For the last five years I've compiled a favorite albums list for my private TinyLetter audience, what started as a fun way to recap the year has turned into my reader's most anticipated message of the year. It gets me all gooey that it gets them all gooey.
This year was an interesting one, because unlike years back - there is a serious vibe cutting across all these seemingly disjointed lawns. I would love to know if you agree with my assessment, or what made it to your top list : ) Drop your thoughts in the comments!
10. Bitchin Bajas - Bajascillators
This album commanded my full attention the first time I heard it. Modular synthesis you don't mind sipping on. You can feel the air you're swimming in when you listen to it. Very trippy. I encourage you to listen to the album in the dark the first time you check it out, you won't be disappointed.
9. Sunni Colón - JúJú & The Flowerbug
MMmmm chill dancey vibes with this one, the beats are too smooth. It's made for feeling yourself, for cooking dinner in the kitchen with someone you're playing grab ass with. When the soft brass comes out, you might find yourself thinking about lounging beachside under an umbrella, working on your tan.
8. Miel De Montagne - Tout Autour De Nous
French pop does something to my brain that I've only heard Ambien users talk about. It instantly relaxes my shoulders and my brain feels like it's being wrapped up in a warm blanket that just came out of the dryer. It's the difference between a brick of creme cheese and whipped cream cheese.
7. Varsovia - Diseñary y Destruir
Watching Los Espookies (Dadaism's much anticipated revival, quite possibly the best show on TV since Daria) was my gateway drug into the world of Varsovia. They are the most delicious blend of glitch pop sexy trance rave bubbly goth ska to ever roam the Earth. Honestly, my quality of life has significantly improved since I got into the Los Espookies soundtracks, brimming with all the Latine electro punk bands I've always dreamed of finding.
6. Pity Party (Girls Club) - Hard Times / Bad Trips
Low-fi snacks for the hunger heartbreak leaves you with, full stop. I'm so curious what pedals/vocoders they use because the texture of their music is smoldering and I can't get enough. Many of these songs would make great candidates for holding above your head outside your crushes window.
5. Thee Sacred Souls - Thee Sacred Souls
I was raised on Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Delfonics, Otis Redding - so the second I heard this band, I went weak at the knees. Nuevo soul at it's finest, it's always gonna be a big hell yes from me. They are beyond. Set the mood on fire with this gem.
4. Freddie Gibbs - $oul $old $eparately
I'm gonna put it out into the universe now, I wanna do some cover art or liner notes for this man. He's from Gary, I'm from Hammond - we're forever neighbors, let's make this happen. I feel like dude jumped up and grabbed the GOAT title while everyone else has either snapped off or gone silent. It's nice to see dudes like him and Anderson .Paak flourish in a time where most rappers care more about selling shoes than making music.
3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Cool It Down
I've been a lifelong fan of the YYYs and it's really cool to see them receive acclaim like never before with this one. The opening track does what few opening tracks do these days, it instantly transports you to the universe they wanna take you to. It sets the tone in an expansive way, gives you something to relish, to sink your teeth into. It's cool to see a band own their evolution, they've continue to refine their sound with every album and this one proves to be masterful.
2. SZA - SOS
I'm kind of at a loss, what can I say that the memes and reaction vids SZA posts haven't already said? She is the true MVP, plain and simple - you can quickly gather that from every record this album shattered upon release. She's the only woman out there calling out fuckshit from fuckbois, she don't let em get away with pinche NADA - doing women everywhere a great service. I bow down in admiration, your grace.
1. Cannons - Fever Dream
I can eat disco for breakfast, so I find this album particularly satiating. The beats are unstoppably groovy - vintagesque indie pop rock that requires big booty bouncin right out the gate. Every track becomes an instant favorite, the production is so solid it makes my mouth water. Great hype jams for when you need to turn up the mood but want to maintain a chill atmosphere.
5. Cute Heels, Dmitry Distant, Norwell - Parallels
4. Blood Orange - Four Songs
3. Dr. Dre - ETA (with Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Anderson.Paak)
2. Azizi Gibson, Freddie Gibbs - Hate To Say It
1. marinelli - Dipshit
Best guilty pleasures
3. Sipper - fuck sex
2. Dashboard Confessional - All The Truth That I Can Tell
1. Bright Eyes - Old Soul Song (for the New World Order) [Companion Version]
1. I'm in Hell with Owen Thiele: favorite moments of episodes past
(link works best on a phone, I go on at 48m19s)
Gives mega Loveline vibes from the late 90's and thus brought me so much joy this year. Nothing was off the table, nothing was prepared, the host always forgot to promo the show - it was a very punk rock way to go about something as official as a contracted SpotifyLive podcast. I appreciate anyone who makes a mockery out of formalities, and the irreverent expectation of the show was a breath of fresh air. After the first unhinged episode I listened to, I was hooked - which says a lot because I don't even fuck w podcasts, so imagine my jaw-dropping bewilderment when the host randomly brought me on stage to interview me while I was casually listening to his last broadcast. In conclusion, I forgot to plug myself or House of Egregious because my brain turned into an actual soufflé during the surprise interview. Owie, hope you make good on your word and let me be the producer of your next pod, I promise I will slay. Loving you!
I created a new zine: 5 Ways to Beat Creative Block. It's a one page zine that you can download from the Free Zines to Print page, I've also included directions on how to fold and cut it so you can print it up at home or office. Gobble up that free paper, yeahh!
This strategy has certainly helped me create way more art this year than I would've if I had let myself get caught up in overthinking what should be a simple process for me to chill: pushing around paint, doodling comics, experimenting with different patches on my synth. Hope this helps quell the naysayers that live inside your brain and enables you to get back to enjoying the art making process in the new year.
There will always be a special place in my heart for glitch films, I love watching them but I especially love making them.
I created An Abundance of Lavender for the The One Minutes collection, preserved by The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. It's my reflection of rest, pleasure and play. View this film, along with the other stop-motion films I've made and produced, on my Short Films page.
Sometime soon I'll blog about my process for scoring this film, it was really wild as it was my first time ever doing it, took exponentially longer than I anticipated and tried using almost every instrument I own before I figured out the right combo. Very gratifying/thankful that the end product synced up so well with the footage.
Virgil Abloh passed on last November and I still haven't been able to bring myself to write about him, I continue to be in the absence of a conclusive summary that adequately articulates his impact on me, which is why I finally made the shadow tribute. I look up to him as a role model and mentor by proxy, he's a true interdisciplinary artist - there's not many people who are revered for being at the top of so many games. Virgil es forever. No one at his level leaves a treasure trove of tools for the next generation of BIPOC creatives to leverage so they don't have to duplicate common mistakes or let gatekeeping obscure their potential. It's inspired me to get back to blogging to share my experience navigating the art world as a disabled, brown, queer woman, in hopes of easing someone else's worries or fears that ultimately we all face, even though so few of us talk about it. I've circled back to these links numerous times over the past few years, so many gems of wisdom sprinkled throughout. We were too lucky to have him.
Summer 2018 I rewatched Virgil's lecture he gave at Harvard's Graduate School of Design - "INSERT COMPLICATED TITLE HERE." If you don't have the time to dedicate to it right now, feel free to review my notes. Mostly everything is lifted verbatim from his lecture, I only sprinkled in a few personal clarifications. This was a game changer for me:
what’s my personal signature? (this began to develop when you were a young child, these are the things you're impulsively drawn to, not learned in school)
Notes on Virgil’s “PERSONAL DESIGN LANGUAGE”
1: READYMADE - NEW IDEA BASED ON RECOGNIZABLE PARTS OF HUMAN EMOTION, IRONY
know where you're at in the lineage of art movements
2: “FIGURES OF SPEECH” OR THE “QUOTES”
insert humanity into conversation. you open up when you laugh. figurative and precise. designing with a keyboard.
3: 3% APPROACH
only edit something 3% away from the original form. make you recognize the thing you’ve already consumed.
4: A COMPROMISE BETWEEN 2 DISTRICT SIMILAR OR DISSIMILAR NOTATIONS
shorthand between luxury and streetware. internal measuring stick.
5: SIGNS OF “WORK IN PROCESS” - AGAIN HUMAN INTERACTION
another humanity thing. you don’t need to be a perfectionist. your hand and brain will tell you when you’re finished
6: A SOCIETAL COMMENTARY - HAS A REASON TO EXIST NOW
an output for me has to have a reason to exist
7: SPEAKING TO THE TOURIST & PURIST SIMULTANEOUSLY
driving principle. the tourist and purist has to meet somewhere. if we’re not interchanging w regular people, we’re self-serving - as fun as design is.
the doorstop interruption
embed art into something universal
functionality and figurative value
add contemporary value, on top of it’s function
oversaturation shouldn’t be discouraging, we have a bigger community
not like fighting to be different. owning my own voice in this sea of differentness where everyone's trying to make a mark
think countryside to city
design has to work. art does not.
make impossible products
it’s important not to be precious
find new space for your voice
the zig-zag approach finds new space, linear thinking results in copies of past productions. find the opposite and go there.
realize different ideas in different spaces
get all the way close to that information, what does it look like once the barriers been broken?
canary---yellow.com/ (scroll to the bottom left & find LV SHOWNOTES 1-7, highly suggest diving in)
lectures on youtube
Virgil for Vogue
Louis Vuitton Men's Spring-Summer 2020 Fashion Show
MUSIC JOURNEY for Louis Vuitton
VIRGIL ABLOH THE LOOP
By and large, the pandemic stole my caché of whimsey. As a disabled artist, navigating daily life in a world that continues to dismiss the simple need to wear a mask to keep vulnerable communities safe is beyond soul-crushing. Living with the constant paranoia of interacting with careless, infected people has driven my partner, who is also high risk, and I to continue many of our lockdown habits, including staying home. Happy Hours in bars and restaurants have been replaced with zoom calls and hour-long phone calls. I've saved a lot of money and cut back my drinking by 90%, it's a win/win; though I do miss the appetizers.
I've also learned which friendships are made to endure, because I can't do much with able-bodied people have the luxury of saying "I'm done with zoom calls. I have zoom fatigue, I'm over them." Leveraging phone and video calls enable chronically-ill and disabled people to connect with friends, family and health care providers safely and efficiently, especially in the month of December when the desire to keep close with loved ones is at an all-time high, on par with hospital capacity due to RSV, flu and COVID patients.
What I miss is meeting new people at gallery shows, concerts, queer events and house parties. Most of all I miss performing, traveling, seeing theater and symphonies. Art & music making, hiking and telescoping keep me busy enough, and my friends are bomb af so there's nothing I'm thirsting for interpersonally. However what I've been lacking since I had to cancel my retrospective tour to Italy in spring of 2020 is the bliss of having dreams to work towards and manifest.
Early this fall, we decided we were ready for a change. If we were going to be indoors all the time, it should be in a house with an epic backyard instead of an apartment with a shared backyard. I've wrestled with the capacity of my return to live performance for almost three years now, and the unending frustration over risk assessment in order to do it equitably and safely made me give up trying. Equity is really important to me, it's non-negotiable and I have no hesitation in walking away if a steep downturn should occur. No opportunity is worth it to me if the people who promise to protect me and keep me safe squelch on the deal. At this point in my career, fifteen years in, I know my thresholds, and they've been weakened so drastically by the blatant disregard for chronically ill and disabled lives that I ran out of fucks to give years ago.
Before my diabetes diagnosis in 2019, I was out there licking telephone poles with the rest of them. Freebasing germs on the red line was a Saturday night delight. Now my partner and I chose our health and safety over all other options, at the expense of my creative career, and if we do take the risk - it's been well assessed and we boost our protocol to be better prepared. I figured since I wasn't going to be performing in anyone else's shows, I shouldn't host my work on other people's platforms either - that's how I arrived at the decision to retire my Substack and only publish my work on my own site. It felt like there was no way for me to dream big when the requirements for traditional success are very inaccessible for neurodivergent, chronically ill and disabled people: in-person promo events, traveling to gigs, conventions, galas, dinners, award shows, class presentations, festivals y mas.
Therefore, I had grown content with becoming a reclusive seaside witch that keeps a private art practice and falls deep into healing, meditative trances. The business takes a lot out of you, because when you're not hauling ass on a project, you are beating yourself up for not doing a project or not doing more with your "free time" (as if merely existing isn't productive enough), and doing more is a never ending, expansive task. If you think about the purpose of our basic humanity, it has nothing to fucking do with branding, schedules or tumeric lattes and has everything to do with regulating your nervous system, deep belly breath, walking in nature and connecting wit your community. Moving to a beachside town has given me a dream, for the first time in years, that I can fantasize about and work towards. Moving to a new state is thrilling and romantic and terrifying and deliciously exciting. I've only ever known Chicago as the center of my universe my entire life, which is why I've done so much traveling; to say my heart is breaking is an understatement. I already miss here and I'm still here, I believe this is when the old adage "no pain, no gain" becomes relevant.
Losing the ability to be a dreamer took a much larger toll on me than I had realized. Pre-pandemic, all my big life goals were made as an able-bodied person who was somewhat tolerant of absolute fuckshit from producers and collaborators for the sake of booking the gig, to stack my CV, to prepare me for the next asshole who was going to be leading the bigger project with a bigger budget. Going to art school gives you a preview of this, it prepares you to bite the curb until someone rescues you, uplifts you and pulls a chair up at the table for you. And don't me started on learning the ugly truths about all the elite art and culture orgs I had one day hoped to collaborate with or be featured at. It seemed all the momentum I had worked so hard for over twelve years to generate was falling by the wayside.
A funny thing happens when you're an artist who has been at it for as long as I have, you make repeated attempts at leaving the scene - only to be yanked back in. It seems the more adamant you are about leaving, the more dramatically you get dragged back into they fray. This happened me recently when the very kind Sarah Shaw recommended Food Over Function via her new Substack: Found Objects a week and a half after I wrote what I was planning to be my last post. It's a blessing to have people who believe in you when you want to throw in the towel. Keep an eye out for a new Substack post soon!
Then I decided to apply to The One Minutes - Rest Hard: an act of doing nothing in a safe company By Party Office. This gave me the creative challenge I was craving, which lead me to make An Abundance of Lavender, a short film that I shot, directed and scored + edited by my partner. I wrapped on it tonight and feel absolutely electric when I watch it. Can't wait to debut it next week! It's my first film in three years and the very first time I've ever composed my own score, the process of which will get its own blog because it was a wild and fun experience. I forgot how happy filmmaking makes me and can't wait to do more. I think my next one is going to be about tasting menus!
Thanks for sticking with me through the ups and the downs this year. For the first time in a long while, it doesn't feel like all the doors are closing because I continue to prioritize my wellbeing over my career. The equitable opportunities I once could only dream about are finally finding their way to me and it feels really good to have my head in the clouds again. She's bringing whimsey back.
¿Como se dice "Un Blog?"
Here is where I share announcements of all shapes and sizes, and deep dive into my art and music making practices. I aim to demystify the creative process for BIPOC women & NBs.
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