Posts by Lydia
A lot of people who read Sunset have asked me where I’ve been; it’s been a long time since I’ve published an article. To start, I’ve been working at my day job. I’m not sure if people know that Sunset was never my full-time job. Earlier in my career, I just used to have more time to spend on it. For years, I would go to work, go home, and sit down to work on Sunset for several hours. Every day. Weekends were mostly full of listening and writing.
But after moving to San Francisco from North Carolina, this evening time started slipping away from me. The culture out here in San Francisco is very different. Work hours are longer, social calendars are more demanding, and weekends spent inside typing away on a computer are much more guilt inducing. There were a few years when I really resented that fact about my life in San Francisco. But I’ve grown into it. Two years ago, I found a job that I really care about (if you care to know, I work on the media partnerships team at Pinterest…a fancy way of saying I sell ads. And yes, somehow I care about that…), and I am devoted to advancing my career.
So what brings me back today, over two years later? Well, to begin with, I’ve still been here behind the scenes. I still contribute to the monthly playlists that Jordan puts together, help find new writers for the site, and, well, I still pay the bills. Yes, I do see the tweets and Facebook message from folks asking if I still accept submissions. I apologize for not responding to all of them; it’s just a shortage of time. But I still choose my own path of music discovery (often through my writers’ picks, honestly) and I often happen across a gem. I’ll almost always post them here. That happened for me recently, and that’s why I’m back here writing today.
I first heard of Jessie Reyez a few months ago as I was watching Pigeons & Planes coverage from SXSW. I’m pretty sure I was watching their Instagram story; funny to think that’s one of my ways of discovering music today. When I started this thing, I was using MySpace to discover most of the artists I wrote about. That’s a great reminder of how long this site has been around for (almost a decade!).
As I was watching the footage of Jessie for the first time, I saw this uniquely beautiful young artist with a stunning voice, a natural gentle strum of her guitar, and beneath those things, a distinct sense of anger, authenticity and emotion in her delivery that I couldn’t forget. I was hooked almost immediately.
I got the opportunity to see Jessie live in San Francisco this past Thursday night at Rickshaw Stop. For context, Rickshaw Stop is one of the smaller venues in San Francisco, but it packed a pretty good punch on Thursday night for the sold out show. First, let me just say that I was again reminded of my age when I saw the crowd lined up at the door. This happens at most concerts I go to, but as I stood there in the line to get into the venue in my work clothes with my laptop and all, I felt myself longing for my younger days when I could devote more of my time to my passion for music. This feeling crept into my thoughts again as I realized it was after 10pm and still no sign of Jessie. When is a girl to sleep?? Alas, I digress.
When she did come out on stage, I saw just what I hoped to see. A young artist with a hell of a lot of swagger who truly seemed excited to be up on that stage. She started the show with a hat covering most of her face while she sang “Fuck It,” and as the show went on, we saw a few different variations of her look. Hat went away, hair went up, hair came back down, sweatshirt came off – all matched the mood of the music. But through it all, we heard and saw Jessie telling her story of where she came from. She brought the attitude — and then some — that hooked me that day I stumbled across her as I was perusing Instagram. The common “fucks” she throws into her lyrics were delivered like a threat; Jessie was here to tell her story with a vengeance.
I came across this feel-good track the other day by Nic Hanson called “Rain.” It’s got elements of Mayer Hawthorne, Robin Thicke, and Raphael Saadiq with a pop-infused soul vibe.
When I asked Nic Hanson what he had to say about the track, he touched on the track’s inspiration and the benefits of being a creative, independent artist:
“Rain” is like the stuff that plays in my head all the time. I love that vibe and grooviness that came with 90′s R&B but I like the heaviness of today’s music. I like to leave a raw sound – a kind of imperfection – on my songs. I feel that people like me have a tendency to wait too long, THINKING about the right time to do something, wanting everything to line up perfectly. I’m tired of waiting and thinking about creating my art. I just want to create more. I just wanna DO it. That to me is one of the beauties of being an independent artist, having the ability to move at any pace you want.
There’s a huge amount of demand for this type of drive and vibe today, so Nic Hanson may have a bright future ahead of him. He’s worth putting on your radar.
One of the things I find hardest about music blogging is finding a song that at first makes me think “oh shit, this is beautiful,” but then the vocals enter and the song is ruined. It happens far more often than I’m comfortable with, but I will say that it’s overshadowed by the amazing feeling that comes when you hear another song with a beautiful intro that’s accompanied by vocals that give you chills.
Luckily I stumbled across the latter yesterday when I heard this song “Run” by Rebecca Peters. She reminds me quite a bit of Florence + the Machine with her powerful vocals, emotional lyrics and rich instrumentals. If there’s any artist a new indie singer-songwriter wants to be compared to on the market, Florence might be the one; that’s a powerful endorsement that I wouldn’t throw around lightly.
As someone who has loved music and writing since she was a little girl, Rebecca Peters worked up the courage to quit her full-time job in advertising to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter based in Sacramento. She’s won a bunch of small-town awards in Northern California, but she’ll soon be moving to Los Angeles to try to take her career as a musician to the next level. “Run” is her first official single, and if it’s a sign of what’s to come, she’s got a bright future ahead of her.
Gnash continues to prove to me why he’s one of my favorite artists of 2016 with his latest track “Wake Up,” featuring Chelsea Cutler and Goody Grace. What stands out to me the most is the versatility of his sounds and yet consistency of his message. His lyrics are ones that anybody who has ever gone through love and heartbreak can relate to, but his sonic compositions have ranged from electronic, quasi-hip hop, and a pure indie songwriter sound with his recognizably smooth voice, as heard in today’s release. Fact is, no matter the approach, the outcome is always beautiful, which is why I’m incredibly bullish on Gnash.
Hit the jump for the lyrics.
I love the looks I get when people first find out how much I love hip hop. What I love even more than that is convincing hip hop haters that they can like the genre too. One of the artists I’m quick to introduce them to is Seattle rapper Sol. He tends to create very melodic hip-hop music that borders pop music. He just put out two new tracks called “100 Songs” and “Happiness” that I’m sure just about any can get behind. Check for yourself, and listen closely to the lyrics on “Happiness.” So good.
I love it when I hear a song and immediately know that I’ve found something special. Something cool, different.
I’m onto something tonight upon learning of Teddy Sinclair, whose name you may not be familiar with just yet, but whose work you just might be. She co-wrote “Kiss It Better” on Rihanna’s latest album Anti and “Holy Water” on Madonna’s album Rebel Heart. She has recently formed a band with her husband, Willy Moon, called Cruel Youth. In her own words, “Cruel Youth is an intravenous hit of our love and everything I find beautiful.”
Mr. Watson is their debut song together. It’s artful, it’s soulful, it’s mysterious, and for that it’s earning itself multiple plays this Friday evening.
Hit the jump for lyrics to Mr. Watson.
As I’m gearing up to watch The Grammy’s, I figured I’d share a song I’m liking by artists who aren’t Grammy nominees yet, but could someday be. Today’s award goes to Illenium, a Denver-based producer who’s turning heads in the electronic music scene.
He just released his debut album called Ashes, which features a bunch of other talented artists, including one of my own favorites Quinn XCII. Listen to their song “With You” and if you’re a fan, listen to the full album on Spotify or SoundCloud.
If you’ve ever lost somebody, you may be familiar with the connection you feel to a song when it seems to resemble that person you lost. It can happen with love and breakups, and it can happen with the death of a loved one. You start to hear a song in a different way and suddenly the lyrics mean so much more to you.
I’ve always found this to be a really powerful experience in music. I find myself listening to the lyrics much more intently when I’m at my highest or my lowest, searching for similarities and connections to my own life and emotions.
A similar experience happened to Lonely Child, who recorded this cover of Miguel’s song “A Beautiful Exit” after losing a very close friend of his. He was in the midst of a crazy time of his life; he was working too much, building his studio, and was constantly feeling exhausted. He told me the following:
When my friend died, it obviously took a lasting toll. Whenever I was driving, though, this Miguel record would play. It was the first in my iPod’s rotation, so it would come on every time I turned on my car. And it started to reveal itself as being about my friend. It was so weird, but this song became part of my day to day life, every time I’d drive my car. And I realized I wanted to record it as a tribute to my friend. It so perfectly describes him, encapsulates how I feel about him, and was just such a cathartic experience to record. It’s the first thing I recorded entirely in my new studio as well. It’s just a very important, personal recording to me.
Things like that are a big part of why I love music so much. We can find peace in our deepest hours through songs and stories. It hurts like hell to lose somebody, but being able to cling on to a special feeling like this and, for Lonely Child, forever remembering that his first song in his new studio was written in memory of his friend, makes it seem like everything just might be okay.
Hit the jump to listen to the Miguel original and read the lyrics.
Ricky Smith just recently crossed my radar as he was featured on the song “Make You Feel” off Hoodie Allen‘s new album Happy Camper that was released today. And I was put onto him by a friend who also introduced me to Son Little. Nothing like trustworthy word of mouth advertising. So I listened to Ricky’s single “Yesterdays” and realized this is an artist to get familiar with. He’s joining this growing genre of pop-infused R&B that I can’t seem to get enough of. Loving his vibe.
Tonight we’re finally free from our yesterdays, tonight tomorrow’s dreams will take us far away
I have a strong feeling 2016 is going to be a huge year for both Skizzy Mars and Gnash. They’re going on tour together in the first quarter of the year – that’s definitely a show to catch. They released a song together a couple days ago called “Closure” and while it’s short, it embodies the spirit of the two artists perfectly. Skizzy perfects his harmonic verses and Gnash smoothly covers the hook and a verse of his own in his signature clear and relatable style.
Can’t tell you how big I am on both of these guys – they’re on the brink of something really big, and they’re both great characters, which makes it all even more exciting to watch. Hit the jump for the lyrics.
The concept for this playlist was built around the line in the opening track by Chance The Rapper that says “I woke up this morning / I woke up this morning / Gotta smile when I say that shit / I woke up this morning!”
I’ve been thinking a lot about that line since I first heard the song. I could go into a long monologue about ‘what a time it is to be alive,’ but honestly I don’t feel like sharing all of that today in my own words. I’ll share a few, but mostly I wanted to put together a playlist of songs old and new that sum up my feelings about the world.
It’s funny – I think I get a certain way at the end of every year as my team is putting together our Best Songs of the Year playlist; I think it makes me pause and think about what music really means to me. It’s weird to be able to connect so deeply to the words and art of people you don’t know at all. But when you do feel that sense of connection, it’s a really beautiful thing.
This is a collection of songs that I feel a connection to. It’s a mix of all-time favorites, recent favorites, and songs by some new artists I’m into. For one reason or another, each song gets me excited to wake up each morning. And I’m thankful to be reminded of what a gift that is.
This is a case where I heard the remix before I heard the original song, and I thought the original song by JR JR might be noticeably slower and darker than the remix, because if you listen to the lyrics, it’s actually a pretty sad song. But upon listening to the original as well, I realized that Nicolas Haelg hopped onto the remix and basically smoothed out and pumped some adrenaline into the original just a bit – it’s a great version, but it doesn’t stray too far from the original version. To me, that’s just evidence that this is a solid song at its core.
For people who ask me for music to add to their workout playlists, I’d suggest you add this one. Great uptempo beat!