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May Music Faves

After tackling gigs and chasing deadlines at work in March and April, May has finally calmed down and I was able to do a bit of traveling. Because there was lot of waiting around in airports and downtime on airplanes, I took the time to do some music discovery and fell deeper in love with some artists that I had only scraped the surface of in the past. This playlist also reflects two amazing shows that I went to this month: Cyrille Aimee at SFJAZZ and Itzhak Perlman with the San Francisco Symphony.

May Favorites Playlist


If I could somehow "marry" a voice, I would marry Jordan Rakei's voice. Ugh.




How Deep is your love

PJ Morton

A cover of a classic Bee Gees tune, this song has some really soulful vocal harmonies that kept me humming along and caused me to make the stank face at my desk whenever I gave it a listen (sorry, co-workers).

Add the bassline

Jordan Rakei

No, this is not a playlist for only Jordan Rakei songs… I’ve just been loving him so much this past month. I especially love these set of lyrics in this song:

Sweet sounds of July
Sweeter than a blackberry pie
Sweeter than the breeze of the night
The gat plays, hit the rewind
Oh here’s the Rhodes
Minor 9 insatiable
Sharp 11 losing control
Now here’s the vocal

And then he interrupts with some yummy vocal harmonies after that…

This man is such a genius ♥



A more cheerful tune amidst the moody Jordan Rakei songs. The vocal harmonies in this one are also super yummy (hence, the title).


Jordan Rakei

Okay, last Jordan Rakei song for this playlist, I promise! This is just an acoustic version of the first song on this playlist. I absolutely love the strings mixed with the acoustic guitar (especially with the sound of fingers on the strings). The addition of background vocals also adds a fullness without overcomplicating the song.


I'm so satisfied with this month's set of songs. I feel like I binge-listened to every single one of them on repeat. They're also full of emotion and have great lyrics. Give this playlist a listen, and I hope you can enjoy these songs as much as I did :)

♥ Cindy

April Music Faves

April, like March, was a tough cookie to tackle because of the millions of tasks that were shoved into a short time frame. But as the month came to a close, I felt relieved and accomplished after (1) having a semi-successful gig at PianoFight, (2) finishing up a huge project at work—a big chunk of it at least—and (3) presenting a successful session about making the most out of a studio apartment for my Pinterest Knit con session.

April Favorites Playlist


Lots of K-pop/J-pop in this one, and a combination of my old and new favorite artists. Tom Misch recently came out with his new "Geography" album which contains fantastic songs one after the other (my favorite has to be "Lost in Paris," which I've been obsessively listening to). After doing an IU cover, I started revisiting a lot of her songs as well.




Sleepless rainy night

(잠 못 드는 밤 비는 내리고)


I am so in love with IU's rhythm section these days because they tend to keep things very simple but tasteful. They're really good at making space for IU when she's doing more vocally-interesting things, but they also play some super melodic fills to take up the empty space. This song is a really good demonstration of that. Also please marvel at IU's belting of that high G at 4:10.

Before Paris

Tom Misch

This intro track to Tom Misch's new album Geography (also an intro to the next song, "Lost in Paris") is so much more than just an intro track. I love the spoken part in the beginning where the musician explains that he will go out to "jam sessions regardless of whether [he's] getting paid or not", and the part where he goes on to talk about how "art is a mirror of society" and so forth. The cool guitar part following that is extremely funky and catchy and always stays in my head after I listen to this song.

Lost in Paris

Tom Misch

Now, onto the actual song after that insanely cool intro. This is probably my favorite song in the album because (A) it's really simple and catchy and (B) there are really distinct sections of the song that keep it interesting (including a rap and trumpet solo section). I really love how Tom Misch will layer complex guitar melodies under a really simple and repetitive melody that he will sing. This makes his melody sound sophisticated even though it's super singable and memorable to the listener.

Make Me complete - unchained ver.


I applaud BoA for singing a full song in English and pronouncing her lyrics really damn well. Plus, this is one of the few times where the English lyrics in a J-pop/K-pop song actually make sense. I'm sure you're aware that a lot of K-pop songs these days are littered with what Koreans think are cool-sounding English catch phrases that make no sense in the context of the song. Luckily this song didn't adhere to that. I also love the addition of the acoustic guitar that cuts through the funky groove that rest of the rhythm section is playing.

Fool for you

Snoh Aalegra


Spotify suggested this song to me on multiple weeks' worth of Discover Weekly's. So by the time this song showed up again, I was already familiar with it and already knew all the lyrics. I found it too catchy and simple not to listen it over and over again this month.

Dreamin' - live

Raelee Nikole

Loved this song ever since I listened to the original for the first time, mostly for its simple vocal + acoustic guitar paring, and also for its lyrics which I relate to so much in my life right now:

so if I'm dreaming please don't wake me up
because I feel so much better if I go to sleep
and if I'm breathing
faster than usual please
just let me be

Each day

Cyrille Aimee, Matt Simons


Because I'm going to see Cyrille Aimee in May at SFJAZZ, I've been listening to her quite a lot these days. Her live scatting is probably some of the most insane that I've heard, and her unique twist on classic jazz standards and 80s pop songs are so fun to listen to. For this song in particular, I really love the layering of vocals at 2:27. Matt starts singing first, and then Cyrille comes in a few bars later, offsetting the melody. Another highlight in the song to point out is the contrast of the electric guitar solo on top of the acoustic guitar at 2:00, which creates such a cool texture.

Something divine

Sam Ock

Boy do I love trumpets and this song is full of them. Not to mention they're perfectly in sync. Since they're not playing super high notes or super melodic passages, these trumpets lay a smooth foundation for the vocals to go on top of. Also, the lyrics to the rap part is just so. damn. good:

call it theory but I want to call it life math
call it melody but I call that my soul's path
call 'em chords and let 'em pluck the heart strings
call 'em instruments but they're with what the heart sings
the semiotics and semantics of a man's life

change ya mind

Mac Ayres

I've really started appreciating music that is simple these days. It's surprising because a while ago I was all about music that was complex and sophisticated. But after writing a few songs that were full of unnecessary complexities, and listening to musicians play complicated passages to purely demonstrate skill, I started getting a little sick of that complexity and looked to music that had fewer instruments and less note-y melodic phrases. I just find that simple music is more likely to make me feel the emotions that the song is trying to convey. This song is a really good example of a song that's super simple, but manages to convey a whole lot of emotion. The vocals paired with the muffled piano leave a lot of silence in the middle of phrases, and the simplicity really conveys the sadness and the helplnessness (?) of the lyrics.

Fly - unchained ver.


Here's another pick from BoA's Unchained album, which is basically a compilation of acoustic, jazzier versions of her existing songs. The layering of acoustic guitar sounds so damn good in this (i.e. the fills that one guitar will play at the end of some phrases). The chord changes at 1:23 are also just so tasty.

Friday (Ft. Yi-Jeong of HISTORY)


I was listening a lot to this song because my friend Anna and I decided to do a cover of it. Also because I just love IU so much. Who doesn't? Head on over to this post to listen to it, and to check out the cake that we were waiting to bake while we were making the cover!

You're on my mind

Tom Misch

This is another one of my favorites from the Geography album. I love the choice of acoustic guitar for the majority of the song, which is a little different for Tom Misch (who has a very signature sound with his electric guitar). Because the song is very simple and sparse with just vocals and acoustic guitar in the beginning, when the electric guitar comes in with its solo at 2:54, it just sounds way more dramatic and sophisticated. I also love the addition of female background vocals, which also kinda diverged a bit from Tom Misch's usual sound.


I love these artists and these songs! If you love them too, let's talk :) Also if you have more suggestions on artists or albums I should be listening to, please let ya girl know!

♥ Cindy

March Music Faves

March has been busy busy in terms of trying to balance (A) preparing for a gig in April, (B) projects at work, (C) trying to create content this blog, and (D) planning out my Italy trip—so I haven't really gotten the opportunity to actively seek out new music or watch new performances on YouTube. Luckily a few of my Discover Weekly recommendations have been absolutely on.point. this month. Thanks Spotify—you've been so good to me this month!

March Favorites Playlist


You will hear lot of appearances by muted trumpets in this playlist. More generally, this month's playlist comprises of songs that I'm actively practicing for an April gig at PianoFight, songs recommended by Discover Weekly, and a high school throwback, courtesy of BoA :)




I Wish You Love

Ann Sally

Pure guitarispiration. Discover Weekly you've done it again. This is one of those super-easy-to-listen-to songs that helped calm and destress me in March.


Jordan Rakei

Ugh, the piano solo in this is everything. This song also has the tendency to stay in my head for hours and hours after just one listen.


Stella Jang, Pleyn

Upon my first listen, it took me a while to realize that this was K-pop. She has a very interesting Indie-accent that she not only applied to singing in English, but singing in Korean as well—which I've never heard before. Definitely very unique. Let's also talk about the call and response between the trumpet and the guitar... so yummy!


Ben Mauzé

While we're still in the French state of mind: this pick is a French indie-alternative tune introduced to me by a teammate (thanks Emma!). At work we've been trying out this Spotify app called JQBX, where you and your friends can listen to a playlist at the same time, and you take turns becoming the "DJ" by playing your song contributions. So if you saw on your Spotify friends feed that I was listening to a few songs out of my normal genres and was confused (i.e. EDM)... that was my coworkers forcing me to :P

Let Love Grow

Eva Celia


Clearly this woman knows how to control her voice very well. The chords are not super easy to follow and the melody also takes a while to get used to. In addition to the vocalist, there's a section in the song (at around the 2:50 mark) where the guitar riff transforms into the trumpet solo seamlessly with the trumpet finishing up the scale that the guitar started. The trumpet and guitar are also mixed to have similar timbres to make that transition even more bizarre! Such genius.


Tom Misch

This song always gets stuck in my head after I listen to it. I love the dramatic intro with the actress speaking in the transatlantic accent. What the piano is playing from 4:20-5:00 is so damn pretty I die every time. Also I love the outro's lyrics (rhyming is so exact there), and the violins' tremolos which help juxtapose this song's modern instrumentation with an orchestral old black-and-white movie vibe.

Baby I'm a fool (Live in London)

Melody Gardot



This is one of the songs I'm doing for the gig that works really well with just guitar and vocals. I love this version in particular because of how she changes up the melody slightly in the intro and makes up for the lack of the orchestra. This is one of those songs that is so calming that it will no doubt help you fall asleep at night—and probably shouldn't listen to as you're driving.


Stella Jang, Pleyn

After listening to "Monsieur" as suggested by Discover Weekly, I decided to discover more music from this Stella Jang + Pleyn duo and found this gem. 


Cyrille Aimee, Diego Figueiredo

Another song I'm doing for the gig. I love this version because Cyrille Aimee's scatting is always fun to listen to.

pretty little birds

SZA, Isaiah Rashad

I'm normally not a big fan of rap music that has the "Explicit" tag next to them, but this one was actually very unique. I love the addition of the muted trumpet (on second though, add a muted trumpet to any song and I'll love it). SZA has been really popular amongst my coworkers and friends these days, but I have to say that her best songs are those in the middle/end of the album that not too many people know about :) 



More muted trumpets and cool guitar fills in this one! There's something about adding classic jazz elements to a modern electronic instrumentation that makes the song sound trippy and interesting. Suran's songs are all super upbeat and catchy, and this one is no exception. Her voice is a little reminiscent of Amy Winehouse, which is probably another reason why I enjoy listening to her.

song with no name



I recently discovered that BoA's entire Japanese discography is up on Spotify and now I've been obsessively listening to her music from the 2000s and reliving my elementary/middle/high school days through them. Although her songs are really pop-y and simple, they're not repetitive or on the subject of sex like a lot of American pop songs are—which is why the middle school me loved them so much, and why I still do! This song in particular is really simple in terms of instrumentation, and really allows her voice to shine without much going on in the background. The acoustic guitar and cello combination is extremely beautiful. I also am so incredibly in love with the lyrics after I saw the translation. They don't just describe a romantic kind of love, but a love you can feel towards a friend, or just someone you're missing.


I love these songs to death and listened to them an unhealthy amount this month. Which songs did you obsess over this month?

♥ Cindy

February Music Faves

Starting in March and moving forward, I’ll be sharing a playlist of 10-15 songs that I obsessed over in the previous month. A post like this will go up the first Monday of every month, and will include a list of curated songs in (what I think is) a tasteful order, and a little blurb to tell y’all what’s to love for each of them :)

I make it an obligation to discover songs on a daily basis—whether they are newly-picked from a fresh week's Discover Weekly, or a throwback I resurrected into one of my more recent playlists. So here's my attempt to show some appreciation for these favorite songs, and also share this wonderful music with you!

I’ll try to curate a wide variety of songs—including more contemporary jazz/R&B, acoustic picks, and even some of my favorite Classical and K-pop tunes. 

February Favorites Playlist


February's picks coincidentally include a lot of spin-off covers of old pop songs (The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel). I've also been obsessed lately with the timbre of the acoustic guitar, so it's not a surprise that there's lots of amazing, skillful guitar-playing in this playlist. I may or may not be using these songs as a reference to how I’ll want my guitar-playing to sound (hopefully someday). What a stretch goal.





Scary Pockets, India Carney

A funky spin-off of a Beatles classic, this cover features the strong vocals of India Carney—previously a member of the UCLA Scattertones a cappella group and a contestant in The Voice. The group Scary Pockets can turn literally any pop song into a funky remix. Their rhythm section keeps everything pretty simple and sparse—but tasteful—and makes me groove out to their tunes shamelessly at my desk every time I listen to them at work.

낮과 밤 Day and Night



Strings on strings on strings!!! I purposely listen to instrumental version of the song to hear the combination of the nylon string guitar, steel string guitar, and cello (sorry, Taemin). The “crunchiness” of the two guitars layered on top of the cello creates a lovely texture—especially when the steel guitar is doing crazy soloing while the cello is holding out notes in the background. Ugh, just so, so good.



Toco is a Florence based Brazilian born singer-songwriter. People usually refer to his creations as Nu-Brazilian or contemporary Bossa Nova/Samba. This is one of my favorites from him since it's one of  his more upbeat tunes. Rhythm section is on fire, beautiful vocal harmonies are at work in the latter half, and horn parts are on point as well... what's not to love?



Here we have another K-pop addition. I make a stank-face for literally the entire 3 minutes and 39 seconds. This song is not only upbeat but also conveys a sultry vibe. I seriously can’t get enough of it. I’m in love with the funky fills that the guitar plays during the vocally-sparse parts. The melody is insanely simple, and the fills that the guitar plays are also very simple (singable and memorable, which is great for instrumental fills)... but it doesn’t feel too repetitive because the groove changes every 8 bars or so. There's a nice rap part to break up the song into sections too. Also kudos to the easy-to-follow English lyrics that actually make sense (rare for a K-pop song these days): “Killing me softly, why do I feel so lonely, let me love you baby, you are so lovely”

Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini

Op. 43: Variation 18

Sergei Rachmaninoff


The rhapsody in its entirety is based on Niccolo Paganini’s famously (almost impossibly) difficult Caprice No. 24 for solo violin. The theme, although pretty straightforward, has been transformed into different variations, all showcasing different, rather difficult techniques on the violin (including one of the most famous uses of left hand pizzicato!). You can barely hear the original in the 18th variation of Rachmaninoff rhapsody, but if you inspect it more technically, you’ll be completely mind-blown at how it was constructed. Rachmaninoff basically took the melody, turned it from minor to major, and then inverted it to create a flowery theme that gives off a completely different vibe from the original melody.

Also I love how dramatic the orchestra sound in this. UGH the feels.

Misty Morning


This is really just a simple, feel-good song that I play to cheer myself up, or to speed up my walk to work in the mornings. It’s funny because the melody and instrumentation make the song sound quite peaceful and happy, but the lyrics are rather sad if you listen closely. The piano fills that proceed the staccato vocal parts in the verses are also very, very tasty.





This Stevie Wonder cover brings back a lot of memories from school since I previously performed the song in my jazz ensemble class. I’ve come to the conclusion that most Stevie Wonder songs have a colorful harmonic structure, and this song is no exception. Lots of modulations and complexities are complimented by a warm voice and very simple acoustic guitar-playing in the background.

Sweet Life

Frank Ocean

From listening to Frank Ocean’s more popular songs, I wouldn’t have expected him to put together a song like this. The melody is very jazzy and not easily-singable or memorable for the average listener. I really appreciate how this song gradually grows with its technique of layering instruments and phrases. It starts off in the verses with a sparse instrumentation—just vocals, bass, and a rather repetitive electric piano melody in the background that holds everything together. Then drums are added gradually, along with another piano that’s more responsible for chords. Horns come in during the chorus to fill out the chords with long notes as Frank Ocean belts out higher notes. Verse 2 and Chorus 2 are basically the same, except background vocals are used to fill in the space created by the staccato-y piano, vocal, and bass combo. The song ends with the rhythm section just jamming out together, which kind of reminds me of one of my songs, Dear Anna (not to advertise my own music or anything, but why not since you're on my blog anyways :P)

One Day

Nikki Yanofsky, Jacob Collier

Vocals, vocals, vocals!!! These two just have the most buttery of voices... and in this song, their voices just melt together in the most pleasantly unhealthy way when they harmonize. The simplicity of the instrumentation (female voice + male voice + piano) makes up for the fact that the melodies and harmonies are not simple at all. Just in 4 bars alone, they go into several different keys and make me feel uneasy one second and then happy/at ease the next. You can also hear the piano playing some pretty complicated things behind the two singers if you listen carefully. I guess this level of musical genius can only be achieved if you’re Jacob Collier.

La belle dame sans regrets

Emile-Claire Barlow

Another buttery voice—perfect for jazz. I listen to this one mostly for the scatting she does with the piano. How can she sing something so complicated and be so in tune and in time? I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard it, honestly. And she's doing it live in Japan. What a beast.

Isn’t she lovely

Biréli Lagrène, Sylvain Luc

Just listening to this one makes my fingers hurt. Biréli Lagrène and Sylvain Luc are two crazy guitarists that compliment each other amazingly—trading off the responsibilities of both the tight rhythms and insane soloing. Their cover of this Stevie Wonder classic is not as crazy as some of their other covers. Their version of “So What” is even crazier in terms of them doing things that I’d never heard before or thought was possible on guitar.

New York State of Mind

MAX, Phony Ppl

A spin-off cover of a classic Billy Joel tune, this song barely reveals what it's supposed to cover when it first starts out. The eerie-sounding piano paired with the heavy drums work well to juxtapose the melody which is very recognizable and singable. The different theme definitely sets it apart as a unique cover amongst the probably hundreds out there for this song.

Autumn Leaves

Eva Cassidy

You must be thinking: “this song has lyrics?” Why yes! Eva Cassidy’s cover of this jazz standard is very simple but insanely beautiful with her amazing live vocals. Getting rid of the swing and stripping it down to only vocals and acoustic guitar gives the song so much more emotion and lifts away the reputation it has for being just an old jazz standard.

Best Part

(feat. H.E.R.)

Daniel Caesar

Thanks to my friend at work for introducing me to Daniel Caesar last year! I don’t think he’s come out with a song that I don’t like yet. His melodies are just so heart-wrenching and the sadness in his voice always makes me question whether he’s happily singing about the person he’s in love with, or if he’s actually really upset. Anyways this song features the lovely vocals of H.E.R. which pairs with Daniel Caesar’s own soft vocals beautifully.

Don’t Know Why

(Live in NYC)

Norah Jones

Another throwback to college days when I sang this as a solo in my a cappella group... except a cappella will never do this song justice because Norah Jones’ piano skills and her band create a vibe that’s quite difficult to emulate. I love this live version because it’s slightly more upbeat than the original and the vocals do a little more work in terms of changing up the melody in this classic early 2000s jazz-inspired pop song.


Annnd that's a wrap! I got a little too excited writing this. Hope you'll give this playlist a listen and be able to enjoy these songs just as much as I did! Which ones did you enjoy the most? Do you have a favorite song or set of songs you've been obsessed with lately? Let me know in the comments!

♥ Cindy

playlistsCindy ZhangComment