When people in my life these days who didn’t know me during Sunset’s peak years find out that I have a blog, they often seem surprised. “Do you still write for it?” “How do you have the time?” I get these questions frequently, and for a long time now I’ve had to answer with an ashamed “no,” quick to follow up with praise for the amazing team of writers I have who do just about every bit of work for the site today. As I venture back into writing, I wanted to share some thoughts on where I’ve been since the days when I posted on here every day.
I’m a little scared to say this, but to be totally honest, for the past year or so, I’ve been thinking about shutting the whole operation down. I’ve written many a pros/cons list about it, but I’ve never been able to get the pros to outweigh the cons. Sure, it stresses me out when the site goes down and I haven’t the slightest idea how to get it back up. The cost of maintaining the site isn’t insignificant. And I haven’t been able to make time to write as I’ve been working really hard to build my career. But staring back at me from atop the list of cons is something that’s hard to put into words, let alone a bullet point: this site is a big piece of who I am, and frankly it’s a big piece of what got to me where I am.
So where am I?
Well, I don’t really want to bore you with a long, drawn-out story…yet. So here are a few bullet points about where I am, physically and mentally. Because if you’ve been a reader of this site, you know I’m not one to hide my feelings.
- I’m 30, living in San Francisco
- I’ve built a good career since moving out here. I’ve worked at a startup, at Google, at an ad tech company, and now at Pinterest, where I lead a team of 10 salespeople
- I’m a very proud aunt of 5 (soon to be 6!) little kiddos
- Nearly 8 years after losing my dad, I still struggle most days with the sadness that comes with losing a parent
- To cope with that, I’m investing a lot of time in myself. What does that mean? I spend the majority of my time outside of work running (just ran my first marathon this year!), reading, learning about a bunch of things that interest me (more to come in future posts), meditating, taking time to be grateful for a lot of things in my life, listening to music that I love – new and old, cheering on my sports teams and exploring places around the world
- And I’m feeling pretty ready to get back into writing
So maybe you haven’t been a reader of Sunset in the past. In that case, you may be surprised to see me talk about my real emotions. Yeah, it’s been 8 years and I’m still sad. No hiding that shit. But honestly, I wasn’t always that willing to openly talk about my feelings on here. I used to simply use this platform to write about music and what I heard. I didn’t include anything about what those songs made me feel or why. Until one day I’ll never forget.
I was having a conversation with my boss at my very first job out of college. He asked me about Sunset and my vision for it. After hearing my ambitions, he told me quite simply that he didn’t think I was going to be able to achieve them. Umm…what? My heart sank. Truthfully, I was offended. I was putting so much time and effort into this website and, just like that, he had the right to tell me it wasn’t going to work?
But I let him keep talking. He said that without injecting my own personality or emotions into the site, there was nothing to separate my blog from every other music blog on the Internet. I shared with him my fear of exposure, particularly as a female writer. He wasn’t entirely insensitive to that, as he understood that at the time it was a bit scary to put a picture of your face on the open web (I’m aging myself a bit here), but was able to convince me of the benefit of making your true self visible to the people you’re writing for.
Truthfully, it was a major turning point in my life. He was right. As soon as I put my personality into my writing, it began a conversation. I became connected to other writers, to readers, and perhaps most importantly to myself. Eventually, Sunset became about a lot more to me than just finding new music and writing about it. It became an outlet for me to share my feelings, which ranged from excitement to extreme sadness when returning to writing after my dad passed away in 2010. But the more I put out there, the more I heard back from people who were reading. People understood me, and on many occasions were able to sympathize and/or empathize with me, which got me through a lot of hard times. They celebrated with me when an artist I had been writing about began to “go viral.” They encouraged me to keep going, keep writing, and keep investing in the site.
When I interviewed for my first role at Pinterest, I remember being asked what I’m most proud of in my life. I loved that question, and it was an easy one for me to answer. Sunset. It’s something that I worked really hard to build. Among many other things, it taught me the importance of never giving up, of teaching myself new skills when I’ve felt challenged, and of investing time in myself and my own dreams, because even if they’re not what pays my bills, sometimes they’re everything I need outside of what pays the bills.
So as I’m sitting here in my apartment on a Sunday evening, reflecting on my weekend, my life, and where I am today, I realize that I owe it to myself to keep investing in this website and, in return, in myself. Because I’m pretty damn grateful for this website and all of the opportunities it has given me. It’s a part of me. And I hope it’s a small part of you. Or at the very least, that it’s been able to give you the smallest bit of joy, because at the end of the day, that’s what this thing is all about.
More to come from me later, but for now, will leave you with a short playlist of some of my favorite songs I’ve collected and written about over the past 9 years of writing for Sunset.
As 2017 comes to a close, this marks another year that we’re able to share with you the music that hit home. The beauty of what’s been compiled lies within the tastes of each contributor. Some are rap heavy, while others lean towards indie. It’s a unique playlist that’s crafted by us in hopes that you expand your digital (or physical) library. Continue to keep your ears open for artists, or genres that you have yet to discover. Finding the ~diamond in the rough~ has never been easier, and spreading the love is one click away.
As you think about your goals for the upcoming year, pay it forward by sharing music with those you surround yourself with. I challenge you to find one song on this playlist that you’ve never heard before, and send it to someone you think would enjoy it. The feeling knowing that someone appreciates a song recommendation is unmatched. At the end of the day, there is an absurd amount of talent in this world. Some have yet to crack 1k plays on SoundCloud, and others have the first name of Aubrey. Why not share it? Spread the love.
The Sunset Fam would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy new year. Stay safe, and have fun tonight.
The first playlist is our favorite picks from November. The second playlist is all of our picks from March-October (since the inception of our Spotify playlist). Be sure to subscribe to our playlists on Spotify as they will be continuously updated each month!
In his book Hit Makers, author Derek Thompson unceremoniously drops this gold nugget of wisdom: “The chaos of life is a chronic condition for which stories are the remedy.” First of all, whoa. Secondly, what, then, are the stories we tell ourselves? For me, the story I tell myself is that the myriad of little, daily decisions I make as a recent LA transplant will pay dividends in the long run. In other words, I convince myself that I’m working towards something, and there’s nothing particularly unique about my story. It is the same one that’s been sold to us by society: hard work pays off. But what if it doesn’t? This tape is about being new to a place, having self doubt, and being a tad bit delusional in the pursuit of your calling.
NOTE: SoundCloud is missing track 15 (“Hurt” by Eyukaliptus).
Two weeks ago, I moved to Los Angeles. Admittedly, I did not have much of a plan of what to do once I got here. I just had an idea of a job I would be good at and a few friends willing to help along the way. These two weeks have been tough and rewarding; although, not as tough or as rewarding as my future days in LA will likely be. Happy Tears is inspired by the seeming irony of experiencing your highest of highs after your lowest of lows and how all opposites seem to depend on each other to exist.
In recent days, we’ve seen the nastiness of white supremacy and neo-nazism dominate the public consciousness and push the buttons of even the most tolerant among us, yet through this strife, we are once again reminded of the innate goodness of most people. The fringe elements don’t hold a torch (literally) to the mainstream consensus. Fuck Nazis, and I hope you enjoy this mix (unless you’re a Nazi).
- Ashley Koett – Hands + Toes
- Jody – Rainstorm
- Miquela – Not Mine
- Kasien – Heartbreak Kid
- Mariami – The Life I Always Fantasized
- Kadiata – The Surface
- EMI – Embob
- Ryan Yoo – From Umma
- Brockhampton – Lamb
- Tama Gucci – Move
- Freeman Young – Awreddy
- Jack Shields – Leaving California
NOTE: Original painting by Red Grooms.
Celebrate your 4th of July with SITR’s Best of June playlist! Throw this playlist on as your soundtrack on your boat, at your bbq, in your backyard, wherever, whenever! Your friends and family will be impressed by how in tune you are with current music.
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.
NBA Finals game starts in five minutes. As a result, I don’t have much to say other than here’s this months playlist! #GoCavs
Can we all take a second to realize that Frank Ocean has been dropping singles left, and right? We went years without new music before Blond became a reality. Does this mean more Frank in the near future? Who knows. Kendrick also took over the Billboard 100 with every track off of DAMN. April was good to us. We shared what was so good about it below.
A few things happened in the making of this mix: 1.) I got lost down a SoundCloud wormhole in which I randomly discovered a lot of British talent, and 2.) I started actively studying the so-called “classics” of modern music. The first point is just to explain all of the British accents you are about to hear on this tape. The second point has sparked a much more profound change in my music listening habits. Hearing the standards of a Joni Mitchell or a Stevie Wonder has made me consider the ingredients that go into “timeless” music, and it has forced me to reevaluate and recalibrate my thinking on current trends as I compare them with those of yesteryear. Of course, through all of this pondering, I got no real answers. I have yet to crack the full formula for timelessness, but I know a key ingredient is brutal and pure honesty that is representative of the time in which you live. GODSPEED is focused on delivering in that regard, and hopefully, the resulting mix captures the angst and unease you would expect from music in these uncertain times.
I was alright ’til they took me off my medication, started slagging off my generation, and I don’t know why
And now all night, sitting talking ’bout a revolution, c-c-coughing up the p-pollution, and I can’t breathe right
NOTE: Original image of Gustav Metzger. Edit and design by Arjun Grover.
Sturla Atlas is an Icelandic hip-hop/pop artist, who, with his 101 Boys crew*, has been making waves in the forward-looking corners of Western digital media. Well, he and the 101 Boys are some of my favorite artists, and simply put, they deserve more shine. Since 2015, Sturla has released 4 projects: Love Hurts (2015), These Days (2015), Season2 (2016), and 101 Nights (2017). Each of these projects contains hits, but understandably, that is a daunting collection for new fans to sift through.
To make things easier on the listener, I have created and sorted a compilation of Sturla’s best songs to date. Stream it on Spotify below, or by clicking here.
*The 101 Boys are Joey Christ, Logi Pedro, and Young Nazareth. I have seen Joey Christ listed as part of Sturla Atlas, but “Sturla Atlas” is literally the name of the lead vocalist, Sigurbjartur Sturla Atlason. I’m confused.
Many moons ago, a wise prophet named Patricia Benatar proclaimed that love is a battlefield. Jumping off that sage conceit, I named this mix, War Games, after the tactical exercises the military conducts to test strategy without real combat (read about them here). So, if love is an actual battlefield/the real shit/total war, then what I’m saying is that everything prior to love is war games, and that’s what this mix is about: the infatuation, lust, and general stickiness that happens prior to love. Does that make sense? Should I have not used the word “stickiness”? Well, I hope it makes sense, and there’s nothing I can do now about the use of that word. Forget I said it! And listen to this playlist of immensely talented, largely undiscovered artists below.
P.S. Lydia, I am so sorry about the butt that is now on the homepage of this website you created. I feel like it’s probably unfair to you that there is a butt on your site’s main screen, but I like butts and this one looks particularly cool. Maybe we agree on this; maybe we don’t. Nevertheless, I’m sorry.
Wherever you are, no matter how far, no matter who you’re hanging out with, I hope you’re having fun