Visual Journal

Gray-Scales

I’m always astonished whenever I unearth a roll of mystery film, aging away on my desk underneath a pyramid of cameras. When I developed this particular roll of expired black & white film, I became elated that the exposures were decorated with grainy undertones and natural vignettes. The organic manipulation (which many aspire to achieve through filters) and element of surprise always inspires me to go back to shooting film. Enjoy!

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—Tyler

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In My Headphones, words

Bless the Telephone

I forgot about this gem until I found Labi Siffre hanging in a friend’s top listened to artists. Even though I first discovered this ditty in my high school Pandora days, it draws me back to the first semester after I graduated from college during my long-distance relationship. Anyone who’s ever waited and wished by the phone to glow their lover’s names can find shelter in the familiar lyrics. The tender fingerpicking, the sincerity of the lyrics–which compose a dance between love being “nice” and “strange”–and the soothing range of his vocals all come together to paint an Impressionist portrait of love.

—Tyler

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In My Headphones, words

Twin Peaks @ Echoplex

It was like being in fuckboy church. You know that feeling right? When the band just swallows the audience whole and has you at their absolute mercy?

I mean we were fucking screaming and squawking lyrics along, gushing beer and limbs, shoving each other around to the beat. It was Friday long past midnight at the Echoplex, and the boys of Twin Peaks stood in formation, and bestowed upon us every fiber of their might. The riffs surged through our veins and poured out of our chest, and we prayed it’d never end.

The end felt so short, the beginning, so long. The opening band, Golden Daze, played their lackluster tunes against the projection of an anime urbanscape. That first flaccid hour dragged and I chugged and chugged and still it wouldn’t go any faster. Each song tasted like mild sauce—just never quite getting there—and blended into one slow bobbing melody. Everyone looked tame and mesmerized under the sparkles of two disco balls.

Another beer and two smoke breaks later we heard Ne-Hi strum their first measures and I began to lose my shit. The first time I saw Ne-Hi was in Massachusetts, opening for other Chicago underground legend Supermagical. The show itself was supermagical, taking place in the basement of Jamaica Plain’s Whitehaus. One of the oldest collectives in the DIY music scene in Boston, the walls of the Whitehaus are shrouded in myth and covered from ceiling to floor with collectible choxies expressing decades of identities. That was the exact night I fell in love with Chicago rock and roll.

Whereas Twin Peaks have gained national success and toured all throughout the festival circuit, Ne-Hi is only beginning their break out of the Midwest. The two bands share a sweet bromance, with a heavy tone of camaraderie you can sense all throughout the show. After slowly seeing Ne-Hi rise out of the basement, I’m honored I could see them play in Los Angeles for the first time.

So yeah, I was fucking pumped to see Ne-Hi on the west coast for the first time ever. And they delivered. They lured us from our slumber and played through their rad hit tunes from the self-titled EP. Although their songs are on the slower burning side of the power-pop spectrum, their enticing chord progressions and harmonies are so profound that I still found myself moved by the music and dancing (with my eyes closed).

Twin Peaks shredding in the middle of their set. Photo by Michael Kagan

The premiere of Twin Peaks’s third studio album, Down in Heaven, brought the summer from spring and I spent countless nights in the early May gloom streaming it all the way through over and over. The range of their melodies—a balance of ups and downs—reverberated my own moody vibes.

Since most of Twin Peaks’s songs color the subject of love, it was such a tender set. In the audience we blurted angsty lyrics usually reserved for the shower or car. I squeezed my boyfriend’s sweaty hand during “Making Breakfast” (or “cooking dinner” as they jokingly called it). He kept me grounded against the jolt of the mosh pit.

Twin Peaks sounded better than they do in their live-sessions or even on festival stages. They successfully knew how to play off of the raw energy emanating from the crowd. A proper exchange of give the roll and ye shall receive the rock. In addition, they gifted us with an improvised cover of “Green Onions” while the drummer fixed his kit.

These Midwestern boys possess the raw talent and DIY spirit it takes to become shred legends. They sprinkled Chicago magic on the disco balls and we breathed it in. I prayed it’d never end. After their encore, an impenetrable silence flattened the air (or had the air always been this flat?).

To throw a cherry on top of those sweaty post-show blues, as we emerged from the Echoplex, a silhouette hollered “You down wit OPP?” from their car window. The squad instinctively responded “yeah, you know me,” and we watched the car disappear into the starless night.

—Tyler

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Vibe Journal, words

Coastal Behaviours

Aww sookie sookie now, here comes a heat wave. Summer solstice turned the world over on its hot back. California is melting, sinking, and burning all at once, and I’ve never felt better. Ditch the beach body stigma and throw on a pair of rose-tinted sunnies. The only rule to summer is to play fairly and let it out (let it alllll hang out). Don’t have air-conditioning and looking for a way to survive?

Play this mixtape:


Cast these music videos:

You know you dat bitch when you cause all dis conversation. Thank you Beyonce for showing us how black excellence can be portrayed without inherent sexism and how major label pop artists can use their fame as a vehicle for social protest.

I’m so stoked to see these Chicago natives rock out The Echoplex this Friday 6/24!!! Twin Peaks’ new album, Down In Heaven, is a summer surf anthem with a slew of up and down bangers. Ne-Hi is opening for them so get ready for a geeked up review.

Chance the Rapper’s new mixtape Coloring Book, is by far the most admirable album of 2016. His ability to balance mainstream and underground loyalty, while pushing forward with a modern-aged distrust of major-label edge, is both stunning and incomparable. This single in particular reveals Chance’s poetic ascension to one of rap’s greats.

Bear Salon—née Ghetto Bears—is a Boston-based band of five Berklee’s College of Music students, who are also five of my dearest college friends and sweethearts. This is one of their most sincere ballads, and it’ll probably never stop swimming into my ears. (If you’re vibing def go follow them on Bandcamp and petition them to release their album).

I knew I was going to be blown away by this performance when I read the rumors of Rihanna getting vocal lessons just to hit these notes. Drawing on the emotional triumph and yearning detailed in this tenderly expressed song, it manages to defy the narrow stream of poppy or clubby material, overall heightening her artistry.

Surf internet art and feel the feels:

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“Love” by Frank Viva for the (6/20) New Yorker magazine cover

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Arthur Ferrier, 1928

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Edward Hopper, Summer Evening, 1947

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Traci Lords in Cry-Baby hissing at a basic bitch

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Groovy 60s prints for technicolor inspo

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To the popsicles and corn dogs and sweaty bras and flip flops and bucket hats and rose-tinted sunglasses and 9pm sunsets of summer eves.

—Tyler

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photos, Visual Journal

Walkabout

Taking a photograph sometimes feels like peering out the window.

One of the particular things I miss about living in Boston is walking everywhere and being present in the moment. Sometimes driving can feel too much like a spaceship, transporting me from time and space in a matter of light-seconds. I’m either too busy changing freeways or missing my turn to capture the streets firsthand, and the light always changes by the time I have my camera ready to fire. Therefore, whenever I have a moment to step out of the driver’s seat, I go on photo walks and relieve some creative tension.

These particular exposures were taken during my April visit to Boston, where I annoyed some geese and aimlessly strolled from Allston to Harvard with my analogue Canon point-and-shoot.

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The only thing that makes me feel less hallow is smoke in my lungs, Bathroom @ Refuge

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Golden Flower, painted by me and friends outside of Jack and Brandon’s old apartment sophomore year

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From the Harvard Yard

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Black Lives Matter, St. Paul Church, Mt Auburn St

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View from the Cambridge esplanade

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Three Geese by the Charles, Memorial Dr esplanade

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Shadows on the Pedestrian Bridge, a self-timer selfie boof

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Tree silhouettes back on the Storrow Dr. esplanade

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Golden Hour silhouette

Some tunes for your next walkabout.

– Tyler

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Vibe Journal, words

Hot Fun

End of the spring and here she comes back…

 

“Don’t stay lost for too long,” was the first piece of advice from my Grandma after my college graduation. She pursed her dark lips and poked her heavy Southern hands into my shoulder. Her eyes, deep and wide as the Delta,  burned the fear into my skull.

Well, it’s been a year since Grandma’s forewarning, and unless you have a full-time offer for a position in your field immediately after college, getting lost is inevitable. Instead of running off to Europe [like the literal lost she was referring to], I got lost in Los Angeles and made it my home again. I found a part-time job at a cupcake bakery, and searched for myself in books and television shows. The months breezed by like spring, and I relinquished much of my writing to scribbles in personal journals, and letting my creative inhibitions surmount my passion.

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Gen X hearthrob Ethan Hawke in “Reality Bites”

However, when the world turned for summer, a newfound confidence glittered on the horizon. I now find myself in awe of myself, my strengths, and the weaknesses I’m still overcoming. It’s been a slow and undulating process of landing in the murky banks of adulthood, and now that I am here, I finally feel at peace with the little personalities in my creative control room. Thus, beginning a new chapter of this blog.

Much of this transition has to do with locating myself on a spectrum of empowering art movements. My womanhood is currently experiencing a tectonic shift of perspective, as I read through Angela Davis’s incredible book on Blues Legacies and Black Feminism. Like many of the newly freed black women in the postslavery era whom the blues were addressed to, I’m finding my cultural identity in a shared female collective consciousness.

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Gertrude “Ma” Rainey

Davis uses the artistry, performances, and recordings of songs by Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday to show how black women elevated themselves to be proud, assertive, and independent, while protesting themes like male dominance and a racialized and gendered social structure. The way Davis articulates the authority of these oft overlooked women of the blues is so empowering it draws on the sweep of modern feminine movements. The blueswomen and jazz lady she highlights, are the Beyonces of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s (respectively).

Also, this is all coming to me at a time when black artists like Kanye West and Beyonce are shaping our generation’s consciousness. Instagram queens like Rihanna, Zendaya, sensitiveblackpersonAmandla Stenberg, and Beyonce encapsulate the black woman’s crusade to preside over modern media. With projects as famous as “Lemonade” or as focused as the Art Hoe Collective strengthening the demand to be heard and taken seriously, there is so much raw inspiration in the beauty of the black woman.

Say, I wished I had me a heaven of my own

Say, I wished I had me a heaven of my own

I’d give all those poor girls a long old happy home

(lyrics from Bessie Smith’s Work House Blues)

And the drag of summer heat gives way to these goddamn sunsets. Life in LA can seem like a series of traffic patterns and Curb Your Enthusiasm skits, and yet, the world spins madly on. The important thing is to soak in the sweet stuff every now and then, roll down the windows, and smell the magnolias.

Thank you for reading.

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Photo by Michael Kagan

–Tyler

 

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Vibe Journal

FIDLAR Ain’t “Too” Original

FIDLAR’s new album “Too” tastes like a chorizo burrito: it grumbles in my stomach and strikes my chest with heartburn. The LA band’s sophomore LP emphasizes their knack for producing punk-pop anthems (i.e. Wake, Bake, Skate), only this time around, “Too” groans like a fuckboy with a recently developed conscious.

It tells the tale of lead singer Zac Carper battling his addictions and gnawing his way to sobriety. Instead of “Too” being an exultation of life, Carper’s narrative hurts in many places where the feels thrash the most. Overall, it’s pretty damn tasty.

Even Ross agrees, and we all know he’s burdened with some inner guilt.

Nibble by nibble, track by track, “Too” is laced with the desperate expression of surmounting society’s pressures by getting fucked up. The entire album displays an overarching theme of the plight of the [white] man of constant sorrow. Sung in the same key as old country music, it reveals the troubled facets of life that also come with the freedoms of maturing into the [oversimplified] American male, such as depression, anxiety, addiction, general feeling of not belonging—features all capsuled in the hit single, “40oz on Repeat.” We’ve heard songs like these dozens of times whining over the course of American music.

To outline the (not-so) strange comparison, I juxtaposed my top five tracks off of the album with five notorious country songs from the early 20th century.


  1. 40oz on Repeat x There Stands the Glass ­– Webb Pierce

And I don’t care at all, I’ll drink some alcohol

It’ll make me who I really wanna be

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Fill it up to the brim

Till my troubles grow dim

This album opener defines the nu punk pop rhythm of the entire album. It draws on an isolated emotional turmoil within the subject’s own insight. Webb Pierce’s desperate song, “There Stands the Glass” because these two songs the theme of vices eliminating reality’s strife. The only difference? It’s Webb Pierce’s first one today.

  1. West Coast x Ramblin’ Round ­– Woody Guthrie

I should try and get a life

But I don’t want that 9 to 5

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I wish that I could marry, so I could settle down

But I can’t save a penny

As I go a rambling’ round, boys

FIDLAR is no folk legend like Woody Guthrie, but the two songs embrace the theme of the rambling lifestyle so oft explored in American folklore. Set in the West Coast, both songs feature a subject giving in to his temptations enough to make a mother’s knees sore from prayer. Both subjects are equally as likely to end up passed out in an Oregon gutter.

  1. Why Generation x Big Rock Candy Mountain – Haywire Mac

And all the kids all the kids wanna know

Where do I belong where do I go

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I’m headin for a land that’s far away beside the crystal fountain/

So come with me, we’ll go and see the Big Rock Candy Mountains

While FIDLAR’s Gen-Y cry questions the motives of the “adult world” in the modern century landscape, “Big Rock Candy Mountain” provides an answer explored by both main subjects as they hike into a world of escape and euphoria: alcohol. The young-spirited hobo of the “Big Rock Candy Mountain” never lived in the scrutiny of social media, like FIDLAR’s Gen Y subject, however, each subject shares the despair of being outside of mainstream society.

  1. Sober x You Drink Too Much ­– State Street Swingers

And why do I have to figure out why I’m like this

And still treat you like a princess?

But what about me?

I’m a fucking princess too

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I give you money to pay a bill

You come home smelling like a liquor still

I know, I know. I stretched the umbrella of vintage country music to encompass this Prohibition-era swing tune. The draw between the two songs, over 40 years age-difference, paints the classic portrait of man and wife quarreling over the man’s supposed duty to provide for his family, and the pressures that ensue this obligation to society.

  1. Stupid Decisions x Lonely Blue Boy – Conway Twitty

I didn’t talk enough

And I took too many drugs

And I drank too much

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My life has been empty

My heart has been torn

It must have been raining the night I was born

In my final comparison, I used these two tracks to highlight the album’s generic feeling of hopelessness found in the depths of regret. These songs both effectively strike a chord that reverberates the doubt of man’s burden to make something out of himself. Whereas Conway Twitty’s subject feels as if he was doomed from the start, it was the [stupid] decisions that FIDLAR’s character led astray. This play details an argument between predetermined fate and free will, and which has the power to cause a man to succeed or fail in his life.


I like chorizo and I like FIDLAR. I like country music and I like alcohol too. But after countless recordings of countless drunken ballads—and after Sublime laid the 40oz theme to rest in the 1990s—it’s time for the fuckboy-meisters to refresh their material.

For more comparisons of FIDLAR’s “Too” and other favorite country songs, press play and follow this playlist.

– TB

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