Best Music Video of 2016: Jamie XX’s “Gosh”

From the moment I first watched it, Jamie XX’s “Gosh” video directed by Romain Gavras grabbed me. It successfully depicted a world I never knew existed, but wanted to know everything about when the video came to a close. Watch the video and read my entry for Paste Magazine’s 20 Best Music Videos of 2016 feature from 12/15/16 below. 

Romain Gavras never takes the easy way out. The Greek-French music video director, who is most well-known for directing M.I.A.’s provocative “Born Free; and flamboyant “Bad Girls; videos, doesn’t just make music videos as much as he makes musical short films for his signature stamp on the video he conceptualizes and directs. Gavras often creates post-apocalyptic worlds like with “Born Free” and Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “No Church In The Wild;” And on Jamie XX’s “Gosh”” video, Gavras’s setting is a utopian ghost city, which in fact, isn’t a utopia at all, but rather the Tianducheng development in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, which was built to look like Paris and house 10,000 residents, but is now is sparsely inhabited (The story of Tianducheng itself is one of the internet’s most glorious rabbit holes by the way. Feel free to start here.)

The world of “Gosh” sees Hassan Kone — an albino of African descent — as its focal point, traversing the city amidst hundreds upon hundreds of Chinese boys, whose soldier-like choreography and visual and mechanized uniformity is masterfully portrayed by the Xiaolong Martial Arts School. Kone comes across as the last hope for the decrepit cesspool of Tianducheng, as he races through the film in a Subaru and ends it standing beneath the 300 foot tall Eiffel Tower replica, while the Xiaolong boys circle him in patternized movement. It’s what Busby Berkeley choreography would look like in the year 2100.

All the while, Jamie XX’s opus founded on elements of ragga drum and bass, is hypnotically in sync with the movements of the characters. Mattias Rudh’s drone cinematography pans out to show the sullen buildings of Tianducheng, creating a CGI feel, which adds to the eerie, futuristic feel of the video.

Gavras tosses out his usual violent themes in favor of a different type of fear. The fear that this utopian city from the future is actually from the present. Kim Chapiron and Iconoclast’s “Behind The Scenes” mini-doc (watch it below) is a welcome companion to Gavras’s “Gosh” video and a look into the method behind the artistic madness of one of the most intriguing music video directors in the business and one of the best videos of the year.

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The Anderson .Paak Features Playlist

If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of the soulful rasp of Anderson .Paak’s voice. AP broke through with 6 features on Dr. Dre’s Compton album and built some serious momentum before dropping his own latest release, Malibu. If you haven’t given that a spin yet, consider it a top priority, as it’s one of the early highlights of 2016.

But beyond the magic of Compton and Malibu, Paak is tireless and seems to keep popping up as a featured vocalist on a number of other artist’s tracks: Kaytranada, Tokimonsta, Milo, Hiatus Kayiote and Snakehips to name a few. So I compiled a 32-track playlist of some of the best featured appearances by Anderson .Paak. When you’re as prolific as Paak has become though, not everything is gonna land, so I vetted this list thoroughly to only feature certifiably bomb shit. You won’t find any of AP’s Watsky features, or that abrasive track he did with A$AP Ferg and I had to cut out one of his tracks with The Game, cause Game is straight up insufferable sometimes. Here you’ll gems like Milo’s killer “A Day Trip To The Nightosphere” and Elements of Music’s “Get Along” with Blu. (And yes, I even included a couple cuts from his NxWorries project cause it just wouldn’t have felt complete without ’em.)

Hear the business below, check out my feature on Paak in Paste from last December if you need to get yourself up to speed on the man and peep some words I wrote in Forbes about how Paak was the proverbial “big winner” at SXSW 2016. Dig it. One love.

AS

Drop Everything And Go Listen To The New Brass Bed Album Now

The word “FLAMES” comes to mind when spinning In The Yellow Leaf, the 4th LP from Lafayette, Louisiana psych band Brass Bed. This is guitar rock of the highest order and the trio teamed up with producer/engineer Chris Woodhouse (Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall) at his The Dock Studio in Sacramento to create a fantastic album.

It’s currently streaming on NPR First listen here, but go ahead and give “I Am Just A Whisper” a play below. It’s a crisp recording that has every element in check. A jangled guitar driving the melody, fast-paced drums and more guitar goodness on top of that. Have I mentioned how badass Brass Bed’s guitars are? Check it:

Top image by Allison Bohl DeHart for Makemade.

New Playlist for 2016: Jubilation

Another year means a new progressive playlist (one that’s constantly updated with new tracks.) You might remember last year’s Everything Ecstatic playlist, Indian Summer or 2014’s Random Musings. And now for the last couple months, I’ve been adding tracks to Jubilation.

Peep Jubilation below and subscribe to it on Spotify to be updated whenever tracks get added (usually a handful a week or so.) You can expect Jubilation to be a mix of everything from indie rock, chilled out electronica, conscious hip-hop, some timely classics, etc… Artists like Taylor McFerrin, Jessy Lanza, White Lung, Kendrick Lamar and more.

Enjoy y’all!

AS

Saul Williams Drops New Video Filmed in Ferguson

Saul Williams’ musical flame was recently re-ignited for me in The Cipher Podcast’s brilliant interview with the New York based poet, rapper, playwright, actor and all-around hip-hop Renaissance man.

The interview between host Shawn Setaro and Williams centered on Williams’ latest release, Martyr Loser King. It’s a dense, ambitious and nothing short of cinematic album that magnifies modern sociopolitical issues within the world of a cyber hacker living in East Africa…shit that’s right out of a graphic novel (of which there also is one.) But there were certain comparisons that were drawn in the episode between Williams and David Bowie (Williams dropped a 2008 release entitled The Inevitable Rise And Fall Of Niggy Tardust) and a new interest in Williams was piqued.

His art is dense and complex. He oozes idealism and activism and his work is manifested in many mediums. Discovering Saul Williams’ body of work is a thrilling endeavor and today, he released a powerful video for his latest single “The Noise Came From Here,” directed by Anisia Uzeyman. In it, Williams walks through Ferguson, Missouri and tip-toes around the epicenter of where Michael Brown was brutally gunned down by a police officer in 2014. Do yourself a favor and watch this gripping piece of art and hop over to The Fader for more details on the making of the video. One love.

My São Paulo – A Photographic Essay

I’ve been going back to my birthplace of São Paulo, Brazil every year since I first left Brazil in 1989. And the place where I was born, is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been in the world.

When I come back home to the US following a visit, everyone always asks “How was Brazil?” And there’s only so much I can convey with words. I feel like everyone’s idea of Brazil is forged on images of Rio De Janeiro, yet São Paulo is a much different place. I sought to provide a glimpse into My Brazil and My São Paulo.

With these photographs, I looked to juxtapose the old and new parts of the city of São Paulo with the beach getaways of mid-to-upper class families from the city. The city and the beach are very different places and holiday weeks at the beach are comfortable refuges for city-dwellers like my family. Where daily life is filled with the grandeur of skyscrapers and the urban sprawl & accompanying poverty of the city, weekend homes on the coast of the state of Sao Paulo seem a world away. With these 3 galleries, this is My São Paulo.

(Click anywhere on the tiled mosaics below to open the full gallery)

Old São Paulo

These photos were all taken in the Republíca area of São Paulo. It’s the historic central part of the city and just feels like a mish-mash of every aspect of São Paulo in one place. This is where poverty is the most prevalent and homeless kids riddled the streets amongst open shops, buildings, restaurants, the Municipal Theater and a major artery into the city’s core.

The Beach 

I looked to highlight themes of the typical Brazilian family and male/female roles within the household. Hopefully, you can feel the difference between one house and the other and the moments of relaxation versus potential conflict. Technology as a theme is reflected on the outer edges of the frames, reminding us that no matter how far outside of the city the family may be, technology remains ever-present.

New São Paulo

Avenida Paulista is the most important thoroughfare in São Paulo. The wide 6-laned avenue houses major financial institutions, museums, parks, shopping malls and is towered over by giant radio antennae on the top of it’s many tall buildings. New and polished public transportation is peppered throughout it’s nearly 2 mile stretch and it’s been developed into a modern hub to showcase the cosmopolitan city.

Parque Ibirapuera is the city’s largest urban park. It’s the Brazilian equivalent to Central Park, showcasing the country’s rich history, smack in the middle of a metropolis.

Leon Bridges Silences Critics With “River” Video

If you haven’t seen it yet, Leon Bridges’ new video for “River” dropped earlier today and it’s deep….It’s a hard look at different walks of life of Black America, and some of the images are the stirring reality of life for the people of Baltimore.

When I watched it, I couldn’t help but think back to just last September, when NPR’s Eric Drucker, in his A Rational Conversation column, picked apart Bridges’ soul revival and video for “Coming Home,” along with UMass-Amherst assistant English professor Emily Lordi. Lordi claimed that Bridges’ “…vision of soul kind of turns the clock back on soul’s more radically political moment.”

Continue reading Leon Bridges Silences Critics With “River” Video

Ending awkward silences since 1983.

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