Back in my past life stuck in the soulless wasteland of the marketing industry, I actually learned about a pretty valuable life philosophy from a former boss that he called The Bank of Karma.
This guy was probably one of the most genuine and generous guys I’ve ever met, and whenever someone commended him on said traits, he’d just say, “I’m only making a deposit in the Bank of Karma,” (though not saying the implied, “because you never know when you need to make a withdrawal”).
But it created a sort of Favor Economy that flowed on a deeper level than any of the written contracts we had with fancy, big-name clients. And that’s the kind of economy you want to really be successful in, especially if you work in the toiling fields of the minor leagues of the music and music journalism industry. Now that doesn’t mean you do favors for everyone left and right, but it means you pick the right favors and the right people to do favors for.
Everyone’s shooting for the balance between kindness and credibility.
So without further ado, this week is dedicated to the unsung Favor Economy, and I’ll be doing my best to include a few of the right favors for the right people.
That includes me doing a solid for a friend-first, music biz compatriot-second fine young lady named Nancy Lu, who emailed me about promoting the Full Moon Fest that’s going on August 8th on Governor’s Island in NYC (as in Governor’s Ball Governors Island). The line-up includes Penguin Prison, Delorean, The Knocks, Son Lux, and a bunch of other bands that I know a few songs from, enjoy only superficially, but wouldn’t mind seeing all at once if I found myself on an island in NYC. Now that’s what I call balancing kindness and credibility…
That also includes me sharing this trailer for Drop Electric’s one-night-only installation/show at Artisphere’s Dome Theater on July 19th, a show that I selflessly can’t wait to see but also selfishly want to promote because I had a hand in coming up with the idea for it and that’s kind of cool. Anyway, here it is. Get tickets for $12 here.
That was a lot of writing, so I’ll do you a favor and keep the rest short.
Now do me a favor and follow the Tunes You Should Fucking Know in 2014 playlist on Spotify. Please? Thank you.
On to the music!
- Mesita – “The Villain”
Has it really been almost 8 months since we last heard #MesitaWatch sirens going off? Wow time flies.
For those uninformed, Mesita is the nom-de-music of James Cooley, an uber-talented musician out of Denver/Chicago/soon-to-be Denver again that I have thrown all my chips behind since Day 1 (aka a few years ago when I first heard the relatively raw sounding “For The Best”).
Since then, he’s released such gems as “Hostages,” “XYXY,” and “Alone Is Okay,” all of which I’ve shoehorned into this column in some way or another. And I know I’ve said this before and I’ll probably end up saying it again, but I’d be shocked if James didn’t break through at least a little bit with this latest release.
“The Villain” is the first single off his upcoming album, which James told me will be called Infinity Sky Deluxe, but he also let me know that he’s “kind of falling back into the marathoning process of taking time with the album and trickling tracks out,” so don’t expect your normal PR cycle when it comes to his output.
Fortunately though, this song might be all he needs at the moment. A lot of bands are doing the sultry white boy over some combination of synth pop and R&B, but not many are doing it with the insinuated fragility and emotional conviction that Mesita does. And he’s only getting better at it with each release.
At this point, I don’t even know whose doing the favors between James and I anymore. He sends me tracks I love, I get to share them with you. It’s kind of a win-win. I mean, we even exchanged Christmas cards. That’s a bond. And ideally, that’s how the favor economy should work.
- DDM – “Marc Jacobs” “Come Thru”
My own website did me a favor and booked DDm, a rapper out of Baltimore with a loyal following yet who I hadn’t heard of, as the opener for Dan Deacon at BYT’s free show at the Howard Theater the other week (and for those wondering and those who enjoy a good humble brag, yes that was me in the middle of the inaugural dance circle that night).
And it was a good thing my introduction to him was in person, because you kind of have to see this guy to get it. He’s got a pretty solid flow, but his beats and hooks are pretty drone. Only he’s got this…charisma? Is that the word? Dubious diction aside, he’s got something.
You can hear it in how he approaches “Marc Jacobs” and it’s what keeps his most recent single, “Come Thru” feel fresh despite its basic structure and premise. Unfortunately, the best song I found of his while researching this, “Citizens,” was taken off his Soundcloud because, according to a Facebook message DDm sent me, his PR team told him to do it.
They are idiots.
Mr. DDm, I am doing you a favor when I tell you that you should do us all a favor and release that song again. It’s wonderful. Until then, though, I’ll be bumping the “Come Thru” remix.
- Zola Jesus – “Dangerous Days”
My friend Gisele did me the favor of accompanying me to see Zola Jesus something like 3 or 4 years ago at a venue called The Red Palace that inhabited the H St. Corridor back before Uber when it was referred to as “all the way out on H. St.” If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know if I would have made the trek alone, and that meant I would have missed seeing Zola Jesus (aka Nika Roza Danilova) at her peak.
Well, her peak so far.
Zola Jesus sucked me in with her Valusia EP back in 2010. Songs like “Poor Animal” and “Lightstick” shook me. Only now it’s 4 years later and only a few songs from her next handful of releases have ever stuck with me.
But with the first single off her latest album, Taiga, hitting the digital shelves two days ago, I feel like there’s that special thing in there again for the first time in years. It has that energy and well-produced rawness. It feels like the sequel to that EP I loved so much.
As Nika herself told Pitchfork, “For me, it feels like my true debut, because it is the first time I have felt so open and liberated.”
And now, it’s time for another very special edition of…
AURAL PLEASURE WITH FRIENDS: Katie Powderly Edition
Heavy Lights – Mad Minds
Okay we’re going to do this a little differently than normal for two reasons. 1) I cannot for the life of me remember who did me the favor of sending me this sort-of DC band’s album and 2) someone else has already nailed the description of this band (and there’s a nice twist involved!).
If you go on Heavy Light’s website and check out their bio, like most bands, they use a flattering review to describe their sound so they don’t have to sound like pretentious assholes. Usually, these flattering reviews are a smorgasbord of buzzy words that have no real meaning and don’t actually capture what makes a band good. But the one on Heavy Lights’ is actually pretty dead-on.
So much so that I Googled the writer behind it, one Katie Powderly, only to find out that she is not only a performer herself, but the person running the record label that put out their album. Of course she’s going to say something complimentary, but listen to this album, read this review, and tell me they aren’t backing up what she wrote.
It’s hard to make psychedelic rock feel not just accessible but enticing, and these Frederick-locals have done it. But let Kate tell you more about it….
“Heavy Light’s mature songwriting and arrangements move beyond standard rhythms and chord progressions offering a complexity thatdraws us in, urging us to pay stricter attention, wanting more, driving us on.
Heavy Lights, through the course of their songs, strategically add elements that keep our ears constantly on their toes: interesting melodies, big vocals that become dreamy when accompanied by compelling harmonies and synth, warm electric guitar tones which offer unexpected (and at times, heartbreaking) chord changes, anticipation-building rhythms, and riveting bass lines. These elements entice the ear, engage us.
Their songs aren’t simple, but they are easy to consume. Not in a lowest-common-denominator sort of way, but because they are performed, arranged, and mixed masterfully. The listener can just sit back, relax, and enjoy each beautiful auditory element, one after another, in perfectly-strategized succession.“