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{DAX NORMAN}

ODYSSEY {Duane Flatmo}

{Alan Sanborn}

Art & music PERIODICAL


ODYSSEY ISSUE No. 1 / DECEMBER 2014

4 Special Thanks 6 Ingio Free 12 Maya Sommer 18 Wolf in a Spacesuit 20 Cahill Wessel 26 Dave Hughes & Alan Steadman & Cody DeMatteis

34 Duane Flatmo 42 Dax Norman 48 Alan Sanborn 56 Greatest Albums of 2014 70 Greatest Singles of 2014

Organic Matters Farm by Alan Sanborn

writerjonathanreynoso.weebly.com

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Welcome to Odyssey Magazine Special Thanks The follow is a list of the generous people who contributed, helped or gave their support. Thank you. This wouldn’t have happened without your encouragment. Editor

Artists Featured in Odyssey

Art Director

John Duvall

Duane Flatmo

Steven Polacco

Cahill Wessel Advertising Contributor

Dax Norman

Photography

Brandon Rasmussen

Dave Hughes

Skye Anderson

Cody DeMatteis

Indigo Free

Final Reader

Alan Steadman

Maya Sommer

Bradley Van Alstyne

Alan Sanborn Algebra Huxley

Advising

Maya Sommer

Jamieson Cox

Indigo Free

Steven Polacco John Duvall

Supporters Christopher Reynoso Celia Pimentel-Khatri Netra Khatri Elizabeth Pimentel-Gopal Anand Gopal Sienna Anderson Luisa Arreguin

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Photobook

INDIGO FREE I can only imagine the wave of nostalgia that will hit Indigo Free like a tidal wave in 10 years. She’ll look back at her early teens as a child of nature surrounded by natural beauty. Free’s earlier portfolio captured live musicians such as Grimes, MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden, White Arrows and a lot more. But as the years went by, her field of view shifted to focus on subjects at her home in the beautiful Lost Coast of northern California. Free’s eye captures, at the right moments, the small charms of her friends and family. Some of her photographs are piercing with vibrant colors and hues. Others are given a pale beige filter that resembles vintage 60s and 70s environments. It’s timeless as well, aside from her photographs of current musicians, there’s no telling what period her photos take place in. There are no logos, stores, or signs that can date her work, and that’s just fine. For more information visit: indigofree.com

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Photobook

MAYA SOMMER The world hasn’t forgotten class, although one might think that all of it was siphoned away many years ago. Maya Sommer, photographer, hasn’t forgotten it either. In fact, she lives to capture what’s left of it. First off, her portraits are drenched in certain elegance. Her subjects, at times posed or snapped at random, end up looking as graceful as the world around them. There’s harmony in the photographs of her feet, back and hands that make her look so delicate. Aside from herself, her camera finds the small idiosyncrasies in nature and she often looks for unusual places to capture. She’s also trained in the art of light and shadow, a technique she’s included in her recent photographs. Above all, Sommer’s keen eye has yet to fade away. And let’s hope it never does. For more information visit: mayasommer.com

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Interview

Favorite venue/city that you’ve played at? New York is the best city. End of story.

WOLF IN A SPACESUIT

Best story on the road or in the studio? Our first show on tour was accidentally scheduled on the same date as some weird Insane Clown Posse memorial service. So we got paid to get drunk and watch juggalos and their children rap. Then we slept in someone’s backyard in a tent with an enormous spider. How did you get started writing/recording music? I have vague early memories of sitting at my grandparents’ piano for hours when I was 5+. I was always experimenting with which tones “felt” good. I learned guitar when I was 11 (I also played alto and baritone sax, trumpet, cornet, baritone and tuba) and I would “multitrack” my vocals by holding two old stereos together while I played. I grew up in a small town so I mostly learned computer production because I had to. It was the only way I could convey my emotions.

SYNTH POP THROWBACKS

Recently, a wave of synthpop musicians are reviving 80s pop sounds now that the technology is as accessible as buying a television. The Postal Service, La Roux, Cut Copy and others currently wave the flag of a now vintage era. Algebra Huxley, better known as Wolf in a Spacesuit, marches with these musicians in their reign of bringing back a once abandoned genre. Huxley, however, incorporates neopsychedelia, dream pop, experimental, dance and recently a sprinkle of indie rock in his records. His newest release Blighter Days is continuation of his time in synthpop that’s honest and fun. First of all, I’d love to know how you decided on the name “Wolf in a Spacesuit”! The name Wolf In a Spacesuit came from a stray cat my old roommate and I adopted for about two weeks. The full name of the cat was Rick James Dio Wolf In a Spacesuit, I believe. I noticed in your latest release Blighter Days you included an acoustic guitar for almost the entire album. Why did you decide to have that instrument in the forefront and not your keyboards this time? I wanted Blighter Days to be an album I could just perform with

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a guitar if I wanted to. I realized when we toured the first time that a lot of early electronic WIAS stuff was impossible to fully perform and I feel like it sucked a lot of the life out of the live experience. Plus, I just got a beautiful acoustic. Organic music is equal to electronic for me. It changes with the wind.

Do struggle with writing lyrics? Impossibly so. I never want to fabricate emotions. A lot of artists have a lot to say, too much sometimes. I write when I have to, not because I want to rush something out.

I found it interesting that you make the claim that we don’t exist without our friends. Care to explain that observation?

Tell me about the equipment and software you use to record your music. Lots of Reason. Ableton Live and Reason were used to compose Blighter Days and then it was moved into Matt Boynton’s studio, Vacation Island, where he finished it in Pro Tools. My girlfriend, Kaitlin, has a beautiful ukulele that I used for a few songs. My acoustic. A huge grand piano that was in the studio is on a lot of tracks. The instrument that I used the most was my voice. A lot of these songs will have 20+ vocal tracks but you can’t always tell because they’re buried in the mix.

Orbiting wolf: Algebra Huxley When I hear your music, I’m reminded of the new wave scene of the 80s. There are a lot of heavy synth pop elements. Which bands/musicians do you look to for inspiration? I think I use synths so much because they’re instruments I can modify and use on my own. If I had a full-fledged “band” the sound might be completely different. My last album was much more organic. I’m first and foremost a pop music fan. I get a lot of influence from lifelong favorites like Aphex Twin, Bjork, MGMT, Beach Boys, Prefuse 73...but I’m hit just as hard when someone (anyone) writes a good sincere song. The 60s/70s have a lot more impact for me.

It’s something I try to tell myself, indirectly, all the time. I’m an extremely antisocial person/introvert but when I have good experiences with people I care about I realize that those experiences form who I am in more ways than watching The Simpsons in bed for 10 hours straight (which happens). What other themes do you wish to explore on future releases? I’ve been writing a ton but I really don’t know what the feelings are behind them. It’s usually very nebulous until the middle/end and I realize what I was subconsciously trying to express. The next album is going to be way more electronic, so there’s that. For more information visit: wolfinaspacesuit.bandcamp.com

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A Conversation with

CAHILL WESSEL

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“If Bill Murray Was a Triple Bacon Cheeseburger”

WESSEL’S POP CULTURE PLAYGROUND

San Francisco based artist Cahill Wessel toys with pop culture, which results in hilarious and trippy depictions of musicians and famous figures in ways you’d never expect to see. His anthology of work slams the ordinary with the remarkable - for example, pairing Ghostface with baseball attire or Bill Murray’s face with a triple bacon cheeseburger. He assembles different animals with, what I assume are, his favorites meals like tacos, pizzas, cupcakes and turkey burgers, thus conceiving a new whole. Though he often dwells past earthly creatures to travel beyond his imagination, bringing in very strange and even nightmarish creatures from his personal hell. Wessel offers his fans the best of reimagined pop culture.

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“Popular culture is a very strange thing to me. People are heavily invested and deeply interested in the lives of celebrities and these icons are simultaneously praised and ridiculed by the masses.” - Cahill wessel

Left to Right: “Justin Bieber and the Golden Pussy”, “Portrait of God / No Boys Just Pizza”, “Tall Man Walking”, “The Miley Cyrus Anomaly”

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Cahill Wessel

Reynoso: What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you this week? Wessel: Unfortunately, this week has been fairly normal. The weirdest thing that has happened was falling asleep in my bed, but waking up on my couch. I don’t think I sleep walk, yet somehow I managed to change locations in the middle of the night. In Gallery One on your website, you feature a lot of celebrities (Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Billy Murray, Whoopi Goldberg) but they are in these twisted universes you’ve created...explain that choice. Popular culture is a very strange thing to me. People are heavily invested and deeply interested in the lives of celebrities and these icons are simultaneously praised and ridiculed by the masses. I want my work to resonate with current trends and cultural themes, yet I attempt to create work that isolates familiar key elements of pop culture in order to present them in a context that sheds light on the absurdity of it. On that note, can you explain your art style?

When I first get an idea for a new drawing or painting, I’ll spend hours looking up source imagery on the Internet, doing loose sketches to develop the composition and forms. Much of the drawing develops as I work on the piece, and the end result is almost always much different than my initial plan. When I work during the day, I try to remain clear headed and focused, but when I work at night, I will have a few drinks to help calm my nerves. Also, I do get many ideas for new drawings while out on weekends, and I’ll often take notes on my phone during these nights. Your artwork is very nightmare-ish...almost hallucinogenic, especially Tall Man Walking - have these images come to you before you’ve put them on paper? Or after? Most of the black and white drawings, such as “Tall Man Walking”, are created spontaneously, without any concrete end result in mind. I generally start by drawing random shapes, objects, creatures, or forms, and these initial marks usually inform my next decisions, and the drawing unfolds in this manner. As I’m filling in different parts of the page, I will make decisions that guide the composition, but most of the imagery feeds off of itself in order to create a drawing that develops organically and without clear intention.

How has your work change over time?

I am currently working on some personal projects, as well as some commissions. I’m working on organizing my previous drawings and paintings into a series of books, and I’m slowly working on a series of grotesque, humorous, and humorously sexual poems that I will eventually compile into an illustrated poetry book. I’ve also been experimenting with 3D modeling and 3D printing.

What art do you most identify with? I will always attempt to mimic the flawless, idealized perfection of Renaissance painters like Michelangelo and Leonardo DaVinci. Studying their work has “Lady T-Rex Lounging By the Pool”

How do you get yourself prepared for a drawing?

I would say my work merges surrealism, realism, and abstraction. I tend to work in a variety of styles, and different bodies of work tend to remain autonomous to each other. Much of my color work strives to merge surreal situations with realistic representation, while also incorporating the repetition and patterns derived from pop art. Much of my black and white work is meant to be loose and cartoony, and is meant to present somewhat of a “stream of consciousness” to a viewer. Overall, I strive to create work that is aesthetically pleasing, well balanced, and relevant to our modern culture.

My work was very cartoony and loose when I was younger. I was heavily influenced by surrealism and my work was extremely psychedelic and chaotic in the past. Over time I have learned to balance this with more refined and realistic mode of representation.

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directly informed the manner in which I develop sculptural forms, skin tones, compositions, color, and clothing. My work explores a middle ground between realism and surreal environments, and I am a huge fan of the artists Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Hieronymus Bosch, and Arcimboldo.

What are you working on now?

For more information visit: cahillwessel.com

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[adult swim] OFF THE AIR The first episode of Adult Swim’s Off the Air I saw was “Food.” How I came across it I cannot recall, but once I saw it I was hooked. I sought to explore more episodes and to my luck “Dance”, “Space”, “Body” and others were available on YouTube. I’d never experienced such hypnosis from a television show before. The mind bending clips are daisy chained into one, roughly, 11 minute mix per episode. One would think that the run time wouldn’t satisfy one’s crave for a visual induced psychoactive trip, however, just one episode of Off the Air causes time to stand still. Each episode airs at 4 a.m. whenever creator Dave Hughes feels it is necessary to release one. Because of its graveyard time slot, the show remains, as Hughes once put it, a “cult phenomenon.” The episodes revolve around one theme, which gives Hughes just about anything to make out of. Though, more often than not, a theme such as “Color” or “Body” is never explicitly tied to its given word. In “Dance”, a music video for German heavy metal band Knorkator features the band in colorful costumes head banging, waving their arms, and falling from nowhere. As such, Hughes didn’t pass the opportunity to have it included in the episode because it had enough dancing in it. Also, it’s so awesome to see grown men in furry costumes yelling at the camera. I got a hold of Dave Hughes and fellow Off the Air producers Alan Steadman and Cody DeMatteis for an interview about their extraordinary show.

Season 3, Episode 1: “Robots” Clip: “God Knox” by Kokofreakbean

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Off the Air

Reynoso: How did you get involved with MTV Animation?

I’ve never seen a show as experimental as Off the Air, how was that show conceived?

Dave Hughes: I know you asked for detail, but long story short, it was right place, right time. I was subletting a room from someone for three months, and they had sent their résumé to Bevis and Butthead before they left, but the call came while I was in the apartment. So I told them he was on tour, but that I would love to I interview. I was totally qualified for the job, and ended up being at MTV for eight years, but the phone call was just a stroke of luck.

Hughes: It’s funny, but in my head it’s not so experimental. It’s kind of just an update of older anthology shows like Liquid Television or Cartoon Sushi. I worked on a few anthology shows, and one thing that has always bothered me was the VJ or host segments. They always come off much dorkier than the rest of the show, and in many ways I think they make the pieces inside the shows feel smaller. To me, it’s crazy to do all this work to find great pieces, and then you undercut them with some dumb setup joke, or some poorly animated filler. Why not just let them be? That might sound hypocritical, because in Off The Air, we often edit pieces to be shorter, or even bail out of them early, but that’s the next part of what I try to do with the show which is make each episode feel like one experience instead of a collection of smaller ones, and ideally have it end up being greater than the sum of its parts.

I’d imagine that working on those shows was a slow and tedious job. However, you must have fond memories of working for Beavis and Butthead and Celebrity Death Match. Hughes: I do have lots of fond memories of it all. When the Beavis movie came out, we were all just pushing so hard, learning new roles, and working crazy stupid hours. There were many nights I never went home and just slept under my desk. But the work we were doing was going out to all these exciting places. In the run up to the premiere, B&B appeared on Letterman, SNL, the VMAs, the NFL, and did a music video with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and I had a small hand in all of that and it was really gratifying. I also kind of miss doing digital ink and paintwork sometimes. How did you all start at Adult Swim? What were you all looking for at the time? Hughes: Matt Harrigan was head writer of Celebrity Deathmatch at MTV, and in 2003 he was starting up a new season of Space Ghost in LA. We had worked together a bit, and he hit me up to come out to edit Space Ghost, which is still one of the most intensive and awesome gigs I’ve ever had. Alan Steadman: I actually started as an intern and have just slowly worked my way through the ranks over the years. Cody DeMatteis: I think I got lucky. I had been working in comic books as editor and I ended up getting laid off when the economy went all wobbly. I left the west coast and ended up, by chance, in Atlanta. After a very long time looking for work, I got my foot in the door here. They needed a temp in the tape library and that, quite happily, became a full time job.

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DeMatteis: I’ve always been a big fan of experimental/non-narrative art. Off The Air premiered the year I started working at Adult Swim and I immediately gravitated toward it. It’s a fantastic blend of all things current and surreal. The show is all Dave’s brainchild, which just happened to be on the same wavelength. I remember trying not to be weird when I’d see him around the coffee maker, dropping hints that I had a great list of bizarre YouTube favorites that would be good for the show. Was the show thought of during the MTV days or after? Hughes: In the early 2000s, MTV had lost its way completely in my opinion. You had reality really driving the ratings, and straight music videos were no longer a draw, and there was an intense period of celebrity worship and dumb pop music going on. They tried all kinds of shows with animated characters introducing music videos, but everything felt contrived and desperate. So I probably started thinking about it then, or at least just wishing there was a place for more experimental work, but then all of a sudden (to me) there was Adult Swim, which was extremely experimental in the beginning, and also very funny, and playing better music.

Season 4, Episode 1: “Hair.” Clip: “Hair Growth Experiment” by David Birdsell Tell me about the process of selecting clips. When you have a theme like “Colors” or “Animals”, what keywords do you type in to find those very unique videos? I’ve noticed you move from YouTube to Vimeo a lot. Hughes: Vimeo is my favorite right now. It’s not as far reaching as YouTube, but there’s a nice community vibe to it and people for the most part seem to be posting their own work. YouTube is still the best place for the hidden gems, and the more Internet age feeling stuff, but I find it much harder to get through. Basically, I just bookmark anything I like, or anything that is recommended to me into a folder full of themes. Once a bucket feels full enough or a theme feels timely enough, I try to assemble a rough cut of what that episode might feel like, and then screen it in front of Cody and Alan and a small group at the studio. Based on how it feels there, I’ll rework the cut and start to reach out to acquire clips or commission work for the episode. As for key words, if I’m really struggling, I’ll add “surreal” or “bizarre” to a search, or just go through related terms. I used to use “trippy” sometimes, but that term has lost all meaning on the Internet. And it’s more about going down the rabbit hole than search terms anyway.

Steadman: Yeah, I’m not sure that there’s any specific search terms I use to find clips, for me it’s more about digging deep enough to find something interesting. You kind of have to slog through all the most popular videos first because those are already so overexposed that we can’t really use them to any effect. Then after a while you might find some older video that got buried in the glut of content on the Internet, so we put it on TV. DeMatteis: Digging for clips is my favorite thing. It’s always helpful to just add “weird” or “experimental” to whatever the episode is, but it’s fun to go into the thesaurus and find permutations that align with the theme. It’s best as a focused act too. I tend to take time on the weekend, at my computer with the goal of just exploring. I also follow a bunch of art blogs like Booooooom! and The Fox Is Black. Stuff can pop up there quite often. How long does one episode take to edit once you have the clips and music? Hughes: Varies wildly, and now that we are commissioning more, the cuts evolve right up until we air them. Can take as little as three months to well over a year.

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Off the Air was yet. At that time it was completely Dave’s baby and I was mostly just helping track down and license clips that he told me he was interested in. After the first episode was done and I had a much better concept of what we were doing I was able to get more involved and was lucky that Dave is very open to collaboration and other people’s input. Beyond nostalgia though I would have to say my personal favorites are “Color” and “Space.” Both of those episodes contain some of the more beautiful and amazing clips we’ve found. DeMatteis: The Dan Deacon special was really fun for me, because I’m both a huge fan of him and I got to be more involved in the creative process. We shot original footage, running around the woods in the ghillie suits, which was great fun. As well, I got to do a tiny bit of After Effects work on some of the shots. Overall, it was just a massive undertaking that forced a different process. Usually, Dave can shuffle segments around to suit the rhythm of the show, but the soundtrack was fixed. That created a different, more challenging process. Season 3, Episode 2: “Nature.” Clip: “Hyper Geography” by Joe Hamilton Besides watching Off the Air to get a visual feast, I watch to listen to new music from independent and underground artists. What is the process of selecting songs? (I’d say my favorites featured on were “Zodiac Shit” by Flying Lotus and “Andrew” by Jonwayne) Hughes: Music is very subjective, but the group we screen with seems to be largely on the same page musically or at least in the same room. We use independents and underground music both because it’s in the spirit of the show, and because we can’t afford bigger acts. I think our budget restrictions actually help rather than hurt. It forces us to seek out new talent instead of relying on anything too established. And giving these underground artists, both visual and aural, a little piece of real estate on TV is what this is all about. Steadman: We also use a lot of music videos and I feel like smaller, more underground bands are more likely to try something interesting and experimental with their video and that’s obviously more appealing for us and the show.

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Now let’s talk about the editing process, what software do you use to edit the show? Hughes: [We] used to use Final Cut Pro until Apple so wisely decided to abandon the people who made them a company in the first place. So now we use Premiere, also lots of After Effects for transitions, as well as Avidemux and Ffmpeg for datamoshing. Hoping to fold in some Jitter and Cinema 4D at some point too. Tell me about the 4 a.m. time slot. Did Dave or someone else choose to have the show aired at that time? Hughes: I pitched it as a late, late night show, and the 4 a.m. slot was already slightly developed with DVR Theater, so it just made sense there. Have you considered moving the show to an earlier time slot? Hughes: From time to time people suggest we move earlier, and I’d be curious about that, but I also love that it still catches people off guard at 4 a.m., and every time it airs someone sees it for the first time, and don’t really know if it could hold up under any ratings pressure. I am curious though.

I really enjoyed your collaboration with Dan Deacon, can you explain how that started? Can we expect any more Off the Air “specials”? Hughes: Would love to do more, although that one really took a lot out of us. I liked Dan for a while, and had him come by the studio in 2007 to maybe use in a Space Ghost. The Space Ghost thing never happened, but while he was here, he performed “Okie Dokie” on green screen, so I chopped that into a music video, and we’ve just had a relationship ever since.

What should viewers of the show expect to see next? Hughes: Definitely trying to get more originals into the show, and would like to make some original music as well. And this streaming channel is pretty new and exciting. For more information visit: adultswim.com/videos/off-the-air

Then Jason Demarco gave us some money to make a video to support the Adult Swim singles program, and that’s what we came up with. Which episodes was your favorite to work on? Hughes: Can’t really pick a favorite, but the experience of making the pilot “Animals” when it was all so wide open and new was really special. But “Color” can still make me cry for some reason, and “Nightmares” makes me very happy when I know it’s going to air and catch some people just waking up. Steadman: I definitely have a bit of nostalgia for the first two episodes (“Animals” and “Food.”) When we did “Animals” even I wasn’t sure what the show

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Duane Flamto ARTISTA MECANICO

There’s a fleeting feeling of admiration that bubbles to the surface when I see a Duane Flatmo mural, as well as nostalgia. He’s truly the maker of his own world because his neo-psychedelic, bizarre characters are easily spotted for their mismatched eyes and Cheshire cat-like grins that salute cubist artists of the past. Most have seen his artwork featured on Lost Coast Brewery beers such as Tangerine Wheat, Downtown Brown, Alleycat Amber, Great White, Indica India Pale Ale, and others. Each beer, besides 8-Ball Stout, bears his original cubist cartoons. Other times it’s not so easy to point out a Flatmo piece because he shifts from fantasy to stark realism with the flip of a switch. Most of his local Humboldt murals like the one on Eureka’s Bucksport Sporting Goods replace his typical playful characters for realistic depictions of explorers, farmers, bikers, and ballerinas. He incorporates his personality in his fantastic kinetic sculptures that have earned him glory since his debut in 1982. Flatmo’s outfits include artist, comic, teacher, musician, sculpture and husband. He’s even appeared on David Letterman briefly in 1992 to play guitar with an eggbeater. His most recent kinetic sculpture named EL Pulpo Mecanico has caused waves outside of his Humboldt County home. He toured the 26-foot-tall octopus at Burning Man, Nocturnal Wonderland and Electric Daisy Carnival where its beholders would awe and bow to El Pulpo. I met with Flatmo at his secret shop on a foggy Eureka day to inquire about his experience in art and sculptures.

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Arkley Center for the Perfomring Arts, Eureka, CA

INSIDE FLATMO’S WORLD

Interview with Humboldt County’s favorite artist

Reynoso: Your work from the kinetic sculptures to your iconic beer labels for Lost Coast Brewery have become known images in Humboldt County, so I must ask: are your from Humboldt?

Flatmo: No, I’m not from here. I actually moved here in 1977 - I came up here to go to college. I got a job working at Sears, of all places. I had to have money - I had to have something to get an apartment. I was going to Grossmont College in San Diego at the time and I was getting really tired of the big city and I wanted to get up somewhere. My girlfriend said, “Hey, I’ll go to Humboldt State and you’ll go to C.R. [College of the Redwoods] and we’ll go up to Humboldt County, wherever that is. I was born in Santa Monica, raised in Huntington Beach and then my family built a house in Big Bear Lake and I went to high school in Big Bear Lake. [Humboldt County] is so beautiful, you got the ocean, you can get inland to the mountains, and the rivers... The redwoods... Yeah! There’s a lot to do...you don’t get bored.

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Do you regret moving here?

No! No, my mom used to tell me, “Duane you should move to a big city! You’d be so big down there”. I said, “Mom, the Internet” - once the Internet started you can live in a small place and still be known all over the world. I told her, “Mom, if I ever get stagnant and I feel like I’m doing the same old thing, I’d probably move”. And I’ve never been stagnant - I’m discovering things that I never knew I could even do. That’s what my whole career is, basically, discovering things I’ve never done. Once I get content with one thing, I want to out do myself. At El Pulpo Mechancio I hit this peak. I thought to myself, “How am I going to out do myself?” Somewhere in [my shop] there is a better El Pulpo just waiting. Your wife Micki Dyson Flatmo is an artist too; does she help you on your work? You know, she did the Kinetic Race for about 10 years with me. She has her own style. She is amazing. She is a fine artist - most of my friends who see her work are like “Wow, we know who to real artist in the family is” - which is partially true, my stuff is kind of crazy...kind of kooky.

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Duane Flatmo Where can I find her stuff? She has her work mostly at her studio. As of right now the airport, starting after tomorrow she’ll have paintings up there. Also online - mickiflatmo.com Nowadays anyone can access art online! Yeah! My website is like 15 years old. I’ve done so many things past the stuff I’ve got up there. I’ve got a guy who does it, but it’s a hassle sending him stuff. I just want to make a little card that says “Duane Flatmo: Google Me.” When did you get interested in art and sculptures? When I was younger, my mom and dad were Sunday painters. They did oil paintings and took classes. But, all I wanted to do was draw clowns. [My mom] even gave me this little book when I was about seven years old titled Clowns of Today. Each had a little clown picture, and they all looked the same. They started taking me to a few art classes down in Laguna Beach. Then in high school I was publicity chairman, you know? I painted all the banners for football games, stuff like that. I got on the annual staff and started doing all the drawings and putting together the yearbook. That was the journalism part of putting something together with a group.

The Los Bagels mural and Murray Field one is fading. Oh man, Murray Field is so faded. It’s not like I wanted to paint a bunch of old people standing in front of an old car, but that’s what the client wanted. You paint what the client wants. If it was me I would have painted a bunch of freaky looking surfers, smoking bud all crazy. That’s the funny thing, finding clients who want to put your stuff on their wall. What’s worthy of putting on a building? And what’s not going to get tagged? You put a mural up and people fucking tag it. It sucks, even if it’s an awesome mural. Has that ever been a problem? I’ve had a few tags but not that much, just a few here and there. Up in Henderson Center I did an old scene of a gas station with an old guy just standing there and someone put a boner on him. A big dick! I had to go back and get it off there.

Did you become faster at painting murals over time?

You said some of your old murals are fading, do you plans to go back and repaint those?

Oh yeah, you get better. You know what colors to mix before you even start. You become pallet oriented. If you want to mix a rich brown you don’t just stick orange, black, and white together - you put purple and a little bit of red. It’s amazing how many different colors affect your pallet. So, as I got better I knew what to do. You know, you’re working on the face of the ballerina, which is like a ten foot giant head, and you’ve got about seven skin tones that makes up her face and you have to have them all mixed in the jars and numbered. So you have to do it to scale. I did it like what they did on the Sistine Chapel. I chalk lined two-foot grid squares and looked from smaller squares I drew before hand.

Well the one of the Murray Field has been repainted one time and I think it’s probably like 25 years old. The paint only lasts about twelve years before you have to go back and repaint it. Buck Sport I’ve done twice. The Murray Field one though, I don’t think the owner is still alive. I don’t know if she’s still around and if she is she’s probably in a home somewhere.

Did you doubt your art at first? You know, I did. I was really worried. I asked, “Is this ever really going to pay off?” I get a job painting a

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mural for $1,200 and I’d spend weeks and weeks on it and I’d think “Wow, $1,200 that’s a lot!” But once I started painting murals it snowballed. Some are fading; it’s hard watching them fade. But to go from little murals to a point where I did the back of the Arkley Center, which was probably the premier job I’ve ever done.

Have you worked with the community? You know, I worked with some kids at the Rural Burl Mural Bureau and it was kids at risk. They had to work off community hours. We would go around and paint murals all around town. We painted the dogs and cats in the alley [in Eureka]. I did that class for twelve years and got paid by the state. I dealt with some tough kids - some wanted to fight me.

How would describe your work to someone who has never seen it? Not your sculptures, but your paintings...perhaps surreal? No, not surreal. Not whimsical. I hate the word “whimsical”. How about your Lost Coast Brewery work? I’d say, cartoon cubism. I don’t have one thing, though. What do you think when you see my work? I see it as modern cubism, modern cubism with a cartoon twist to it. I’d also say your works resembles monsters. I love monsters! I grew up going to Knotts Berry Farms and watched Frankenstein and all the monster movies. I love being scared. I bet the best thing about building El Pulpo was people’s reactions. Oh yeah. At Burning Man, we’re cult status. This will be our fourth year. Literally, we have people tell us that we’re the “darlings of Burning Man. You guys gave raised the bar!” Well, I used to go and I used to think, “How am I going to get my foot in that door?” These artists at Burning Man are amazing. Now I know these guys and I’m on the same level. The best time to go out with the sculptures is in the evening. I’ve seen people on their hands and knees saying, “El Pulpo, we love you!” Your heart fills up. It’s all love. And that’s why you make art? Yeah, I love to see people enjoy it! Its about bringing something to people that makes them smile. Lost Coast Brewery was founded in 1990, years after you started your artwork, how did the founders, Barbara Groom and Wendy Pound, contact you? Barbara Groom - she saw my art. She wanted me to do a label of one my cartoons for a beer called Downtown Brown. So I looked through my archives and saw a man sitting on a table with a book. So I took the book out and replaced it with a beer and drew a background and [Barbara] said, “Wow, I love it!”

“Extreme Makeover”. Photo by Bob Doran

“Yeah, I love to see people enjoy it! Its about bringing something to people that makes them smile.” 39


Duane Flatmo So we went from there. She then wanted an alley cat so I did a cat sitting in a trashcan with a patch on its eye. Now, she told me to do a Ganesh and I told her right off the bat, “Look, people are going to get pissed off if we put Ganesh on a beer label”. How did you feeling drawing that at first? Well she said, “Don’t worry you’re just doing the art! I’ll take all the rap”. I don’t like working for Barbara, I don’t any more of her labels. She made some promises to me about getting royalties off the shirts. That never happened? She promised verbally, it was not in writing. I said, “These are all going to sell real big, once you start making money off the shirts and you become a store selling merchandise - cups, hats, bottle openers - you’ll have Flatmo store”. She said, “We’ll figure something out.” Later, she wouldn’t give me any royalties so I’ll never do a label for her. Now she’s got other people doing the labels. I’m just waiting for someone to do one like mine so I can sue her! Any advice for aspiring artists? I always say “make a choice” - if you’re thinking of making a kinetic sculpture then it’ll be on the drawing board forever if you don’t start. Just start. Move forward. Don’t be afraid. For more information visit: duaneflatmo.com

El Pulpo Mecanico at Burning Man. Photo by Cat Laine

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DAX NORMAN WHEN EXPERIMENTAL GOES RIGHT

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his small biography should only describe experimental animator and painter Dax Norman in one word: “Whoa.” That’s the only word necessary to say when one looks at his lurid animations and gazes at his chromatic pieces. Though, seeing as this magazine is meant to be filled with words, I’ll try my best to assemble more sentences to properly explain his surreal art.

If you regularly tune into Adult Swim’s Off the Air, you’ll have spotted Norman’s trippy visuals on your screen. His work is a tip of the hat to pioneer surrealists Man Ray and Max Ernst and he has cited other influences like David Olive, Joseph Noderer and Shel Silverstein as being direct inspirations. He takes classic pop culture images, strips most of its iconic features, and then dips it in oozy psychedelic putty. There’s also a large archive of original 2D and 3D animated characters that offer new perceptions of reality. He excels in assembling animals, objects and faces and blending all of it to create one moving image. Norman understands very well the concept of synergy, or as Aristotle once said, “When the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” He told Beautiful/Decay Magazine, “I see them each as ‘little paintings’ or ‘picture poems’ each with its own universe of movement. Playing with the looping idea and rhythm is what appeals to me the most. Hopefully people can hear something in my moving pictures, even though there is no sound.” While there’s nothing to hear, there’s plenty to see in Norman’s world.

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Dax Norman Reynoso: Before we start, what toppings would be on your dream pizza? Norman: My dream pizza would include lots of pepperoni cheese and fresh jalapeños. I never met a pizza I didn’t like. What came first, the paintings or your animations? The paintings came first, and drawings before that. My intent with learning animation was to try to bring my paintings to life, which I have figured out how to do at this point in many different ways. It took years for my skills to get to that point, though. Sometimes now, the animations come first. I like to go into any project fresh, so I try not to copy one to another exactly, but leave plenty of room for improvisation. Who do you look up to artistically? In other words, who are your artistic inspirations?

What is your earliest artistic memory? My parents calling me “doodle” as a little boy, because I was always drawing. You have a degree in advertising from the University of Texas at Austin. I didn’t find any ads on your website, any ones I’d know? I studied advertising enough to know that I didn’t want to work in that industry. I like to think that maybe I learned something from that period that feeds into my personal artistic branding. As far as commercial work, however, I did work on a couple of mobile games that came out on all of the iPod classics and Nanos when I worked for Apple. Did you doubt your art at first? Or were you excited to embark on these psychedelic landscapes that makes your artwork stand out from others? I have never doubted my work. It is an escape for me. Art is the place I go that I am free to do absolutely whatever I want, with no limitations. I’ve been drawing and making things for so long that a confidence grew along with the work. Plus, for so long, it was just really me making art by myself, to create a little visual universe of imagination.

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The confidence grew over the years from an expanding appreciation of all art forms. On that same note, was your art always bursting with color and design? Mixed pop culture references and animals, among other things? Color has been inherent in my work from the start. I like to think that it springs from an appreciation of life itself, with color being a product of the light. Animals are fun to look at and think about, and to draw, so that is probably where that came from. I really use shapes as my jump off point, so if a shape looks like a moos, then I will make a moose. When was the moment you decided that painting/ animations was your passion? Or was it a slow evolution? There was a moment, when I felt lost in my studies in college (advertising). Where I was thinking all I wanted to do was draw... so that is what I did. I came to the realization that you don’t need anybody’s permission to ever do what you want to do.

I am inspired by all kinds of things. I really enjoy art history and reading books about other artists. Van Gogh has long been a favorite. I really like Max Ernst a whole lot, as well. I saw a video on YouTube years back of Ralph Bakshi giving a speech that really inspired me to make a lot of DIY animation. Growing up, Beavis and Butthead was my favorite cartoon. Let’s talk about your paintings - specifically your mosaics. You use everyday objects such as couches, soda cans, dice, a Crest toothpaste bottle as well as people and animals to create one image. How do begin a piece like this? Do you have an image in mind at first or do the objects come first? For those pieces, it is just a way to conquer the blank canvas. I start with a picture, which could be something lying around, or a photo of someone, and then I draw that out. As the painting progresses, the original image is completely ignored. I just look at the shapes and lines, which compose it as abstractions, which I turn into something recognizable. At the end, the funny thing is that the original drawing is still there. Someone told me once they thought they looked like collage. I never thought of it that way, but it sort of is an apt description. The imagery is layered, but the difference is that the images share contours, which is what gives it the push and pull perception.

How important is the inclusion of pop culture in modern art? Does it always have a place or do you feel critics could dismiss the pieces as a form of advertising? The pop stuff creeps in here in there, as it is a part of our collective consciousness. Sometimes we are nostalgic for some of these things, even advertising icons, but there inclusion in art is not necessarily an endorsement for them. In the 19th century, people painted a flowerpot or bowl of fruit because that is what was in front of them. Nowadays, we’ve got all kinds of branded stuff all around, which just makes it into the art one way or another. The things that make their way into my work are like fragments of memories or ideas that just float around in the ether, sometimes landing on my artwork. The art for me is a combination of an interior and exterior reality. Sometimes it is more one that another. I’ve been playing Where’s Waldo for 10 minutes trying to find all the Crest toothpaste bottles. I found over 10 of them! What your fascination with this tool for oral hygiene? There are lots of those toothpaste tubes. I always used to use that brand of toothpaste. I liked the design of that particular tube, and was reminded of Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans, so I picked the toothpaste to put in. It really is a Where’s Waldo sort of thing. The particular shape of the tube makes its way into my mental library of shapes, which I call upon if need be. I want the viewer to have a new experience each time they see my work.

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Dax Norman

How would you describe your paintings? Modern surrealism, perhaps? It is probably best for others to describe. I certainly don’t want to limit myself to one genre or anything. The artwork is both modern and surreal, I suppose. At one point, I had the goal of making a piece of artwork that could simultaneously be completely abstract and completely not. That takes multiple viewpoints; so one person may see it as one thing and another as something else. Take it as you will. The work certainly does deal with the subconscious, so that is the same place surrealism was coming from. Now on the subject of your extraordinary, and often frightening, animations. As I’m speaking I’m looking at a gif of a man with an ear for a head tossing a pair of lips cascading from an eyeball.... How does something like this come to your head?

With any music video that I made, I had total creative control; at least I think I did. The Fiery Furnaces video wasn’t an official one, I did that at a time when I found some music video contests on line and I was cranking out all this animation work. I always liked that band so I did it just to make something. I don’t know if they’ve ever even seen it. The first Rafter video was for a contest as well, which I won, and talked to him about doing another one the next year, so I did. The Romance Fantasy Piece was an idea that I had about making a video with animated bowling pins. It was experimental, as I like to try out ideas if I think they will be fun. My cousin is in that band, and he was cool with it.

With that particular piece, “Frisbee lips” I think it was called; I made a drawing in a sketchbook that was collaged from multiple drawings, and collaged to find the design. I thought the character looked interesting, so I decided to animate it. With animation, you’ve got to try and surprise people with the unexpected. So first I must surprise myself. That is when I know it is right. As far as them being freaky, that is OK. I think I have tried to eliminate fear from my life by embracing it in my art, to sort of give it a hug, and have a laugh with it.

Have you thought of pursuing other styles of art? Non-trippy, non-psychedelic? Not to suggest you should move on, your artwork is like a drug (in a good way).

What software do you use to create the 3D twodimensional animations? Which one do you prefer to animate? The software used doesn’t really matter which, as there are so many good ones to use these days. It is a tool to create an idea, like a pencil or brush.But I use Maya for 3D stuff, and Photoshop for the hand drawn works.

I always work on many projects at once. I try to make at least one new animated gif per day, from scratch. I am usually in the midst of many paintings at once. I have been doing some exciting painting collaborations with my friend Joseph Noderer in the last year, which is an ongoing thing. I am also making a feature animated film, collaborating with composer Neil Anderson-Himmelspach. The movie is called Leptune.

Jesus Christ has appeared multiple times in both your animations and paintings...do you consider yourself a religious person?

Finally, what is your future plans for your animations? Have them featured in a film, perhaps? How about your paintings?

I do love Jesus, and find him to be the best role model I can find on how to live a life on Earth.

My future plans are to finish the Leptune movie, and to generally just keep making cool art all the time. I have no control over what happens with it or if people even see it, but I can make it, and that is fun.

You’ve animated multiple music videos for Rafter, Fiery Furnaces, and Romance Fantasy. How much creative control did you have for each video?

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Did the bands have a specific vision or did they let you loose? The Romance Fantasy was different than your other work. How was that idea manifested?

I pursue all kinds of styles as far as I know. I guess I just naturally put them through some sort of filter in the way I do things that give them that sort of feeling. I will just keep going to where the ideas take me. What are you working on at the moment?

For more information visit: daxnorman.com

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ALAN SANBORN THE WIZARD OF COLOR As a realist painter, you’ve decided to capture the world as it is today. The amount of contemporary subjects in ordinary life is, essentially, limitless. Today, however, there’s a surge in vigorous graphics created both in Photoshop and on canvas. If you take a look at the leading art publications High Fructose and Juxtapoz, their covers embrace dreamy scenes, pop art, and surrealism. So, in this day and age the 160-year-old realism movement is under a large shadow. Don’t fear realism’s health though, artist Alan Sanborn is keeping it alive. Sanborn encapsulates the county lifestyle of Humboldt County by painting houses, alleyways, gardens, and doorsteps of Arcata. Sanborn doesn’t build any borders; he ventures past Humboldt County and creates serene scenes of east coast spots he visits during his time off. I met with Sanborn at his home in Arcata. His walls are stamped with his anthology of the very pieces I mentioned above. We spoke for an hour about the roots of his artistic drive to realism. Alan Sanborn, a child of small town living, 60s teen, and father of two reminds us that there’s always a reason to be in nature.

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Alan Sanborn

Reynoso: What have you been working on lately? Sanborn: I’ve spent the last year doing mostly rocks in water. It was because I didn’t travel east or go any place in the summer and I thought, “I’m just going to spend time in the north coast rivers.” That’s what I did as a kid. I’d go down the rivers and swim in lakes as much as I could. I was sort of doing it for that and sort of doing it for the fact that the rivers were kind of at the edge. I just sensed that the year after it was going to be bad because the flow was going down. I wanted to make a tribute to north coast rivers. So, I spent the year doing big paintings of rocks in water. Last spring I decided I was going to do 50 oil paintings in 50 days. That was different. How big were these paintings? They were mostly small. Mostly, like, 12x16 and few were 8x10s. Some two feet by one foot. But, compared to most of my stuff they were relatively small.

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College Cove Beach Trinidad, CA It’s good that you captured the rivers before they mostly disappeared. I was traveling on the 101 [going south] and I looked over and saw that a lot of the rivers were just so low. It was just algae.

I think the arts are really important, because without it what’s the point of being human? It gives a communication between people. What would the world be without music? Without art?

Yeah...

When did you start painting? What medium did you start with? Watercolors? Oil?

It’s sad The Eel [River] was stopping before it went to the ocean. That’s really sad. I just sensed it that a bad year was coming up and I wanted to get these paintings so that people can see them. I feel that the biggest part of humanity is that we are divorced from nature more and more. We spend all of our time inside. More and more we are divorced from nature and are involved with screens and virtual reality, we lose the fact that we are underpinned by a system that’s bigger than all of the other systems we’ve come up with. So, that’s a lot of what I do. I’m not painting something that used to be - it’s not nostalgia - that’s where we live now. Appreciate it.

Well I’ve always drawn. Since I could hold a pencil I’ve been drawing. I started taking class, not for a degree, but because I wanted to learn. I was bicycling in Europe and I saw the Goya paintings. Those big dark oil paintings. They totally humbled me. I thought, “I’m going to paint! I don’t know what I have to do. I’ll never be like this, but I want to paint.” When I started I did these combinations of funky little watercolors I saw in Goya paintings. Then I had Bob Benson at College of Redwoods, who I think is one of the best watercolorists in the country, as a teacher. I started painting like he painted then I painted like I painted and I followed water color ever since.

Did you start with any other styles? Or was it pretty much landscape? Landscapes. As a kid, my brothers hated road trips but I loved them. I would just look at the window. I just loved coming into town at night and saw how the light shimmered at other things. I also spent most of my childhood outside. I grew up in Maine. The whole town was mostly farms then. How did you find yourself in Humboldt County? We moved to LA. That’s where I went to high school. That was a cool time. When I got there “Surfin’ Safari” was number 1 on the charts. The year before I left, Sgt. Peppers was on the charts. 1967!

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Alan Sanborn

Kettenpom, CA Yeah. From ‘63 to ‘68 I was in LA. I hitched hiked up to Golden Gate Park sometimes. I moved [to Arcata] in ‘68. Because it was as far up as you could get from LA. Did you get any painting jobs? Oh no, I wasn’t painting then. I worked in the dish room. I’ve done at least 70 jobs. Even today if someone as a job that isn’t painting I’ll go. How long have you been painting?

Usually, like the one of the truck there, I do. I moved the truck forward so it wouldn’t be encapsulated in the building. And the crows weren’t there. Also the dock came out further. I think the truck was a different color, actually! I just change things.

I started in 1977.

How often do you do you change things?

Your work is landscapes, yet there are paintings that are dynamic and have a lot of motion to them. For instance you’ve painted someone buying vegetables at the Farmers’ Market and one of a wave crashing on a rock. How do you capture such motion? Are you present at the time? Or do you take photos?

All the time.

I always work from photos. These just take too long, the watercolors. A lot of things I paint are in temporarily light. The other thing I do is seeing what the photo has to offer and what I remember seeing. As far as motion, you kind of get a motif of what’s going on. Like this reflection in the water [points to painting], that’s not exactly what was in the photo. Also the yellow shimmer, it didn’t come up in the photograph but I remember it was there.

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Your work is focused in the art of realism...or naturalism, as it’s been called before. This style is usually described as honest and usually not idealizing the depiction of its subjects. I want to know if you’ve taken out anything you didn’t like when you’re painting a still life?

How important do you think it is to capture these country landscapes in Humboldt County and other places? I think this is a special time and place. I feel loyal to this area. What time of the year are you painting the most? I don’t paint a lot in the summer because I’m on vacation. I don’t take my work with me. I assumed that a lot of it would be in the summer. I take pictures in the summer. In Arcata I paint. I don’t drag my stuff with me. I go to be with my family and friends.

Alan Sanborn in his home. Arcata, CA So you take the photographs and then you paint them when you come here? Yeah, sort of. I take photographs here. When I’m traveling I don’t have to get back in painting, I have a lot of time. When I’m here, I think “Oh, I’m at the river and I have my camera, I’ll take a picture.” On average, how long does one of your paintings take to finish? Thirty hours maybe. Of the streets, farms, cities that you’ve painted, how many of them have you returned to? Have you noticed any major differences in the landscape? Oh, I return to every place I’ve been to when I get the change. I paint history, I don’t mean to paint history. A lot of things I’ve painted like yards are gone. Or the house has become an RV park. Or buildings have been replaced by slicker things. Are you glad you painted those places before they’ve changed? I tend to think that anything I’ve painted still exist. If you paint enough things, some of its going to go away. You’ve painted the entire town of Arcata in one canvas. Tell me about that project. That was a commision. They paid me to paint the map.

Who? She’s from out of the area. Next time I’ll do it, I’ll do it on my own. Did she give you a lot of free reign? She gave me a lot of free reign. The business that paid got to be on the map. I added some things. I put myself in there and my family. I noticed [your son] Liam and Shannon. [Your son] Aidan and Brodrick. Jimi Hendrix...Jerry Garcia. Yeah! You’ve looked at it a lot. I have it in my room. I had seen a lot of maps like that. When she presented that to me, I thought, “Oh, those are usually so awful.” Then I thought, “If I’m going to do it, I’m going to have a lot of fun and make this be a worthwhile thing to do. I’m going to have fun with the style, the cartoon nature, tweaking the way you look at buildings.” I had a great time. It took a long time to do though. Yeah, I was impressed by how the buildings are the exact same color as they are today. How hard was it to find those exact colors? Oh, I’m a wiz at color. That’s what I do. I think I’m one of the best at color.

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Alan Sanborn To me, I think that color is really important. You can have a crappy drawing but if you painted the right colors, everyone will understand. If you have a great drawing and have bad colors, it’s terrible. Did you walk around Arcata and write down the building’s colors? They were supposed to give me photographs of the buildings, but they did a really bad job at it. About half of them I went around Arcata and took pictures of signs. It’s hard to set up because she kept sending me more businesses. Like, the Indianola Market was in there. And that’s way out there! You start realizing there’s a whole lot of businesses in this area of town but in, say, the high school to the hospital there’s, like, almost nothing, so what do you do with that space? This was a completely creative project because I had to make a map that represents a place without most of the streets. With things...sort of in relation to each other so if someone was driving to town they might be able to get to point A to point B in this thing. Speaking of businesses, your work is used for Farmers’ Market advertisements. Do they decide what art piece is used for their ads or is it you? Well that started really organically. I had been painting a lot of farms for years. So, I had a lot of images. They pay me $500 for each painting they use. They don’t keep the painting, I do. So, I get free publicity and I get my image printed every year. It was just a symbiotic relationship. There are some things I’ve done - I’ve done North Country Fair and the fourth of July. Personally, I don’t think a lot of people are devoted to painting farms, that’s just something I do. For more information visit: alansanbornart.com

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THE 10 GREATEST ALBUMS OF 2014

1 LOST IN THE DREAM THE WAR ON DRUGS SECRETLY CANADIAN, MARCH 18 The War On Drugs’ latest album Lost in the Dream was an album that took some time to make. It was recorded over two years and it saw many rewrites. I suspect that lead singer Adam Granduciel knew that he was cooking something really special. So special that it needed some care before it was released to the masses. That’s what he did – he took his time and crafted the greatest album of the year. From the alarm clock high hat beginning in “Under The Pressure” to the final sea of sounds of “In Reverse”, its noticeable that The War On Drugs is a group of musicians who polish their songs with every release. These 10 tracks shine far more than their last record, 2011’s Slave Ambient. Every instrument here sounds more lavish, colorful, and blissful even. In “Under the Pressure”, the nine-minute opener, the last two minutes fill your head with an ocean of panoramic guitars, sweet synths and succulent horns. The mellow “Suffering” shines with a watery guitar solo that’s reverb heavy. The War On Drugs also can rock out – they turn the volume up in the lead single “Red Eyes” and in the fast paced “Burning”. The influences float in the background. The band borrows from Americana, folk rock, and new wave music. The album’s ancestors include Bob Dylan’s Brining It All Back Home, Tom Petty’s Damn The Torpedoes, and some moment’s in Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A. Even in its most Zen like moments, Lost in the Dream paints a portrait of man falling into the void. Note that the last few lines of “Suffering”, Granduciel gives in to the pain. “Will you be here suffering? / Well I hope to be.” The sheer vulnerability that’s exposed could be a sort of remedy for his sorrow, though somehow I doubt it.

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THE 10 GREATEST ALBUMS OF 2014

2 ST. VINCENT ST. VINCENT LOMA VISTA / REPUBLIC, FEBRUARY 24 Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, is not your everyday pop star. She sits comfortably in art pop, chamber pop, and indie rock. She’s also an excellent multi-instrumentalist who not only plays guitar but also has experience in the bass guitar, piano, organ, and Theremin. With each release she slowly grows more experimental and abstract, however she doesn’t let her music dwell in these two genres for too long to risk her pop appeal. This is why she remains the successful artist she is today, and her self titled St. Vincent is the continuation of her journey of being “weird.” “What’s the point in even sleeping / If I can’t show, if you can’t see me?” Sings Clark on “Digital Witness”, her accurate critique on the Tweet-everything-you-think-of culture. Instrumentally, Clark has an excellent grip on noise pop, artrock, and baroque pop. The sounds on St. Vincent are glitchy, noisy, distorted and heavily layered. In the second half of “Huey Newton”, Clark straps on a fuzz bass guitar that bleeds grimy, crunchy notes. She even gets a little funky with the horn heavy “Digital Witness”, which sounds like a pop song from the apocalypse. In “Bring Me Your Loves” there’s certainly real drums in the track but they are looped endlessly. The icing on the cake is Clark’s beautiful vocals. In several moments she harmonizes with herself and at other times she simply double and triple tracks her voice. As of 2014, she’s a living, walking art show. Her hair is dyed white and she wears fishnets, frills, and silver dresses on stage. Her outfits are perfectly in tune with the sounds on St. Vincent, an album we weren’t supposed to listen to until 2020.

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THE 10 GREATEST ALBUMS OF 2014

3 BURN YOUR FIRE FOR NO WITNESS ANGEL OLSEN JAGJAGUWAR, FEBRUARY 17 Missouri based folk rock; indie pop musician Angel Olsen opens her latest record Burn Your Fire For No Witness with the quiet “Unfucktheworld.” I, for one, was expecting to listen to a continuation of her 2012 record Half Way Home that was packed with hushed bedroom recordings. When the second track “Forgiven/Forgotten” came on, I was so wrong. A rapid fuzzy guitar kicks off the song and soon enough a full band carries Olsen. When these loud songs started creeping in, I was starting to prefer this garage rock tinged Olsen. There’s more of a variety of sounds to explore with a full band. Though, Olsen doesn’t immediately divorce her roots. Songs like “Enemy”, “Lights Out”, and “White Fire” parallel her past projects. That said, her newfound band has kept their distance because on an Angel Olsen record the focal point is her luscious voice. She teeter-totters between raw sadness and happiness that has a sort of country twang. She’s at her sweetest with “Hi-Five”. “Are you lonely too? / Hi-five, so am I!” She’s at her most charming in “Forgiven/Forgotten”. “I don’t know anything! But I love you!” Then she drifts into the darkness in the song “High & Wild”. “You’re gone, you’re gone / You’re with me but you’re gone.” Burn Your Fire For No Witness doesn’t don Olsen’s regular rawness or weirdness from her previous releases, but producer John Congleton managed to fine-tune her sound without sacrificing Olsen’s excentricity. Olsen’s embrace of punchy drum kits and reverb soaked guitars amplifies the energy that’s been inside her since day one.

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THE 10 GREATEST ALBUMS OF 2014

4 SALAD DAYS MAC DeMARCO CAPTURED TRACKS, APRIL 1 Gap-tooth, funny and laid back - indie pop favorite Mac DeMarco has never been one for grand entrances. His previous album, 2012’s 2, was a neat package of jangle pop and mellow tracks that are as smooth as summer lemonade. Following a world tour, a weathered DeMarco didn’t want to change the formula too much. “I didn’t want to freak anybody out with a huge sound change,” said DeMarco, “I wanted to transition without changing the vibe too much. The mood for Salad Days is, ‘Fuck man! I was just on tour for a year and a half and I’m tired!’” So, DeMarco and friends fleshed out a quick, 34-minute no-big deal album, as expected. Salad Days wasn’t so much a continuation of 2, but instead was a refinement of Demarco’s lyrics. He focused on personal moments, stating that the album wouldn’t be about “absolutely nothing.” In “Let My Baby Stay”, he focused on his long-term girlfriend Kiera McNally. “I was made to love her, been working at it / Half of my life, I’ve been an addict”. DeMarco is keen on giving his advice on numerous subjects. “Tell her that you love her, if you really love her”, he beckons on “Let Her Go”. His thoughts pour out on “Passing Out Pieces”, a song about his whirlwind life filled with tours, interviews, and recording. Instrumentally, Salad Days has a lot of deja vu moments from 2. Though, DeMarco did trail off to synthesizer territories. This is prevalent when the keyboards burst forth in “Passing Out Pieces” and the slow, Beach House-esque “Chamber of Reflection.” As much as I enjoyed the watery guitar hooks on the other tracks, I’m hoping that on DeMarco’s next album he’ll explore a more assortment of sounds.

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THE 10 GREATEST ALBUMS OF 2014

5 PIÑATA FREDDIE GIBBS & MADLIB MADLIB INVAZION, MARCH 18 The appeal of Piñata lies within the tastes of its listeners. In the inner circle of hip-hop and rap, there’s a giant tree with branches of different styles and genres. Flow, rhythm, rhymes, delivery, and lyrics – all of it varies so much. Not to mention the eras that will determine attraction – 80s golden age, gangsta, or glitch. If you’re tied down to one of those it’ll take multiple listens to love what Freddie Gibbs and Madlib have crafted. Or, it won’t take any convincing at all. Old school, soul and funk music mixed with hip-hop beats and smooth rhymes are on the menu here. Rapper Freddie Gibbs makes for an unusual lead role. Gibbs is known for his in-yourface gangsta rhymes that filled his 2012 album Baby Face Killa. Nonetheless, he’s no stranger to updated G-funk. With Madlib on board, Gibbs tones the ego down a few notches and kicks up the lyrical content. Like in “Broken” Gibbs brings up the irony of his father being a cop. “A life of crime is all we ever shared from then to now / And I’m a crook and you crooked, that’s all we got in common”. There’s also a great line about Gibb’s reason for blacks’ being marginalized in “Shitsville”. “This white devil society dare a nigga to do drugs / And dare yo ass to deal ‘em, distribute and conceal ‘em”. To keep with its often G-funk party vibe, there are bangers here fit for getting down with. These moments include “High” with a rapid verse from Danny Brown as well as laid-back anthems “Robes”, “Bomb”, and “Lakers”. A lot these tracks are brought to life by Madlib’s expert sampling. Many feature these psychedelic guitars, glimmering keyboards, and bits of soul singers that are looped. Several great rappers tag along with Gibbs like Raekwon, Domo Genesis, Earl Sweatshirt, BJ The Chicago Kid and many more. This union of sounds should be something that even glitch rap lovers can enjoy.

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THE 10 GREATEST ALBUMS OF 2014

THE 10 GREATEST ALBUMS OF 2014

6 III

During the dawn of Toronto based jazz group BADBADNOTGOOD, the trio were turning heads with their free jazz reimagining’s of hiphop instrumentals. It was not until III that BBNG dished out original songs

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7

BADBADNOTGOOD

LP1 FKA TWIGS

INNOVATIVE LEISURE, MAY 6

YOUNG TURKS, AUGUST 6

excellent solos they have laid out many times before. Bass, guitar, and drums still make up the foundation with new instruments taking the lead in some moments.

Which was a necessary route for BBNG. It showed fans that the trio could handle their style without the helping hand of already released songs.

There’s a hypnotic saxophone solo from Leland Whitty in “Confessions.” I picked up on strings in the final moments of “Kaleidoscope.” The single “Can’t Leave the Night” has a fantastic, bass-rattling climax.

The cataclysmic sections from “Kaleidoscope” and “Triangle” leave room for the

However, the group decided to worry on composing focused material than free

style. Some of the songs on this record are guided by single hooks and are played out patiently. Take the song “Since You Asked Kindly”, there’s one single melody that the trio revolves around. This new direction of planning and careful construction replaced some of BBNG’s electrifying performance energy and sadly, left a few tracks stale because of that.

Tahliah Barnett, better known as FKA twigs, has turned many heads the past few years for several reasons. She got her start in the pop world as a backup dancer in music videos. Her look is borderline cartoonish with her doe eyed gaze and her full lips. She gained a lot of traction with two very concise EPs EP1 and EP2, in which the latter had the minor hit “Papi Pacify.” Barnett showed a lot of promise and unique style. This album will elevate her to the top.

With this record, she continues her brand of contemporary R&B with her in most finetuned record of to date – both melodically and structurally. It’s not the most accessible pop record of the year, but it didn’t need that title. Instead, it succeeds on a more sophisticated take on the genre that borrows from Ciara, The Weeknd, and Beyoncé’s self-titled record. It also mixes some gentle nods at trip-hop acts Portishead and Massive Attack. There’s also hip-hop beats sprinkled in here too.

The tone is set in the very strange but undeniably beautiful “Preface” track that had Barnett harmonizing with herself. It’s alluring but suspiciously infectious, like the rest of the album. That’s true in the second track “Lights On” that’s seductive with the stand up bass and Barnett’s whispering vocals. Easily the best produced song was the single “Two Weeks”. What keeps me staying for more with each track was the finesse in Barnett’s voice as well as the amount of detail in only 40 minutes.

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THE 10 GREATEST ALBUMS OF 2014

THE 10 GREATEST ALBUMS OF 2014

9

8

ULTIMA II MASSAGE TOBACCO

GHOSTLY INTERNATIONAL, MAY 13 Tom Fec, front man of Black Moth Super Rainbow and creator of Tobacco, is at his most demonic in Ultima II Massage. The small quirks of BMSR including that female vocalist and the layered electronics spill over to Tobacco. There’s not a lot to distinguish between the two, really. But in this new record, Fec creates his fuzziest and trippiest record to date. At the very beginning of “Streaker” there’s a heavily – and I mean heavily - distorted voice that is just crushed

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under the weight of broken cymbals and sluggish synths. This immediately sets the tone of the record as unsettling and trippy. There are equally satanic moments like in “Video Warning Attempts” featuring a vocoder vocalist mumbling these unintelligible words over a wobbly beat. It’s like a Transformer trying to escape the depths of hell. The warped R&B track “Eruption (Gonna Get My Hair Cut at the End of the Summer)” is the funkiest moment on the record equipped with the usual abused synths and crunchy

beat. It’s noticeable that Fec is trained in techno, disco, and IDM music but he takes the formulas of these genres to the studio to brutalize and distort them again and again. Like the song “Blow Your Heart” that’s disco flavored but it’s gone rotten. Now 16 tracks might sound like overkill, but in the spirit of Tobacco he feeds you these small sonic moments in bite size pieces that range between one to four minutes. It’s easily the most dynamic album produced by Fec yet.

YOU’RE DEAD!

10

THEY WANT MY SOUL

FLYING LOTUS

SPOON

WARP, OCTOBER 6

LOMA VISTA, AUGUST 5

Famed music producer Steven Ellison or Flying Lotus (FlyLo) is at the top of his game in You’re Dead! His fifth studio album invites a lot of guests from Snoop Dogg to Herbie Hancock to come aboard on another experimental journey but this time it’s fused with the essence of jazz.

Alternative rock band Spoon is like a local restaurant. It stays true to itself by serving you its regular delicious meals. The same can be said about Spoon – they’ve kept the same recipe of penning old-fashioned rock songs that have received considerable attention.

A defining characteristic of FlyLo’s new album is the very short tracks. Most of the songs do not trail ahead of the two-minute mark. The songs inflate to something great then in the blink of an eye they evaporate to the next track. These songs are meant to play back-toback, which could upset some. Nonetheless, like a progressive era Pink Floyd record, the tracks are chained together.

Again, with their latest They Want My Soul record, Spoon’s regular ingredients are used once more, though with some surprises. The opener “Rent I Pay” is guided by a strong backbeat with a thin, crunchy guitar and front man Britt Daniel’s strong vocals. It’s straightforward and consistent like the songs “Do You”, the title track, and “Let Me Be Mine.” They have these catchy, finger snapping hooks, great for any rock station.

From the start of the record, FlyLo introduces the record with a very dense opening of strings. In “Cold Dead” there’s a Bitches Brew style free jazz jam. There are also some juicy, laid backbeats in “Coronus, the Terminator” and “Turtle.” As well as solid flow from Kendrick Lamar in “Never Catch Me.” This record is ripe with dynamic keyboards, colorful beats, and expert rap. It’s quite a journey.

Spoon did leave room for some new sounds like the very stripped back “Inside Out” featuring these very relaxed keyboards and twinkling harmonies from the featured harp. This is a band that continues to record solid instrumentations, catchy lyrics with great sound production. It’s neither adventurous nor groundbreaking, but the taste satisfies.

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1

THE 25 GREATEST singles OF 2014

DIGITAL WITNESS ST. VINCENT

writer: annie clark producer: john congleton released: january 6 “A lot of the record touches on this digital reality of total connection, and lack of connection” Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, told Uncut magazine. In her fantastic “Digital Witness” track, Clark captures the state of the world as it is today. She finds herself tackling her frustrations of 2014’s selfie era citizens in the midst of a technology binge. “People turn the TV on / It looks just like a window, yeah” is the song’s chorus. The tongue-incheek lyrics are a comment on the false “realities” that plague networks. Not only does she touch on people’s technological obsessions, she tackles our narcissism. “Digital witnesses, what’s the point of even sleeping? / If I can’t show it, you can’t see me”. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Vine and others come to mind as the leading corkboard social networks. “Oh, oh, I, I want all of your mind / Give me all of your mind / I want all of your mind / Give me all of it.” Speaking of social networks, I’m going to guess that

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Clark takes the role as the CEO’s of the aforementioned networks. Or it’s possible she has personified the Internet and voicing what it would say. Either way, we place our minds, thoughts, ambitions, and hatred on our phones and computers for safekeeping, unaware that we are shredding our privacy with each tweet, Vine video, or Snapchat. At the end of the song, she has declared sleeping obsolete and begs, “Won’t somebody sell me back to me?” That might be a NSA reference. As for the instrumentation, the lyrics contrasts the horn soaked beat. It’s very groovy and funky. But not the classic funk you’d find on an Isley Brothers record or a Parliament LP. It’s more textured, synthesizer heavy and electronically tinged. There’s a very strong backbeat that pushes the song to the edge with distorted guitars along for the ride. Every instrument is played is very robotically. Each note is choppy and jouncy; there was no room for sloppiness.

“A lot of the record touches on this digital reality of total connection, and lack of connection.” - St. Vincent

With every release, Clark has grown to be more experimental, caustic, and even abstract. Though, she doesn’t linger in these moments for too long because she’s maintained her pop appeal thus far. And it shows, everyone from The Guardian to Spin to Pitchfork gave positive reviews to the self-titled St. Vincent record, the album where “Digital Witness” lives. It’s the best pop song of 2014, and it deserves that title. The present state of people’s obsessions are finally brought up rather than ignored by pop music, a genre that’s lost touch with reality. Years from now we’ll name this song as an era defining piece of music much like Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” is to the 60’s.

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THE 25 GREATEST singles OF 2014

2

LAZARETTO JACK WHITE writer: JACK WHITE producer: JACK WHITE released: APRIL 22 Jack White broke away from his first band The White Stripes back in 2011. But he’s more active than ever, playing in large stadiums like the O2 Arena and headlining major festivals. He’s gathered two groups of talented musicians backing him up both in the studio and on stage. The first, The Peacocks, is his all female band. The second, the all male group, are called The Buzzards. Both have catered to White’s craving of calm, soft, country kissed melodies as well as his love for epically scaled garage rock songs that echo his Stripes days. This particular song represents that latter. It’s loud, tough, gritty, and did I mention loud? It comes at you in three parts: the first, a bass line of “Seven Nation Army” proportions with a piercing synthesizer joining in. Just before the second part, a boisterous, yet typical, crunchy Jack White solo blares through the speakers to the point that his six string screams in pain. Then, after a cymbal crash the song detours into an alternative bass line along with a moog synthesizer leading to a great fiddle solo. White’s vocals have a considerable amount of rap flow on this track as well. White named this song after a 15th century quarantine station used for people with infectious diseases. When asked about the name of the album, he stressed that, because of his constant touring, interviewing and recording, the idea of such a place was very tempting, “I fantasize about living in one-room apartments and being in a work camp somewhere, where there’s absolutely nothing around me but a cot and a teapot and a sink,” White told The Observer. And why should you blame him? White hasn’t escaped the spotlight since 1997. Admittedly, this song does not hold up to classic White Stripes garage rock freak outs, nonetheless, as Jack White continues to dwell into a more folky, country territory, fans can be assured that he has not lost touch with his roots and this song proves that.

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3

HI-FIVE ANGEL OLSEN writer: ANGEL OLSON producer: JOHN CONGLETON released: JANUARY 9 The central conflict in an Angel Olsen song is her loneliness. When she sings lines like “I feel so lonesome, I could cry” or “But all I want, all I ever need / Is someone out there who believes”, the human ear can detect her authenticity. Not that she really minds it- she even embraces the solitude and asks for hi-fives because of it. “If you can’t be psyched about your own thoughts,” she said in an interview, “Then how are you supposed to have a meaningful interaction with anyone?” A highlight is Olsen’s enchanting vocal range. It jumps from utter sadness to a slight seductive allure when she sings “Are you lonely too?” Her back up band is stellar too. The drums stomp and pound. The guitar’s reverb effect fills the space with a wall of sound. It compliments Olsen’s voice without overshadowing it and it awakens an energy that’s been missing from her earlier work. Granted, Olsen’s acoustic exclusive tunes are how the world fell in love with her but this newfound electric outfit was the next logical step in her career. “Hi-Five” was the second single released for Olsen’s acclaimed second album Burn Your Fire for No Witness the upbeat sequel to 2012’s Half Way Home, an album of bedroom folk songs and whispery balladry.

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THE 25 GREATEST singles OF 2014

5 passing out pieces

Writer: demarco Producer: demarco Released: january 21 “Passing Out Pieces” was the first taste of Salad Days, a song that starts very much in the same style as Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”. The armies of organs blast the second the song starts, a noticeable difference in sound from DeMarco’s usual jangle pop guitars.

4

Hot dreams timber timbre

Writer: Taylor kirk Producers: Kirk, Simon Trottier Released: April 1 Taylor Kirk, lead singer of Timber Timbre, gives off several vibes vocally and instrumentally. In “Hot Dreams” he’s often inviting and enticing and at times his croon is deeply creepy. It’s a slow dance song, yes, but its allure is so potent you’ll find yourself coming back again and again. And here’s why: the song’s guitars play sweet, syrupy notes as they shimmer oh, so delicately. There’s a keyboard playing quiet harmonies way in the background and a drum set plays it safe by tapping only the snare and high hat. At the 3:30 mark, an irresistible saxophone closes the song. “I wanna follow through / follow through on all my promises and threats to you babe” sings Kirk. In one quick breath, he turns a sweet line to a menacing scene that is left unexplained.

“Passing Out Pieces” is Demarco’s biographical piece, his thoughts as a musician who has entered the eye of the storm. Two years ago he opened to a quaint, 550-capacity show in New York’s Bowery Ballroom and headlined at the Webster Hall to the tune of 1,500 guests. After, his popularity took off to the point of headlining LA’s FYF Fest alongside Flying Lotus, The Strokes, Phoenix, and Blood Orange. Pitchfork even produced a documentary on the making of Salad Days. With this sudden burst of fame, Demarco felt the need to write about how this stardom affects him. “Passing out pieces of me / don’t you know nothing comes free?” These small pieces refer to the constant interviews he’s been featured in this year. The Guardian, Stereogum, Vice, Pitchfork, Wondering Sound, Southern Souls, The 405, and The Line of Best Fit have all taken a piece of Demarco. At his shows, fans have collected their pieces too by paying for that pleasure. “Hell of a story, oh is it boring?” It might be to you, Mac but for us, it’s fun seeing you climb to the top.

“Hot Dreams” holds certain timelessness to it. Pick where it might belong: a 50s rarity record, an 80s blues album or on a Jeff Buckley LP. Anywhere it would fit, it would lie comfortably in the shadows.

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THE 25 GREATEST singles OF 2014

7

inside out spoon writer:

6 ill mind of hopson 7 hopsin

writer: marcus hopson Producer: hopson released: july 18 On July 1st, Hopsin announced the latest installment in the “Ill Mind” series on Twitter. A week later, he posted the following status: “This is for sure the realest shit I have ever written in my whole career. my family will look at me different after this one”. Before we get into that, it’s should be known that Hopsin’s past projects didn’t sit well with me. His previous effot, 2013’s Knock Madness seemed like a Slim Shady LP horrorcore counterfeit. I’m not going to deny that his impressive flow wasn’t impressive and

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that the beats didn’t occasionally make my head bop, however, I will say lyrically there’s a heap of lines that made me cringe. However, the seventh “Ill Mind”was a step in the right direction for Hopsin. In this track he doesn’t belittle his haters or whine about relationships. Instead he looks into his soul to ask personal questions. In the first few verses he spits about others calling him a “sellout / cause I hopped on Christianity so strongly then I fell out”. He sick of it. He’s even sicker of God’s idleness. He screams to the heavens, “But who the fuck are you? You never showed the proof/ And I’m only fucking human yo, what am I supposed to do?” Hopsin’s psyche is twisted by these questions and is frustrated in the zone between faith and disbelief.

If God shows himself, though, Hopsin will become devoted. As of now, he’s not buying into it. “My gut feeling says it’s all fake / I hate to say it but fuck it, shit, I done lost faith”. His mind trails to a government conspiracy, brings up that life is all uncertainty, but finishes with aborting it all. Hopsin will keep to himself and stay in his lane.

britt daniel producers: chiccarelli & dave fridmann released: july 22

joe

I didn’t believe “Inside Out” was Spoon the first time my brother played it for me. The tranquil synths didn’t sound like anything I’ve heard from them before. Then came the drum beat and soon enough I was tapping my feet. I was hooked. Spoon’s eighth studio album They Want My Soul marks their 21st year of writing and recording music. They’ve picked up and rotated indie and art rock again and again, changing it’s face with every album - like a Rubik’s cube. Now the cube face has landed in smooth electronics, an age old practice that rock musicians have trailed off to before (Radiohead, U2, Pink Floyd). Don’t think its in any way forced, however. The succulent synths came to Spoon very organically and push the song into a heavenly groove. Soon enough, a harp as light as air glides along and walking the bass line. The live version feature three keyboards tip toeing notes to keep with the song’s delicate nature. Lead singer Britt Daniel drifts into a diss on “holy rollers” and drops his thoughts on the concept of time, “Time’s gone inside out / Time gets distorted with / This intense gravity”. Lyrically, it’s a strange blend of words on how Daniels sees time. He’s sure that weather we’re here or not, the seconds keep on ticking.

I was floored when I first heard this track. The elements of a great rap song including great flow, lyrics, and emotion was boiled into one. The emotion, most of all, could be felt through the speakers. I’m hoping most people do not take this as a antiChristian rap song, because its not. This is between Hopsin and God.

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THE 25 GREATEST singles OF 2014

8

two weeks fka twigs writer: tahliah barnett & emile hayniel producer: barnett & Hayniel released: june 24

Tahliah Barnett, better known as her moniker FKA twigs has gained traction with the release of her first full length LP1, where her extraordinary song “Two Weeks” landed on. She’s enchanted audiences with last year’s “Water Me” and released a strange mix of sexuality and discomfort in her video “Papi Pacify”. Now, her continuation of stretching and bending R&B, pop, and deep bass electronics has earned her place in the hearts of many and in the top of many “best of” lists. What has attracted me to Barnett’s music was the fact that “Two Weeks”, as well as her other songs, are produced and mixed expertly. When I play “Two Weeks” on my Sony speakers, the subwoofer rattles when the bass explodes. I’m always intrigued by how well she can control her voice. In “Two Weeks” she puts these half-second pauses between her words that ooze utter seduction. Which is quite alluring on the surface but when one listens closely at the impudent lyrics the phrases “Higher than a motherfucker” and “Pull out the incisor, give me two weeks, you won’t recognize her” reveal menacing motives. On top of all that, the music video make her all the more magnetic. She’s dressed as an unamed goddess larger than her subjects which fits with the epicness that is “Two Weeks.”

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THE 25 GREATEST singles OF 2014

10 under the pressure the war on drugs

writer: adam granduciel Producer: granduciel released: may 26 In “Under the Pressure” I was taken on a 9-minute journey that was lush, bountiful, and layered by panoramic electric guitars. The song crosses Bruce Springsteen territory with a hint of electronics in the background. I found myself lost in the sounds of these instruments that drift effortlessly for six straight minutes. Then, the opening piano riff is obliterated by the swirl of shimmery guitars, dreamy synths, and saxophones that pile their

weight on each other for the next two minutes. When a group of musicians can make you feel weightless by just picking and looping a note or two, it’s truely a work of art. It was like I was floating in an ocean of ambience in the final moments of this song. “I found myself totally isolated, emotionally and physically, from both myself and the community,” front man Adam Granduciel told The Guardian.

“Under the Pressure” is the opener to the band’s latest album Lost in the Dream. It sets the stage for the excellent blend psycedelic rock mixed with Americana music. Which is executed quite well in a tasteful matter. It’s lively and concentrated. The slow-burning track brings back Tom Petty’s croon with the pace of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” and New Order’s “Broken Promise.”

9 waking light beck

writer: beck hansen Producer: hansen released: february 4

Beck’s “Waking Light” is an ocean of lavish strings, xylophones, somber guitars and Beck’s toned down vocals. As the song progresses, the smooth instruments bloom into a beautiful string lead climax. It reminded me of the final moments of “Paper Tiger” from Sea 2002’s Change. I didn’t get the same wave of bliss, but I was pleasantly happy with the final result. On his new record Morning

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Phase it marked the return of Beck’s string soaked meloncholny that sound stunning. Again his heartbroken balladry is the focus of another album about anger and loss. “Waking Light” by itself can carry it’s own weight, but it’s acutally part of a formula that’s much larger. It’s the jigsaw piece to an album that it’s 12 songs take place at dawn. “It’s not heavyhanded, but it’s there,” the singer siad. “There’s this feeling of

tumult and uncertainty, getting through that long, dark night of the soul - whatever you want to call it.” So, Beck has veered away from his usual freak folk antics to recover. Mentally and physically. Last fall, Beck had suffered from spinal damage, a possible reason this album is stuffed with slow orchestral melodies with the themtic elements from Sea Change.

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THE 25 GREATEST singles OF 2014

THE 25 GREATEST singles OF 2014

12 The thought of you (featuring bilal) otis brown III producer: Brown released: september 23

Otis Brown III has kept the sound of 50s, 60s, 70s quartet, quintet, and trio hard bop jazz alive in “The Thought of You”. Brown and his group of very talented pianists, trumpet players, and bass players recreated golden age jazz from the scattered trumpet notes to Brown’s expressive drum playing. Thanks to recent technology, however, “The Thought of You” is gifted with exquisite studio production that it feels like I’m in the room with these musicians. Brown brought in neo-soul singer Bilal who sings these breathy lyrics that is catchy until the song detours into a fiery jam.

11 the riverbed owen pallett

writer: pallett, Robbie Gordon & Matt smith Producer:pallett released: february 28 One of Canada’s best composers, violinists, keyboardists, singers and recent Academy Award nominee Owen Pallett returned with a super string dipped single, “The Riverbed”. His vocals are double tracked with a touch of reverb. It’s as if he’s singing in on stage with a pit orchestra dicing their strings until the end.

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As the song progresses, it builds these instruments in a way that’s so intricately put together. Most of Pallett’s songs on his latest album In Conflict is not as urgent as “The Riverbed”. The songs are slow-burning ballads, revised 80s beats and, of course, songs made for violin players. Nonthesless, the track is a thrilling instrumental adventure

about depression and loss. It’s a direction that Pallett has done only a handfull of times and has succeded everytime. As mentioned before, Pallett has his foot in the door in cinematic orchestration; having composed the score for Spike Jonze’s Her with fellow multi-instrumentalist William Butler of Arcade Fire.

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THE 25 GREATEST singles OF 2014

THE 25 GREATEST singles OF 2014

14 Ben’s MY Friend Sun Kil Moon Writer: Mark Kozelek producer: Kozelek released: January 10, 2014

Writer Mark Kozelek has reached the age of 47. His body is giving up on him, “And my legs were hurting and my feet were too” he sings after recalling a night of seeing his long time friend Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service. He’s passing judgment on the younger generation by pointing out the drunken kids starting at their phones at a concert. His “girl” even notices his bleak attitude, “I said I can’t explain it and it’s a middle age thing.” Which makes this song so great - this song marks as one of Kozelek’s most revealing songs about male friendship and almost reaching the point of living on earth for half a century.

13

never catch me

(featuring kendrick lamar) flying lotus writer: steve ellison Producer: ellison released: september 3

Both rapper Kendrick Lamar and production expert Steven Ellison, better known as Flying Lotus reign like kings in their respective genres. Lamar dropped two very influential and very successful albums Section.80 and Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. FlyLo has Cosmogramma and 1983 as

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well as many, many other great tracks and remixes under his belt. Seeing as their careers have skyrocketed with praise from fans and critics, it made sense that these two would eventually collaborate. I really enjoyed Lamar’s flow that went off the tracks at times. He gets progressively louder as FlyLo

keeps building the multilayered track. FlyLo included a very jazzy, lounge-flavored piano that was nice on the ears. I noticed that, while this track was abstract for Lamar, it was quite tame for a FlyLo track. Not that it matters; FlyLo still injected most of his personality in the dispersed drums, funky keyboards, and loops.

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15

delorean dynamite

16

hunger of the pine

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THE 25 GREATEST singles OF 2014

18

work work

turn blue

clipping.

the black keys

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talk is cheap

high ball stepper

chet faker released: february 17

todd terje

alt-j

released: february 10

Released: june 19

released: may 13

released: april 15

“Delorean Dynamite” samples the best of the 80s era with spacy disco beats, shimmering synths, and video game arcade style melodies. Terje does what he does best by fine-tuning these sounds that the result ends up sounding very tight. “Delorean Dynamite” could be a personal piece since he’s from that era. Or, it’s just a simple tip of the hat to early dance music.

Alt-j’s single releases are usually an epically scaled tour de force like 2012’s “Breezeblocks” and “Fitzpleasure.” This time around Alt-j was confident enough to release the slow-burning “Hunger of The Pine.” At the first the song blossoms as a lullaby but as soon as the horns clash with singer Joe Newman it turns into a beat an army can march to. The Miley Cyrus sample was a head scratcher, though.

“Work Work” blends drone, industrial, and the hip-hop styles of Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes. When they collaborate, they dig for unusual samples, rap unorthodox flows, and push the limits of noise hop. The song starts with a sample of a very bouncy, metallic tapping beat that surprisingly works well. Cocc Pistol Cree spits a rapid-fire verse in a nasally, Nicki Minaj style.

Rock duo The Black Keys trailed away from their usual garage and blues infused music for a soulful vibe in “Turn Blue.” The hip shaking riff has The Black Keys reaching for 70s stoner rock from Black Sabbath’s Paranoid and some moments in Sly & The Family Stone’s Stand. The pianos, synths and spacy background vocalists make it all the more dreamy.

On “Talk is Cheap” ghostly saxophones echo in the distance. Then a drum machine stomps a beat along side Faker’s soulful vocals. The Austrialian singer has been making waves outside of his homeland, filling concerts seats and collaborating with Flume. A choice that produced very popular singles that ooze R&B and electornics.

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22

Chandelier Sia released: march 7

The electropop hit “Chandelier” plays like a summer party anthem but if one looks closely at the lyrics, there’s a dark underbelly that’s not mentioned in many pop hits. “Party girls don’t get hurt / Can’t feel anything, when will I learn? / I push it down, push it down.” In the span of 3 minutes she brings light to her alcoholism and demoralizes basic alcohol party culture. Once the chorus hits Sia’s blasts with the strength to fill a concert hall.

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20

jack white released: april 1

When “High Ball Stepper” debuted on April Fools, it was no joke that White was going to release the follow up 2012’s Blunderbuss. “High Ball Stepper” is a fully instrumental blues jam featuring an eerie fiddle section from Lillie Mae Rische. Like in “Lazaretto”, White takes his guitar and makes it yell in pain with excellent crunchy distortion.

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Love Never Felt So Good

father sister

Michael Jackson

released: may 13

berzerker

released: may 2

The producers of this track Thomas Fec, psychedelic kept that excellent 70s electronic producer Off the Wall disco vibe. of Black Moth Super It celebrates the artist’s Rainbow and Tobacco, roots back when he was came out with the most a starry eyed R&B pop deliciously weirdest album artist. The original version, of the year titled Ultima II merely just Jackson’s Massage. “Father Sister multi-tracked vocals and a Berzerker” includes many piano, plays like you’re in of the sounds you’ll hear the studio with Jackson. in his discography. The However, the producers drum machines, distortion, slapped a crisp drum, radiant synths, and loads funky guitars, and a team of arpeggios. All of these of horns. Another pop elements are layered to giant Justin Timberlake death and shot into your came on board for the ride ears. as well. This is one track for the next anthology of hits to define Jackson’s legacy.

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talking backwards

montana

real estate

released: january 21

tycho

released: january 13

In “Talking Backwards” indie rockers Real Estate are at their mellowest. Their jangly guitars and smooth vocals from Martin Courtney are as light as anything from 2011’s Days. The sound has not changed - the band still strums polished riffs - though everyone is too busy relaxing to their songs to care. It could be the reason that the band’s sound is so eloquent that it’s hard to resist listening to yet another graceful addition to their songbook.

Scott Hansen or Tycho is Sacramento’s chill wave, downtempo producer who evolved from a solo artist to full four-piece band in 2014 for his latest record Awake. These new musicians immerse themselves in Tycho’s mellow beats and actually improve on that sound. In fact, they keep him in line by building excellent climaxes. Which makes us wonder why Hansen hasn’t thought of this before.

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Odyssey Magazine Vol. I  

Independent magazine featuring interviews with underground artists and music reviews.

Odyssey Magazine Vol. I  

Independent magazine featuring interviews with underground artists and music reviews.

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