Music, Memory v. Moment

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One song is perceived ten different ways in ten different: locations, moods, experiences, you name it. Music and emotion together are a powerful and mysterious force. Two ways in which music wields impressive control over our emotions is while actively experiencing music and reliving past experience through music.

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music. – Aldous Huxley

We’re emotional creatures, human beings.eMotion (cc) Music is a source of a lot of that emotion, am I right? We tend to gravitate toward music that embodies and exemplifies our desired mood. You probably play your favorite songs during the morning commute knowing it can improve your mentality; maybe you get your EDM fix on the ride to the bar. Whatever your fix, there’s a sensible chance something deep inside your head made the decision for you. You just don’t always know it.

Listening to music to establish a mood isn’t the ideal experience. In most cases we focus far more on surrounding events than the music itself. While it does serve a purpose, listening to music with intent to induce a mood won’t produce nearly the same psychologically in-tune experience as the following.

You know the feeling. A familiar tune wafts across the room and for a moment you revel in the joy… oh, but it’s gone. Not a grin before your head is overrun with images and emotions intense as the day they transpired. Moments long forgotten waltz in as though they never left and suddenly you’re somewhere else. Aware the mindset is not your own, yet able to reach out and resume each emotion to a sometimes uncomfortable extent.

Too often music achieves this affect with memories we’d like to avoid. A broken-heart, the death of a loved one, or any traumatic experience are the memories to which a song will bind forever. This phenomenon is no stranger to pleasant memories, those with a negative connotation just dig a little deeper. So is the case with many things in life.

So, there must a happy-medium between listening for pleasure and listening for experience?

You’re already thinking it. What about the songs from my youth that evoke intense feelings of joy and happiness? Well, they’re arguably the most important. Music’s tendency to revive unpleasant memories more than the joyous translates to pleasant memories being that much more intense if they’ve earned a spot in the memory banks.

 

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The key lies in learning to fend off feelings of sadness and mortality when the song begins to move you. Joy and happiness are in abundance, but escaping the urge to go back in time to what now looks and feels like a much better place is difficult and sometimes impossible. Practice, practice, practice.

It ultimately takes time to screen out all negative emotions associated with a song, even if it’s attached to a particularly awesome moment. Mood at the time of listening plays the largest role. But, should you succeed in achieving the same level of emotional intensity in a positive way, the result is exhilarating.

Unfortunately, some unknown force in our skull cavity makes this a commendable feat and one that occurs far too little for the mind-altering power it possesses.

Finding those selections from childhood and youth that themselves have long since been forgotten is a challenge. Spotify and other music services should be full of playlists catered to specific generations and genres. So it could take some listening, but you’ll slowly build your own ‘throwback’ playlist embodying much of who you are as person.

It’s important to find and hang-on to a personal epitome of music before it fades further in to the past. The music we grow up with is one of few aspects of life that elicits the same emotional response no matter life’s stage.

Isaiah Rashad: Cilvia Demo EP

A lesser known member of the 2014 XXL Freshman class, Isaiah Rashad gained wide-spread fame shortly after releasing his first extended play, Cilvia Demo. The album debuted at number 40 on the US Billboard 200 and sold over 8,000 copies in the first week. Back in 2013 Rashad signed with Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) and joined the likes of Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock. He toured internationally with ScHoolboy earlier this year and is said to be working on the successor to his critically acclaimed EP.

Influences

This guy has one of the craziest lists I’ve seen from any hip-hop/rap artist in a while. A quick look at some of the later names is enough to warrant an immediate listen.

Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, OutKast, No Limit Records, Cash Money Records, Erykah Badu, The Fugees, KRS-One, Dead Prez, Three 6 Mafia, 8Ball & MJG, UGK, R. Kelly, Bootsy CollinsGeorge ClintonJames BrownThe TemptationsSmokey RobinsonGorillaz, Danger Mouse, Gnarls Barkley, and Lil Wayne.

The EP

Isaiah-Rashad-clivia-500x500Cilvia Demo was my first introduction to 23 year-old Rashad, who’s career started back in 2010 while still in the tenth grade. The album tells the typical coming-of-age story that we get from most breakout artists in hip-hop and rap, but something about Rashad’s lyrical prowess and the album’s outstanding collection of beats make this particular story one worth listening to. Cilvia Demo features few artists, SZA, Jay Rock, and ScHoolboy the most recognizable, so 9 of the 14 tracks are strictly Isaiah.

I smoke too much: the problems of a twenty-something

Five Stars

If a young artist is confident enough to forgo the typical headlining feature on his first release then he likely doesn’t need it. These guys retain their style throughout their career and probably won’t ever rely on big-name features to make it. Cilvia Demo is exactly what we look for in a freshman album and anyone who fancies hip-hop will consider it a worthy addition to their library.

Take a listen to the ‘demo’ below and note the subtle similarities in style between Isaiah and Kendrick. TDE looks like the perfect fit.

Track List: (Crunched for time? Bold tracks are golden)

  1. Hereditary
  2. Webbie Flow (U Like)
  3. Cilvia Demo
  4. R.I.P. Kevin Miller
  5. Ronnie Drake (feat. SZA)
  6. West Savannah (feat. SZA)
  7. Soliloquy
  8. Tranquility
  9. Menthol (feat. Jean Deaux)
  10. Modest
  11. Heavenly Father
  12. Banana
  13. Brad Jordan (feat. Micheal Da Vinci)
  14. Shot You Down (feat. Jay Rock & ScHoolboy Q)

Listen Here

 

Road to Audiophile $28

Audio..What?

Audiophile: a person enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction.

How happy are you with the EarPods that came bundled with your shiny new iPhone? Ever wonder if Apple’s signature white ear buds aren’t doing your music justice? Heaven forbid you still own the previous model. In any case, unless you’ve spent a moderate amount of cash on a new set of headphones or in-ear buds it’s possible you’re hearing less detail than a vinyl record.

What to Do?

Ask yourself if the prospect of hearing a more accurate reproduction of your favorite artist’s best album is worth any amount of money. A response other than ‘yes’ warrants some extra thought. If money is tight you don’t need to break the bank to improve your listening experience. There’s no better way to invest $30 in your portable audio setup than what I’m about to lay down, right after I mention one fact: If you own stock earbuds included with nearly any smartphone your $30 is better spent on a new set (#1 Recommendation: Klipsch Image S4 ~$60).

 

FiiO E06 – $28

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The FiiO E06 is the best low-cost upgrade anyone with a mid-range set of headphones will love. The iPod Nano sized amp will power any ear buds or low impedance headphones you can throw at. A rechargeable lithium-ion battery promises up to 10 hours of amplification, although we assume that number will vary between headphones and with volume. The E06 has 3 EQ settings indicated by an LED: Red: +6db Bass, Blue: +3db Bass +3db Treble, and Violet: -3db Bass/Mid/Treble. An additional mode ‘flat-EQ’ has no LED indicator and results in a pure application of the input signal with no changes in EQ.

Quick Specs:

  • Output Power: 150mW (16Ω); 16mW (300Ω)
  • Headphone Impedance Range: 16 Ω ~ 300 Ω
  • Frequency Range: 10Hz ~ 100kHz
  • Power Supply: Internal rechargeable Li-ion battery
  • Recharging: USB 5V DC 500mA
  • Size: 41mm x 40.2mm x 8mm
  • Weight: 16g

“They also often offer functionality not available from bigger names, winning the company a hearty following among audiophiles without bottomless pockets.”

Value

For the price the FiiO E06 is the perfect addition to any budding audiophiles arsenal. With enough power to drive professional studio monitor headphones up to 300Ω it’s a step up in sound quality that offers flexibility should you decide to upgrade headphones down the road. If this is your first tangle with FiiO don’t be alarmed. They’re a reputable Japanese electronics firm specializing in audiophile-grade portable amplifiers and Hi-Fi music players at an incredibly competitive price.

If research is your thing Head-Fi will tell you everything you need to know about the brand and it’s reputation. With a little time you’ll find that even the most serious audiophiles carry a FiiO E17 anytime they’re out of the house.

Impressions

I received the E06 free with ATH-M50x headphones from Amazon. It does an incredible job rounding out the M50s already stellar sound. I use it almost strictly on flat-EQ unless I notice a need for more bass. As well as it drives 36Ω studio monitors I would imagine this thing would only be useless with $400+ headphones. The E06 doesn’t struggle with my in-ear buds either. At something like 18Ω the little guy barely even breaks a sweat. I’ve noticed an increase in the mids and highs of my S4s to the point that they sound like a new better pair. If that’s not enough to convince you, the E06 is the #1 selling portable amplifier on Amazon to date. Check it out people.

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Jon Bellion: Singer-Songwriter, Producer, Rapper

The Separation

I discovered Jon Bellion only last week. What it didn’t take was a week before I’d filled my library with all three of his self-produced mixtapes. Jon is on another planet genre-wise. I’ve never heard anything like him and it’s incredibly refreshing. He seamlessly incorporates elements of hip-hop, R&B, rap, pop, and maybe a little Jazz/Blues into every enticingly original track.

To say he has a style all his own is an understatement. Jon strikes the perfect balance between boundary-pushing electronic-pop and underground east coast hip-hop. I wasn’t at all surprised to find that he was influenced by the likes of Coldplay, John Mayer, and André 3000.

Wait ’til I get my money right. Then you can’t tell me nothing, right?

His sophomorejbcovernew mixtape, The Definition was a perfect introduction to the 23 year-old from Long Island, New York. The first track, Munny Right recycles the famous hook from Kayne West’s Can’t Tell Me Nothing. Bellion has stated on multiple occasions that Kanye was unquestionably his greatest influence, even attributing his decision to drop out of college at 19 “from an album made by Ye, I’m out my mind.”

So far his decision to ditch school has payed off. While he doesn’t want to be known as “the guy who wrote the chorus to The Monster,” he does consider it a major stepping stone in his career. If you did in fact need a little incentive hopefully that did it. Below are links to his work and if you haven’t yet, check out my advice on creating the optimal new-music listening experience.

John Bellion Chronology:

Music is Tight if You Listen Right

An Incredible Source of Inspiration

Today I’ve decided it’s time to spread the word and share those artists that really make an impression on me. I’m a fan of nearly every genre so after picking up my first pair of studio-quality headphones last week I’ve been particularly obsessed.

Over the years I’ve slowly drifted away from mainstream music so don’t expect your average rapper or pop-star to make an appearance. Here’s a quick guide for getting past any initial distaste in new music:

Before:

  • Eliminate bias, preconceived notions, etc…
  • Sit down and relax. Expending little energy will increase blood flow to the ears and improve hearing sensitivity.
  • Keep an open mind, assume you don’t know what’s coming.
  • Begin at a low volume. Let your ears ‘perk up’ before slowly increasing the volume to the level you perceive as best.

During:

  • Eliminate distractions. Make music the current activity.
  • While at a low volume tune-in and detect each instrument and the artist’s voice (if present).
  • Now force yourself not to focus on one, but all at once.
  • When you hear ‘one’ sound rather than individual parts, start to up the volume.
  • Understand the lyrics & maintain an idea of what’s being said, you’ll know instantly if this is something you would like.

After:

  • Put in a few more listens from the same artist/album OR listen to the song again until you feel it.
  • Immediate love? Proceed.

So it’s Love?

  1. New or old artist? Depending on the genre he/shewillhavereleasedadebut mixtape or album.
    • Hip-Hop/Rap? Head to DatPiff.
    • Everything else? Wikipedia and iTunes are the move.
  2. Locate their earliest or most popular release. The choice is yours, but an immediate fan should seek the former.
  3. Purchase or acquire said music and refer back to the beginning of this guide.
  4. Experience their chronological evolution by downloading subsequent albums/mixtapes.

Give What You Get

Follow this process and your true opinion of an artist is tested. Don’t proclaim fandom after hearing a groups fifth studio album. In most cases you’ll never look back at the decades of work that shaped what you just heard. Wait too long and it’s possible you’ll find dislike in what usually becomes known as their greatest work. ‘The beginning’ is when personalities shine and a real connection with an artist develops. If down the road you find them in your top five you’ll have a deeper appreciation for what they’ve done and a better knowledge of who they really are.

Patience is a Virtue

We often have more in common with a recording artist than we initially think. The beauty in music is in discovery. It’s experiencing and uncovering similarities between two people that were previously unknown. It’s finding a connection with a stranger, no matter how famous, who empathizes with you and vice-versa. So never close the door on a particular band or genre. The chance is great that you simply haven’t allowed enough time to find a connection.

Drum roll please…

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