1. Brian Eno | The Big Ship
Brian Eno came a little later in Life for me, and my relationship to his Music began in a much different fashion than the Music which had captivated me up to that point. Until I got to College and got a High Speed Internet Connection I was into two kinds of Music, as a result of my geography, and my interest in Skateboarding: Rap, and Punk. I had a strong connection to Music, but that connection was born out of a connection to something else, in other words I came upon all of this Music not because I sought out Music, but because I was somebody living certain circumstances in a certain place at a certain time. Rap and Punk were Defacto Musics. But once I got to college and started exploring and collecting Music Online, in Record stores, at flea markets, yard sales, garage sales, and Live shows, my relationship to Music changed drastically. Just as I had grown up in the Everglades and seen Biology and Botany as relevant sources of Information to study in order to improve my understanding of my surroundings which would in turn lead me to live a more fulfilling Life, so too did Music become a relevant source of Information to study in order to better my Life. I began to look at Music in a somewhat Mystic fashion. Any trip out of town always involved a stop at the local Music stores and thrift shops; I’d spend all of my disposable income on hundreds of records every month; me and my homie Ben Thacker would plan day long outings mapping out a string of known or potential record locations, and we’d go out in a cloud of weed smoke searching for flat black plastic discs that would change our lives and eating Publix subs. At this point I was entirely overwhelmed by the idea that Art is about meaningful discovery as a world teeming with amazing Music I’d never heard slowly enveloped me. I had discovered Brian Eno after seeing Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy in the used bin at Park Ave Records on 2 consecutive trips. Park Ave was cool because you could listen to any used CD. I couldn’t get this Brian Eno guy’s Music out of my head so I resolved to go back a day or so after having seen the CD for the second time. To my benefit it was still there and I made one of the most important Music purchases of my Life. Brian Eno’s Music is the epitome of using the Studio as an instrument itself and has, from my very beginnings in Recorded Music, been a sizable influence. But I wouldn’t discover The Big Ship until a year or two later. My parents regularly attended an annual Antique sale at a flea market in a central Florida town called Mount Dora. When I went away to college at UCF I wound up being only about an hour away from Mount Dora, and I went to meet my folks there one year. While they were perusing the antiques I made my way to the flea market’s regular vendors. I walked down row after dimly lit row of random Central Florida refuse collections (many of which contained items I coveted) but didn’t find any fruitful record scores. And then I found this dude Willy. Willy had a booth full of records that I was happy to pour over as he rambled on and on about Music I should check out. On that first visit he sold me a number of Eno, and Eno-affiliated records which have been immeasurably influential on both my Taste and my Art. One of those records was Another Green World. Another Green World contains some amazing Brian Eno songs, but the one that has always accompanied my life without fail is The Big Ship. Over time this has become a song that I listen to when I’m ecstatic, when I’m depressed, when things are Tragic, when things are Brilliant, when I wanna appreciate a Sunset, when I wanna forget a Heartbreak, if I’m gonna go out for a night of partying—whatever it is that I’m experiencing in the Earthly realm The Big Ship is always the perfect setting for those sentiments.
2. OutKast | Da Art Of Storytellin' Part 1 (feat. Slick Rick)
Man, this song is just Deep in the fibers of my being when it comes to who I am as a Southerner, and the fact that I’m a Rapper. I can’t realy talk about my relationship to Rap Music like a lot of other people can because for me there was never a source for it, other than Skateboard videos. Other than that it was just an album here and there that a friend would recommend. I was really pretty oblivious to MTV, and Power 96, and 99 Jamz growing up. So, when I found out about Music it wasn’t because I was tapped into this source for finding about Music. It was moreson because something just happened to come along and I liked it. OutKast was an exception to this. Now, I didn’t really know about Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, but I definitely knew about ATLiens because my homie John Craven, who I skated with (even though he was a Rollerblader and I was a Skateboarder), bumped it heavily. I also had this kinda G’d out homie in Biology class who would hip me to stuff. I think he thought I was funny, but for whatever reason he saw something relatable in me, and we used to chop it up and he would bless me with the knowledge about all kinds of stuff from Nikes to Music, to girls, or whatever he was speakin at the moment. Anyways, he was showin me ATLiens and talking about how dope the cover art was and I totally agreed. ATLiens and OutKast quickly became an album that I would listen to endlessly, and I would memorize the lyrics—although not without a noted difficulty—and recite them. There was something uniquely challenging about doing this with an OutKast record, at least to me at the time there was. The way they rapped was very different from Nas or Wu Tang whose lyrics I had memorized previously. The way that Andre and Big Boi moved around the beat and varied their pace was confounding. But it was also enrapturing. Over time, and really without me being conscious of it, ATLiens and Aquemini became the biggest singular influences on my style. Likewise, over time my understanding of this record and relationship to it has grown and changed in ways that exceed what can be expected of Sounds. I wasn’t aware of Texas Rap back then, or much other Southern Rap at all, and to me OutKast was something I connected with in ways that I never had with other Rap. Over time Art Of Storytellin' has become the one track that always immediately puts me in touch with the Essence of my Connection to Outkast. The beat is essentially the Apex of what I want from beats. It’s a strong Drum loop with an engaging melody, but a rather Formless Melodic and Harmonic shape, it’s based on the Creation of a Space as much as it is the Creation of Sounds. And the material of the song describes two opposite states, both of which I can relate to. It’s really Brilliant American Art.
3. Can | Future Days
Can made a lot of good Music, but none as good as the Damo Trilogy of Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, and Future Days. The combination of the restrictions of 2 Track Recording, Jaki’s incredible Left Foot Hi-Hat Drumming, Holger’s cut and splice Arrangement Process, and the entire chemistry of the band was—to me—the Apex of Rock And Roll. And of the Trilogy Future Days was—to me—the crown jewel. The sense of Space and Energized Calm achieved on the record is simply outstanding. The compositions are the result of Endless Hours of Recorded Improvisation being spliced into Formalized Arrangements. The Musicianship is absolute top notch. It is a release with significance that figures not only on the part of the Music, but also in the ways that Technology was being utilized. The ideas that Czukay was exploring are the very Foundation of Hip Hop, and are likewise a rich element of the Euro-American Avant Garde tradition. When I listen to this song I don’t just hear great Music, I can hear the Amazing Possibilities of Sound and the Ingenuity of a Group of People Who Could Hear Well-Beyond Their Time.
4. Leonard Cohen | One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong
As far as I am concerned, Leonard Cohen is the greatest Lyricist I have ever had the fortune to hear. I don’t mean that to say that he is better than your favorite. I simply mean that I have taken great care to investigate, digest, and absorb the Lyricism of very many people, and without a doubt Leonard Cohen’s work is a Singular Experience. His comprehension of himself, and his life around him is simply staggering. There is a great deal of Wisdom folded into his words, and if you really listen to him you’re likely to get some great advice about Living. I’ve always held that as a valuable facet of Music. I think this song is perhaps the most potent example of my listening habits informing my Life. My relationship with this song probably dates back to about 2003. My father introduced me to Leonard Cohen via his album Songs Of Leonard Cohen. While I enjoy a lot of his Music deeply, this is the album that I spend the most time with. Later on one of my professors told me that he was from the same town as Cohen, and he knew his family. Apparently Cohen’s dad owned a Box factory, and the family was pretty Religious. When Leonard went off and started singing about Jesus and whatnot, his family disowned him. I don’t know if that story is true or not, but it always lent to my perception of his Music. Young Hebrew artist struggling with ideas of Identity, and generational disconnects? I can definitely relate, but One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong has an even deeper significance. My Social Life has always been a little Awkward. I really don’t get how to fit in, so I usually do my best to play my approximation of fitting in while hoping that I don’t do anything totally inappropriate. Thusly, I was a little late to the whole Dating and Sex and Relationships with Women part of Life. But when I finally did start getting into intimate relationships with women that were based around Sex, and a shared exploration of Self, it wasn’t easy. I mean I know it’s not easy for any of us, but I really struggled with understanding how to navigate these very confined, and carefully monitored Social relationships. I have a big heart, and my emotions can be more than I can handle at times, and I quickly learned that being Totally Honest in relationships isn’t ok. But listening to One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong not only provided Solace, it provided insight as to how to move Forward. The song is about a woman who Leonard loves, or loved. A lot of his songs are about women whom he loves or loved. This woman is also coveted by many other men, and the song is about the experiences of all these different men who seek to find Love with Leonard’s Love interest. It’s a twisted tale about the many ways we can break our own hearts when we’re in the presence of someone who makes us vulnerable. It’s not Pure, and the tales are not the kind of behavior you’d expect to be condoned. But, all of them are so True, and so Real. Leonard doesn’t Abstract Love into a Saccharine Paste to spread uniformly over Life’s experiences because he isn’t trying to escape the horror, he’s trying to embrace it. Life is not perfectly rendered, and pretty as many Love songs lead us to believe. Life is messy, and it’s heavy, and it can be incredibly shameful when it becomes about survival. But Leonard gets that, and he gets how to be OK with that. I think this song really conveys that. But the one thing that has stuck with me most about this song, is this line: …and he taught that the duty of lovers is to tarnish the golden rule. Over the last ten years that statement has transformed and taken on more and more Acute and Personal significance. I challenge you to spend some time with that statement and see what it offers you. But I’ll tell you that, in my experience, it has come to mean that when you truly Love someone, you’re willing to abide whatever they might do. When you really Love someone, you’re willing to let them hurt you in ways that you’d never let anyone else hurt you. It’s not the prettiest side of Love, but it’s too Real to Deny, and the way Cohen puts it is so beautiful that it makes it OK.
5. Neutral Milk Hotel | The King Of Carrot Flowers, Pts. Two & Three
I am Jewish. I do not believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of Humanity. But I fucking Love singing this song at the top of my lungs. This is one of the records I got after I arrived at College in Orlando and started frequenting Park Ave CDs. It came on the recommendation of a friend, and to be honest, it’s a good record, but I don’t listen to it anymore. But if I had a car right now, I’d have this song blasting out of my speakers at least a few times a month. It’s simply a ritual. You put the windows down, turn the shit all the way up, and harmonize with dude singing I love you, Jesus Christ. It feels amazing.
6. Wale | Ambition (feat. Meek Mill & Rick Ross)
I’m constantly at odds with my relationship to Mainstream Hip Hop. I vacillate between really connecting to stuff on the Radio, to getting it but not feeling it, to outright despising it. Most of the Music coming out on MMG falls into the second category of getting it, but not feeling it. These guys are making Compelling Music, but I can’t help but feel that it’s mostly lies. I still fuck with their stuff, but I don’t usually connect to it, and I rarely feel like I’m listening to the work of humans I can relate to. BUT, this song is Different. I can’t really say why beyond the fact that the subject matter hits close to home. Hustling is something that a lot of people claim to do, but piecing together a gainful means by which to survive without having a career is something that very few people do. I think if you have ever hustled to live then this is a song you can relate to. And for MMG it’s an apt topic because their patent lack of the Realistic gradations of Human Character fit the topic perfectly. Hustling is a cold thing, and surviving—even prospering—in spite of your surroundings can strip away many of those Realistic gradations that make us Human. I think this song encapsulates a pretty good deal of what it means to be living by standards outside of the Norm, in order to obtain a very normatized notion of Success.
7. McDonald And Giles | Birdman: Birdman Flies!
This is one hell of a song on one hell of a record. And I think that was probably always the case, and probably always will be the case. And there is a lot to be said for Music that remains poignant in spite of the changes that take place around it. Whatever these guys were able to tap into in these sessions is an essential part of the Contemporary Notion of Music. The arrangement is very ahead of its time, and while it may not seem like that you need only check out what was going on in Rock Music in 1971, and you’ll find that very few bands were using the kind of Cell-based, Elementally-arranged, composition found here that essentially amounts to what would become the norm with Hip Hop and Electronic Music. A very slow and methodic build coaxes a space to take place around you. Then the groove sets in and the vibe builds intensity until it reaches a peak and releases. A lot of Music is like that, but there is little Music that is this confident while being so cool, and there is little Music that is this concise while being so lax. The performances captured here are truly magical, and playing this song is a Transformative experience. And Michael Giles is on the drums, and the drums happen to be mixed very clearly. I think it’s because Giles usually had the beater of the kick drum micced, which lends a very clear attack. Ultimately this shit goes though, and if you can’t catch a tough ass vibe off this then clear your mind and spend more time with it.
8. Himself The Majestic | Covina
Himself is one of the most amazing rappers doing it right now. And this song encapsulates a lot of why that’s true. This song also presents a grotesquely accurate portrait of Young Life in Suburban communities across the nation. We get to hear an amazingly talented lyricist with a highly refined craft present his take on what it means to be a youth in the suburbs. And this tale is, of course, synonymous with being a youth trapped in the suburbs, because as a youth in the suburbs there is no way to not be trapped by the suburbs. Even if you live close to some metropolis and escape via public transit, you’re still escaping. You still have to come back. You’re still trapped. And Himself tells a sordid tale of the many ways that being trapped can happen, and further the many ways that being trapped can look and feel. But what isn’t spoken about on the track is the way that a release like Rapping can also be a very real way out, and Himself paints that picture very vividly. He is a young American man making something out of himself in the ways that he can manage, and even though he may not have been in an environment with a lot of opportunities, and even though his surroundings were bleak, he’s able to tell the story about Covina. You don’t tell the story unless you make it out, and you don’t make it out without a way out. For Himself the way out was Rapping.
9. NOFX | Don’t Call Me White
NOFX is a major influence on my Musical Aesthetic. As an Artist I feel like I can pass for a Logical Continuation of their sound, but as a Listener they’ve defined a lot about what I expect from Music. Their songs are always supremely engaging, often the type of things you sing along to. They also have an unswaying Integrity. And this song in particular resonates with me in ways that no other piece of Art ever has. Being Jewish isn’t the same thing as being White. A lot of us have pretty white skin, but if you look at History, then the people identified as white have an extensive history of killing and persecuting Jewish people. I don’t consider myself White, and this song was the first time that I heard it articulated so clearly. I think I was in 7th grade, either that or 8th grade. The song tells it in pretty plain terms.
10. Curtis Mayfield | People Get Ready (Live At The Bitter End)
I’m not sure why, but this song has been ringing in my head for the last few months and I only managed to place it a few weeks ago. I mean I know very clearly how it relates to my life right now, but I’m not sure why this song in particular has come up of late in my subconscious. I had this record in one of many Vinyl collections that I would build and part with over the years. I’m pretty sure I had it in New York around 2008, but it may have been in Orlando the previous year. Either way I had a Fondness for the album and would play it fairly regularly, but I hadn’t really considered whether I’d ever internalized any of that Music. Apparently I did, and did so in ways that I wasn’t even aware of. The song is pretty awesome. It’s very chill, you can hear the audience, and the performance reflects a kind of Intimacy. All the instruments are mixed well and while the recording still feels Voyeuristic, it is amazingly Inviting. And if you can manage your way to work your way into this song it really feels like a Personal concert, and carries the weight of being beholden to someone’s incredible strengths in the most finessed manner. It is pure Seduction that leads to Spiritual Resolution, if you’re willing to follow where it takes you.