Hi. I’m Travis Holcombe, and I’m a music junkie.
I always had a casual relationship with music growing up. I’d hear Michael Jackson or the Stones on the radio and think, “Oh that’s nice,” but I never really felt totally emotionally invested. Don’t get me wrong, I had fits of hyperactivity whenever I’d hear “Maneater” or “Eye Of The Tiger” — a primal reaction to bounce and spazz out for three minutes at a time — but I was more interested in crashing my Hot Wheels into each other or following the endless saga of He-Man at the time.
That all changed the first time I heard “Every Little Step” by Bobby Brown. I can’t for the life of me put my finger on what it is about that song that hooked me, but it did.
I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.
The artists represented on my playlist have all created works that brought me back to that feeling of “Every Little Step” and stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard their songs. “Come Save Me” by Jagwar Ma is almost everything that I love in music all rolled into one. Alpoko Don’s bluesy rasp and rudimentary beats take it back to the basics and reminds you of what makes hip hop so damn powerful. The exacting precision of the production in Kingdom’s “Bank Head” track with Kelela make you stop and observe the beauty of subtle details. Your ears may not process it right away, but your brain can feel it. On the other end of the spectrum, raw undiluted power of Tweens’ “Rattle&Rollin’” made me feel like Uma Thurman in the immediate aftermath of the the infamous needle scene in Pulp Fiction the first time I heard it.
As a DJ at public radio music beacon KCRW, I’m surrounded by people with that same passion and I feel fortunate that my hobby has become my vocation. Nearly everything in the recorded history of music is accessible within a few clicks and that’s where I feel like someone like me can serve a useful function to the music listening public.
the best way to cut through the clutter and discover new music
A good DJ is like a friend telling you what to listen to, and that is still the best way to cut through the clutter and discover new music. Through other music fans. And who better to talk to than the artists themselves, who’ve devoted themselves to crafting sounds that make us think, feel and move. It was really cool to see their selections, not only because they picked such great stuff, but because it gives greater context to their own work.
If you haven’t heard it yet, Laura Mvula’s Sing To The Moon album is phenomenal. She is an otherworldly vocalist and her backing arrangements multiply the power of voice. Her music is unlike anything anyone is making these days and yet her selections of tracks by Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu totally make sense. Likewise, the picks made by Temples affirmed my hunch that those dudes eat, breathe and sleep Nuggets-era psychedelia. The perfection of “Shelter Song” would not be possible without that full and complete devotion. And judging by Jackson Scott’s age and his inclusion of Len, I’m guessing “Steal My Sunshine” was probably his “Every Little Step” moment.
Maybe you’re familiar with all these artists, maybe you aren’t, but you hopefully you’ll find something on my playlist or one of theirs that moves you.
TRAVIS HOLCOMBE is a DJ at Los Angeles public radio station KCRW and can be heard weekends 3-6PM. He is also creeped out by the sight of lizards.