sfo: a playlist

poster scan from Wolfman Books
410 13th St, Oakland, CA 94612, USA

If there’s one thing I wish I’d indulged in more this last year, it’d be writing. Since coming home yesterday, I’ve uncovered a trove of creative projects, abandoned in a one-sided effort to be a better student, a better networker, a better employee: my third complete novel, musical motifs, outlined sketches. They’re a friendly sight, after a sleepless six-hour plane ride spent simultaneously celebrating and fearing a certain uncertainty. As I’ve mentioned to friends and strangers before, I struggle with linear motion—it’s easier to move and see things in imperfect concentric circles, each circle being a wider, undefined unit of time. Like trees, we grow not only upward but also outward, as a representation of experiences gained, interactions made, wisdom found, scars collected.

And yet each circle encloses the ones before it, travelling a similar curve at times closer and further from those nearby. I don’t think I could move back, to either city I lived in while there (though this doesn’t rule out other municipalities in the Bay). That’s why I was reluctant to move away in the first place after finding home in an unexpected locale and why I continue to view my current stay in Toronto as temporary. It feels, for the moment, like I’ve exited to some weird intermediary circle, smaller than the previous few, but one that’s stretching to contain them. A little melodramatic, perhaps? I am grateful, however, to have such vibrant and welcoming past abodes to take my next leap of faith from.

And since I don’t believe I’ll be reclaiming SFO as my home airport in the near future, I figured it was safe to finalize and share the following 20 tracks that framed every arrival.


Flight Facilities feat. Christine Hoberg – “Clair de lune”
I almost cut this track from the list after it started feeling more appropriate to play when leaving San Francisco indefinitely than when leaving anywhere else for San Francisco, where it originally fit. But the recurring “tell me it’ll stay the same / where we go, where we” lyric rang true in the summer of 2014 when I first committed (upon finishing my first year of college) to calling California “home.” Although the Bay Area and the GTA share many traits, unlike the more static suburbs of Toronto, much of the Bay upsets this with constant change.


Grimes feat. Blood Diamonds – “Go”
In a near-180 from the previous track, “Go” says “time won’t stay” and asks to tag along with the departed. Lately, events just beyond my control have been the best little shoves forward.


DOM – “Living in America”
Sorry, it was this kitschy track or “Party in the U.S.A.” and sorry, Miley, this one’s sexier. That being said, I first moved with low expectations which were easily blown away and exceeded by my time in California. I’m still not taken by the rest of the nation (perhaps less taken than before) and truly felt like I was living someone else’s American Dream.


ZHU – “Paradise Awaits (FKJ Remix)”
Three songs later, we finally made it to the Golden State with a Californian artist. #tyca


ODESZA – “How Did I Get Here?”
There’s a running joke among friends from California and B.C. (Before California) that I just woke up there one day. It’s a slightly long (and boring) story, but not entirely untrue. And because I avoid duplicating artists on the same playlist, I’ll reveal that this track did displace “Say My Name,” because although San Francisco’s “confidence looks good on me,” it’s a bit much honestly. I’ll probably keep falling for and dancing with it, though.


Phantogram – “Bill Murray”
“Are you lonely? / It feels like, when the day breaks, am I wanted inside? / Say goodbye / Do you feel liked?” I issue this disclaimer to most people I get close to: I’m terrible at keeping in touch. Like, you really have to initiate a conversation if we’re not within 25km of each other. I will actively miss you only when you’re nearby, otherwise I’m connecting locally—and it’s not personal, it’s just a side effect of remaining as present as possible. I find myself occasionally wondering “who do you really know here? who really knows you?” Although I guess that’s just a mutual understanding in someone else’s shoes.


The Cinematic Orchestra – “To Build a Home”
I picked up this track from a video of a time lapse of seasons changing on Upper Sproul, that’s all. (As uncomfortable as it was at times, I did ultimately feel loved and at home.)


Khotin – “Flight Theme”
… and when feelings happen, I inevitably choose the flight tactic to avoid confrontation.


Windsor for the Derby – “Queen of the Sun”
SRSLY IS IT EVER NOT SUNNY AT SOME POINT IN SOME PART OF THE BAY??


Vallis Alps – “Young”
This past year, similar-aged friends and acquaintances around me began dying. I mean, we’re all dying. All the time. But you’re not supposed to be dead already. Not this young. (I suppose this track isn’t as location-specific as the others, but a lot of the grief came from feeling helpless and/or geographically-removed.)


OneRepublic – “Counting Stars (Moseqar Remix)”
When we were bear cubs, the possibilities were endless and this track held a far simpler meaning. I just wish you’d the time to make more decisions, your hopes and dreams.


SAYCET – “Smiles from Thessaloniki”
Just a song that moves mountains and a tribute to Greek presence and resilience.


Dario Marianelli – “Attraversiamo”
I trust you’ll accept this as the cheesiest song on this list; Italian for “let’s cross over.”


Owen Pallett – “I Am Not Afraid”
Although Owen Pallett’s from my own backyard in Canada, I first saw him in concert at Swedish American Hall in San Francisco shortly; I also don’t know that I would’ve noticed the instrumental shift at 2:10 as acutely otherwise. I found more truth in his unconventional performance and lyrics… and arguably in that venue than its contemporaries.


COASTS – “Oceans”
Growing up, I always thought good and evil were two discernable things. But since then, I’ve only known them as inseparable counterparts. We live in a fractured world, fosho.


enoyak – “sea line”
The forward propulsion and stereo detail on this mysterious Japanese producer’s track became a recurring theme for every flight descent I took into the sea of Karl in the Bay.


Cherushii feat. Maria Minerva – “Thin Line (David Last Remix)”
One of my favourite undergrad classes at Cal was a Native American literature class I took as part of my minor. Cyclical time had always made more sense; I would spend too much time focussing on similarities and how familiar themes appeared in new places. It was a running joke that my primary trade was remixes. And that’s all we are. Remixes.


Sun Glitters – “Too Much to Lose (Niva Remix)”
As much as it made sense to move on, yesterday’s was the most difficult move (among many) I’d made in the past 20 years. The only other most difficult move was leaving my grandparents at age two. I joke about it often, but my abandonment issues do run deep.


Best Coast – “When the Sun Don’t Shine (Voyager Remix)”
Like everything, this quintessential first-year theme keeps remodelling itself and that’s fine.


Drake feat. Majid Jordan – “Hold On, We’re Going Home”
I know what you’re thinking. But remember that “duplicate artists on the same playlist” rule? I put “Hotline Bling” on my YYZ list. And ultimately, the most recent version of myself is much like another theme on this SFO list: artificially confident, bittersweet. I also don't think I could ever stop feeling a need to reinvent myself, but the Bay will always be home for that one me.

2016 in review: Je ne dis pas au revoir mais merci


I'm told time goes by faster as one gets older, but this year was a heavy decade. Heavier for at least me: we saw glimpses of its hope, its fear, and its wreckage from too close and afar.

Greats were reminded of their temporality, youth of their mortality, and cities of their destructibility. Once invisible communities became living, breathing flesh, bloodied, torn. Worn. Too often inside out, backwards, lost in translation. Lost in rage misdirected or worse, misguided. Burned trash and cut glass littered the pavement and the softer palms of our reaching hands... that casual crimes were done by connected victims was inconceivable.

The afterparties felt like an afterthought.

By contrast, this was the same year I got a job doing something relatively meaningful after graduating as a humanities major. It was a year in which gas convection ovens ruined more cookies than I'd care to admit and the year I moved to "the city" months after we mooned it from above. It was another year of helping strangers but not wanting to be helped. This was a year, or so it felt, of parallel motions that made me feel strangely like I'd started in circles.

The afterparties were often a 50/50 shot.

In keeping to those circles and in support, I spun, paused, and started spinning again more frantic and frequently for lack of a better way to communicate. My year in music as follows.


MUSIC TO FEEL WITH


The Chemical Brothers feat. Beck — “Wide Open” (Born in the Echoes, Virgin EMI)
Though the song is technically part of a 2015 release, its January video featuring Wayne McGregor choreo as performed by Sonoya Mizuno makes it worth revisiting.

DOOMSQUAD — Total Time (Bella Union)
Something about having a Blumas sister scream "YOU MOTHERFUCKER" ("It's the Nail that Counts, Not the Rope") live, up close, and personal was both beautiful and sobering.

MUSIC TO NOT FEEL WITH


Holy Fuck — "Shivering" (Congrats, Last Gang)
This song and the next are rhythmic traps just as dark and unsettling as one might expect from industrial icons such as Nine Inch Nails but so much greater in their earnestness.

Princess Century feat. Melatonini — "Safe Word" (My Precious!, Red Maze)
This year, longtime blog favourite Maya Postepski moved to Berlin and teamed up with Eleni Nasiou, a local there who goes by MELATONINI, to bring us this beauty.

MUSIC TO INSPIRE AND MOTIVATE WITH


Jamie xx — "Gosh" (In Colour, Young Turks)
Filmed in 天都城, this eerie and masterful recreation of the visuals for Jamie xx's "Gosh" made for an easy way to sneak one of last year's best albums into this year's round-up.

Kaytranada — 99.9% (XL Recordings)
Kaytra had his biggest year yet, with the drop of his debut full-length weeks after coming out to The FADER. 99.9%, being 99.9% flawless, was a 99.9% solid for the 2016 Polaris Prize.

MUSIC TO MOVE AND DANCE TO


Kanye West — "Fade" (The Life of Pablo, G.O.O.D. Music)
As distracting as half the tracks on Pablo were, several others confirmed Yeezy still had it.

Essaie pas — Demain est une autre nuit (DFA)
Essaie pas at the SF Eagle was a brilliant way to end an evening of St. Patrick's festivities.

MUSIC TO MOVE AND CRY TO


Cherushii feat. Maria Minerva — "Thin Line" (Memory of Water, 100% Silk)
This haunting video was released shortly after confirmation of Chelsea Faith Dolan's death in the Oakland Ghost Ship fire; I'd been unaware she and Minerva were close collaborators.

Bonobo feat. Rhye — "Break Apart" (Migration, Ninja Tune)
Since Woman, Milosh's run off solo with the Rhye handle, but this fragile song can have it.

MUSIC THAT GOT ME THROUGH IT ALL


Bon Iver — 22, A Million (JAGJAGUWAR)
I constantly found "22 (OVER S∞∞N)" on non-stop repeat for days these last few months.

Gold Panda — "Your Good Times Are Just Beginning" (Robbie Knox / City Slang)
Good Luck and Do Your Best bore a simple, trite message, but over time, this instrumental became a looping light in the darkness. (And my new ringtone). Hearing it live was a treat.

& MUSIC FOR FUCKING MUSIC'S SAKE


Junior Boys — Big Black Coat (City Slang)
I wonder what feature vocalists might do for these hometown musicians. Fellow local Dan Snaith describes Jeremy Greenspan as Hamilton's #1 music ambassador for good reason.

International Contemporary Ensemble — "On the Nature of Thingness" (Starkland)
From ICE's compilation of the same name / because everything is about striking a balance.

in passing



truth is often
numerous things
seem to warrant apologies

at a gateway to narnia
in passing
you met me

in the margins
we whispered
words
raised spines
a third quarter

your platform was flimsy
still i cheshire'd back

--

now that extended stay is over
do not pass go the bank is broke
we are the 99 per cent
by monetary terms only

everyone else has already fled
into high fantasy sanctuary

i gave you what you thought was the key
received what i thought was the end of me

i insisted you stay so i left instead
out to the left coast
you couldn't cross the border
the key doesn't work you screamed

across states
the insular mountains
cascade range
calapooya

--

darling, i know
i know but you didn't
but i'm less wise now than i was before

harder
better
faster
stronger
technologic
enabled

i've seen more now
i'm more apathetic
i'm less apolitical

still i wrote you this poem

--

the other one i wrote years ago
and/or non-committally so

with my head underwater i screamed

up through
lake shasta
columbia
the fraser river

it's not paradise here either
do not pass go the bank is broke
we are the 99 per cent
by monetary terms only

truth is often numerous things

your platform was flimsy
in passing
stay bold


When there's a burning in your heart

2015.08.14 -- 2015.08.20 // one car, two planes, three provinces, four parts

I haven't written here this summer. I haven't been in Toronto since January 13, effectively missing NXNE, Fringe, and TIME Festival. Upon return, I left immediately to be a tourist.





i. prince edward island

We start small and grow towards a sort of synergy. The smallest of Canada's ten provinces and the birthplace of the vast nation, L'île-du-Prince-Édouard sported red sand, green gables, and the longest bridge to span ice-covered waters. Deep sea fishing, we somehow caught a jellyfish -- Squishy and every cod we caught were released back into the ocean.










On the third day, we jumped on another boat. A larger one, car in stow, Nova Scotia-bound. Munit haec et altera vincit. At this rate, the seven seas shall surely Horcrux me.





ii. nova scotia


We caught sunset in Sydney, after coasting several hours not to Ryan Hemsworth but Acadian folk music (think The Trews, Wintersleep, Joel Plaskett). We drove the Cabot Trail around Cape Breton, counterclockwise back towards the centre of the province. The ocean in the Maritimes is shallow for a good thousand feet before the ocean floor drops suddenly. Unlike the west coast, the tides are calm. A midday dip and a lobster feast and an evening hike later, we turned in(n) on the shores of Bras d'Or Lake.












A two day reprieve was warmly welcomed and warmly spent among Haligonians before continuing on. In the Halifax harbour was a Play Me piano.





iii. new brunswick


On the last day, we came full circle. We waxed, waned, peaked, and flowed back out into the ocean. We retreated inland towards smaller, more familiar bodies -- waters you could lap. Waters significantly less salty. We built and burned bridges, and we stood on wooden rafts beneath them. Naturally, the sun was on our side -- the sun is on all sides.





I struggled to find Toronto's iconic CN tower in this next frame; a smooth descent otherwise.



iv. ontario




... la fin est le début

Motez infuses Sam Smith's "Leave Your Lover" with signature bass



Coffee aficionado Motez Obaidi -- with whom I talked origins, zanboors, and beards last October -- has been tearing it up these past months. Spinning 1015 Folsom in San Francisco as we speak, the Adelaide-based producer known for his deep house habits dropped an official "Leave Your Lover" retake this past Thursday.

"A song I instantly loved and wanted to remix, it's easy working with a voice as good as @SamSmithWorld," he shares on Soundcloud. Seriously, it's an alignment of stars. We're just now crawling out from under its influence. But only long enough to share it with you if, for some unfortunate cause, you haven't already heard it. Here it is:



Best moments? 1:04, when the piano chords come in; 1:37, when his signature warped bass arrives; and 2:23's handclap drop.

TORONTO: Tez is swinging your way on January 16 -- I'll be in San Francisco by then (a tragic crossing of his and my travels, to say the least) -- catch him at The Hoxton with DESTRUCTO and Anna Lunoe for their SHIP2SHIP tour.

It's An Endless World, according to Holobeams



Splitting time between Glasgow and Nagoya is a producer I haven't entertained for a while. My first (and at that point, last) encounter with Iain Foxwell's Holobeams moniker (formerly Holobeams and Broken Machines) was midsummer 2012, shortly after the warm and broad reception of two-track debut "Clouds/Sunrise": "Heads in the Clouds" a crunchy electronic ordeal slowly and gloriously infiltrated by sparkly smooth piano; "85 Sunrise" packing the same crunch, but with a more abrasive electronic melody.

All web searches seem to lead back to the hype of that time frame, but since then, Foxwell has released four more EPs, the most recent being January 4's It's An Endless World.

This latest effort arrives about a year after the chillier outer space synth of Chase the Horizon (2013), marking the longest gap between releases. And the difference is audible: in the cycling and layering of each track's motifs, the offensive zone skating remains seamless but the rippling cross-ice passes are now smooth too -- the audio effect equivalent to what looks like a freshly zamboni'd neutral zone. And I'm not just pulling the hockey references because I can; if Chase the Horizon was a cool evening fog, It's An Endless World is absolutely crystalline, ice cold with warm reflections.

You should really just play through the entire thing -- these EPs are never long enough once through -- but "Breaking Wave" is (appropriately so) the height of the sparkle.

2014 Favourites


song of the summer from Calvin Harris (choice remix by Diplo x Grandtheft)

POP


Taiga by Zola Jesus
(Mute)
looks like / what I wrote before / what I wrote after / live review

"Beggin for Thread" by BANKS (Harvest) remixed
In the Lonely Hour by Sam Smith (Capitol)
"Go" by Grimes (Arbutus) watch
"Hideaway" by Kiesza (Island) watch

INDIE

"Heartbeat Overdrive" by Ballet School (Bella Union) watch
The Tone by BLAUS (Tricycle) what I wrote
"Malachite" by Lydia Ainsworth (Arbutus) watch

ALTERNATIVE


"They Don't Know" by White Sea (Crush) what I wrote

Neuroplasticity by Cold Specks (Mute) what I wrote

ROCK


Familiars by The Antlers (ANTI-)
looks like / what I wrote

FUNK

"Jealous (I Ain't With It)" by Chromeo (Last Gang) live review
"Walking With Elephants" by Ten Walls (Phonica) stream

PUNK


For Those Who Stay by PS I Love You (Paper Bag)
what I wrote before / what I wrote after

Feel Something by The History of Apple Pie (Marshall Teller) what I wrote

ELECTRONIC


"Horus" by SLUMBERJACK (onelove)

Alone for the First Time by Ryan Hemsworth (Last Gang) what I wrote
"Seeya" by deadmau5 feat. Colleen D'Agostino (Ultra) stream
How to Run Away by Slow Magic (Downtown) what I wrote
"Bill Murray" by Phantogram (Republic)
Our Love by Caribou what I wrote

FOLK


"Looking Too Closely" by Fink (Ninja Tune) what I wrote

"Glacier" by James Vincent McMorrow (EMI)

HIP HOP



"Fancy (Motez Edit)" by Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX (Island) interview

"0 to 100 / The Catch Up" by Drake (OVO) stream / remixed

POST-ROCK


Rave Tapes by Mogwai (Rock Action) live review
Awake by Tycho (Ghostly International) what I wrote

SCORE


Palo Alto by Devonté Hynes

time melts like snow off the porch
2014's been a game changer. The last time this occurred was in 2011; coincidentally, I haven't felt quite this way about a year in music since then.

2014 was a year that finally put this blog title to use, with the arrival of producers such as Porter Robinson and SLUMBERJACK alongside electronic pop and alternative artists Black Atlass, Tove Lo, Lydia Ainsworth, Vaults, and YOUNG & SICK. It was Last Gang Records' 10th year anniversary; it saw the rise of Fool's Gold, Mad Decent, and the revival of DFA, Mute. There was the surge of English and Australian electronic, French club bangers and tropical house. Everything was remixed... again and again. We went to mass raves.

But beneath this EDM bubble, and if you looked for it, stayed the reassuring presence of sound indie rock, tasteful pop, experimental minimalism, PBRNB / new soul, and skate punk shenanigans. To 2015 we go.

Ocean Avenue lends some tropical house vibes to Whitney on his latest, "Wake Me"



Another Frenchman with his sights set on the internationally bubbling tropical house kick, Ocean Avenue has been officially active for two months. During this span, he's cleanly (and tastefully) remixed JJ Goldman, Indochine, and Jaymes Young, accruing upwards of 100,000 Soundcloud plays and over 600 followers. This early in the game, he may consider rethinking his performing moniker due to competition from a dozen small town bands.

Or he might rise above them, especially so with his first original release, a shimmery, cowbell-blessed jam which prominently samples the title lyric from Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know." It reminds me of Naxxons' "New Orleans," from last summer, which was an instant hit. Keep an eye on this track and pick it up early below, you hipster.

VIDEO: "Attak" by Rustie feat. Danny Brown



Here's Scottish EDM-saurus Rustie (real name Russell Whyte) absolutely killing it on his latest collab and Danny Brown having a pillow-less pillow fight while spitting god knows what and non-stop, too. Luckily, they've provided the lyrics. The video's nothing brilliant, but that particular shade of aqua and those audio sirens are. Green Language drops August 25th via Warp Records.

14/08/10 REMIXES: Nelsaan, Manila Killa, AObeats


Day in, day out.

BEACH

Anonymous Norwegian producer Nelsaan tried to slip this Sam Smith remix in under the radar. At first, it's unassuming amongst the other pretty "Stay With Me"s in the crowd. And then it's absolutely arresting, and absolutely prone to be one of those "missed connections" if you don't act on it now. So... um, stay with it; it's not love, it's all you need.



DUSK

Manila Killa is 21 since releasing this Dawn Golden remix, has 12000 Facebook fans, and hails from the selfie capital of the world. And like the selfie, I can't tell if the D.C. Filipino's edit of "All I Want" is introspective or extraverted. It blends aspects of both personalities -- a bubbly demeanour and friendly steel drums, but a dreamy haze and soft shaker. There's a tropical getaway if I ever saw one.



CITY

Another very accessible, very diverse futuristic house remix comes at the hands of AObeats, who happens to be a friend and collaborator of Manila Killa and another Moving Castle member. This version of "Sprezzatura" from Testudo's latest EP unwinds on a syncopated club beat with a seriously magical case of the wobblies.