Friday, August 18, 2017

timelessness?

It's baffling to me that I started this blog eight years ago as a way to balance being a leader in a grassroots activist LGBTQ organization in Chicago and not losing sight of myself or my passions, as my steady introduction to "being woke" left me confused, depressed, angry, and tired. Since then, it's been a chronicle of the times I almost didn't think I was going to make it- through heartbreak, depression, substance abuse, shame, and self-loathing- as well as a transformation of, dare I say, maturation, of my ideals, self-systems, and lazy analysis of my favorite songs. In this way, music has literally saved my life.

While I'm fortunate nowadays to be working a job that not only requires the skills I learned and ignored in Keyboard Harmony II in undergrad (yikes!), but challenges me to directly transfer my musical knowledge and humanity to another person every time I'm in a classroom, I realize that life never stopped being about balance. That we are complex humans with many masks, but I mean, in words of Future, fuck it. Mask off. My writing has gotten less metaphorical and romantic and more succinct and to the point- I think it's because I know the answers to the questions I've posed in musical form for many, many years- and for the first time probably ever, I'm confident, not only in my understanding, but my ability to succeed in the goals I set for myself.

But it didn't come without sacrifice. I don't do the things I used to do that made me happy, though perhaps that happiness was not real in the first place. It was a band-aid covering up these deep wounds I didn't even know were there because I was too scared to look at my body. At my own self. And while I write for myself, I also write in this blog for an audience. Yeah, you, reading this right now, you keep me on the top of my game and you keep me honest... and you keep me brave. Despite the stigmas of oversharing, the need for validation, and the temporary here-today-gone-in-a-few-minutes design of social media, the act of opening up not only your thoughts, but your heart, your true, true love, your passion, your essence, and part of your soul for other people to see and critique, is part of the chemical... arrangement... of what makes an artist at large.

Never did I think that in August, 2017, I would be finding ways to fight neo-Nazis of the so-called "alt-right" with my gifts and my influence. But hey, this is the nature of how this blog originated: from conflict. We don't stop creating, we don't stop writing, we don't stop sharing, and we don't stop being examples of the real struggle- the inner, the outer, the micro, the macro- until the oppression stops.

So. Shall we continue?

****

Some music ages well; it's the kind that addresses issues concerning the intricacies of human psyche that are rooted in what is widely considered basic truth, correct? Love, heartache, struggle, success, loss, friendship, relationships, body movements, etc. Perhaps its function is educational: to teach younger generations the 26 letters of the alphabet, or how to tie their shoes, or a method of improving language skills so prevalent in the early years of human development and then locked up in the back of your brain with easy access. Based on your unique experiences, some songs may be memorable, but not relatable to your life (I don't think I would necessarily be surfin' like Californ-i-a if I had an ocean across the USA, no matter how much I respect Brian Wilson). Some may bring nostalgia and take you back to those angsty teenage dark moments in the past, but don't hold the same weight in your present (Max Bemis, you are no longer my hero). But in my opinion, the best songs are the ones that come back to you when you least expect them and somehow still apply to the reality of life outside of yourself.


Last week I tweeted that Beggars is still a solid album in 2017, in which my long-time mixtape-making buddy Rob agreed after giving it another listen for the first time in a number of years. With songs that address the madness of the world, human greed, suffering, the power of love, the redemption in faith, and lyrics that bring to light: "All you great men of power, you who boast of your feats / politicians and entrepreneurs / can you safeguard your breath in the night while you sleep / keep your heart beating steady and sure?" It's hard to listen to the title track and NOT think of the demise of the United States after Trump, though it was released in 2009. Perhaps theology and philosophy go a longer way than we think. This song cycle flows so smoothly, "thematically cohesive," in Rob's words, and is timeless because of, well, the times. Because of conflict. Because in a way, good music is good when its creators critique the world at large while conveying the harsh reality that if shit doesn't change, we're all fucked.



Someone once told me that artists are always talking to each other. It may have been my 12th grade AP English teacher, Brother Tom. Yeah, I went to Catholic school. It was fucking awful. Coincidentally, A Crow Left of the Murder and all its proverbial plays on words came out the last semester of my senior year of high school. It was the soundtrack of my short walk into the town square today to get sushi. Immediately, a sharp wind of nostalgia swept through me- Incubus was that band I had posted on my bedroom walls before moving out of the suburbs, and though I didn't follow them much after this album, I still know every lyric, vocal nuance, jazzy guitar solo, drum break. In a way, I guess the timelessness of "Talk Shows on Mute" is twofold: one, originating from the ideas of Orwell and Philip K Dick, so literally... channelled... in the animal farm that is this music video; the other, in Brandon Boyd's exposition of how the entertainment industry is ruining society and its inability to decipher reality from reality television. And as Number 45 continues this long-ass four-year episode of the Apprentice, the prophecies layered in this song have followed the exact course of events edging us toward the flame.

Why have I chosen bands with cis-white front men to illustrate the timelessness of the systemic demise of humanity? Because frankly, it has to be them who are speaking up now. Now. Today. Tomorrow. In this CIVIL WAR. It has to be those who live on the upper shelves of social construct to stand up and battle the psychopathic, entitled lunatics who have no sense of empathy beyond themselves. De-colonizing the standard is part of it, yes, but come on son, there are straight up racist rallies being supported by the government disguised as freedom of speech protests, and truth be told, it is not the minorities who are justifying their cause. I can sit here and make you a playlist of one-hundred songs that will spread the message of beauty in diversity; it will not stop white supremacists from marching through educational establishments holding fuckin tiki torches and driving cars into crowds of people with the intention of killing them. I can alter the goals of my lesson plans to include more songs of resistance; I can hope to empower and guide my students to owning their creativity; I can continue to tweet throwback alternative rock songs that have aged well throughout the years... but timelessness is not the goal. I don't want to be living in a life where "we are beggars all." I don't want human actualization to be "electric sheep dreaming up our fate." Let's write our own lyrics, accented with accents. Let's preserve integrity by composing melodies of social and human justice won. Let's be models of fierce warriors, citizens of the world, so our future generations can listen to Thrice and Incubus and think, "damn, that was a fucked up era in history."  It's time to stop swinging in the hammocks of oppression misconstrued as "how things are" and stand up.

Let's fight for real freedom.

(one-hundred track mixtape to follow)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

oxygen tank of memories





It was Saturday night in Brooklyn, at a karaoke bar where I only knew 67% of the songs cuz they were by bands like Pearl Jam, when someone picked this song and I grabbed your hand and danced with you in the middle of the floor. I've never done that before- partner danced in public as an adult, hell, partner danced at all, a little tipsy from local beers I promised myself I wouldn't use as a crutch for anxiety. But there I was, confidently not leading nor following, rather, semi-twirling 'round the punch-drunk happy strangers, smiling into you like an old-fashioned photograph. I felt you near, though I knew we were drifting. I don't expect anyone to follow me when I lead, and it's always a pleasing surprise that holds more weight especially when I have no idea what I'm doing. All I knew was that at that moment, way passed my regular New England bed time, I didn't care about anything else but the crash of brassy ebbs and flows in Bobby's melodies, the waves of our bodies, the impending excitement laced with a seaweed of dread, the innocent lust, the drowning desire. And for a second there, I thought I felt our pulses match up like they used to, and I felt smitten. There were so many ace musical moments that weekend in New York City, most of them lasting longer than this song. But this one. This is the one I'll keep in that special oxygen tank of memories, the ones triggered by a classy song and a classy gal, sailing in perfect unison, a harmonious continuum that leads me beyond the sea, beyond the depth of the unknown, back to Love.

It's far beyond a star

It's near beyond the moon

I know beyond a doubt

My heart will lead me there soon


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Wednesday Bluesday

A few updates, both music and non-music related.

Got back from my short summer vacation in NYC yesterday. It was my second time in New York in all of 2017. It was alright. I got the privilege of seeing Aviva in three different musical settings within three hours. Once, solo in Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan. The second time in Raia Was at this weird seafare/Korean themed venue called Baby's Allright in Williamsburg. The third in Arthur Moon at the same venue. Those moments were the best part. The worst part was probably my anxiety.

The newest Vic Mensa makes me miss Chicago a lot, but in very spastic ways. This is because I've only heard the album in short ADD-like listens. I don't think he and Chance have anything in common musically, at all, other than they can rap and don't choose to all the time. Aesthetically, I dig Vic more than Chance 3. I'm in this thing, I think, where I can't reconcile my life decisions with my every day breathing. I get nostalgia a lot. It transcends into my artistic choices, including what I'm putting into my ears and brain.

Everything Now is not as bad as everyone is saying it is, but it's pretty bad. I honestly never LOVED Arcade Fire, not like the way I love Radiohead or Lauryn Hill or Stay Down by the Smoking Popes or Kendrick Lamar or cellos. I think they lack subtlety and I don't like that.

I don't go to many shows anymore, despite my show-filled Sunday in New York City last weekend. Perhaps that is one effect of my feeling of un-inspiration. I'm also not impressed by much these days. I don't know if it's just a consequence of growing up with my kind of imagination or if it's a dry spell, in all its denotations.

I am forcing myself to write this so I don't fall deeper into this rude depression.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Friday, March 10, 2017

8 haikus

it's not just colours.
can we legislate humans?
controlling the vibe?

it's white people who
created supremacy
ideas run deep

white people exist
everyfuckingwhere in this
enormous nightmare

as do blacks and browns
and does the illusion that
we do co-exist

so we celebrate
our own re-definitions
of classy systems

and not classism
let's continue to live through
truths in the music

recognizing that
our sounds in reality
transcend all colours

and true freedom is
never losing our pulse when
they cut off our ears




Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Bluesday, January 24: Kishi Bashi


Fourth track of his third album, Sonderlust, came out in 2016, probably listened to it once since 2016 ended and 2017 began. I say, some artists need to bend the purpose of the art, or why it was formed, you know, the real story behind the making of a really great song, in order to let it truly seep under their skin, into their bones, bloodstream, body, brain, until it truly becomes a part of them. Is that not, at least, the partial reason of why art is made in the first place, as we seemingly random souls wander the dirt of this earth, trapped in empathic mazes of sonder? Less the music finds us before we find it. But the complexity of life oftentimes lacks serendipity, stripping it of all romance, all deterministic promises of hope, perhaps. K.Ishibashi went through some shit on this album, a far departure of that magnetic "prehistory" of lustful tenderness. The production- namely, arrangements, namely, use of synth melodies- echoes this departure of wistful majesty, probing around traditional form and classical, repeating motives, driven by a buzzing rhythm instead of the soaring violin lines that have defined his gorgeous sound paintings in the past. 

Though the past is the past, it gathers and scatters and never really leaves. What an ironic color of the blues, sonderlust, the angst of choosing the ignorance of still being alone.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Bluesday, January 4: Brand New

Grey clouds hovered over me the entire heavy rainy drive home. It was the hardest drive so far.

I forgot about this performance. Super young Jesse, don't really know why he has a slight British accent, makes sense though. We've grown together. We're at the landing. I'll never forget seeing them at Riot Fest and who i was with. Jesse was terrible that day, screaming parts that should be sung, losing his voice halfway while the muddy post-emo kids close to the stage moshed in the biting rain. I'm older now, and so is he. I keep forgetting that in 2016 they put out an official release of some of the Devil and God demos. Perhaps it was some kind of closure for Jesse. I'm hoping so.

Oh, to have the blues.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bluesday, November 22: Dreezy

Dreezy hails as the "Princess of Chicago Rap" since 2014 by Vice Magazine. This song's from her debut album that came out last July. I expect big things from this chick. I've been listening to a lot of this new shit to be able to relate to my students, who are just too cool. Self worth, or the lack of it, is generational.

"I wanna give it one more shot / but all he wanna do is take one more shot."

Damn.



Love is not sex is not sustainability is not reality. I'm so happy to finally be in a place where I get it. But damn, the triggers this song pulls that are connected to my heart strings.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Bluesday, November 15: The Blow

This song hit me hard when I was at the gym, running without stretching, sweating the blues off. The beauty of music, I guess, is that it can have the same meaning over time, but your role as a listener can change.

How can I achieve sustainability without puncturing love's work with the pressure of the depth I have learned to hone in thirty years? Perhaps as a Pisces, I can learn to swim in shallow waters. It doesn't mean I have to stop living in the bluest of the ocean, or that beauty is forfeited. It just means I'm more limber. And maybe that's a good thing.

The Blow will always remind me of a specific summer, with specific people, the messiness of fluidity, and the southside of Chicago. The blues were always there, always vibrant. It's definitely not present in the same way, but perhaps its hues can make themselves more visible, with time and thoughtfulness. I will not re-live heartbreak; I will transform it into a lifeboat. So nobody drowns.

"I still believe in the phrases that we breathed / But I know the distance isn't fair to cross"

The beauty of the additive shines through this song. Sometimes, simplicity accentuates function. It's why art is necessary in the first place.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Bluesday, November 1st: Wilco feat. Feist

Funny, how one lyric can direct you to a bridge of a song, then after another listen to the whole thing, realize it's the one you've been looking for all day. It seems a little odd that THIS is the Wilco song for Bluesday. I know their discography (pre 2015) better than any band and this song is not sad. Not at all. But I'm going through a paler shade of blue today. Kinda like fog off a lake right before dusk.



I never truly understood these lyrics before. I think it's because I've never had the love Tweedy is singing about in this song. I never truly understood these lyrics before tonight, and for that, I am grateful.

Also, Feist is adorable.