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Friday, April 3, 2009


Cross-posted at Mind Grapes

As I like to remind people who I know or meet on busses, my alma mater—Occidental College—was at one point home to literally thousands of important celebrities, including Barack Obama, Ben Affleck, Luke Wilson, The Guy From The Scissor Sisters, Jack Kemp, Terry Gilliam, and Jimmy’s Cousin. None of them seem to have actually graduated from Oxy, except for Jimmy’s cousin, but, you know, who cares. Here’s a question—how many current Presidents of the United States went to “Yale”? None. How many went to Oxy? All of them.

Anyway I’m just BRAGGIN to bring up Los Angeles recording artist NITE JEWEL, aka Ramona Gonzalez, Oxy class of ’09. I had a chance to talk with Ramona a couple weeks ago when she was in New York—she’s really nice and working on a thesis about HEIDEGGER, who is a famous “philosopher”—and wrote it up for Anthem (it's not up yet, but I'll link when it's live).

I think Jimmy & I discovered Nite Jewel via our ongoing Italians Do It Better standom (Ramona's put out a couple 12”s there after getting in touch with Johnny Jewel on MySpace), and she’s definitely got that IDIB bedroom disco feel—late-night music, a little woozy, a little dark. But even more than disco what I hear in her music is Freestyle, or "Latin Hip Hop," the disco-electro-rap-whatever that was all over urban radio for a few years in the mid-80s. Obviously not exactly (she's not, like, a Lisa Lisa)—but maybe her music bears the same relationship to Freestyle that Johnny Jewel’s does to Italo—a dusty shadow of a once-popular sound, now consigned to budget bins and collectors’ crates and hard drives and sad little blogs. It’s a terrific, evocative sound, and Ramona does an incredible job of maintaining that sort of bittersweet nostalgia across the entire album.

I was going to say that today (in New York, where it's raining), is the perfect kind of day to listen to Nite Jewel, but I'm not sure that's quite right—there's something specifically and intensely sort of Angeleno about her music, something I'm not sure I can put my finger on, but something that means despite its dusty memory-geared wistfulness, it's not a rainy-day album: I would argue, instead, that it's a smoggy-day album, music for carbon monoxide haze.

In any event, I’m not a freestyle expert by any means (for that you should check out this great blog, which is where I probably got the tracks I’m posting!), but I am going to declare today “Freestyle Friday” on Disco Horror, and leave you with a couple jams to help you greet the weekend. I don’t know enough about the acts or the music to properly introduce them to you—and yet somehow I think they’ll speak for themselves.

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