Last weekend I took a road trip to Nebraska through Colorado and Kansas. All the states blended together with white rolling hills and the occasional windmill cluster, perfect for a naturally-induced ego death. My mind cleared into nothingness as the song “Sensitive” by Mr. Twin Sister came through my headphones. The ambient instrumentals and Andrea Estella’s eerie voice washed over me as I drifted into a trance. The chorus repeats the lines “Is this romantic dreaming?/ Is this just an illusion?” and then concludes the song with “A memory?”
The theme for this playlist is romantic dreaming, where you feel out of touch with reality because you are entranced by a memory or by a creation of a future memory. The lucid instrumental passages in the songs take you out of time; through romantic dreamings, illusions, and memories that leave you with all the fuzzy side effects of brooding for for an hour. Enjoy.
If you listen to rap and haven’t heard the name Jack Harlow yet, get ready. With the success of the rapper’s most recent single, “WHATS POPPIN,” we’re bound to be hearing more from him than just his name. 2020 is the perfect time to get acquainted with the Louisville, Kentucky native—he’s not yet done riding the high of his most recent album, Confetti, the project that’s best showcased his range, flow, confidence, and charm. In March he embarks on The Roaring 20’s Tour with Guapdad 400, touring throughout the United States through May. After streaming Harlow’s new single—and watching the accompanying, energetic music video directed by Lyrical Lemonade’s Cole Bennet—the best way to get to know the “Hometown Hero” is to jump right in: whether you start with his recent work or his older tracks, you’re guaranteed a good time.
Harlow rapped throughout adolescence, selling CDs of he and his friends’ tracks at their middle school before posting his work on YouTube and Soundcloud in his early high school years. In 2015 he released The Handsome Harlow EP, followed by an album in 2016 entitled 18. It became the album of the summer for countless Louisvillian teenagers, especially my sister and I, who hailed from the same neighborhood as Harlow. That summer the air was humid and the music was hot. The bubbly track “Ice Cream” was blasted in my house, in my car, and with my friends constantly. Harlow’s music felt, to me, like a simultaneous celebration of living in and experiencing Louisville while optimistically looking and working forward to getting out. Harlow’s work, his older and newer stuff alike, perfectly captures the angst, energy, and ambition of living in a world somewhere between suburbia and the city. Though the sentiment I gather from his music—specifically the songs “Eastern Parkway” and “RIVER ROAD”—is one tied both physically and emotionally to my experiences in my hometown, overall his work is appealing and fresh. There’s something there for everyone.
Harlow’s music ranges from bouncy bops perfect for pre-games to slower, poignant reflections on struggles and successes—in his work you’re bound to find something to fit every mood. Harlow has a pretty impressive catalogue—every year since The Handsome Harlow EP and 18 Harlow has consistently released new music, singles and full projects alike. Around 2016 he co-created an independent record label and music collective called Private Garden. He constantly surrounds himself with other creatives—notably his longtime friends—including photographer Urban Wyatt whose work on film is featured in nearly every Jack Harlow project. He’s also influenced and mentored by well-known Louisvillian rapper Bryson Tiller, who joined Harlow for some bars on the 2019 single “THRU THE NIGHT.” The appreciation for culture, music, and art within Harlow’s collective is clear. It’s both strong in his music and energizing in his performances.
Most recently, Harlow and his friends can be seen in the music video for his latest single, “WHATS POPPIN,” hanging around at a diner—and for lack of a better phrase—basically just vibing. The energy in the video is as hot as Harlow’s lyrics. Most to all of the comments littered under the video on YouTube are positive—one person writes “Won’t lie, I came to judge, I left impressed,” another, “How tf did I never hear this guy? Fire,” while an older fan notes (in all-caps for emphasis) “My boy Jack Harlow on the map now.” The new single is currently featured on Spotify’s Rap Caviar playlist and is steadily climbing the streaming platform’s charts, recently cracking the United States Top 50 at number 49. From here Harlow only intends to go up. It’s safe to say one can expect some fresh Harlow on the horizon in 2020 with his expressed plans for another full-length album and some more, new collaborations. Harlow won’t be stopping any time soon, making now the best time to get to know the Handsome, New-Balance-clad Harlow before everyone else does.
Clad in the sleekest of all black getups down to the polished Prada oxfords, cleanly-pressed Devendra Banhart sashayed on stage and silently announced to that he indeed was a fancy man. The stage was set with a giant tapestry that displayed Devendra’s hand painted ginormous flowers that mirrored the floral design on the cover of Ma, his newest album.
Ma is multilingual and multicolored, splattered with primary colors and songs that salute Carole King and John Lennon. He released three singles as a prelude to the complete album, each one wildly fun and widely different- “Kantori Ongaku.” “Abre Las Manos,” and “Taking a Page.” With each coveted single release though, my understanding of Devendra’s vision grew- this wasn’t about a cohesive musical aesthetic but rather, a cohesive concept. This album is about those who teach us, who impart wisdom, who guide us the world, and it’s about those who bring us into this world. The album is Devendra’s journey into him becoming a Ma. It is his statement of paternity and maternity. Yet, I was hesitant to like Ma. I couldn’t understand this new role Devendra had chosen to play.
I saw Devendra and his band perform in Boulder with my friend Mimi- we stood front and center. The best way I can describe the experience for me was the feeling of being a preschooler. I imagined huge bugs crawling across the stage, and felt as if every audience member was sitting criss-cross applesauce in a semi circle, googly-eyed. Devendra talked cryptically almost, telling us long, extended, made-up stories about socks and concerts he performed fifty years ago. The kick drum was adorned with a huge smiley face, with the Om symbol for its eyes. The flowers on the tapestry seemed to grow- or I seemed to shrink- becoming more like a child.
He began the concert by performing “Is This Nice?”, a soft song loaded with lessons on how to love and cry and create. Give this song a listen for references to John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy,” if nothing else. Devendra sang maybe 5 or 6 songs off of Ma before dragging a wooden stool and his acoustic guitar on stage and asking the audience what they’d like to hear. Some people ecstatically shouted their fave songs’ title, others widened their eyes and raised their hands waiting for teacher to call on them. I was in the second boat of people, and when called on, I requested Devendra play “Shame,” an old, silly song about boobs and playing in the sun. “Shame” is a song that encapsulated my former image of Devendra Banhart as an artist. It’s a song that makes you want to giggle and dance and let yourself be like your childhood self (the song does come off an EP called “I Feel Just Like a Child” after all). Devendra looked almost shocked at my request, it’s one of his oldest songs. He thanked me for asking to hear it, but said the band didn’t know how to play it. Admittedly I was sad. Unable to hear that song live! A minor heartbreak.
But thinking about it now, “Shame” didn’t fit into that concert. While I always thought of Devendra Banhart as having the fervent feel of a child, I had missed that he had changed. His music contained more teachings than before. It was less spastic. It felt put together and organized, in the way some parental figures do. Caterpillar has become a butterfly! Sprout has become a bean! Devendra has become a Ma!
You can read about Devendra Banhart, look at his tour dates, and access his music on his website, linked here.