golden gram

By Graham LeBron

golden gram newsletter - Issue #1

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golden gram
Welcome to the golden gram monthly (probably less) newsletter. 
The idea here is to provide an enjoyable and informative update for folks that are interested in my creative endeavors and discoveries.
Social media can be a fun distraction and/or a huge waste of time. Still, I use it to promote, stay informed and in touch, but it moves so fast. I miss things I care about in the constant deluge.
We’re all trying to let folks know what is going on yet I still hear this all the time, 
“I wish I’d known about that.”
This newsletter is my old fashioned solution. 
Some of you may recall my “internet music concern” from a few years back called Drops of Gold.
I miss it. I miss writing and talking to folks about music and culture and sharing what I’ve learned. So, here we go. This one is mostly music focused, but it will evolve. I’m always looking for easier ways to do things, new shows, recipes, etc.
I’m sending this to you because you signed up or I thought you’d enjoy it as a friend or colleague. I absolutely will not be offended if you unsubscribe. Which you can do at the bottom of this email.

2020
Finding new ways to occupy our time and stay positive with varying degrees of success.
For the last 5 years, I was the production manager for one of Oakland’s premiere community spaces/music venues, Starline Social Club. Though the building was recently purchased by the owners and received some government assistance, Starline was forced to close permanently within the first few months of 2020. An operation of that scale couldn’t survive on love and take out business alone. It was one of the greatest crews I’ve ever experienced.
Perhaps it will rise from the ashes in another form. It was a positive force in Oakland to be sure.
I recently heard there may be a chance of a Save Our Stages grant.
If anyone has $3.2 million lying around, it is still for sale.
Playlists
I was grateful to DJ my 8th season at Gundlach Bundschu Winery last May to November, rocking outdoor afternoon sets Friday through Sunday when it was safe and the weather held.
It got all the way up to 112 degrees one afternoon in August. All my Apple products failed, but the vinyl and turntables endured as long as I kept them in the shade. 
It was a joy to bring new music and positive vibes to folks looking for a little outdoor escape, some clean air (most days), and quality wine. It was also a great opportunity to continue my pursuit of new sounds with vigor.
And what a year for music it was. What else did you think musicians were going to do when unable to play live and the world is flipping out?
I listened like crazy, continuing the monthly “golden discovery” Spotify playlists I’ve been doing for over 5 years now.
Here is a January playlist. It is front loaded with musical friends and cohorts like Brijean, Luke Sweeney, Fruit Bats and more.
Might as well throw February in there too, since it is March already!
I love my monthly mixes. They are crafted almost entirely from newly released or reissued music. Get with the times! They will take you on a genre journey.
Here is my Best of 2020. I narrowed it down to about 100 songs from a year of phenomenal creations.
I posted 2 live DJ mixes on my Mixcloud page that are great, upbeat representations of what I played from this list when I was spinning at Gun Bun last year. All music released in 2020, as far as I know!
GOLDEN 2020 part 1 by golden gram | Mixcloud
GOLDEN 2020 Part 2 by golden gram | Mixcloud
More music...
Outer Embassy - Trouble Club
Outer Embassy - Trouble Club
I'm OK, as long as it lasts
I'm OK, as long as it lasts
In addition to releasing the second Outer Embassy album, Trouble Club, to little fanfare at the end of 2019, I created some music of my own. Like the above video I shot and edited for the Golden Sounds of Covid-19 compilation in May and the annual birthday music videos for my niece, “We’ll hold on to you” and nephew, “J-10.
My old friend and bandmate, Patrick Spurgeon, and I started a recording project called Rubber Lightning to force us to finish all the ideas that were piling up.
We released Volume 1 and Volume 2: Christmas Special and even made some holiday videos. Anything to keep the spirits up. Stay tuned for Volume 3.
I’m still creating music for placement through my licensing agency, Marmoset. You can check out some of my golden gram stuff here, and something a little different called Dusted Gold.
2021 is already uncertain, but if I learned anything last year, it is that nothing was ever certain anyway.
I look forward to returning to Gun Bun in the spring (come see me!) and am finishing another golden gram album this year too.
Whatever happens, I will continue to make music and videos and friends and playlists and I will happily share it all.
Please get in touch if there is anything I can do for you. One thing I’ve gotten a little better at lately is asking for help.
I thrive on collaboration and interaction. It is what kept me going last year. Let’s communicate. I have so many ideas and so few come to fruition without these wonderful connections.
Tell me what you are doing, add me to your mailing list!
I don’t plan for these updates to be so long, but I have a bit more to say on this first one. So if you want to keep reading, I’ll tell you about a few of my favorite 2020 albums.
Otherwise, I’ll say goodbye for now and you will hear from me again in no sooner than 30 days.
That is a golden gram promise. I wish you all well!
Love,
golden gram
2020 Albums that moved me the most
This is my favorite album of 2020.
I have literally been waiting for years. I first saw Farallons play at Hickey Fest in 2013 and many times since. I’ve played shows with them in various bands over the years and even stage managed them at Huichica in 2016. And every time we talked. I would ask about the album. The answer was always “we’re working on it.”
Friends of mine were involved at various points, hinting it was close to being finished. They brought in one of my favorite artists, Luke Temple, to help. It was all worth the wait. 
I savor this record. 
I like it so much that I don’t even listen to it that often because I don’t want to burn out on it.
It isn’t just that, it is also that these songs are so exquisitely crafted and executed that when I take breaks between listens, I discover something new the next time.
As layered and produced as this record is, it is still visceral and real. It is magical and I can feel the love in it.
It pulls such raw emotion out of me. I definitely cried to this last year.
The harmonied voices speak to me and bring comfort. I feel enveloped. The electronics feel organic and the grooves are fluid.
There are Brian Eno textures, South American influences, West African style guitars and even some Prefab Sprout-ish shimmer pop tendencies. I could go on and on about why it hits all the buttons for me, but I’d rather you just listen to the first epic track, Elias, and see if it pulls you in.
If you don’t want to take my word for it, read more at the Night Bloom label site.
This mysterious British collective has released 4 albums in 18 months. Each is singularly great.
(Rise) is the most recent and the one I’ve spent the most time with. The production is incredible, incorporating elements of everything I love about the records I DJ.
There are hints of modern R&B, classic hip hop, 80s NYC club culture, ESG/Grand Royal stylings and beats that sound like sampled soul breaks you can’t quite place.
Intriguing that there are no interviews, photos, or videos. NPR and The Guardian definitely showed love and shed a bit more light.
I just love everything about it and the lyrical content is super on point for 2020.
It sounds like the best mixtape of the year.
There are soulful vocals, string arrangements, marching band percussion sections, synth arpeggios, live drums, group chants and spoken words of positive affirmation like “Good morning, rise baby, rise. Keep your eyes clear, keep your heart open today as you navigate your world, it’s time to rise.”
In turn there is Black Lives Matter commentary on songs like “You Know It Ain’t” and “Uncomfortable.” “How do you turn hate to love? Maybe you’re uncomfortable with the fact we’re waking up. Why do you keep shooting us?”
It reminds me of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” or Stevie Wonder’s golden period in its cultural timeliness and flow, especially on songs like “Son Shine”. It is a record about empowerment and change and moving forward. Modern and nostalgic all at once. Listen for your life.
I first heard Sturgill Simpson on May 10, 2014 while driving I-40 solo from Little Rock to Oakland.
While scanning stations between cities, I picked up NPR at just the right moment to hear him singing “Long White Line” on A Prairie Home Companion. Is this one of Merle or Waylon’s kids? How does he sound like that? Who the hell is this? I was intrigued. Garrison Keillor interviewed him briefly. He sounded like a decent guy, and then he played “Voices.” I was floored. I pulled off at the next stop and ordered his first 2 LPs from my phone. They are two of my favorites to this day.
While on tour in early 2020, he caught “the rona” as he put it and was forced to spend the rest of the year at home. After a lengthly recovery he got restless and decided to make some music. There is a cool story of how this record came to be, involving a fake survival school and some online tomfoolery. I got it in an email from him that made me cry back in October, read it here.
If you watch him perform these tunes to an empty Ryman Auditorium back in June, he’ll explain a little more about how this record came to be. 
I’ll just say that these bluegrass versions of his classic songs, performed by absolutely stellar musicians, are transcendent. If you want to know if a song works, try it bluegrass. 
This record is so powerful in its pureness. It makes me want to shout and scream and dance. Yes, I definitely cried to this one too. I probably listened to it 20 times the first weekend it was released. Oh yeah, Volume 2 is pretty great also.
If you made it all this way, I thank you, friend. 
I look forward to sharing more with you soon. 
Please don’t be a stranger!
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Graham LeBron
Graham LeBron @goldengram

Graham LeBron writes about music, culture and semi-related randomness. You'll always know what fun he'll be getting into next.

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