Post Election Playlist
November 16, 2016 1:43 pm


It’s been exactly one week since the outcome of one of the craziest elections America has ever witnessed.

The beasts have lovingly curated this playlist to help get us through all of the intense emotions – from shock and disbelief to sadness and anger – we’re going through.

Though we live in troubled times, we are all in this together. Let this playlist help us to remember not only that, but that we should never stop fighting hate with love.

P.S. Trump. Look behind you. We’re not going anywhere.

donald trump bernie sanders

October 24, 2016 9:00 am

Minna Choi is one-of-a-kind. In addition to leading her own Magik*Magik Orchestra (who have performed as the backing orchestra for Death Cab for Cutie and Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood), she is the choir director for City Church San Francisco, AND has just released a solo album as Magik*Magik with her own original orchestral work.

ATYPICAL SOUNDS caught up with Minna as she prepares to tour, and had a nice chat about the new album, traveling with an orchestra, and the terrifying state of the San Francisco housing market.

Does it make you more nervous to be out there on your own, versus backing another musician?
It’s a completely different level of fear and vulnerability playing your own songs than it is being a hired gun for someone else’s material. I didn’t anticipate it was going to be such a steep emotional learning curve. Magik*Magik Orchestra recently played at Outside Lands with me conducting in front of 40,000 people, backing up the band Third Eye Blind and I wasn’t nervous at all. But a month ago I played a little private show of my own songs in front of maybe 60 people at a club and my foot was uncontrollably shaking trying to press the piano sustain pedal. The nerves were on high alert. It’s amazing the difference.

How much input did you have in the creation of the video for “Weep”? 
My main input to Nathan (the director) was that it had to feature the orchestra, and that it had to be a live performance. I was adamant that the first video I put out as a solo artist pay homage to the orchestra because that experience directly led me here. So I told Nathan, it needs to have the orchestra, I need to be conducting and I’d like my friend Coco dancing in it. That’s all the prompt I gave him, and then he took that and came back with the story idea.

What do you see for the future of orchestral music in the mainstream?
I’ve always described an orchestra as a piano made out of people. If people can start thinking of the orchestra as simply another instrument, like a piano, that is capable of playing any type of music at any level, that will be healthy for the future of orchestral music. There are 4 year olds plinking away at pianos in homes everywhere, it’s “allowed” to be bad at piano and to be a beginner, learning as you go. That mechanism currently doesn’t exist in the orchestra world. If a bunch of really smart people could figure out how to change the mechanics of how orchestras are funded and programmed so that the experience of making music in orchestral formation was more approachable and everyday, it would be a good thing.

Are there any classical artists you feel deserve more attention?
I’m very biased and have a bit of tunnel vision on this topic to Bay Area artists. All of my closest friends are musicians and they are all in outstanding classical chamber groups. My favorite group is Delphi Trio, a piano trio based here. Their violinist is Magik*Magik Orchestra’s concertmaster and their cellist is our principle cellist. Their pianist is Jeff LaDeur, who may be the most intuitively advanced musician I know. He’s like the Gandalf of music or something. A local composer I’m also crazy about is Luciano Chessa. He was a teacher of mine at the conservatory and his work is joyful, sorrowful, human, funny all at once. Very theatrical. Also, my former boss Carla Kiihlstedt, the violinist, singer and composer is my musical hero. I used to be her personal assistant when she lived in the Bay Area. She is the best violinist I’ve ever heard. She writes music with her husband Matthias Bossi and have a subscription service named Rabbit Rabbit Radio. I highly encourage checking it out.

Do you still work with that church band during the day? How much freedom do you have to experiment with their sound?
I do still work at City Church San Francisco, it is my full time day job but they give me a lot of freedom to work from home when I need to. The church has 3 music directors and I focus mainly on the choir. The church had no choir when I started working there 6 years ago but they were always interested in starting one so I tried a few approaches and finally settled upon a more gospel choir type approach. The choir is always accompanying the band, we never sing like Bach or something. Lots of ooos and ahs and backup vocal type moves. The band is amazing. They are all jazz session musicians and can play anything. Wil Blades is our B3 player, and Jeff Marrs is our drummer who is also the drummer for Marcus Shelby. It’s like an all-star band. And yes, I have a lot of freedom musically with this job. My boss is Karl Digerness, who has been their main music director for over 10 years. He and I have an incredibly trusting musical relationship. He basically told me when he hired me that he loves how I write and arrange and that I could write whatever I wanted for the services. It’s a dream job.

Classical music is often stereotyped as a genre that appeals mainly to older people. How do you think classical music can be more relevant for a younger crowd?
That’s the million-dollar question facing pretty much every Symphony these days, except maybe the LA Phil, they seem to do a pretty good job with keeping their organization in the black with good ticket sales. I think younger audiences enjoy going to performances by their peers. That’s not 100% true of course, but generally speaking, young performers tend to have young audiences. And older performers tend to have older audiences. If every major symphony in the US started a chamber symphony of musicians with age ranges mirroring the age ranges of the audiences they are hoping to pull, I think that could potentially yield results. Maybe that’s too simplistic of a suggestion, but I feel like the other methods just aren’t really working.

The Bay Area has become notorious for its real estate prices. Have you noticed any major changes in the neighborhood you live in since the tech industry took over?
Yes. Every day someone is leaving. SF is bleeding musicians and working creative types every day. People are either moving to Oakland, to LA, to Portland, Seattle, Austin, NY even. And it’s not just musicians and artists. If I look at the friends I had when I first moved here in 2007, I think maybe like 30% of them are left. Many of these folks actually do work in Tech, but even then the housing prices are so ridiculous that they would rather move elsewhere and have a decent 2 bedroom to start a family in or whatnot. I live in a rent controlled studio that costs $2500/mo and that’s considered a steal for the neighborhood. I was only even able to get my place because my aunt and uncle lived in it before me and they pleaded with the building manager to let me take over their lease without raising the rent to market value, and that was back in 2013. I’m able to pay that and barely eek out a life here because I have a full time job at the church and I also do tons of freelance gigs on the side for the orchestra. If either one of those things went away, I’d have to move tomorrow because my yearly income would cut in half.

Are you looking forward to getting back to New York on your upcoming tour? Is there anything you miss about New York from your time at NYU?
I am SOOOOO excited. Scared yes because playing your original songs live just cuts you so deep but I’m proud of the live show and I can’t wait to see my friends. I lived in NY for 8 years from 99-07 and I became who I am there. It shapes you and forces you to stand up tall when you live in NY. I owe a lot of my tenacity to that city and I’m looking forward to returning in this new way. The first thing I will be doing is going to the Bagel Store on Metropolitan off Graham and getting an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese and tomato and an Orange/Tangerine Tropicana from the drink fridge to the left when you walk in. And maybe a bag of jalapeno kettle chips. That was my go to breakfast for years.

How do you prepare for a tour with so many musicians and instruments?
The live band for this is going to be myself on vocals and keys, James McAlister on drums (Sufjan’s drummer, he played on the record), and 6 piece string section. We are only traveling with 2 of the 6 and then we are going to be contracting local string players in each city. That’s tricky because you basically meet your new players on the day of the show, hand them the music, run the song once and then do the show. But really great string players can sight-read almost any Pop music perfectly. Magik*Magik Orchestra does that all the time for bands traveling through San Francisco so I know how that goes and it’s time to put some faith in players in other cities and enjoy the experience of having the tables turned.

July 28, 2016 6:50 pm

When walking into any small time club, you can expect some loud popular music while waiting for a band to go up on stage to have fun and play some cool tunes. But last night at U Street Music Hall in Washington DC, a small club turned into a musical hot box.

20427_620380401430800_4122135562059143816_nStarting the night with some cool DJ work from local artist Dirty Chocolate, he pumped out some of his own music while playing club hits with elegantly twisted remixes. From metropolitan city Gaithersburg, Maryland, he taught himself how to make music while going deep into the internet. From humble beginnings (graduating the same high school that I did) to sick clubs, Emmanuel Osemene has a strong future ahead of him. I had a minute to chat with him about his experiences with music after the show:

I’ve always been a huge fan of music…I love discovering music and finding people who push boundaries. It’s cool to see talented people use their imagination to make music better. You wouldn’t hear it in my music but Pharrel, Timberland, Daft Punk, Juicy J, Kanye West, Justice, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, and Tame Impala have been some of my biggest influences.

After him, the crowd turned around to the main stage and there were so many switchboards and keyboards that I honestly had no idea what to expect. Then the band started to play and I was immediately blown away as the four of them played musical hacky sack, taking turns on solos and bits of the song while perfectly supporting each other.

Their name is Club Cheval, they live in Paris, France are in the states for a bit to tour. Theyed play song after song of fantastic electronic sound and mixing with a superb drummer in the back who ended the show with the gnarliest drum bit I had ever heard. I had a chance to talk to Panteros666 (the drummer) right after their set list.

Tell us about yourselves…

We live in Paris, but we we are from a little city called Lille…We have a lot of influences there from Britian and Belgium so we have that kind of culture where we just mix everything together.

Where do you get you unique sound from?

Literally everywhere. We don’t put any genres on any pedestal and have no hierarchy with our music. We listen to stuff like Hip-Hop, Balie Funk from Brazil, Slow Jam and experimental stuff. I’m into trance and lots of other stuff. Each one of us has our own certain sound and we like to mix it to create something different. It doesn’t really work well in France though, so that’s why we’re here, we can relate better with the people. Sometime we are just too powerful for them and that’s probably why we are bigger here.

How did you guys meet?

To cut a long story short, we were all doing our high level studies which actually including political sciences, sound engineering and other areas. But we got together in our small city and were really obsessed with making a new breed of electronic music. We did well in our little city and then moved to Paris and met a lot of people and now were here playing music.

It was amazing how humble and relaxed Dirty Chocolate and Club Cheval were. It was a fantastic show, great start and great end with happily ringing ears all the way home. Check out more Dirty Chocolate here and Club Cheval’s tour dates here and new album here.

June 16, 2016 4:33 pm

Radiohead put out a new album last month (fucking finally) and it is an album that is heartbreaking and emotionally packed. Before the album release and their ticket dates were known, their internet presence was almost altogether gone. Then out of nowhere “Burn the Witch was released.

It was a nice little tease of the album that reflects a feeling of melancholy and emotions that might not be as on the surface as you would get from another artist, as Radiohead does. To be perfectly honest with you dear reader, I am a giant Radiohead fan. When I couldn’t get regular priced tickets after they sold out within the hour because Ticketmaster was on the fritz (fuck you, Ticketmaster) I bought $300+ tickets on Stubhub. That being said, I am a bit biased when it comes to Radiohead.

Now for those of you guys that can’t afford the 300, shit I can barely afford that, on Friday Thom Yorke and crew will open doors into different parts of the world. A few days ago, an announcement about the band’s Live from a Moon Shaped Pool event went up. It is an event that will take place tomorrow in select record stores. The event is done to celebrate the CD and Vinyl release of A Moon Shaped Pool.

The event will include a day long stream from the band. As well as competitions and artworks as well as raffles. The raffle winners would win Claymation figures from the “Burn the Witch” video, second prize winners will receive A Moon Shaped Pool Artwork and third prize will take home a 35mm celluloid from the “Daydreaming music video. Even if you aren’t a Radiohead fan, this should catch your attention as “Daydreaming” was directed by amateur director Paul Thomas Anderson.

The event is global and you can find your own record store here. You better believe I’ll be at HiFi Records in Astoria on Friday as soon as I get out of work. Make sure to check out their new record when it hits Spotify on the 17th as well. There is a lot to celebrate this Friday.


May 10, 2016 11:35 am

Even if you’re only passively aware of what’s buzzing in the music world, it’s safe to say you’re well aware that Radiohead are back with a new album. Their ninth full-length, A Moon Shaped Pool, dropped this past Sunday after not-so-subtly hinting at a new album for months, and then causing the twitter-verse to go up in a flurry (of words) by momentarily disappearing from the internet completely.

Radiohead’s albums, from Ok Computer to Kid A, are often heralded for their ingenuity, introducing a vast swath of listeners to an entirely new sonic head-space; a concoction comprised of Thom Yorke’s mutant vocals which fluctuate between incomprehensible warbles and shimmering falsetto, alongside an ensemble of musicians that have been honing in on their chops since the 1990s. A Moon Shaped Pool takes classic Radiohead tropes and continue with a more effervescent periphery–and as many have already pointed out, it is more or less a reworking of older Radiohead songs.

The tracks on A Moon Shaped Pool ascend in alphabetical order, perhaps a cliche or sorts, but nonetheless a well-employed device to highlight the albums direction. The album opens with the single “Burn the Witch,” which was the first single teased along with its accompanying music video; which has opined several interpretations. Right off the bat you have one of the albums’ key features–the presence of dizzyingly frantic strings a la lead guitarist Johnny Greenwood (who also scored the spine-tingling soundtrack to P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood). This polished orchestral approach was first manifested during Christmas when Radiohead threw their hat in the 007 theme song ring, by submitting Spectre (Although a valiant effort, the song fell just short of being selected, a distinction which ultimately went to Sam Smith for his song “Writing’s On the Wall“).

The second single “Daydreaming” was released this past Friday, showing a more emotionally tragic side to this album. The song features classic Radiohead piano chords and Thom Yorke’s eerie vocals singing “dreamers / they never learn / beyond the point / of no return.”  The video, directed by P.T. Anderson depicts a disoriented Yorke venturing through a labyrinth of various rooms, hallways and a parking lot, with seemingly no direction.

The album ends on the much more subdued “True Love Waits,” a song which has been in the band’s live repertoire since 1995, when they were touring on behalf of The Bends. Although its been a fan favorite for years, this is its first proper studio album release.

Of course, there are many more details to uncover, and that requires more listening. You’ll have to actually purchase this album though, as Radiohead wont be releasing A Moon Shaped Pool on Spotify anytime soon.

In the meantime if you’d like to catch Radiohead live in the United States, fuhgeddaboudit. I mean, seriously. Tickets are completely sold out at their standalone shows and your only other option is to catch them at a select number of festivals. Given the (unstable, irritable) nature of the hype leading up to their new album, demand to see the band live is through the roof, and tickets are being distributed, albeit second-hand market, at insane prices. The band even put out a statement cautioning speculative buyers from being fooled into scam-bait.

January 5, 2016 12:26 am

This morning I saw Radiohead live at The Astoria in London. In 1994. I know what you may be thinking. “Well Xavier, you’re only 22 how were you able to see that, also this morning?” And to that I say, “how do you know how old I am, reader?” To which you’ll respond “no seriously dude, stop being a dick.” Qello is a music platform that allows you to watch live shows from a collection of thousands of concerts and music documentaries, that’s how I did it, reader.

The platform, which started in 2010, is great for music fans that want to view their favorite artists’ live shows from the comfort of their own home, or office, or public tiolet. Qello could be viewed from your computer or from its app for both android and apple devices. The platform’s live performances include high quality concerts which are incredibly impressive for some of the older artists. They also have some great documentaries like Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.

Qello is a great resource for live music. That being said, so is YouTube. Qello does have a very impressive collection but not one that is worth the $7.99 monthly fee. Especially when YouTube has some of this same collection for free. I was able to find Radiohead’s live at The Astoria concert, the same one on Qello, for free on YouTube. Same thing for Amy Winehouse’s Live in London performance.


The site’s design looks as if it hasn’t been redone since 2010. The video player also looks super outdated. These aren’t completely fatal flaws in a site, but looks are important.

The site doesn’t have every artist because of obvious licensing reasons. You’ll be stuck if you try to look for any Arctic Monkeys, Fiona Apple, Mazzy Star or even The Strokes. These are obviously not the only ones, just the ones I tried to look for.

A lot of contemporary music is missing from their catalogues, which is another one of their big flaws. If you look in their “Spotlight” collection, you’ll see Queen, Elton John and Eric Clapton at the top.

Although I think the site is flawed, it’s still worth a try. It allows for a free week trial, which I signed up for in order to be able to see some of the other content. I’ve fallen in a concert hole; I’ve seen Amy Winehouse, The Doors, The Dresden Dolls, Radiohead and Queen today. This article was supposed to be due hours ago. Hopefully my editor understands, she did assign me this. What did she expect?

So if you’re like me and you’d like to watch some artists that are either dead or haven’t gone on tour in a while, (I’m looking at you Radiohead. Seriously, wtf?!) then check out Qello. Sign up for a free weekly trial. Then try to remember to cancel it. I know I will.

November 4, 2015 5:49 pm

Trying to figure out the direction in which electronic music is headed is basically a fool’s errand at this point. There’s just too wide of a range now. And while the variety is wonderful, it can be a little jarring to some seeing such a broad spectrum of brow altitude. It’s like reading a great article on Buzzfeed about the harsh conditions in American prisons, and then being told why Jennifer Lawrence should be your spirit animal in .gif form immediately after.

Nobody can deny how huge those Red Bull guzzling synth monoliths like Steve Aoki and Skrillex have gotten, but plenty of “Purists” hate them and they’re by no means the first wave of polarizing electronic artists. The genre “Intelligent Dance Music” wouldn’t have a nearly 25 year long legacy of Orbital and Aphex Twin junkies swapping vinyls if they were. But at this point, everyone’s using some device learned from a branch of the mighty oak that is the electronic music family tree. So it’s kind of silly picking sides when each camp is connected in some way. This applies strictly to electronic music, not humanity. Continue having wars and stuff.

zuulaThis is what makes a band like Zula so fun. Listening to them is like a blurred canvas of so many different sonic entities. On their debut LP, This Hopeful, they offer up a wide range of grooves to choose from. A song like “And More Business” shows them flexing their dance muscles the most, while keeping it understated. Everything builds from a simple piano riff that’s eventually paired with a very chunky bassline and sporadic synths. Frontmen (and cousins) Nate and Henry Terepka’s echoed vocals add to the trance atmosphere of the song perfectly.

Zula is adept at establishing a foundational pillar in each song. Whether it’s “And More Business’s” piano riff or the drum groove from “Sullen Crackle,” having a constant adds to the effect made by each unconventional loop, as well as their off-kilter guitar work floating intermittently through each song. They’ve shown that they can use those elements as a way to get themselves into a tight rhythm or build up to a huge payoff at the end.

The Terepka’s have that magic touch that lend to the sounds coming together so nicely. They can tap into some of those Thom Yorke-ish sassy howls when they wants to, but can also shift to a more delicate tone perfect for melodies that really stick. Henry is one of those vocalists who can have a mini-hook in the middle of a song by simply repeating a key phrase over and over without it sounding droney in any way. This is done a few times in “Sullen Crackle.” His ear for the atypically catchy is perhaps Zula’s best attribute.

Zula’s knack for unforced catchiness, paired with the variation in their sound should offer something fresh for any electronic fans. These fellas probably won’t be headlining any festivals that hose you down with neon paint, but it’s doubtful they’ll be staying in the niche fringes of the underground either. They’re sort of a tweener band in that sense, and have the all the skills needed to expand their sound further.