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SO OBSESSED

Some vibrant nostalgia from the mind of Michelle Guintu. East Bay raised but SF residing, Michelle has developed her aesthetic simply by painting the things she likes. From 90′s R&B superstars, like Missy and Aaliyah, to Joe Montana paintings and McDonald’s installations.

THAT B.E.A.T.

A short documentary film offers a look into New Orleans' ever-thriving Bounce music scene

THAT B.E.A.T.

When I first moved to New Orleans, I hoped to find the Bounce scene as pervasive and accessible as the brass bands that parade through the neighborhoods and play on corners throughout the city. What I found instead was a bunch of transplants like myself looking for some ass-shaking. However, thanks to everyone’s favorite cultural imperialist Diplo, and other national outlets that have given Bounce some attention, this organic New Orleans subgenre is slowly moving from complete obscurity into the periphery of popular awareness outside of the South.

The video above provides a brief overview of the scene, including interviews and performance footage from some of New Orleans’ most respected artists. The simple formula for Bounce tracks is unpacked for us: call-and-response type chants with explicit lyrics rapped over fast-paced percussion that samples sounds from “Drag Rap” by The Showboys and “Brown Beat” by Cameron Paul among other tracks. The video also highlights Sissy Bounce, an offshoot that features gay MC’s (most notably Big Freedia, Katey Red, and Sissy Nobby) who have played fundamental roles in the development and growing popularity of Bounce. Obviously, it would be difficult to explain an entire musical subculture in a nine-minute film, but more than anything, the clips above provide a visceral, twerk-heavy sensory experience. As is always the case in New Orleans, it’s impossible to know where the music stops and day-to-day life begins.

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WILL TECHNOLOGY MAKE US OBSOLETE?

Ray Kurzweil, Singularity and technology's rapid ascension toward artificial intelligence

WILL TECHNOLOGY MAKE US OBSOLETE?

Ray Kurzweil

As one of the most prolific inventors of the 20th century, Ray Kurzweil has made a career out of creating the future. As an author, inventor and futurist, much of Kurzweil’s most recent work has focused on the concept of Singularity, known as the point in time when information technology exceeds the powers of the human brain. In other words, Kurzweil believes that in the not-so-distant future, machines will surpass the mental capacity of humans–according to Kurzweil, by the year 2030.

Founded upon the Law of Accelerated Returns, many of Kurzweil’s predictions revolve around the idea that technological advancement has been increasing exponentially since the beginning of humasn existence. Under this theory, Kurzweil posits that we are nearing a point in which the continual doubling of technological advancement will reach a zenith, effectively negating the linear progression of evolution and catapulting us to a new frontier of artificial intelligence. It’s the improvements in technology coupled with the decreasing costs of managing and storing information technology that lie at the foundation of this impending shift. Yet for many, one need not look any further than the evolution of the iPod, to see this phenomenon in action.

Introduced to the public in 2001, the first generation iPod cost $399 and was marketed with the slogan, “1,000 songs in your pocket,” a rough estimate based on the 5 gigabytes of storage available on the device. Today, the latest version of the iPod sells for $249 and holds 160 gigabytes of storage. This paradoxical trend in iPod capacity and pricing is just one example of what Kurzweil refers to when speaking about the exponential growth of information technology known as Singularity.

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JULIA LEWIS – “ASYMMETRY”

Meet Julia, and the Berkeley-bred producer that brought her to life

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Julia Lewis

It’s funny what happens when your debut project drops. For most of the folks who end up hearing your name for the first time, the music comes as a complete surprise, as if it had just materialized out of nothing. The perception, from the outside, is that you’ve miraculously come out of the gate with a fully-formed, articulate style and voice already in tact. But for the select handful of people that get to watch the progression, from putting together a few beats at the crib as a hobby, to the heavy-immersion passion project that spawned Asymmetry, it’s been seriously exciting to watch.

The five tracks that comprise Ben Falik’s first EP as Julia Lewis are intricate and as involved as anything he’s created so far, a dense and varied patchwork of samples and synth not unlike something you might find on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder imprint. Crisp slap with a touch of trap, woozy atmosphere, heavy wobble-bass, tricky programming–the effect, particularly on the EP’s title track, is pretty damn engrossing. “Asymmetry” is all about attack and release, building from a smooth, far-away female vocal into a heavy crescendo, just before dropping you right back where you started. All the more impressive, is that a song like this one, or say, “Tell Me Everything You Are”, can threaten that adrenaline-rush, dubstep-drop power, and yet still feel subtle and reflective. Asymmetry, like most of the best electronic music in recent memory, pulls from a diverse enough palette of sounds that it defies categorization. In other words, it sounds like Julia Lewis, rather than anybody else. So whether or not this is your first introduction, it’s definitely a distinctive one.


Download: Julia Lewis – “Asymmetry”

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FOLLOW THE FUCKING RULES

A few illustrated instructions for mutually enjoyable copulation

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I love sex for a plethora of reasons. The best one, I feel, is that sex is, simultaneously, the most natural and the most taboo practice we engage in. That being said, there are some things that just don’t fly.

If you’re reading this and have slept with me in the past, I may or may not have gleaned one of these DO NOTS from your bag of tricks. If you’re reading this and we haven’t slept together yet, please print it out and keep it in your pocket when you come over.

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ROSES

Next stop Los Angeles...

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TORO Y MOI’S ANYTHING IN RETURN

Chaz draws on a boundless, eclectic palette of pop instincts to craft his most accessible record to date

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Toro Y Moi

“I’ve always taken the word “pop” as its literal translation–it’s accessible, and that’s why it’s popular.” So said Chaz Bundick when asked about his latest record, Anything in Return, which he’d described recently as an album of “sincere”, honest-to-god pop music. The whole conversation sort of struck me as odd though. To my mind, nobody has put out better pop music more often over the course of the last four years or so. On the accessibility front, I’ve always felt like certain standout songs from each of his projects–“Talamak” or “New Beat”, or even obscurities like “Leave Everywhere” or “I Can Get Love”–were so damn perfect in their execution that the notion that someone wouldn’t find them irresistible seemed kind of outrageous. If I was a little more naive about industry politics, I’d probably bitch even more about why there just doesn’t seem to be a plausible niche carved out for his music on a bigger stage. And believe me, I already do.

In any case, Anything In Return is, as promised, an impeccably crafted collection of engrossing pop music. Chaz’s desire to make a pop record, he’s earnestly admitted, was at least partially because he wanted to make music his girlfriend would dig, and maybe even dance along to like she did to Beyonce, Bieber and The Dream. And, without a trace of sarcasm, I can say that it shows. The songs here are crisp and elastic, wide in their appeal and completely beautiful. Currents from each of the stylistic experiments he’s conducted so far run through the heart of these songs, but in most cases, he’s neatly synthesized the most essential elements from each, and folded them all neatly into rich, immersive packages. There’s a certain clarity too, in Chaz’s voice, both as a singer and songwriter, that, in contrast to plenty of his past work, puts Chaz squarely in the foreground. Anything in Return succeeds as a “sincere pop record”, and not just because so many of these songs are among his most immediately gratifying. They also constitute his most ostensibly personal, most relatable work to date.


Download: Toro Y Moi – “Rose Quartz”

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“CAN I BUM A CIG?”

A short cultural history of tobacco advertising in America

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Irving Penn
from Irving Penn’s “Cigarettes”

It’s hard to deny the allure of cigarettes. A looming presence in the cultural history of America and beyond, the cigarette has now become perhaps the single most indelible symbol of the intangible essence of cool. Whether dangling from the lips of James Dean, or as an accessory to the sumptuous aesthetic of high fashion, the cigarette has played a pivotal role over the last few centuries in constructing an aura of leisurely pleasure.

Today, the marketing landscape for cigarettes has changed dramatically, although many still condemn cigarette companies for their subversive advertising tactics. First introduced to the American public through an advertisement in a local New York newspaper in 1789, it was in fact the Lorillard Tobacco Company that first familiarized America with the seductive pull of tobacco-related advertising.

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FIDLAR – “CHEAP BEER”

Dudes in their early 20s, shockingly, make loud music about beer, girls, cocaine and skateboarding

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FIDLAR

“Fuck it dog, life’s a risk.” Indeed, FIDLAR, indeed. “Cocaine”, “Cheap Beer”, “Wake Bake Skate”, “Stoked and Broke”–a cursory glance at the song titles that populate FIDLAR’s self-titled, full-length debut reveal a handful of the essential features of their identity as a band. They are young. They are from Southern California. They enjoy getting fucked up in a plethora of different ways. They enjoy the occasional skate. A cursory listen to just about any of the excellent songs featured therein tell you just about everything else, most of which you might have guessed already. They are loud. Very loud. They are bored and reasonably nihilistic. And naturally, they’re a hell of a lot fun. At this point, a more extensive background check or an enumeration of their (actually well-selected) influences and references seems kind of beside the point.

“Cheap Beer” has been floating around the internet for months now, and FIDLAR is full of great songs, a handful of which aren’t half as full of piss and vinegar and excessive yelling. Several are singalong melodic, and most of them have lines as straightforwardly unredeeming as “I feel like a crackhead” or “All my friends are pieces of shit”. Some are probably even better songs in one way or another. But nothing hits quite as convincingly as the rapid-fire delivery of this presumably PBR-inspired anthem. “I. Drink. Cheap. Beer. So. What. Fuck. You.” A hook like that just kind of wrecks everything in its path. It’s the kind of declaration that might make you look stupid for even taking the time to point out the fact that it’s stupid. And if nothing else, it’s a reminder that a little good old-fashioned hedonism goes a long way.


Download: FIDLAR – “Cheap Beer”

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MODEL CITIZEN

Eromomen Esoimeme is poised to take on the world of modeling, and whatever else lies ahead

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So Cozy
Photography By Sequoia Ziff

What makes an icon, exactly? Sometimes it takes a lifetime to build the reputation, and other times, a simple discovery can lead to something grand and unexpected. In the case of Eromomen Esoimeme, it was the spontaneous decision to shave her head that charted her current course. A few short years into her career, and that path has already taken Eromomen above and beyond her expectations, as her distinctive look has landed her on runways on both coasts and beyond. Modeling for designers like Ashley Paige, Michael Costello and Mila Hermanovski the Oakland-bred model is well on her way, rubbing elbows with some of the industry’s finest and picking up wisdom along the way.

For our interview, we enlisted the services of fellow contributor Ivie Arasomwan, who sat down to pick Eromomen’s brain about her journey thus far, and the inspiration behind her craft. Aside from all that insight though, Eromomen also happens to be a natural in front of the camera. So it seemed only necessary to bring our good friend and art show alum Sequoia Ziff on board, to snap a collection of shots showcasing Eromomen in her element. The aesthetic of the collection is as effortless as it is stunning, Sequoia’s vision offering a gorgeous visual compliment to her subject’s versatility, capturing Eromomen taking on a variety of looks in epic fashion. Read on for a glimpse into the world, creative and otherwise, of Eromomen Esoimeme.

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SHY GIRLS – “UNDER ATTACK”

Sexy, sultry R&B, all the way from Portland

SHY GIRLS – “UNDER ATTACK”

Shy Girls

For lack of a better word, there’s just something so damn pure about this song. No arty lo-fi haze or blurry noise. No super-coy, undecipherable lyrics. “I’m in the zone, can you feel it?” “Under Attack” is a straight up, pretty ass R&B jam. And that’s not to say it’s not adventurous either–in fact, it’s bursting at the seams with big musical ideas and theatrical flare. The the subtle, bubbly build has shades of UK bass or Montreal house. The sax flourishes and steely ’80s guitar feel straight out of a Sade record, or say, Destroyer’s highbrow revisit of that era on Kaputt. But that breakdown is something else entirely. When that massive, wave-crash snare drops in slow-mo, this might as well be “Love You Down”.

Portland’s Shy Girls, led by singer Dan Vidmar, is the latest development in the fictional subgenre of white dude retro-R&B, which makes a How to Dress Well comparison kind of inevitable. But where Tom Krell’s falsetto collages tend purposefully toward the avant-garde, Shy Girls’ approach feels a touch more literal, channeling post-Prince and New Jack sexy and stacking songs with lush, colorful texture. For the record, the last Shy Girls record, last year’s Sex in the City, is awesome in its own right. But the six slow-burn minutes that make up “Under Attack” are something special. Like any R&B epic, this is a song that just keeps on giving.

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