'Resolution As Revolution' - Give Our January Spotify Playlist A Listen!

By: Joliene Adams

Did I make a New Year’s resolution? Did you? Whether any of us did or didn’t, the fundamental spirit behind it is a worthy reminder. Every day is an opportunity to begin a personal revolution in all the ways you might dream. Here is a playlist that, for each of its own various sonic and lyrical reasons, can help you toward your own resolution for revolution in 2017.

Click here for our 'Resolution As Revolution' Playlist or play it below:

1. “Highways” - REIGHNBEAUSister Grotto – Blood (Deluxe) (2016)

“Highways” has audible ebb and flow. Electronic pulses fuzz and fade in close while ten words make up the lyrical content and are given constant return. The repetition begins to act on the ear and body/brain like a mantra. A collaboration between New Mexico’s REIGHNBEAU and Denver’s Sister Grotto (Madeline Johnston), this one is dream fuzz that occupies a space somewhere between the here and there of the slightly awake and half asleep. What begins with gentles sounds of a rainstick fades to what sounds like a resampling of the rainstick with more static and fuzz interlaced. Sophisticated subtleties keep this song interesting alongside its relaxed and meditative feel. Let this one help you develop your own mantra for the year to come. Open your heart throttle and imbibe sound poetry: 2017 is a wholly open road.

2. “When” - RUMTUM – Mystic Wonders (2013)

Sampling Vincent Gallo’s hauntingly wistful and imminently gorgeous 2001 “When,” RUMTUM puts a pip in Gallo’s depressive downtempo and melancholic step. RUMTUM takes it away and makes it fresh, fun, and comparatively light. Basically, they take Gallo’s frown, turn it upside down, and give it proverbial jazz hands. They take Gallo’s gentle cooings and splice them to a tune to tap your toe to. RUMTUM isn’t afraid to experiment with anything, and you shouldn’t be either. It’s the new year after all.

3. “Elevate” - Kid Astronaut – Moon Theory (2015)

“Elevate” is chalk full of takeaways. “We were not born to be complacent,” Shockness maintains. Agreed. His loungy R&B sound with a soft hip-hop thump to undergird here goads and uplifts you gently into that place of higher being. And, “We were born to be special.” The task is yours to become the most special version of yourself you can. The possibility to be that is the gift you are given at birth. You owe it to yourself, and the most fundamental things between you and better you at any given time is complacency if you’ve fallen into it. Shake yourself awake. “Elevate” is loaded positivity; it is, in other words, more than positivity for positivity sake. Kid Astronaut summons the best of you.

4. “Base” - CRL CRRLL – Wave (2015)

CRL CRRLL (Carl Carrell) successfully builds a musical jenga tower with “Base” one piece at a time. The song retains solid structure despite the increased pressure of newly added elements, balancing R&B notes in lead vocals, hip-hop in backup vocals, a jazzy quality to the drums and keys, and  then you already have several musical layers by the time her chill lead vocals come in clear. As the song chugs forward into jazzier fusion with all these elements, it ends with a sudden peaceful fade out of ocean shorescapes and the faintest mutterings of what could be voices at the wharf: “Lovin’ just what I am, lovin’ just what I ain’t.” The creed of self-acceptance will serve you well in the next year if you can abide.

5. “Into the Wind” – King Cardinal – Once a Giant (2015)

Remember that scene from Ace Ventura where Ace himself rips out a waiter’s heart and gives it to him in a doggy bag? Welcome to how it feels to listen to King Cardinal’s soulful alt-folk. This is a safe one to cry, mourn, long, hope, and remember to. Brennan Mackey gives the term singer/songwriter new meaning, and he wants your second chance. You enter without words, while Ben Waligoske’s steel pedal daggers you in the side. It continues to supplement, yet give that country-underbelly feel that allows heart pangs to echo through the room. Lean into life as you would gale force winds. Looking back too hard can get you depressed, looking forward too much can bring you anxiety. Just lean where you are, lean into the wind; trust your struggle and be not afraid.

6. “Just Don’t Stop” – The Kinky Fingers – Vagabond (2015)

Tone and message make this a happy, head-bop worthy (or inducing) tune. There is a delightful float in Taylor Doyle’s guitar, and soar in his vocals. Eventually, he stops crooning as he sends you off on a couple high notes, punctuated neatly with three steps back down and low, “Just. Don’t. Stop.” We take instrumental flight with Daniel Hogan and Travis Page’s soft rhythmic drums keeping it steady while the guitar takes surf rock-esque flight with reverb indulgences. This one’s a fun journey for the ear that never loses its path despite its wanderings. It’s a good one to get, or keep, you going in the new year.

7. “Get Loose Have Fun” – Dirty Few – Get Loose, Have Fun (2012)

Dirty Few touts warm beer and out-of-tune guitars; they never get too serious about themselves save two exceptions: partying and playing drinking man’s music. They want you to have a jolly good sullied blast of a night, and they shake it off with the tambourine whose sound drops into the background but propels the track forward from the get-go no less. Dirty Few here has that slight 60s pop beat in its pulse and the “ooh, ooh, OHH, OOH” backup vocals. It’s the kind of 60s vibe you can readily imagine leading to proto-punk on down the line, and then to skate rock. But we’ll call it dive-bar rock because no matter the acoustics of the place, any dive-bar is the best venue to catch Dirty Few in. It’s homecourt. Let’s get this 2017 party started!

8. “The Mtn Song” – Rayland Baxter – Ashkelon (2013)

Uh oh. We’re getting sentimental again. But Rayland Baxter could be singing about shoelaces and nonsense and get you to emote. Fortunately, he knows not just how to sing with all his heart, but to storytell both as musical abstraction and in literal lyrical composition. This is one to give you chills. It’s so soft and sweet. He whistles, serenades, and implores, turning over tender phrase after tender phrase as drums and guitar support this gentle, unhurried, and earnest offering of love. Love is all he has to give. Is that enough? Normally I’d say no. But syrup-ing from his earnest, low-lyrical valleys and high peaks, I’d say, “I’ll think on it. Ask again tomorrow,” and know I’ve already decided while falling asleep to the sound of those endearing whistlings in my own head. Even if love is all you have to give in 2017, it’s better than nothing at all, and is, quite truly, one of the best things in the world you can give. So take a note from Baxter and do it with all your heart, soul, and perhaps even your singing voice, should you be so inclined.

9. “Whistle While You Work” – Wheelchair Sports Camp – No Big Deal (2016)

You come in building off mixed whispers of Emcee Kalyn Heffernan. It’s a sheer drop at 00:20 into straight hip-pop thereafter, coming at you with melodic and rhythmic whistles and Joshua Trinidad’s synchronized trumpet horn on blast. Intermixed are, by comparison, callous, hard-cutting electronic beats. They all join together and maintain the BPM to make this track the banger that it is. From the first, Emcee Kalyn Heffernan’s vocals and lyrical delivery are all her own. She captivates. And when she turns the phrase, “they call me Little Miss Guided,” it’s just one of her many lyrical delights. In reference to Wheelchair Sports Camp, the Village Voice reported, “If there were ever a moment for a queer, disabled rapper with a love for pot, jokes, and revolution to be a star, the moment is now.” It’s about time. Thank you 2017.

10. “Left Fist Evolution” – Bianca Mikahn – Left Fist Evolution (2010)

A low, thumping beat and hushed, bluesy choral vocals reel you into this tune. Bianca Mikahn weaves her story in poetic clips and fragments that suggest a certain story without really telling a story in the classic sense. But there’s a story there, for sure. She leads the listener to hear, see, and feel what she’s driving at unequivocally without saying who, when, where, or why. Lyrically, vocally, and stylistically, “Left Fist Evolution” is powerfully evocative. I’ve heard the word “fortified” used to describe Bianca Mikahn, and that is how the listening process and outcome of “Left Fist Evolution” feels. We all need fortification, and music is the next best supplement to vitamins. So take yours by taking this one in.

11. “No Worries” – Trigga ManThe Reminders – Hit Man (2012)

Sampling another old favorite, The Specials’ “Ghost Town” is featured in the background here, and their reggae and ska influence comes through beyond the sample in this song. Where it’s got a pinch of dance hall in the female vocal chorus, there’s a dash of hip-hop with male vocal delivery in verse. Where musical components blend samplings and reminisce on interrelated genres, the content delivery blends too, packed full of literary, cultural, and political references. “Get it twisted like Oliver, yo.” you hear. This is a composite piece of precocious stature that makes it easy to miss if you’re too busy getting down to it the first go around. But also, in 2017, tell yourself as often as possible: “Me no worry with what them say and me not goin’ to be afraid.” Hold strong with Trigga Man and The Reminders’ beats.

12. “Music Is a Gift” - Grim & Darling - Beauty Through Pain (2015)

Music is good for you: mind, body, and spirit. And Grim & Darling part with their musical gifts for your benefit as gentle organs and strings grace your entrance: “Create a song as a gift just to give it a way, royalty free, no fee, just in hopes to teach about loyalty, honesty, forgiveness, giving second chances lovingly. Nobody’s above the beat, in fact we need it to breathe. That’s the mentality. Give away your masterpiece as if we never had to eat, leave your ego as a casualty. I’m glad to be passing this to all of you, it’s all truth, try to use it, I will too. I hope we can all focus on the consequences of what we do.” Grim & Darling’s mindful tune serves as an homage to what you musicians do for us. This isn’t empty flattery. Being a musician isn’t easy work, but humans thrive in music, so thank you. Scaling up and down graduated xylophone bars with patience, the delicate clear sounds ring a victorious and encourage your feeling the same about your own power. Get after the new year.

13. “Ready to Live - Pt. 1” - Thug Entrancer - Death After Life (2014)

We start and end on a meditative note, only here we go pure electronic instrumentation. This one’s a sonic journey from sound artist Ryan McRyhew. Thump off to the pace of an electronic pulsating heartbeat as horn-reminiscent tones enter. Sounds begin to grind in and on top, creating an ever complex liftaway into layered reflections on itself. McRyhew does his personal sound poetry one to two new sounds at a time, letting you slowly take in the cerebral, but ready flow of this musical peregrination. Get work done or space out in daydreams to this one. It’ll get you where you’re going if you let it take you there. I hope 2017 finds you more ready to live than ever, and this playlist serves as a continued asset in your endeavor.

Make sure to follow us on Spotify to take a listen to this playlist and more Colorado music playlists at BolderBeat.

-Joliene

All songs per the artists featured. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

A Light in the Darkness: An Interview With Wesley Watkins of Other Black

By: Mirna Tufekcic

Wesley Watkins is a powerhouse. To have a frontman with so much momentum will inherently draw attention to a band as a whole. But Watkins is just one member of an assortment of artistry that demand its presence on stage: what started with nine musicians back in 2012 has fluxed in members since then, but at times has been as many as 24. Meet the Other Black.


All photos per George L. Bosser.


I had the pleasure of seeing Other Black perform at Syntax Physic Opera in Denver recently and interviewed Watkins post-show. The small stage of the venue was crowded with somewhere between 12-16 artists throughout the set who played three hours of original tunes and featured several local artists whose voices carry a worthy message.

“When I thought about getting features for this show, I asked people who are gonna say something everyone needs to hear. If you’ve not experienced injustice, it’s my job as an artist to bring awareness to the fact that this injustice is around. And I want to encourage those who are strong enough to speak up to continue doing so.” Watkins told me.

Watkins and Heffernan.

Watkins and Heffernan.

Kalyn Heffernan from Wheelchair Sports Camp and Stephen “Brer Rabbit” from Flobots, both of whom have been through a lot of injustice in their lives, each made appearances within the crowd at Other Black's Syntax show to speak about current events in the world with fellow audience members.

Wesley Watkins.

Wesley Watkins.

My conversation with Wesley very quickly took a political, bigger-picture kind of turn. I want to believe it was because our heartstrings tuned in as two agents of change trying to shine light on darkness and bring awareness where awareness is so desperately needed during these hard times.

He went on, “As musicians, especially those staying true to what they sound like, [we] have a responsibly to talk about what is happening in our modern world. We have to be careful of what we put out there- this world can’t take any more bullsh*t. And as a musician myself, I want to encourage other musicians out there to stay true to themselves and not try to be a part of a product.”

I agreed with him wholeheartedly. We, as a people, definitely need inspiration and positive, good-hearted individuals to wield social and cultural sentiment, which music and art (and free press!) is ripe with the power to do.  

Watkins with Other Black.

Watkins with Other Black.

So, where does Other Black fall in this spectrum of empowering agency and bringing awareness?

The Other Black is a music project created out of love for hip-hop, jazz, soul, and gospel music, all of which are genres born out of slavery and life struggles experienced by the oppressed, specifically the black population of the US.   

“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth. It’s what I grew up with and what I wanted to tap into with this band.” Watkins said. “Most of the songs Other Black plays today, I wrote when I was homeless and on the streets back in 2009. And I want people to know that it was by no fault of mine that I ended up homeless.”

Wesley has been in several different bands including Air Dubai, Petals of Spain, and most recently, he toured with Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. But he realized that having his own project was what he needed to do to fulfill his purpose as an artist.  

“By the time 2012 rolled around, I was just getting out of being homeless and had been in several different bands with some of my closest friends. But I kept quitting bands. That’s when a close friend of mine brought it to my attention that I needed to start my own. I started Other Black because of my love for soul and hip-hop.”

But when Wesley talks about soul and funk music, he is talking about the “old-school sh*t” like Sly Stone and Sam Cooke, whose music shed light on the daily struggles of black people in America, and 90s hip-hop, which gave a powerful voice to the still oppressed and marginalized black Americans.  

“We have a system that’s really bias. So what you see from black powerful figures in our media today is so bias and it’s perpetuating a stereotype. To have today’s hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar speak the hard truth they don’t want to hear, but need to, is important and it’s empowering the people. At the very least, what I can do with my music is bring awareness to what is unjust in the world.”  

When I started the interview with Wesley, I wanted to know what Other Black implies in its name. I forgot to ask, but now I’m left with only room for interpretation, which is a good thing. What I infer after talking to Wesley and seeing Other Black on stage at Syntax is that the Other Black is a light amidst the darkness. It’s the mold breaking the stereotype. It’s an attempt at bringing awareness through music by making people get down.

“I want to encourage people to experience themselves, because if people can experience themselves to the core of their being and be comfortable with that, then all of a sudden we have people who are comfortable with how other people are starting to experience them.” Watkins told me.

If you want to find out what Other Black means to you, you can. They will be rockin’ in the New Year with The Yawpers at The Oriental Theater on December 31st for New Year’s Eve. You can check out their Facebook page for more information, and to hear their music, click here. Be on the lookout for the Other Black’s first album too, which is still in the works and will feature 14 songs which more than likely will encourage you to experience yourself. And that’s powerful.

-Mirna

All photos per George L. Bosser. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.