Max and Ari, the duo behind Oakland Surf Club, have quietly turned OSC into one of the Bay’s most eclectic retail destinations, curating everything from gear and boards, to vinyl and fine art–all while balancing a budding business with a new marriage and a brand new baby girl.
Our good friend and Cre8tive Class founder Daghe offers up a glimpse into his world–from party pics and landscapes, to portraits of the young and doin’ it, Daghe’s 35mm photography acts as an ongoing document of his eclectic, on-the-go lifestyle.
Bucking the conventions of the prototypical sex shop, Feelmore combines expert curation, adventurous sexual politics, and deep engagement with the community. We take time out to kick it with proprietor and adult industry pioneer Nenna Joiner to talk about all that and more.
Rebekkah Castellanos gives us a glimpse of her photographic journey across China. From sprawling urban centers and ancient temples, to gorgeous portraits and double exposures, Rebekkah’s work offers a brief snapshot of a changing country.
It would be hard not to notice just how orange the cover artwork for Channel Orange really is. It’s intensely, artificially orange. It’s practically glowing. Looking at it now, I can’t help but be reminded of the Nickelodeon logo. For better or for worse, images like that one from Viacom’s entertainment empire are inextricably linked to my memories of childhood. It’s a pretty frightening realization, but it’s undeniable. The impression made by television’s constant barrage of vivid colors and exaggerated characters on my nascent imagination is something completely immeasurable, and impossible to overestimate. It strikes me then, in listening to Frank Ocean’s latest, that he’s likely a product of the same set of influences that permeated the formative years of so many other twenty-somethings the way they did mine–Nicktoons, late ’90s MTV, a few dozen early internet fads, VHS tapes, Anime, Super NES, even Adult Swim. The fifteen seconds or so of Street Fighter music that kicks off Channel Orange is enough to trigger just about every nostalgia reflex my brain has at its disposal.
As far as imagination goes, Frank Ocean has a pretty boundless supply, and Channel Orange feels like nothing so much as a playground for those far-flung ideas and influences to run wild–a channel-surfing tour through the three or so pounds of gray matter sitting inside his skull. Sonically, it’s just as adventurous, a smattering of technicolor sounds, loosely revolving around a futuristic funk motif. The stories are bursting with all the rich detail and bizarre variety of a Saturday morning cartoon lineup, and the characters who populate this landscape just as colorful: unsupervised rich kids railing lines and joyriding in daddy’s Jag, the black queen Cleopatra who moonlights as a stripper, a lonely basehead reflecting on better days, a stage-diving Dalai Lama, and even a love interest based on good old Forrest Gump. Don’t get me wrong with the cartoon talk though. This is big kid stuff. Often what’s being filtered through that expansive imagination is raw emotion, the kind that bleeds through anything created in the midst of internal crisis. These are the kind of songs that make private emotions feel like they couldn’t possibly be expressed without reference to surreal, sweeping metaphors and sensational drama. It’s the kind of vivid, poignant storytelling that reaches out to you from somewhere internal and can’t help but pull big, disparate chunks of the universe into its orbit.
There’s something classic, and iconically American about the cover of Twin Shadow’s new record. There stands the project’s mastermind George Lewis Jr., pristine rockabilly pompadour combed beyond perfection, wrapped in a worn leather jacket, the look across his face somewhere between pretty boy smugness and outsider vulnerability. In all its nostalgic simplicity, it almost immediately locates Lewis in a long and romantic mythology of bad boys, stretching back at least as far as James Dean. Lewis’ claim that Confess was inspired by a motorcycle accident, self-admitted fast living and debauchery on the road, even his slick, understated confidence at shows–all the pieces are there. And as personas go, Twin Shadow’s is a well-crafted one. More importantly though, talking about it offers a helpful introduction to a record that lives up to the all the grandeur that posturing conjures up.
Sultry summer days deserve slaps of all shapes and sizes and sounds. And, as you may have noticed, we’ve made a few changes around here lately, so it seemed only appropriate to break in the new site with a collection of things we’ve had on repeat while the weather’s been warming up. Highlights include Hodgy Beats restructuring some vintage D’Angelo, Mario’s “Let Me Love You” getting a groovy overhaul, Poolside coming with a sticky summer jam, and Big Boi and Theophilus keeping it settled, if not subtle. Oh, and that DIIV video is crazy too.
In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Beach House’s Alex Scally said something to the effect that listeners today are more interested in music for its tone and texture than they are in the structure of the songs themselves. It’s an important distinction to consider, considering the fact Beach House’s stylistic evolution has been a gradual one– that they’ve managed to maintain a pretty consistent aesthetic and feel from album to album, even as their songwriting ideas have gotten progressively bigger and more ambitious. Sonically speaking, the differences between these songs and the woozy, dreamy pop of Teen Dream are relatively subtle, so the difference in experience Bloom delivers has everything to do with the way the songs are written, the way they build and the way they breathe.
More than anything, Bloom‘s ten songs feel expansive. The scenes being painted, mostly of hard-to-articulate, somehow universal sentiments, feel like they’ve been captured with an impossibly wide-angle lens, and projected across the night sky. The songs feel distilled, but not stripped down; minimal for the sake of maximizing every element. Chord changes from one part of a song to another feel like tidal waves crashing. Some songs take patience, but the payoff is almost always massively satisfying. It’s easy to see why so many of us, myself included, are guilty of exactly what Scally was criticizing. This is music you can’t help but get lost in.
I can’t help but feel sometimes that there’s something uncomfortably comfortable about the music most folks our age listen to. That even as people purport to be expanding their horizons, it usually leads them back to music that’s not too far out of their comfort zone. I suppose it’s understandable. Whatever my gripes about that might be though, it’s not as if there isn’t plenty of room to do weird, off-the-wall shit in the modern music climate. In a lot of ways, the internet age is making the shit that used to be marginal much more viable. Bringing something distinctive or abrasive to the table can put you on a lot of folks’ radars in a short period of time.
Case in point, Sacramento-based whatever-the-fuck you want to call it auteurs Death Grips, the three-man wrecking crew responsible for last year’s bracing Exmilitary, a handful of punky, tripped out videos intentionally lacking in big budget polish, and most recently, the dizzying, explosive mass of frantic energy that is The Money Store. What’s exciting about Death Grips has plenty to with them being loud, angular and hard to process. But beyond that edge, what makes them stand out is the feeling that their particular brand of strangeness actually looks like something that could gain traction on a pretty wide scale.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say it was Kush & Orange Juice that really gave Wiz my full attention. Now, two years on the heels of Kush & OJ‘s smooth, spacey soul textures, it’s safe to say Wiz’s position in the game is a bit different. But while “Black & Yellow” was topping charts and taking over frat parties nationwide, some of us couldn’t help but notice a decline in the particular brand of lush, silky slaps that characterized his (and Curren$y’s for that matter) trademark projects over the past few years, and an increase in understandably chart-tempting fare. Taylor Allderdice, then, the latest tape from Wiz, feels like a return to form for a cult hero turned pop star.
So I know it’s not really in any music journalist’s best interest to gush about another music journalist’s reviews, but Scott over at No Genre did a hell of a job summing up what’s so cool about Grimes excellent new album, Visions. You should probably just read it yourself, but to paraphrase, the review made the case that Visions manages to be transcendent because it’s an album that can be everything to everybody. It’s full of big, satisfying melodies and hooky, bite size pop songs. It’s completely, compulsively listenable in the way you wish Top 40 was.
And yet, those same songs are an exercise in building rich sonic textures, and their sheer pop appeal obscures just how deeply evocative and thoughtfully constructed each song is. An arsenal of analog synths and layers of ethereal melody make Visions a record that keeps unfolding itself with every listen. It feels fresh and revelatory even as it evokes ’80s nostalgia. It’s haunting and eerie even when it feels girly and fluffy, and there’s even a semi-based rap verse to close things out. Suffice to say that Grimes, the alias of Montreal-based singer and songwriter Claire Boucher, is a project that hits home on a lot of levels.
For the sake of discussion, Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80 happens to make for a solid point of comparison to Schoolboy Q’s Habits and Contradictions. Aside from the obvious–the two are frequent collaborators and members of Kendrick’s Black Hippy crew– Habits bears plenty of similarities to 80. For starters, they each have a phenomenal ear for beats, both nostalgic and forward-thinking. Both artists too, are keen observers of the world around them. Both thrive off inner conflict, and turn those conflicted moments into meditations that feel both tangibly personal, and also somehow representative on a generational level.
But where Kendrick’s social conscience tends to kick into overdrive, Q is prone to let the darker aspects of his personality predominate. The tone of Habits is dark and brooding, and the production elegantly gritty and engrossing. The subject matter too, matches the convincingly sinister tone it’s delivered in. To say that Habits then, feels something like Section.80‘s darker cousin, is really to say, more accurately, that Q succeeds here in carving out his own, very distinct creative space.
On the surface, it seems like it would be easy for us to find some complaint about the decade-long musical project that is The Black Keys — that say, their garage-rock ethos would have lost its charm by now, that their bluesy traditionalism might be subject to claims of bearded white guy cultural appropriation, or that their revivalist tendencies might just cross the line into kitsch or camp. And it’s not to say that they haven’t occasionally crossed those lines before. But El Camino effectively obliterates them. It rocks them into the ground and refuses to hold back on satisfaction. If it’s not their most dignified album, it’s just too much fun for any of that to matter.