I’m surprised by how quickly Panama’s music became some of my favorite of the year. Their straightforward pop hooks and piano melodies keep me craving more. The lyrics are easy to remember, to love. You know, the sort of songs you listen to, seemingly forever on repeat, trying to cherish them for yourself until that inevitable moment when everyone else jumps on board. Wait for it.
I realize that it is December and perhaps we are all exhausted of the influx of independent musicians making soulful, r&b-inspired tunes. But can I present just one more? Rosie Lowe. In “Games,” it’s all about her inflection, her attitude, and that stilted beat that always sounds like it is 1/2 a step behind.
"The Lake" by Denai Moore (Fantastic Mr. Fox remix)
This remix does a lot with a song that is haunting in its quiet and stillness. It didn’t need to turn into something more uptempo, something danceable, but it surprisingly works. It’s a different song, but the core unnerving emotions of Denai’s original still exists.
This was one of those songs I heard throughout the summer as a transition between “stronger” or more “hard-hitting” tunes at the club. But I never understood why it couldn’t be heard in its entirety, or as much of its entirety as possible. Because although it doesn’t “bang” it certainly hits the listener in its beauty and its classic aesthetic.
Six years ago, it was 2007 and my boredom was unbearable. I wore my first sequin dress. I finally figured out undereye concealer. I felt slightly reborn, or as reborn as one could. My skin was finally my own. I felt a sense of control over myself that didn’t or couldn’t have been possible only a year or two before. It was a new round.
Five years ago, it was 2008 and I thought I would for sure be the exception to the rule then of place and time and circumstance. I met perhaps the most brilliant mind I would ever meet. A part of me was in love, but it was not until this year that I made a clean break. My break was out of necessity. His break was of the mind.
Four years ago, it was 2009 and I was back at home. The first thing I did was strip the walls - of posters and then wallpaper - until there was nothing left but a blank surface, a next step. On my closet door, I taped notecards of goals. This is where I will go. This is what I will do. The cards are gone, but the dreams remain as real as ever. To write is to make into existence. There was no turning back. There is no turning back.
Three years ago, it was 2010 and I thought that this was all temporary, a bump in the road, a slight detour to … something. I knew I wouldn’t accept this for myself. However long it would last, however many false starts would leave me a crying heap in the dark, industrial halls of my day-to-day, I would keep pushing. This too, this place was a push. On the first day, I felt its wrongness deep and true. I could not let this be it. But it took at first days and then months and then years to understand this. Life is not clean, but its dirt - its filth and troubles - are the guidelines and map to beauty.
Two years ago, it was 2011 and I loved so fiercely. I did not know I could, but I did and I do not regret knowing the depths of that love and emotion. Everything began to change then. I lost him. I lost her. I moved on slowly. The club became an agent of change. I had forgotten that place could be as important as people. It was not a replacement so much as a supplement, an addition, a reminder of what was missing and what could redeem. I found reinvention and courage and pain. I also rediscovered house and it was truer than things I had known for years. I do not believe you have to settle in these years. Metamorphosis is ongoing, is always, is forever.
One year ago, it was 2012 and I was more hopeful than I had ever been in my life. That hope was short lived, a reminder that life is not that easy. But it was also a reminder that even possibilities hold more weight than we realize. If all you have to depend on, to live on, is a possibility, then keep living. That can get you through a lot. It can get you through today.
The sunrise is still my favorite part of the day. My summer days start early and keep going. I rise with the sun. This began not by choice, at least not a conscious one, but my body took it on as if it is the only way of the world.
In my darkest nights, I could always remember the power of tomorrow and the sun and this place full of people I don’t know, but have grown to love as much as one can love images and projections and select numbers of characters. Never doubt sustenance. Never doubt pushing through. Never doubt your curiosities for they can lead you to some place better, brighter, and most certainly, less boring.
I said this when I first heard Ben Khan’s “Eden” and I’ll say it again: I am feeling so many Jai Paul feels right now. It must be weird to be an independent artist and have so much of your work compared to a reclusive artist who has only officially released two singles.
With that said, Khan’s combination of raw guitar and soulful vocals makes for an especially potent song. In a year lacking true “most perfect grooves,” I’m glad Khan has rectified the situation.
“We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or to hate, to see or to be blind. Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning. The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, to question them, to pause and hear silence, to name them, and then to become the storyteller.”—Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby
Although this is just a demo, it feels complete to me. The languid beat and guitar riffs (which sound like an ominous day on the beach) work perfectly together to create a simple, yet sturdy track. The real version will sound lusher, more pronounced, but I like the structure and ambition of what we’ve been given.
We see more of ourselves than anyone ever could. That is the myth of finding ourselves. We do not need to find ourselves. We already know who we are. This is about finally coming to terms with ourselves, not necessarily accepting ourselves, but certainly seeing everything we have – the good and especially the bad – and knowing that what is written on our bodies will change little in the course of our lives.
This is taking control, for from an early age, control is taken from us. Control perhaps is never allowed at all.
Your blog is amazing! How did you build it up from a regular journal of your thoughts to a platform that's been recognized by Tumblr's staff & The Awl?
Y’all are making me feel special. This is a nice message to receive as I’m about to celebrate the SIXTH anniversary of this blog on December 7th.
I created this tumblr during my junior year of college. I was working in my college’s Housing department, running mundane tasks and errands and fielding sporadic phone calls from racist and homophobic parents who couldn’t imagine their precious child having to “deal” with someone not like them.
So basically, I had a lot of free time.
During this time, I also began my first editorial internship at Venus Zine (R.I.P.) and I wanted to translate my experiences and ideas into my ideal magazine, but online. I also had another blog that was basically me posting an essay or two PER DAY about what it was like to be in college. I’ve deleted that site now, but if any of you are interested, I’ve collected some of them in a mini-doc called, “All My Friends Are Bad Habits.”
My first couple of months tumblring were a lot less personal than what this blog eventually turned into (and what it has quietly moved away from). It got more recognition when I began to write longer (which I know seems counter to what Tumblr in 2013 is) and when I ramped up my music posts. Venus Zine was a women’s music magazine, so I was just entering the peak of my music listening days.
I don’t really have a formula for this blog. I try things out for a while and then let them go. I post what I want to post. I only post things that I enjoy. I’m never going to post a song to say I hate it. Why waste the space? I try to avoid doing lots of reblogs. I did that in the beginning of tumblr and I would get into stupid online arguments. I don’t try to post on a schedule. I’ve taken breaks. I took one in November and one in October when I was hospitalized with anaphylactic shock. I don’t try to announce them because why would I do that? I like to keep my true personal life personal. I will never talk about who I’m dating unless it’s after the fact.
I believe in finding your own voice rather than catering to what other people might want. I believe in sticking to your guns. I believe in learning. I believe in beauty. That’s basically it. If other people enjoy that, great! If not, I’ll keep posting.
I spent a lot of time – on this blog for fun and professionally – listening to and thinking critically about singles rather than albums. I feel like I’ve listened to less full-length albums than I typically do and I want to spend some time catching up. Therefore, I want to know, what are some of your favorite UNDERRATED albums of the year? What did I miss? What did everyone else miss, too?
How do you get your steam player to work? What are you uploading music on… p.s this is a nifty site you got going
I use Streampad. It’s super easy to use and I’ve been using it since it first debuted. However, I don’t believe they’ve fixed the recent Tumblr bug, so go to this page to make adjustments to the code so it can play any song you post on your tumblr, regardless of medium (Soundcloud, Spotify, mp3)!
“I’m thankful for Tink, Sasha Go Hard, Katie Got Bandz, and all of the other young lady MCs repping worldwide. I’m thankful that Smart Bar stays dark and loud and just weird enough.”—Late Notice: I’m giving thanks, with a whole bunch of other people, at the Huffington Post.
Take a seat. "You’re not oppressed. You’re just an asshole. Get used to the world being full of people with different opinions." -Coke Talk
LOL. I get at least one version of this comment about every 5-6 months (for reference). Always anonymous. Always vague. Most likely someone who lacks proper understanding of cultural criticism and wants the world to listen to THEM for a change. Sorry I’m not sorry that no one is following your tumblr/reading your writing/wiping your tears. I know it must be crazy to you, to see this black chick with a platform, spreading the word (on why this world is great and why this world is bullshit), and realize people are sometimes listening. How dare she talk!? Like, what is this world? A changing one. Get used to it.
But really, all of that is to say: Don’t come for me unless I send for you.
(P.S. Here’s the original Coke Talk quote, taken WAY out of context because this person was too lazy to even come up with anything him or herself.)
“Food in Chicago is not just what we eat; it helps define our way of life. It is who we are and where we came from. Despite its faults, this is a city born out of the dreams and aspirations of people from across the globe, and our food traditions reflect that.”—Writing about food traditions in my hometown, for WBEZ.
I've always enjoyed your mixtapes and I was wondering what software you use to create them. I was hoping to make some mixtapes myself via 8tracks but the fact that you must upload music to 8tracks has thrown me for a loop. How can one create a mixtape when they either don't have the mp3 saved to their hard drive or only have access to a streaming version of the song (i.e. the mp3 isn't hosted at the link)?
Awesome! I’m glad you enjoy them.
For my downloadable mixtapes, I merely use iTunes (I know!). I organize them all as a compilation, number each tune, list myself as the Album Artist so they stay in order, upload an image (I typically create one using Photoshop) for each track, and make other quick edits to it using the software. It’s very simple and highly recommended if you’re not looking to make an actual DJ mix.
For actual DJ mixes, I use Ableton or Audacity (if I’m super lazy).
When I create mixtapes for songs that don’t yet have an mp3, I create Soundcloud playlists. If you’re a big follower of this blog, you know that I’m all about Soundcloud links. You can organize your tracks, upload a mix image, and add a large number of songs. Also, you can embed the entire playlist using the Audio OR Video function on tumblr. Here’s a link to some of the Soundcloud mixes I’ve made in the past.
I always love that Jerome LOL’s tracks are a little strange and a little jazzy. There are not a lot of young producers working in this particular sound, but I’m glad that he has found something that surprisingly works on each new track.
The thing about “Chicago fashion” is that trying to sum up its identity in a few words is a futile task. Unlike other artistic practices, Chicago’s fashion culture is less identifiable and understandable.
For a city born so distinctly as a “city of neighborhoods,” the idea that an innate sense of community does NOT run through the veins of our fashion population seems implausible, even if it is true.
What I love most about the fashion designers, store owners, and innovators in the city is their anti-Chicago ethos. Meaning, so many of them operate within their own vision and their passion and nothing more. They strike out on their own and in the process, a community builds around what they see. If it is not there, they must think, I will create it (the designs, the community) in my vision.
Recently, I discovered two new members of the Chicago fashion community worth of praise.
Last Wednesday, guests made their way to the Swedish American Museum in Andersonville for the launch of Pine & Plastic. Described as “designer city totes,” these upscale, hand-painted, and architecturally-strong tote bags are the brainchild of Andrew Wayne. Browsing the tables and walls artfully-stacked with Wayne’s unique designs, I was reminded of an article from the New York Times a few years ago about the rise of the tote bag. Writer Miranda Purves said:
“Seemingly democratic and certainly affordable (if not free), the tote might be the ideal carryall for these post-luxury recessionary times. The tote’s status is stealth. It telegraphs not money but access, ethics, culture — encapsulating the idea psychologist Daniel Gilbert popularized that happiness grows more through experiences than purchases.”
Last night during a dinner with friends, my sister said to me, “Everywhere I look, you’ve got more bags.” It’s true. I collect tote bags especially. After years of carrying oversized handbags where I inevitably lost important notes (and keys and jewelry), I switched to a smaller purse and began carrying a tote bag to supplement my needs.
But there is a reason why totes are so cheap (and often free). They are not designed to last. Inevitably, they get too grungy or simply tear at the seams. That’s why, when given the chance to purchase one of Wayne’s designs, I jumped on it. I love a tote bag for everything it is – simple, reliable – and hate it for everything it is not. Wayne’s bag – endlessly sturdy, hand-crafted, built for maximum usage – are a rarity in the fashion world. Totes are only now making the jump from the bookish set and farmer’s markets, though I imagine with such carefully crafted designs like Wayne’s, their appeal will expand even further.
In the wave of gentrifying neighborhoods, Humboldt Park got lost somewhere in the shuffle. In many ways, this is a good thing. Unlike other gentrifying neighborhoods, the large West Side hood is not at as great of a risk of losing its cultural identity as others. Still, it’s a surprise to see the rapid growth in Logan Square and wonder if Humboldt Park (all of it, not just the parts that touch Western Avenue) can acquire as many new businesses.
Meadowlark, a vintage boutique, is one new addition to the neighborhood. Chicago is a uniquely-structured city that, contrary to popular belief, allows many young, experimental, and small businesses to grow. Unlike other major cities, we have an abundance of space and only lack in bodies and creators to facilitate even more of those young, experimental, and small businesses.
On the surface, a vintage boutique does not seem like the sort of place that is experimental. Chicago is full of many gems (Very Best Vintage and Kokorokoko among the most top-notch and affordable). But like the two previously mentioned, Meadowlark sets itself apart by creating a minimalistic and recognizable identity that speaks to the contemporary woman.
I found an abundance of rich, wool sweaters and clean, silky blouses. Many of their wares probably line the corporate design studios of fast fashion retailers like Zara. They may come from the 70s, 80s, or 90s, but they feel as fresh as ever. As well, I found pieces from Pendleton and Oscar de la Renta and my heart did not skip a beat in shock over the prices.
In fact, unlike many of those popular fast fashion retailers that line Michigan Avenue some 30 blocks away, Meadowlark’s prices were considerably lower. And knowing how quickly once can shred a dress from Forever 21, it’s a pleasure to find older, well-maintained clothes that continue to please.
Kaytranada’s remix of Snakehips’ “On & On” (featuring the divine George Maple) was one of my favorite influencer recognizing influencer moments of the year. And although this is not a Kaytranada remix, Snakehips returns the favor, crafting a funky, dancefloor-ready jam. Nothing is too out of the ordinary, but THAT bass and THOSE SYNTHS are endlessly fun. It’s the sort of remix you could listen to repeatedly without even realizing it. At less than 3 minutes, that’s not hard.
Black Girls Talking is by far my favorite podcast. We’ve always known we needed voices like theirs when it came to critical discussions, especially about pop culture. But listening to the podcast really solidified this point for me (and probably for many of you).
For their second year, the brilliant BGT ladies are looking to upgrade their equipment and cover hosting fees and need your help. Any small donation would be awesome! Link above!
BGT has had a great year and we couldn’t have done it without all of your support. Going into our second year, we want to make BGT even better, and we’re asking you to chip in to help make that happen.
Click the link, check out the great prizes your donations will get you, and donate. Every little bit helps.