California Soul [Part 1]

For the last couple of weeks, I have been roaming through California on a family road trip. As is typical of an ungrateful middle class son such as myself, I spent the majority of the time walking around each location with my headphones blaring, using the unique places to compliment my music as much the music to soundtrack the places, and occasionally even noticing something musically interesting happening outside my own personal bubble.  So here are my musical travels through California, with a few tips along with way, enjoy:

Las Vegas

The day before we flew out to the US, Frank Ocean released his major label debut album Channel Orange (9/10) a week early. Having soundtracked my entire summer of 2011 with Nostalgia Ultra, I was ridiculously excited for a second full helping of Sonny Breux, and his lp didn’t disappoint; the beautiful frankness of Bad Religion, the dreamy, futuristic Lost and Super Rich Kids made immediate favourites. The first thing I saw on tv when I arrived was a late night news program on cbs involving a discussion about his coming out; a pretty startling thing for someone who’s watched Odd Future’s tumultuous relationship with the press over the last couple of years. After the first 24 hours of holiday disappeared in a binge of jetlag, I spent a decent couple of hours walking along the Vegas strip accompanied only by Ocean’s croon; the mind-blowing 10 minute epic Pyramids hit particularly hard, with its stories of strip clubs and prostitution perfectly making an ironically perfect soundtrack for me, as I turned down about 10,00 leaflets for Vegas escorts from the aggressive advertisers littering the strip, dressed in gaudy pink “GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS” t-shirts. Apparently I look like the kinda guy who would happily fork up $70 for a hotel room shag. I’ll admit I wasn’t crazy about the town itself; the casinos were full of broken-looking sad old men, the majority of the shows looked tacky and the smell of hedonistic overdose lay heavy in the air (I should mention that at the time of writing I am 17, so most of the cities’ ‘joys’ are closed to me anyway). Walking around the city in the early evening/morning, when the party animals and pimps were asleep, however, was lovely.

Santa Monica

– is a downtown, coastline area of Los Angeles, and is exactly as any Instagram/Tumblr page would have you believe; the beach was constantly inhabited by wave upon wave of 15-30 year olds, all of whom looked like they had been professionally styled by someone affiliated with A$AP Rocky or Arcade Fire. The ‘Venice Beach’ was particularly full of life, crowded with dancers, Olympic-level skaters, and highlighted when an enormous drumming party involving a decent 300 percussion loving revellers lit up in the middle of the sand – that’s not a metaphor by the way; the smell of weed attacked you a decent 10 metres before you joined the group. This was the most musically interesting area of America I visited; I saw street performers covering The Weeknd, free-looking men flogging funky house mixes for $10 a cd, and the best in-store playlist I came across was in a shopping area named Fred Segal. This place seemed more like a clothing-themed art gallery to me as everything was achingly expensive; I saw at least 5 pretty simply designed jackets with four figure prices. The music, however, was lovely, with SBTRKT’s Drake remix followed by ‘Need Your Lovin’ by Soul Clap. When it came to jogging across the beach Baywatch-style (I never watched Baywatch, it involved gangly youths disjointedly running until paralytic with exhaustion?) or waiting in Subway for a BMT (the American branches of Subway are different to British shops in a few significant ways, most importantly they give you a choice of which cheese you put in your sub. As someone who takes his sandwiches nearly as seriously as his music, this meant a lot to me) my musical choice was Totally Enourmous Extinct Dinosaurs’ debut album Trouble (8/10). It made a perfect match for the American summer, with the tropical lashes of synth on songs such as Household Goods sounding like sun-stroke feels, but awesome.