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It poured yesterday in Hong Kong. The electricity was knocked out of several buildings for hours and people scurried from one overhang to another, completely unprepared for the unexpected downpour. Thunder and lightening are no joke in Asia–the first time I witnessed these two weather forces in the Eastern hemisphere, I was on a boat in China, heading down the Yangtze River. Never before had I been so terrified of weather. The loud, thunderous crack of these electrical whips of light, streaking across the sky physically jolted me out of my seat, almost out of my skin.

Yesterday was no different. It was petrifying to hear the thunder crash down from above. Luckily the brief storm didn’t last long. I had to wonder if this was the beginning of our spring showers. And if so, the only other thing I fear more (or “loathe more” to be exact ) than thunder is the impending drastic, subtropical summer heat that will engulf me in a mere few months.

I was doing a massive clean of my aunt’s apartment in preparation for my good friend, Val, who is coming to visit me. She will be the first person who is traveling here for the sole purpose of visiting me! (After my mom, of course) I’m so touched and super excited for the packed itinerary we have planned.

I decided it’s time to crank up the peppy springtime jams because fairer weather is on its way and it’s always nice to have something fun to listen to while you sweep and scrub. 🙂 I made this mix via Spotify, and was going for a hearty amount of funk, mixed with some light-hearted rock. It’s time to get your frolic on!

Image: here

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2012-top-albums

Aiyiyiyiyiyiyi. I’ve been gone too long! Well I’m back now and I’m ready to bust out a slew of posts. Between the holidays, a bit of traveling, some getting sick, skipping the commercials embedded so carefully in my Taiwanese dramas, and an unattractive amount of eating, I wasn’t able to post as much as I had wanted in my 3 week break. But I need to post this list before the first month of the year is over so keep reading!

If you read about music at all, you’ll know that most publications come up with end of the year top album (or song) lists. In all honesty, I’m not sure that these lists are so much important as they are informative, considering how subjective a an individual’s taste in music can be. I find it’s better to regard these lists as valuable for their ability to introduce you to groups or artists you may have heard of but never considered listening to. I know barely anything about electronic dance music but being part of a music blog has taught me more than I would ever have naturally learned about the genre.

For the second year in a row, I helped to compile EARMILK’s Top Albums of the Year. Last year we divided the albums by genre, creating Top 50 lists for electronic, indie and hip-hop, the three main genres the blog covers. This year we opted to combine all genres into a singular list to encourage our readers (and ourselves) to venture beyond their regular music preferences and see what all of our writers and editors are listening too. Whereas 2011 had me binge listening to at least 3-4 hip hop albums for a two week period, this year I was able to contribute in a more well-rounded fashion with regards to the formatting of the list, as well as to the indie picks on the list.

Check back for my personal Top 10 Albums of 2012 (Yes: I know it’s 2013. No, I do not care that my list is almost a month late) and without further ado:

EARMILK’s Top 50 Albums of 2012 — #50-26

EARMILK’s Top 50 Albums of 2012 — #25-1

Image: EARMILK

A few weeks ago I posted some writing I had done for TimeOut Hong Kong. I have since done some more writing (and yes, am working on even more). These are mostly music-related with some food for good measure. You can find links to them on my “professional” blog (ha) or click on the links below. For the full scope on all my writing for TimeOut, go grab a physical copy!

Shopping

Orsola de Castro

Probably one of the most important pieces I’ve gotten to do so far. I really enjoyed interviewing Orsola as she’s fantastically articulate and so knowledgable about her field. I felt empowered to become more eco-conscious and more creative in general about how I consume stuff.

Music

Crowd Lu

Probably one of the biggest names in Taiwanese pop, among the singer-songwriter variety. Crowd is gifted with an incredible voice and has worked hard to get where he’s at today: selling out large stadiums across Asia.

Macy Gray

Ms. Gray came to town for an intimate, one-night only performance. It was actually very interesting researching her life and career — she’s one helluva talent and I find her rather underrated.

Food

Xmas 2012 – Christmas Eating All In One Spot!

As an American, I didn’t know what mulled wine was nor did I realize a hamper was actually quite the opposite of a place where you put dirty clothes. Me and my improper English. 

Thanks for reading!

As Abe Lincoln once said, “Good things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” I hope he really said that but I got it off the Internet so who knows. Accuracy aside, I see the truth in that statement and while I’ve been here nearly three months, I feel like my days of hustling here in Hong Kong have only just begun.

I recently started writing for TimeOut Hong Kong, which has been a stretching experience in many ways. But I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve gotten out of this opportunity so far (see my last post), including learning more about this cool SAR and understanding its complex identity, not to mention shattering (or just expanding) all of my pre-conceived notions about its people, and its past, present and future. Sometimes life requires you to pay your dues and I’m pretty sure I’m doing exactly that right now. Check back here regularly as I’ll try to post links to all the writing I get to do here. For now, enjoy a slice of HK life — a little music, some arts and culture and a whole lot of food.

Music

Psychic Ills

I’m trying not to get too excited at the thought of all the music that I get to explore while here but I’m just really excited about it. Like unprofessionally, fan-girl status excited. Hopefully I will write about more music in the future!

Books

Joyeux anniversaire

Parenthèses Librairie, Hong Kong’s only French bookshop, recently counted 25 years of being here and I had the privilege of covering their joyful celebration. Who would have thought Hong Kong was home to so many Francophones and Francophiles?

Food

Hong Kong’s Best… Snake Soup

You know that joke about how if Adam and Eve were Chinese, they would have eaten the snake and not the apple? No? Okay, well there you go. I’ve yet to try snake soup but now that it’s getting a bit colder, I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a steaming bowl of she geng.

Hong Kong’s Best… White Truffle Menus

The other day, my friend Mary was telling me that there is one restaurant for every 600-700 people here in Hong Kong. With a population of over 7 million, that is a lot of restaurants. This is truly a foodie’s paradise, especially when white truffle season rolls around…

Entertainment

Levels

I visited Hong Kong’s newest club and lived to tell about it. 😉

Thanks for reading!

I wasn’t sure what I wanted this mix to be about. I just knew it wasn’t going to contain any music from the witch house genre because that genre is so dumb, I can’t believe it exists.

I thought about some of the things I’ve been ruminating over and being a woman has been a major one. Being that it’s National Women’s History Month, it seemed fitting to make a mix with this theme in mind.

I have never been convinced that I would ever truly be a woman until I was bearing my own children. And if that’s how we’re defining things, I’m nowhere near being a woman. Maybe a very large girl but not a woman.

I’m in a stage of life which generally consists of dodging exasperated reminders that my eggs are dying (thanks Mom), and having non-religious friends and co-workers wonder what the hell is wrong with me and my friends (considering a good 70% of my friends are now married, I attend around 5-7 weddings per year and of these friends getting married, ALL are younger than me). So it has been brought to my attention that maybe I should start figuring out what all this womanhood stuff is about.

Whether I like it or not, and whether I am ready or not, are all irrelevant: I already am a woman. As I’ve wrestled with what it means to be Asian or the oldest child in the past few years, the last year in particular I’ve thought a good deal about what it means to be a woman and a Christian. Though I want to, I can’t articulate any of these thoughts quite yet. But I will, hopefully before the very last of my eggs die.

This mix is about being female and being proud of it — because as much as I hate some of the crap women have to put up with, I love being a lady. It’s not necessarily a mix that third wave feminists will find super enlightening but it’s something that will hopefully make you appreciate female artists of merit.

So take a moment to celebrate the women in your life and if you are female, celebrate yourself and your achievements and get ready for some good jams.

About the cover art (click the image to download the music): The little girl’s name is “Mirai-chan” and she is the subject of a photography book by her mother, Japanese photographer Kotori Kawashima. If you haven’t noticed from my last post on Yoshitomo Nara, I seem to be developing a strange fascination for little disgruntled looking Japanese girls (…there has got to be a better way to word that) (and that’s why we call this blog “Lizisms”).

I think I looked pretty disgruntled as kid in my younger days; maybe that’s why I relate. But what I really love about these photos of Mirai-chan is her total nonchalance to the world. Some of the pictures of this bright-eyed, furrowed-brow child made me laugh out loud (here and here), in a very unattractive way.

To me she kind of captures what it means to be female: at some point in your life, you do what you want without knowing you’re doing it. And after you go through a period of self-realization, you do what you want, but with total deliberation. I think both are important to note in becoming a woman.

Well that’s enough ruminating. On to the music!

Tracklist

01. (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay (Live) – Sara Bareilles

I love this song. No one does it better than Otis but I have to hand it to Sara, I think Mr. Redding would be proud. I appreciate that Sara’s music is not conventional pop music and that her artist image doesn’t pander to stupid notions of what a female pop artist is usually associated with.

02. SexyBack – Corinne Bailey Rae (Justin Timberlake cover)

I tried to stay away from songs that talk about how much a woman needs her man or how her world is nothing without him. That being said, I hope I didn’t compromise my efforts by including such a sensual song but damn, Rae knows how to do a cover. I have admired her as an artist for a few years now and after reading about the tragic loss of her husband, have only grown in my respect for her musicianship and individuality as an artist. I recommend all of her music. All of it.

03. Well OK Honey – Jenny O.

She has a nice voice and a versatile sound. And I like this song. The end.

04. A Change Is Gonna Come – Leela James

I can never get enough soul music. If I had to choose a genre to listen to for the rest of my life, it would be soul. As much as I love other types of music, I can never get sick of soul. I’m probably the only 26-year old I know who regularly stocks her car with CDs by The Temptations or those Greatest Motown Hits compilation discs that are always in the clearance bin. This song has always been such a source of inspiration for me when I think of the dreams that social movers and shakers had before me and in my own personal pursuits. Originally penned by the illustrious Sam Cooke, I think Leela James truly does this song justice. If you are not familiar with James’ discography, get on that (likewise for Sam Cooke).

05. Crush – Sleigh Bells

This band brings my leather-studded heart warm electric fuzzies. There is a part of me that loves unleashing my inner pop punk fangirl (Fat Wreck Chords, anyone!???) and thrash my head to loud, bass driven music with huge guitar riffs. That is exactly what this band is all about. And how about Allison Krauss’ angelic vocals? It’s such a stark contrast against the monstrous instrumentals. Listening to these guys is about as bad ass as I will ever get in this life. Weeeeee.

06. Bitter Heart – Zee Avi

I first heard about Zee Avi from a friend a few years ago. I thought it ironic that she later signed to Brushfire Records because she always reminded me of a female Jack Johnson. While her music isn’t naturally my taste, I am proud of her and her heritage as a female Malaysian artist who has made it big enough to sell her music at almost every Starbucks I’ve ever been to. I always smile when I see her CDs there.

07. Islands – the xx

Most people know about the xx by now. After I found out about them, I watched a few videos of them performing live and impromptu in Denmark and other places around Europe. I was always impressed by how good Romy Madley Croft sounds live. She doesn’t need a recording studio or a thousand dollar mic. Her voice is true talent. And in spite of her fame she seems incredibly down to earth too. I feel a bit bad this song isn’t very representative of her voice but I think it’s a good introduction to those of us who aren’t familiar with the band.

08. Criminal – ZZ Ward

This woman could give Adele a run for her money. Her sound is a bit different but with nothing lacking in terms of soulfulness. I would liken her to a one woman version of The Black Keys as she employs a huge range of sounds and instruments in her music. I like how she mixes R&B, soul and blues so fluidly and that she’s not afraid to sing over Childish Gambino or Tyler the Creator beats. She’s relatively new on the scene (I found out about her on NPR’s 2011 SXSW Preview) but will eventually be a force to be reckoned with.

09. Lana Del Rey x Nas – If I Ruled the Diet Mountain Dew (SoSuperSam Remix)

I’m quite a fan of SoSuperSam, an female DJ who hails from LA. Not only is she very stylish, she has great taste in music. But I can’t stand Lana Del Rey or her music and was almost offended when I saw Sam had made a mashup of Nas with Lana. I mean, the prior is a legitimate hip hop icon while the other skates painfully close to being a caricature of herself. But ladies have to stick together. So while I wouldn’t be the best to recommend good Lana Del Rey songs, I appreciate her guts to put music out there and perform it live. If you listen to each song separately, then the mashup, you realize how ingenious the combination is. Also, Lauryn is on the track. One up.

10. Fame Boozer’s Lullaby – TOKiMONSTA

TOKi is an Asian American female DJ who is respected by enough people to be signed with Brainfeeder. ‘Nuff said.

11. Valerie – Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse is hugely underrated. If you haven’t listened to Frank, you are severely short changing yourself. While she received a lot of flak for being an unstable diva, there is no denying how talented she was. I immensely appreciate how she helped to usher soul back into our diet of mainstream pop music. Her music wasn’t gimmicky and her voice is irreplaceable. I wish her inner demons hadn’t got the best of her because she sang with a raw honesty she was actually capable of. It’s something a lot of current female pop artists only able to emulate through fancy production.

12. Haiti – Arcade Fire

When you Google Regine Chassagne, two searches come up: “Regine Chassagne can’t sing” and “Regine Chassagne ugly”. People are horrible. I don’t agree with either statement and obviously Win Butler, the frontman and co-founder of this groundbreaking band, feels the same. Butler is married to Chassagne and in my opinion, she adds an unmistakable amount of charisma to the group. She’s also a multi-instrumentalist, short in stature and not skinny. I like that, a lot. This song in particular is primarily sung by her, off their 2004 record Funeral. In it, she poignantly sings about the extreme disparity that exists in Haiti, where her parents emigrated from to Canada. So to all the haters: she’s got some substance too.

13. Myth – Beach House

In my mind, Beach House is such a feminine band. Listen to the vocals, the lyrics, the music. And yet, I know so many guys who resonate with their music and may not have any problems saying such is the case. I had the opportunity to see them live at Coachella in 2010 and was absolutely enthralled with their gold streamer-filled set. This is a new song off their upcoming album, Bloom.

14. Take It All – Adele

I’ve been intentionally reading a lot of interviews on Adele. Most recently, I read about her in both Vogue and Cosmopolitan (the latter my roommate subscribes to so you can stop judging me) and I was so impressed with her detachment to her fame. Perhaps it’s an elaborate press scheme but she really comes across as a hard-nosed gal with a good sense of friendship, fortune and fame. She talked about being pissed about having to go to the Grammys as it fell on the same night of her friend’s bridal shower. That’s what I’m talking about.

15. Fembot – Robyn

GQ recently did a huge series on artists who had made remarkable comebacks in their musical careers. They profiled everyone from Lil Wayne to Iggy Pop. I personally think they should have included Robyn. She’s come a long, long way from “Show Me Love,” people. Her last album, Body Talk is ripe with songs of assertiveness and strength, all set to catchy, futuristic beats.

16. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Lauryn Hill

For someone born in the late 80’s this woman pretty much defined what it meant to be a female with undeniable strength and creativity. I salute you, Ms. Hill.

17. Ritual Union – Little Dragon

Something about Yukimi Nagano’s voice is very likeable to my ears. I think I could see myself being reincarnated as Little Dragon music, if I believed in reincarnation. I think it’s marvelous the way the band has made music around her very unique voice and lyrics. I quite enjoy the way she not only commands but guides the band, from interviews I’ve watched. All of her collaborations with other artists have been stellar, most notably with Gorillaz, SBTRKT, and soon to be Big Boi!

18. Million Dollar Bill – Whitney Houston

Rest in peace, Whitney. This is one of those songs that let you know you were definitely born before 1990 but one that represents the staying power artists like Houston, MJ and only a handful of others truly have. It’s a rarity these days. In the days after Houston’s passing, I thought about her roots, growing up singing in the church and how much more simple her life was back then. I hope she is resting in the peaceful presence of her Savior.

When I’m not laying in my bed eating chips and watching “Entourage”, I’m writing for this music blog called EARMILK. I love music so when the opportunity arose for me to write for Earmilk, I was ecstatic! I write mostly about hip hop, some jazz, some indie and some stuff in between. I started contributing to EM back in June and it’s been an all around wonderful experience. I love Earmilk’s approach to sharing new music and I’ve learned about so much great music through the contributors I work with.

Over the past week, I was involved with the writing and selecting the Earmilk Top 20 Hip-Hop/Rap Albums of 2011 [#10-1] and Earmilk Top 20 Hip-Hop/Rap Albums of 2011 [#20-11] list. It was a grueling process as many stellar mixtapes and albums were released this year (as well as a good amount of trash), but I think we came up with a strong list. If you’re looking for new hip hop, I earnestly suggest our Top 20 list. And if hip hop isn’t your thing, look into the electronica and indie lists.

Happy reading and listening!