DJ Shadow’s 1997 magnum opus Endtroducing, the album Since I Left You painstakingly constructed a digital valentine to the quickly vanishing analog era.  A lot has happened in since the early aughts and Wildflower quickly picks up and expands upon where the previous album left off. Assisted by a stellar roster of cameos, Wildflower is a collision of hard, urban beats and soft, psychedelic melodies expertly sequenced as only a collective of seasoned DJs can.

This was my album of the summer, but may be one of the most pleasurable listens of the year.

CODA: Listen to members of the band discuss the album with Beats Radio host, Zane Lowe.

Why Prince Matters: A Belated Appreciation

Prince's ambiguity created a legion of diverse fans.
Prince’s ambiguity created a legion of diverse fans.

Ever since music avatar and popular culture icon Prince Rogers Nelson died on April 21, 2016 there have been many tributes and testaments to his staggering talent but I think his most lasting legacy may be his comfort with non-conformity.

Prince KNEW he was different and that was his strength. He didn’t look, sing, play, or write like anyone else. Make no mistake, he had internalized the personas of Little Richard, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and Sly Stone but through the prism of his own contradictory and ambiguous worldview.

Blurring the likes between black and white, straight and gay, sinner or saint, rock and R&B, was an anathema to the culturally rigid society of the 80’s. A world of cold-war paranoia, apartheid, and homophobia. Through his music and performances, he pushed the boundaries of what was considered to be socially acceptable.

As a Generation X black kid  growing up in Milwaukee I knew my experience wasn’t much different from Prince’s Minneapolis and I saw him as a hero. Championing the underground and the counterculture and not allowing himself to be defined by his environment. The rebel, the hippie, the punk, the freak, and the queer were all equally attracted to his persona.

I never imagined that his vision would become the mainstream and that he would be embraced as an elder statesman by the cultural elite.

But, then again I never saw him dying at middle age either. Rest in peace, Prince there will never be another one like you.

Coda: 5 of Todd’s Favorite Prince Songs (in no particular order)

  1. “Dirty Mind”—Beautifully stark in its new-wave minimalism and some of Prince’s finest drum and synth programming.
  2. “I Wanna Be Your Lover”(Album Version)—At first blush this 1979 single sounds very much like post-disco Sylvester, but at 2:28 mark the track transforms into a hypnotic, proto-house electrojam.
  3. “Controversy”—This is Prince’s Declaration of Independence as he fully embraces his bad boy persona and his mastery of the recording studio.
  4. “Lady Cab Driver”—A magnum opus in storytelling and cinematic in production, Prince seamlessly merges his funk, rock, and pop influences into ONE song.
  5. “She Always in My Hair”—The greatest of his impressive body of B-Sides, Prince lays down one of his most infectious guitar riffs to great effect.

Let’s Say Goodbye to NYC’s Other Music

A cultural institution and champion of independent music has closed. For 20 years, New York City’s Other Music has served as an invaluable resource for obscure, alternative, and forgotten music.

Other-Music-Exterior

As a music collector, DJ, and former indie record store manager, I remember when every major city had an Other Music—small, indie stores that doubled as communal spaces serving poseurs, affectionados, students, and fanatics alike. Nowadays, places like Other Music are a rare exception—a reminder of an era long past and another lost opportunity for us as human beings to connect on an interpersonal level.

I still remember ordering by mail or friends making trips to New York to secure the latest electronic and club music imports from Other Music. These strange and obscure pieces opened our minds, formed the foundation of our DJ sets, and helped us spread the electronic gospel to the uninitiated and unconverted.

Other-Music-Closing
NYC’s Other Music was a refuge and repository for independent music for 20 years.

The New York Times’ Manjula Varghese’s touching video tribute to Other Music reminds us that places for self expression and artistic pursuit still matter.

Other Music is dead, long live Other Music.

Coda: Check out Other Music’s Top 10 Spins Video:

These are 10 essential albums that define the Other Music sound.
These are 10 essential albums that define the Other Music sound.

Explore the Universe of Miles Davis on His 90th Birthday

90 years since his birth on this day and almost 25 years since his passing into immortality; the shadow of Miles Dewey Davis still looms large on the cultural horizon.

Polygraph’s The Universe of Miles Davis quantifies the jazz avatar’s wide ranging influence through his 2,452 Wikipedia mentions (English).

Miles-Davis_Universe_1
It’s Miles’ World and we’re just living in it.

Through this visually striking interactive site we descend down a digital rabbit hole of recordings, people, and places that traces a through line of Miles’ relevance from the early twentieth-century to today.

“Knowledge is freedom and ignorance is slavery”
—Miles Davis

Miles-Davis_Universe_2

If Mr. Davis were alive today we are certain he would approve. Happy Birthday Miles!

Complex’s Mindbending FKA Twigs Online Cover Story

Avant Garde photography and clever online animation turns feature article into a user experience art piece.
Avant Garde photography and clever online animation turns feature article into a user experience art piece.

Kudos to the staff of Complex Magazine for its approach to the feature article on Pop and R&B Art Futurist FKA Twigs.

Part artist profile, part interactive art exhibit, and part user experience multimedia experiment; it boldly shows a glimpse into the possible future of entertainment content delivery.

DJ Shiftee Explores Thirty Years of Turntablism in Fourteen Minutes

Electronic music production and DJ training facility Dubspot has been instrumental educating the public on the history and technique of the DJ and two-time DMC (Disco Music Club) turntable champion and instructor Shiftee’s examination on the craft is an arresting blend of historical lecture and performance art.

This is an excellent primer on one of the pillars of Hip-Hop culture (Break Dancing, Emceeing, DJing, Graffiti Art, and Beatboxing) and for those who wish to explore the subject in detail I recommend the following:

  • Wild Style (Film), Hip-Hop is exposed to the World in Charlie Ahern’s seminal 1983 film
  • Scratch (Film), Doug Pray’s fascinating documentary on the history of Turntablism and the cult of the DJ
  • Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop (Book), Jeff Chang explores the economic, political, and social forces that create and shape what we now know as Hip-Hop Culture
  • Last Night a DJ Saved My Life (Book), Bill Brewster traces the unexpected history of DJ culture through exhaustive research and engaging personal interviews

Four Steps to Executing a Successful Deejay Performance

<Writer’s Note: This is an amended post where I have added more information>

I am a Graphic and Web Designer by trade, but for many years I’ve earned money as a professional DJ (for events, companies, organizations—and on occasion—a wedding or party on referral) and there is nothing quite like the rush and excitement of performing music for a crowd. But, before you can move the crowd there is a lot of preparation involved:

  1. Be Prompt—respond to any and all correspondence immediately, be it a contract, question, or request; the sooner you have all the info you need, the sooner you can start your preparation
  2. Be Prepared—ask questions, research your client, request an itinerary,  walk through your performance venue, create an equipment checklist, and practice, practice, practice your material; the unexpected will happen at your event so be prepared when it does
  3. Be Professional—respond quickly (see tip 1: Be Prompt) by phone or email; dress appropriately; arrive and set up early on event day, be friendly, flexible, and smile often
  4. Be Productive—before, during, and after the gig engage your guests, clients, and followers in person and online (have your business cards ready); be diligent in producing content and sharing your work (this will lead to new clients and opportunities)

Deejaying is a performance: the live aspect of playing before a crowd is theater and everyone is watching you so don’t blow it by not being prepared.