Funk Is Important

I’m always hearing music from outside my window. I live near a lot of bars, and my downtown has become a sort of motorcycle Mecca in the summertime, so I often hear classic rock or country blasting into my open windows before an open-throttle roar into the dark. It’s usually crap that I tune out, but just now I heard this song.

It’s Let It Whip, by Dazz Band, and it’s one of those songs you know even if you don’t realize it. Even better, it made me think about how fantastic it is that funk is making an oblique comeback in the cultural consciousness.

I heard the bass line echoing through the full row of windows I’ve got cracked open on this balmy 70 degree night in late September, and sprung to attention. It’s one of my favorite funk tunes but I couldn’t place the name. Where did I first hear it? Probably a Grand Theft Auto game, I think. Since you’ve seen the video above, you know the answer is yes.


I’m feeling so thankful for Dam-Funk and his ambassadorship of the entire funk genre. If it weren’t for him, I don’t know if I would have ever taken a leap back into the sounds of Zapp, Cameo, and Funkadelic. The weirdest thing is, once I cracked open these sounds I realized that funk had been with me all along. I’d been living and breathing the familiar beats my entire life, influenced by movies and the radio I’d mainlined as a child, without ever explicitly focusing on the genre as something I’m passionate about.

There’s something inherently cheesy about a lot of funk, and that’s something that a lot of people have to get over before they can engage it head on. Funk is an incredibly earnest genre, and in our current culture that’s kind of an embarrassing, abrasive feeling to convey. It’s the opposite of comfortable detachment, in a lot of ways, and that just feels weird when you’re not used to it. But once you let it in and enjoy it on its own aesthetic and emotional terms, this is music to keep warm to.

Right now, I couldn’t be more glad that I’m a believer in funk. 2015 has been a banner year for the genre, infusing one of the biggest albums of the year from end-to -end with a hard-fought riot-funk edge and being shot into the sky in neon fireworks proclaiming its vitality. The latter was Dam-Funk’s very own Invite The Light, a triple LP that continues to be my most-listened album in months, and the former was the absolutely monumental To Pimp A Butterfly, from Kendrick Lamar. As an independent entity, it might be more of an endangered species among current music genres, but the essence of funk has once again blown fresh life into hip-hop and jazz alike.

EDIT: I seriously hope you clicked that Cameo link above, because the video for Candy is some seriously bonkers hypnagogic dreamstuff. Just watch it, I’m making it super easy:

WOW, right? I thought so.

Indian Summer

It’s almost October and I’ve been biking to work every day in a tee shirt. It’s been glorious. I’m luxuriating in the best Indian summer in memory here on the coast of Lake Michigan and I’m taking the opportunity to share the best song named after this rare phenomenon.

I present to you Indian Summer, by Spectrum (aka Pete Kember, formerly Sonic Boom and half of Spacemen 3):

Despite Kember’s affectless delivery and detached atmosphere, this Beat Happening cover is incredibly warm, an enveloping bear hug that’s equal parts comforting and unsettling. He might be known for a deadpan take on psych drone, but his organ swells and horn blasts feel like the sun on your closed eyelids compared to the original recording’s caveman minimalism. While the sonics reach a nearly anthemic pitch, the lyrics rip the air from our sails.

We’ll come back for Indian Summer
We’ll come back for Indian Summer
We’ll come back for Indian Summer
And go our separate ways

Seriously this song. I always feel like I’m beaming until the last few lyrics cut through. It’s a good, well-earned deflation though. It feels good in its cool letdown. The kind of sadness I can get behind on any sunny, oddly warm day.



I think I should post a lot more about the 80s and 90s rock that I’ve loved for years. While you’re here, why not check out the original too? Which do you prefer?


I love a good cinemagraph.


This here is from Nostalgia, a 1983 film by Andrei Tarkovsky. I’ve never seen it, but I’m about to correct that oversight. If you’re not familiar with Tarkovsky, raise your eyes to the header image of this very blog. That’s a shot from my favorite film of his (so far), a hallucinatory, existential adventure called Stalker.

If you’ve got any favorite cinemagraphs, please leave them in the comments! I relish finding new ones. This particular example is from Tech Noir. Check that site for some more gorgeous film loops.

NWA – Express Yourself

There are some tracks that get me hyped as hell, ready to go, no matter what. N.W.A. made one of them.

The year was 1989 and it was the final single for Straight Outta Compton. In a new twist from the group that dropped Fuck The Police, it’s a mainly upbeat tune centered on a classic soul rock sample, featuring virtually no profanity.

Not only is the song all about positivity, being real, and doing what you love, it’s got one of the most famously (and hilariously) disingenuous lines that I’ve ever heard. Witness Dr. Dre rapping:

I still express yo I don’t smoke weed or sess
cuz it’s known to give a brother brain damage

This is the guy whose debut album was titled The Chronic. His next album had a flat black cover with only a pot leaf on it. At the time it probably sounded like a respectability ploy, but almost 30 years later, it just feels like a good joke. I used to cruise around getting high with friends after school, and we’d all shout along to the lyric while blasting the album as loud as we could. Now that I’m old, I just do the shouting at home, thank you.


Also I found this great picture of the group from 1989, an outtake from an LA Times feature written at the height of their popularity. It’s crazy to think that Easy E, the charismatic man out front, would be dead a few years later. Even crazier to think that Ice Cube would be playing the put-upon father in a family film a decade after that. Even crazier still to think that Dr. Dre, the shy face in the back center of the photo and lone rapper on this track, would be a billionaire another 10 years down the line.

This just reminded me that I totally missed out on seeing Straight Outta Compton in theaters this summer. Did you see it? I’ve heard good things, and I’ve got high hopes, bolstered by this tune right now!

Soundcloud Is Dead


So here we are, the moment I feared might arrive: Soundcloud has unceremoniously deleted one of my mixtapes under the grounds that it contains copyrighted content.

Of course it does; it’s a mixtape. We create mixes under the assumption that, since they’re noncommercial and constitute a radical reframing of the original work, they’re perfectly legal to share for free. This is not the case. At least, not if you’re an individual facing the wrath of a company like Sony or Universal. This is a guilty until proven innocent situation, and most people don’t have the time or money to prove that a free mixtape falls under fair use.

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The Boo Radleys – Wish I Was Skinny

I forgot how much I loved this song.

Despite the title, the lyrics are actually about all sorts of insecurities that we find ourselves plagued with. The song happily dances upon the surface of existential loathing, a buoyant celebration of being weird and alone and, on rare occasion, freaking out and having some unbridled fun.

I’d never seen the video before today, so I’m thankful I thought to look it up. The band members star as put-upon losers who let loose a bit of anarchy in the driving, instrumental second half of the tune. It’s basically what I saw in my head every time the song played, a cathartic release of tension and inhibitions. After all these years, it’s still a burst of joy.


The Boo Radleys may be remembered in Britpop history for their 1995 breakthrough Wake Up!, but I’ve always had a much softer spot for the previous album, Giant Steps. Wish I Was Skinny is a bit of a red herring, since the rest of the album is a turbulent, dizzying race through a dense series of wild sound worlds.

It’s an incredibly ambitious psychedelic pop album, veering from washed out shoegaze to broken jazz explosions, infused with an uncanny pop sensibility that makes even the noisiest parts endearing. It was ballsy to name an album after the John Coltrane masterpiece, but if anyone in the world of 90s British rock deserved to use it, it was this band.

If you become nauseous at the mere mention of Oasis, don’t worry. These guys have more in common with Mercury Rev or My Bloody Valentine than those lamentable torch-bearers for British pop overseas.

Beach House – Space Song

While writing about the incredible new Beach House album, Depression Cherry, I promised to share my favorite track. Now that the album is out, it’s right here streaming for your pleasure.

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