Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas

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Cocteau Twins made some of the most unique music of all time. I could hear a two second clip from any song in their catalog and know instantly who it is. This is the only dream pop band that sounds like it came from actual dreams.  People tend to love everything they’ve done, or nothing at all. I’ve been addicted for years.

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The Weeknd “The Morning”

Here’s that moment, almost 5 years ago, when I realized The Weeknd was my jam.

While Abel Tesfaye is currently riding a wave of stardom with Can’t Feel My Face and spots on the Fifty Shades soundtrack, here’s the original slow jam that seduced the world. It’s called The Morning.

It’s great seeing more of my friends finally recognizing this dude, thanks to his latest single, but I’ve been proselytizing for years now. For all the fine work he’s done since, the original Trilogy of albums from 2011 stands as his obvious masterpiece. I’ve got fond memories of walking down the sidewalk with friends in San Francisco, belting out the verses to this tune. We were ecstatic and laughing at the seemingly sudden and magical way R&B had re-entered our lives as a vital force. It had returned older, wiser, and a lot more psychedelic than we remembered from the 90s.

I’ll just leave you with a link to those evocative lyrics. It’s just not the same to quote them in print; you’ve gotta sing ’em.

Freddie Gibbs – Shadow of a Doubt

I’ve been listening all week and I can tell you that Freddie Gibbs‘ new album is sublime.

Shadow of a Doubt is a beyond-worthy follow up to last year’s best music of 2014 list-making Piñata, where he paired with prolific beat scientist Madlib. While he comes with a bevy of producers this time, the sound is surprisingly cohesive and tightly wrapped. This is one of the best hiphop albums in a year full of strong material.

Since the album is releasing today and I’m working too hard to spend time on a proper review just yet, I’m leaving you with the haunting video for first single Fuckin’ Up The Count. Sporting a thematically spot-on sample from everyone’s favorite drug drama, The Wire, it’s a tense but spacey jam that sets the mood for the rest of the album pretty well.

It also seems to place the album cover into context, shadows obscuring Gibbs’ visage, as a slow motion chain of events spiral ever darker.

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The album is out on itunes and Spotify of course, and you can buy the CD edition from Amazon. Not sure about a vinyl release yet, but I’m hoping for it. The last album had superb packaging. I’d love to have that evocative artwork writ large on a 12″ sleeve in my collection.

If you’re not already listening, stream the whole thing below:

Don Cherry’s Spiritual Jazz Masterpiece: Brown Rice

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Today is Don Cherry‘s birthday. He would have been 79 years old. To celebrate the inimitable jazz explorer’s life, I’m sharing my favorite album of his.

Here’s Brown Rice streaming in full. It’s one of the most warmly engaging releases of the entire free jazz universe and, as such, is a great entry point for those who have yet to experience the furthest reaches of the genre.

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Gorillaz – Empire Ants

The second half of this song was my ringtone for over two years.

That’s pretty much all you need to know about how insanely listenable Empire Ants is.

Gorillaz have been both an open favorite and a hidden pleasure over the years. From their first massive single Clint Eastwood arriving at the tail end of high school, to the height of their acclaim in 2005, appearing on Apple commercials with De La Soul, to their underrated, kaleidoscopic farewell album in 2010, the virtual supergroup occupied a unique space just outside the center of pop culture. They’re one of the few acts to rope in both top 40 lovers and weirdos like myself, projecting crowd pleasing beats with out-there sounds borrowed from dub, hip-hop, techno, and noisy punk. Each of their three major albums struck the zeitgeist in an off-kilter but welcome way.

This song, though. It transcended anything they’d done before, veering off into pure ecstatic revery. I couldn’t handle it. I actually purchased a ringtone – and yes, that was still a thing in 2010. Even weirder is that, despite hearing the intro literally hundreds, if not thousands of times over the couple years I owned that phone, I never got sick of it. I’m smiling right now as I listen again.

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I seem to write a reminder like this every few months. It’s good to remember how Gorillaz crafted some of the only welcoming spots on the pop landscape over a decade that stretched from my alienated teenage days to the end of my twenties. Like the very best pop music, they treated fluffy escapism as a true art form.

Oneohtrix Point Never – Ezra

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This is the final bit of Oneohtrix Point Never news before the new album, Garden Of Delete, drops tomorrow.

OPN, aka Daniel Lopatin, has finally released the first real song, Ezra, as a single on Soundcloud. I really want to share this with everyone because it’s not only a great introduction to the new sound; it’s a layered world of sound unto itself. Enjoy:

Please allow myself to quote… myself here:

“Ezra, the first proper track, leaps from the midi-fired dreams of the previous album, reaching speed behind sheets of Philip Glass-like shrill arpeggios. It appears to crest before the two minute mark, suddenly projecting the nanomachine-clogged cyberpunk future of 2000’s Deus Ex in silhouette. Maybe it’s a sample?”

I think it is a sample. Decide for yourself.

Speaking of this game, the original Deus Ex is both an action-RPG masterpiece, and a definitive work in the cyberpunk canon. It’s the precursor to modern games like Fallout. It’s got a great soundtrack too. Sounds like Lopatin might have played it, too. It’s about $7 on Steam if you’ve never played it.

So I’ve written a lot about Lopatin’s work lately, partly out of excitement for this work, and partly out of a desire to connect with what I see as the most forward-thinking, interesting music being made today. If this is the first piece on the site you’re reading, you might want to see these:

Review of Garden of Delete

First single: “I Bite Through It”

Oneohtrix Point Never “Mutant Standard”

Oneohtrix Point Never’s Mindbending “Sticky Drama” Video

Garden of Delete drops tomorrow! It’s his first full length in 2 years, so be sure to check the album out on Spotify or wherever, if you’ve been a good kid and ignored the leak. I’m just hoping that gorgeous 2LP vinyl arrives on time.

The Best Music From Fallout

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We’re in the final stretch, guys. Fallout 4 will arrive in just three days. The hype train is barreling full steam ahead, and I don’t mind feeling caught up. The last two games in the series are easily the most played in my adult life. Also, have you seen that launch trailer?

The above screenshot is from my last play through of Fallout: New Vegas. My character is a hard-nosed woman named Scotch, who often travels with a flying eyebot and a cowgirl who chugs whiskey. I’ve got 234 hours logged, according to Steam, and I’d be happy to double that if there weren’t so many other great games to play.

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