Upon hearing the lineup of my “Songs I’m Listening to Right Now” playlist, one may not see how the songs fit with one another. Aside from each song representing something or some time important in my life, there is a significance to each of their presence and the way that the songs fit in their order. The first half is a cultural mix, with a clear transition to the 2nd half, full of what I gravitate to now, alt/rock and electric, guitar-heavy songs.
First is the folk song “Diamond Day” by Vashti Bunyan, the musical bed to my Fun ID. When I was 7, my dad filled an iPod to the brink with the music he’d collected over 50 years. My brother and I took turns looking through as many songs as we could. For me, “Diamond Day” was my golden nugget. Independent of what my parents played, of pop culture, I found a song whose sound I loved, and I prize that honest selection from a time when I knew almost nothing about music. No other song could better lead into a playlist representative of my music choices.
My Fun ID is about how KZSC plays uncommon music, so I found it fitting to flow into my Global South song, “Kanawa” by Habib Koite. This was introduced to me around the age of 9, when my best friend’s mom would play Putumayo Presents: Mali. I’d only heard the album a number of times, but its sounds have proven unshakeable. They were like nothing I’d been exposed to before, being from such a culturally different place, yet they reached me immediately. To me, it is timeless music that can be appreciated anywhere, free of trends. It is music for the soul, for worldly grounding.
In acknowledgment of my Chinese heritage, I chose a PSA about taichi, with ethereal, spiritual music. This perfectly leads to my next song, “Hidden,” in that it has the same long chime-like sonds, and that it is by a Chinese female jazz pianist, Helen Sung. One of my favorite parts of KZSC has been my mentorship with DJ Bluejay on her show Jazzkitty. When I was recently given the task of curating my own playlist of jazzy women, I was ecstatic to come across Sung’s album in our library’s jazz section. She was the first Asian person I’d seen in the jazz section, and she was a woman! I hope to someday have a show that highlights music of at least Asia– I love my Asian roots and finding Sung proved to me how amazing it feels to find something to identify with. I want others to find that in music too, and KZSC is the best place for that.
The playlist picks up in beat with the next song, “His Story” by TLC. Their vocalization of the common discrediting and misrepresentation of woman is apt, especially after Sung. While R&B is not a genre I often listen to, TLC prove special to me by being a popular female group of the 90’s who used their heard voices to bring light to something not often talked about or listened to in the mainstream.
After a weather break, I continue into the second half with louder music. My punk song choice is one of my all-time favorites: “Work” by Jimmy Eat World. It was this band, along with old-school Paramore, that harvested my love for punk/alt rock in middle school. Since then, that love has fanned out to encompass its mingling with folk, indie, synth, pop, etc., and most recently and importantly, shoegaze.
I found Yuck during what I think was my first identity crisis. In my sophmore year of high school, I imploded with disgust for the inauthenticity of my high school’s culture, of how important Instagram and Twitter were to people’s sense of belonging. I deleted them both, and dove into what some would probably call a pretentious trip into the world of “indie.” Foreign and independent movies paired with an endeavor to find eclectic and meaningful music enlightened me. Slow, steady, and instrumental, “Rose Gives a Lily” was in a playlist I entitled “Breathing Apparatus,” full of songs that I felt matched and supported a natural and calming breathing rate. Upon rediscovering the old playlist in search of that song, I realized that that love for songs I can breathe to has carried on with a new shoegaze love…
For my recently released song choice, I picked Slowdive‘s “No Longer Making Time.” I felt like I was cheating by getting to pick a song from a band big in the 90’s. I only found Slowdive last year, just in time for their comeback this year. Like “Rose Gives a Lily,” I love Slowdive for their ability to create an atmosphere. Their loud, continuous yet melodic tunes are like no other. And while they weren’t relevant for quite some time, I am lucky to be able to end my playlist with my favorite song off of their new self-titled record, an acknowledgment to where I’ve found myself in my music (and therefore life) journey, for now.