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Keep Calm (Don’t Panic)

For when our world is going to shit

The first 50 or so songs (up to Prince) were meant to tell a story of our physically distant lives, but all the rest are here to keep you calm. I hope it helps when things go to shit. Or when you just need to relax.

Inspired by brandonstosuy.

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Kisses Sweet

Maybe you give me... (a love playlist)

I probably screwed this up and included some heartbreak song. It’s not about the lyrics when I select. Always the feeling.

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend said all I had was heartache playlists and nothing for love (a few exceptions,) so here one is. For her, Miz Liz. She inspires me as much as this music.

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Channel Tres, best described with music

Music speaks to the heart and not really through words

Music is about feeling. And is best described through it. Even the words are written for the heart more than the head. My last decade has been defined primarily by music, curating here and at TuneIn, but more recently I’ve shifted towards spoken word. Podcasts, not specifically poetry.

Podcasts have the buzz these days, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the substance. They’ve got more of it for the head than music does. The insights from the conversations and questions that come out of podcasts are only matched by the feelings I get from music. But I can find dozens of new inspiring podcast episodes each day. I can’t say the same for music. Music has a greater barrier to greatness and is far more subjective as an art, but the ones I do love I can listen to forever. All the more reason why curation is so important to music. People need as much context and connection when discovering something.

Most of the new music I found in 2019 came from SXSW and I guess that’s how I found Channel Tres. He wasn’t at the 2019 showcase, for all I know, but he was there in 2017 supporting Duckwrth. It was one of the most memorable shows of my life. Dudes could dance, in unison.

Channel Tres has grown into his own thing since then and I was so honored to see him at the Starline Social Club in Oakland this last December. The presence him and his dancers, Jessie & Nique, embodied on stage reflected in his audience. Their routines livened the whole club up. A progression from his dance moves with Duckwrth just two years ago. It felt like something out of a movie. The whole experience. It’ll be etched in my body forever. And the music even more so.

Trying to describe in words something that is far deeper is challenging. I’ll keep it simple, Channel Tres can make a lil Jew from Minnesota feel like a cool ass black dude from Compton. And it’s mostly through his beat. Empathy at its finest.

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77 “Bittersweet” Sad Soul Songs

SG Lewis' fans compiled some of the saddest songs with soul

SG Lewis asked his Twitter followers what were their favourite sad soul songs. Similar to what I did with brokemogul’s “Best Music Documentaries,” I took over 100 responses and compiled it down to 77 songs.

What I love about this list is how deeply personal and eclectic it is. It comes from over 100 different people who have the same purpose in mind and some level of love for SG Lewis but are probably pretty different otherwise. I removed a few songs that didn’t fit and some late 80’s/early 90’s R&B, but I tried to keep too much of my bias out of it.

It was hard to define what’s sad and what’s soul music. Or what’s old for that matter. Some songs may sound happy – Sam Cooke’s “Good Times” is a good example – but can be used just as well for sad times. The Twitter responses pushed the boundaries of what soul music can be defined as, which I can appreciate to a certain point (it’s still a good song.)

My biggest conflict was not including Angie Stone’s “Wish I Didn’t Miss You” and it’s for the most childish reason. Seriously, wait for it. I swear there’s a random fart noise every measure or so. Or am I just making this shit up? First one starts 14 seconds in. It’s an otherwise genuinely beautiful song.

SG Lewis still has yet to post his own sad soul song. Maybe we can get 77 more in the next year with his choice included.

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Durand Jones and The Indications

Takin' it back from the highs to the lows

I already touched on Durand Jones and The Indications when I heard them live at Outside Lands, 2018, but let’s try it again. My literal jaw dropped when I first heard Durand Jones and The Indications, but not from Durand’s voice. The group’s drummer and falsetto backup, Aaron Frazer, had me from his first note.

Like Khruangbin, their build-up has taken a few years, but Durand Jones, Aaron Frazer, and The Indications have got a full lineup of classic hits and I don’t say that often enough. How Aaron and Durand’s voices play off each other, from the highs to the lows, is unmatched. At least for this generation.

Not to get too “number-y,” as Aaron likes to say, for how talented this group is, I do not see it reflecting on their social, music services (Spotify seems decent), or from many bloggers (according to the Hype Machine.) So I’ve taken it upon myself to reach out to these bloggers, specifically ones that love soul music, and see what’s up! I’ll keep you up-to-date. You just make sure I do what I say.

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Khruangbin is sex on stage

And they're my favorite band for it

I’ve already covered Khruangbin back in 2017 at Outside Lands, but they’ve come out with two albums since. More importantly, they’ve become my favorite band of the year.

It all started when I saw them at The Fox in Oakland late last year. Every time I talk about it, I always say it was the sexiest show I’ve seen. You wouldn’t guess it by their music necessarily, but the chemistry between Laura Lee on bass and Mark Speer on guitar is mesmerizing in sound and look.

A few months later I saw Tommy Guerrero at Noise Pop 2019 and he reminded me so much of Khruangbin’s guitar melodies. As much as his catalog may be bigger than theirs, the trio from Dallas has stuck themselves in all areas of my life, which may have a lot to do with how popular they’ve gotten.

One thing I’ve learned since obsessing over their music is how much of the music-making process is collaborative between the three. Inspired by dub, Thai funk, and middle eastern grooves. And as Mark put it in an interview, they don’t need a lead singer, they’ve got a guitar to carry the melody.

Their latest album is a dub version of Con Todo El Mundo, entitled Hasta El Cielo. I haven’t included any of the tracks on this featured playlist yet. I just haven’t warmed up to it enough, but it’s well worth a full listen through. Along with everything else below.

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Kelsey Lu made me blush

And more of my awesome awkwardness

I’m a proud member of Concert Raptors, a Facebook group with over 11,000 highly enthusiastic Bay Area fans of live music. It’s a good place to exchange tickets with people you know aren’t bots, let people know about the latest stellar musician coming to The Bay, or organize group meetups around events. Those are the things that make it good, but what makes it great is the culture set by moderators and active members. Kind of like Dogspotting, no one takes it too seriously and fun is highly encouraged, if not required when selling tickets (never above face value.)

I’ve met up with people from Concert Raptors before, but Kelsey Lu was the first time I did it solo. A few people were getting together at Smuggler’s Cover before the show. When I got there, I had no idea where to find them. The small bar near the entrance had a half-dozen people sitting on stools, but I wasn’t sure they were raptors, so I went downstairs. I ordered a drink, tried to see if they posted exactly where they were, but my phone had no service down there, so I scoped out the place and narrowed down who a raptor could be. My pick was wrong. They asked me, “what the hell is Concert Raptors?” I explained and skurried upstairs with tail between my legs.

After getting upstairs, I had internet connection once again and saw they posted that they were upstairs. There were only two sets of three people at the bar, so I picked what I thought was most likely. The guy responded with, “what is that some shitty band name?” Once again I explained what it was and tried to get out of the situation as fast as possible. Someone mentioned there was a third floor, so I awkwardly backed out of my seat and went that way.

I finally found my raptors and went with them to the show soon after. Kelsey Lu was an experience all her own. I appreciated her music before, but seeing her live puts a lot more background into who she is. Her personality on stage shines. She gave me goosebumps and made me blush at the end. Few times have I felt a show ended too early. This was one of them.

In the end, the stress that came in finding my group of raptors made the show all the more enjoyable. Check out a video of Kelsey Lu’s performance at Great American Music Hall. You’ll need to be a raptor of Concert Raptors to view it.

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DRAMA, a duo

Sad stories & house music

I first heard about DRAMA through their Fuck Dave track, featured on our with Soul playlist from 2017, but I didn’t realize what the duo had to offer up otherwise until now. It’s gonna help define the beginning of my 2019.

Via Rosa, the singing half of DRAMA, sings with ease in sound and heartbreak in story. She reminds me of Madelyn Grant. The inflection in her voice. A raspy whisper you hear even when she’s just talking.

Na’el Shehade, the producing half of DRAMA, gives Via some sexy four on the floor tracks and at times brightens up her sad songs.

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Up to Nogood

Breaking barriers is sexy

Between trap and future bass is something special. Not only is it some of the sexiest music out right now, but pushes the edges of music more than any other. Pop is catching up to it, hip hop is there, but its depth still goes unrecognized. And that’s where the problem with playlisting it comes in.

More than any other, this Up to Nogood playlist is reliant on YouTube Music & SoundCloud. Apple Music and Spotify just don’t have the catalog. Not even half.

One thing Spotify does do best is discovery. Digging through music has changed from listening to thousands of songs on my SoundCloud stream to find something fresh down to hundreds with what Spotify recommends. Automation has a long way to go in really helping me out, but Spotify is leading it.

One thing none of them have are analytics for playlisters. One of the most crucial things in making a better playlist. 8tracks is actually the only one I know that does.

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What’s the Music Streaming Service for Playlisters

Plus the next step in how we playlist, featuring our best soul songs

Back in 2014 Trent Reznor put out a video envisioning Beats Music, now Apple Music, as the game changer in deciding what song comes next. It sure as hell inspired me and helped to get where music discovery is today, but Spotify is leading that now, most famously with RapCaviar.

Tuma Basa – creator of RapCaviar, now at YouTube Music – recently talked at DJ Jazzy Jeff’s Playlist Retreat about how we need to recognize curation as a form of art. Too many music services are hung up on breaking the next big thing. Let the playlisters, djs, and other curators figure that out. Figure out the curators first.

SoundCloud has been my pick for playlisting music ever since they introduced the feature, but they’ve been losing listeners, so I thought it was about time to spread my efforts elsewhere. Spotify’s doing it right when it comes to their product and promotion. They’ve got all the major label music and seem to be winning with playlisting & discovery. But it turns out half the music I love isn’t on Spotify, so it’s gonna have to take more than just that to replace SoundCloud, if at all.

YouTube Music doesn’t have every song SoundCloud has, but I’m sure they have much more. They haven’t quite established themselves yet, but with Lyor Cohen, Tuma Basa, and all the other talent I’ll follow when I find them, my (subscription) money is on YouTube Music. And Spotify too for now.

Apple Music has the same problem as Spotify with catalog, but their potential is in live with retail stores in the most highly trafficked places around the world. Initiatives like “Today at Apple” that are bringing people together around creativity & entrepreneurship can be the game changer Apple Music needs to differentiate themselves from Spotify & YouTube Music. Especially if they utilize a platform like Beats 1 to democratize the global spotlight for all kinds of artists, including playlisters, online and off.

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