I didn’t plan it, but I think it’s entirely appropriate to start with Wax Tailor. If you’ve ever listened to his Dusty Rainbow From the Dark album, and feel half as moved by music as I am, you’ll completely understand. But we’ll get to that. First, some basic information that I feel is relevant and a ritual that I will be continuing with every successive artist in this countdown.
I was introduced to the music of Wax Tailor by my best friend Josh. Fair warning, his name is going to come up a lot on this countdown. Our musical tastes are similarly aligned, and musical recommendations have gone both ways between us for our twenty year history. In any case, it was right around the time that Dusty Rainbow From the Dark came out, and he was interested in it due to one of the artists that guested on it. I can’t remember who, but it was one of the female vocalists. He was playing it on his computer, and I was intrigued by it. It finds a interesting balance between trip-hop, old school hip-hop, downtempo, chill and turntablism. A couple of days later, I downloaded some on my own and was immediately hooked.
Today I listened to all five of his albums: Tales of the Forgotten Melodies (2005), Hope & Sorrow (2007), In the Mood for Life (2009), Dusty Rainbow from the Dark (2012) and By Any Beats Necessary (2016). In fairness, I only found out about the most recent album a couple of weeks ago, and today was my first time really listening to it, although from my time with it today, I’ll be listening to it a lot more (after the countdown).
Maybe it’s just me, though I hope not, but no matter what you’re doing, having Wax Tailor on while you’re doing it instantly makes it cooler. Like, sunglasses wearing Snoopy cool. Joe Cool cool. 7up Cool Spot cool. The classic vision of cool. “The Fonz” cool. It’s not as if what you’re doing is actually cooler. You yourself are no cooler than you were before the music, but you just suddenly feel cool. I was decorating a cake this morning for a Labor Day party. I put Wax Tailor on while I was doing dishes. It was the coolest load of dishes I have ever in my life put into a dishwasher. I can’t place the why or how, I just know everything feels cooler. You’re not just sitting around listening to Wax Tailor, you’re chillin’. You’re not just eating while you’re listening to Wax Tailor, you’re enjoying a fine meal (even if that meal is a Baconator and fries). You’re not just driving while listening to Wax Tailor, you’re cruisin’. I can’t explain it, it just is.
That’s probably the essence of what I like about Wax Tailor. I mean, beyond the fact that the music is really good. The beats and rhythms are excellent. The use of the orchestral bits to accent them is genius. Not exclusive to him, and if I researched it, probably not original to him either. That doesn’t matter, he uses all of his elements well, and the guest vocalists on every track keep the variety high. It gives the impression that it’s less an album and more a curated soundtrack to a movie you’re not hip enough to know about. But the coolness that just oozes out of it all. I am, truly, not a cool person. I have never been cool. And I don’t say that in an awkward “I’m not as cool as some people” kind of way. I’m not even in driving distance of cool most days…or any days. I have scattered moments where I have been within sight of cool, the way someone on the moon is within sight of the Earth, but that’s about it. But listening to Wax Tailor, I just feel so damned cool.
My favorite album of his is still Dusty Rainbow from the Dark. I own it, as it should be owned by an artist named Wax Tailor, on vinyl. I found it at a record store, three years after its release, brand new and sealed. Considering the story on the album, I found this both fortuitous and ironic. I was literally digging through the wax when I found what would be my Dusty Rainbow From the Dark. The music on the album is just as good as on his other albums. I find nothing about the music itself that stands out from the rest of his catalogue. And that’s not a slight. His music is the same consistent level of really really good. It’s the story that serves as the framework of the album that gets me every time. The first time I listened to the album, I had it on shuffle. But as I listened, I started to take notice of the the tale being spun by the ever-present narrator. I stopped, and started from the beginning. The story is about a boy, pictured on the album’s cover (Cover art is important, people. This will not be the only time I mention it.), who’s mother tells him that rainbows are a path to imagination, and that he must find his. And he finds it in his record collection. This evocative tale about the power of music, the right music, to help move us forward and to find and be our better selves is so core to my opinions of music. It was really nice to have that idea validated, and in music form, no less.
Wax Tailor didn’t quite make the top 40, but he absolutely still deserves a mention. And if you have the need to feel cool for a little bit, buy any of his albums and sit back and bathe in the coolness. If you get Dusty Rainbow from the Dark, though, don’t put it on shuffle. Or for that matter, don’t put it on in the background. Really listen to it. And feel cool while you do.