Sunday, December 27, 2020

December Playlist | 2020

Photo by Maryna Yazbeck on Unsplash

Hello all!

It seems only fitting to end this year with a December Playlist, the blog post that kept me from completely falling behind on blogging in 2020. This month has been filled with lots of sitting at home, lots of reading, lots of writing. I truly feel like the first half of December flew by and the second half is just holding on for dear life, dragging on just to make us all look forward to the end of this godforsaken year even more. At first, I wanted to include a little recap of this year in this part, what I've learned and what I've achieved, but I am so completely over this year in general that it pains me to reflect and go off on a tangent (yet again). So, I'm keeping it short and sweet, and letting all the songs I've listened to this month tell the story I'm dreading to write. So, grab a drink, turn down the lights in your room and take a mental trip down my December memory lane. 

The second half of December was marked by Mystery Lady by Masego and Don Toliver - it has been on repeat literally 24/7 and the people that follow me on Spotify can confirm. It's so vibey, chill yet upbeat, and a complete sensory experience. I absolutely love the simplicity of this track and Masego's vocals that are just pure butter on hot toast. Also, if I could listen to the first 25 seconds of this song on repeat for hours, I would. 

Token Tik Tok song for December issss *drumroll please* No Role Modelz by J. Cole! This one went just perfectly with the whole lights atmosphere I had set up for myself and it quickly became my favorite part of the day. If I squint just enough it's like I'm in a chilled-out club which IDK if that's a thing but in my mind it is. 

Okay, but why was Zabranjujem such a VIBE this December for me?? I don't have an answer, just the fact that the song is really cool, the simple RnB beat is super chill and that chorus is super catchy. It's moody but chill at the same time which is, as we know, one of my fave types of songs. And that video is super cool as well, really refreshing to see from the Serbian music scene. 

If you're listening to Californian Soil for the first time right now, yes, it does remind you of something. And that something is Teardrop by Massive Attack. However, this Maya Jane Coles remix takes the original melodic and transient Californian Soil, flips it and creates this whole dimension of darkness and intensity. Although I like the original version as well, this remix evokes images in my mind that are much more intense. 

You might recognize Galimatias' name from his EP with Alina Baraz (which is truly iconic), and he's back once again with his signature experimental ethereal electronica sound, this time with Shy Dancer which is both the grooviest and most chill sound I've heard in a while. It's as if EDM and RnB had a child, and this is it.

My fave Swedish duo Bennett is back baby! This time, it's a groovy and upbeat collaboration with Kamohelo for Lev Med Mig. This is one of those makes-you-wanna-dance-in-a-club types of songs, and I think everyone who'll listen to this one will agree with me, especially with that chorus. I was reading this interview with the two brothers that make up Bennett and there was this one comment from Sammy Bennett that I completely agreed with when it comes to listening to music that isn't necessarily English, which said: " I think that Swedish music, or I can speak for Swedish hip hop at least, with all the rhythms and flows and all of that … it’s all universal. You don’t need a language to understand that “ouff this strikes, this flows”." So, don't be basic, expand your music horizons ;)

The Code is back on my playlists, this time with East London, SA which is an electronica-afrobeat mix that sounds exactly as good as you think. I really respect The Code because they have such a distinctive sound that even when I heard this song (which sounds rather different from their previous sound) my mind immediately went to them. It's a short but sweet track, so I highly recommend giving it a listen!

Matveï's Overdose is a BOP! It's such a cool experience with headphones on, I can't recommend it enough if you're looking for something that will teleport you to a seaside party in the Mediterranean. It has slight Latin vibes, yet not Latin at all. It's like a really cool electronica hybrid but think Ibiza on a yacht. 

Okay, let's bring some funk into the mix, shall we? Z++ released a new album (which I am yet to fully go through) and Moj Svijet completely blew me away. It's catchy, it's funky, it's reminding me of Anderson Paak? If you're looking for a feel-good song with a catchy bass line, this is the one for you. 

I keep on talking about how I love the 80s and 90s sound in more modern songs, so I think it's about time I included the real deal in a playlist. Poison by the group Bell Biv Devoe is just early 90s RnB in its true essence - so if you're looking for something funky and groovy, this is the one for you!

And that wraps up 2020! As always, you can click on each individual title above or click HERE for the whole playlist on Youtube and HERE for the playlist on Spotify. Happy listening & see ya in 2021!

Monday, December 14, 2020

Books of 2020: The good, the bad, the show was better

Photo: Bisera Donevska

If I have to name the three most frequent activities people took part in during this pandemic they would go as followed:
1. Working out, because suddenly laying in bed all day doing nothing doesn't sound so appealing
2. Baking, because we have all the time in the world + need to emotionally stuff our faces 
3. Reading, because we came to the realization that looking into a screen all day every day isn't that good for our health 

And so, I did work out, and that lasted for about 2 months and then I stopped so there goes the idea of making a blog post about my favorite workouts (not that I was really planning on doing that). Next up - baking. I did bake, but not a lot due to our broken stove that did produce delicious baked goods in the end, but also produced a lot of headaches as well. So, ladies and gentlemen, that leaves reading on the list, and boy did I read. 

Here's a short summary of my relationship with books & reading: when little, I was a big bookworm and loved reading. That all changed around the highschool mark when I thought I was "too cool" and "did not have enough time to read books". Then, I enrolled in Uni and since I study English Language & Literature, the Literature part did, in fact, entail a lot of required reading - which I absolutely hated because of the way the classes were held & how the program worked. And then, the pandemic hit & I had a huge assignment for class where I had to compare a book of my choice's translation in Macedonian to the original English. My two brain cells chose Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, and let's just say that I could have gone the easier route and not taken on an author famous for his extravagant style of storytelling. Alas, I did, in fact, finish the assignment and after reading Lolita in both English & Macedonian, the reading spark was ignited once again. I did always say that there are books I want to read, but never actually pursued buying those books or borrowing them from a library or friend for some unknown reason. So, I made a Goodreads account and started to make a list, which quickly grew from one book to over 50. I first started by going through my personal library, then raiding the ones of my friends, and purchasing some books for myself as well. 

For a "beginner" I think I've read as much as I could have this year, and that all those exams on Literature and the discussions held in class did help me to eventually be able to put into words what I liked and what I didn't when it came to a book. I'm an opinionated person by nature and like to share things that are on my mind quite often, so it was only natural for me to do a blog post solely dedicated to books. I've picked 9 books that I read in 2020, and these are the ones I have the strongest formed opinions on. I read other books that are objectively praised books, but I did not want to just place my stamp on approval on a book without some deeper explanation to it. With that being said, I did throw in a couple of reads that personally disappointed me, which if you have already read and loved, I would love to hear your opinions on them!

So far, most of the books I've read in 2020 are mainly in English and by foreign authors, but I do want to change that so one of my resolutions for 2021 is to read more Macedonian authors. Also, I sometimes post about the books I read on my Instagram, so that's where you can see what I'm reading in real-time! 

*Disclaimer: These are my opinions only. I know books are a very subjective experience, some can love one book and others can hate it - but what matters, in the end, is the discussion and exchange of ideas & opinions. Every opinion is valid and there are no hard feelings when it comes to literature - so even if I don't like a book, but you find the synopsis appealing, PLEASE go ahead and read it. 
Sunday, December 6, 2020

October & November Playlist | 2020

Photo by Karl on Unsplash 

It's kinda funny how I've been merging playlists together (mostly because one month is always lacking in enough new tracks to share), not thinking that this part of the post, which is usually reserved for my monthly reflections, will be a lot harder for future Elena to write. It's easy to reflect on what you did last week, even a month ago, but two months is a bit of a stretch for me. October seems like thousands of weeks ago, and all I can vaguely remember of that month was that it was still pretty warm, I had my birthday, started a new job, and listened to "Put Your Records On" on repeat. Yep, that pretty much sums up all of October, and I'm sad to report that November had no major plot twist as well. But, I am grateful that I even managed to get the opportunities that I did in these past two months, they've been keeping me busy (and sane) and I feel calm(er) now. Oh, I just remembered another big thing that happened in November - I made a Spotify account! I know, I know, this is as good news for everyone as the Covid vaccine being in the final phase. I really am out here singlehandedly making people happy :))) Okay, no more sarcasm, If you'd like to add me on Spotify you can find me HERE (yes, that would be Robert Pattinson as my PP), and I also transferred my whole SBSF 2020 Playlist over there too. 

Okay, MAJOR life updates aside, here are all the tunes I've had on repeat for October and November. A whole mix of moods over here, so don't say I didn't warn you. 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Casual Magic

Hey there. It's been a while, hasn't it? And where do I even begin? I could go on about how I've spent this year, how much it sucks, and how angry I am, and sad and hopeful at the same time, but what would be the point? Plus, I already have two posts that stayed in my drafts that have just word vomit in them about my personal frustrations and thoughts on this situation, that consequently stayed unpublished because it just felt untrue to what I want to put out. Although I love to sprinkle positivity as much as I can in this Internet world, I think we deserve some realism as well - but what I had written so far this year was just either me lying to myself about how I've made the best of the situation, or just straight up despair and taking everything at face value. So, in true Libra fashion, I am now just caught up in my head trying to create the perfect balance between realism and positivity in 2020, and how I saw this year in retrospect. 

I've been watching a lot of YouTube (no shame here, I see it as watching a TV show or a movie), and I've really been enjoying the content of UnJadedJade and her concept of casual magic. She explains it as "not there to desensitize us of the struggle we go through on a day to day basis, not to be seen as "toxic positivity", but instead to ask yourself, what tiny thing that doesn't need to be grand can you be grateful for?" which in my opinion is the perfect way to look back on this year, and think a bit deeper about the mundane moments we don't give a second thought to. I've touched on the topic of "appreciating the small moments" before on this blog and rambled on about how I've changed my POV, etc. and I'll be the first to admit that it comes and goes in waves, more absent than not. It's hard to stay positive and content when the whole world is crumbling before your eyes and to say that you're happy might even come off as a tad insensitive. However, when I catch myself truly enjoying a moment, and that little voice appears in the back of my mind that says "No, no, how dare you to forget about how scary it is to live in this world right now", it's like a little split-second dialogue appears out of nowhere between me and my subconscious where I fight hard to snap back and say "I'm not forgetting, just choosing to look at the world in a different way just for a moment and remember that there's hope." 
Tuesday, October 13, 2020

August and September Playlist | 2020

Probably two of my worst traits of life are 1. Procrastination and 2.Forgetfullness - so when you merge those two together the end result is this August and September playlist posted in the middle of October :) But let's ignore that for a second and just pray that the October playlist won't be up in January 2021. Okay, (bad) jokes aside, August and September were an ACTUAL blur and I can't even think back on everything that happened. All I know for sure that happened were: exams (so many, so so many), I went to Ohrid for a short time with my parents, and drank a lot of coffee. Everything else is relative, or a more recent October memory. Now that I think about it, maybe I should start writing the intro to the October playlist because I for sure won't remember what had happened in January... 
Okay, without any further ado, here's a mish-mash of styles, courtesy of the moody weather we've been experiencing and my need to match the weather with the songs I listen to:

Probably the coolest song I have on here, so why not put it first? "damn Right" by Audrey Nuna is a very cool new wave pop song with a slight R'n'B beat and I'm completely loving every part of it. Also, the music video is so damn cool and fun to watch! 

I'm sorry but how can I be a person with internet in 2020 and not get obsessed with at least ONE Tik Tok song? It's impossible, so that's why I'm shamelessly putting Stunnin' by Curtis Waters on this playlist. Don't act like it's not an absolute BOP. 

I went down a rabbit hole of French synth-pop 80s wave-type music one day and I remembered that I had a bunch of songs saved on my Shazam from a fun night out in Madrid, in a club that had the coolest most random retro-sounding music ever (Maravillas in Malasana, you still have my heart!). So of course, I went back to see what caught my attention and I was so excited when I found Nanã by Polo & Pan because it just sounds like sunshine and rainbows on a gloomy day! It's very different, I guess, to what people are used to hearing, because the song itself is just a few beats on loop, but I don't know why I find it so calming and positive. 

I casually stumbled upon this 8-minute mix of 53 Thieves' latest EP called "after hours" and although it was just background music, I automatically went back after the first listen and hit the replay button because it was just that good. I actually love this genre of music, the so-called "dream-pop" sound which is something between electronica and synth and dreamy pop-ish vocals. Highly recommend checking this EP out. 

There were times these past few months when all I wanted was to cuddle up in a blanket with a cup of tea and drown in my sorrows, but I say that in the best way possible. It's autumn so it's only natural to be a bit *dramatic* and look out onto the street while the rain pours and you imagine yourself living in a cottage in the middle of nowhere, ya feel? This is where Visions of GideonRoslyn and All I Want come into play, and I think everyone knows how these songs can make a person feel, and if you don't, you HAVE to listen to them. 

And that wraps up another playlist! You can click HERE for the whole Playlist on Youtube or on each individual title above!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

June & July Playlist | 2020

I remember it being July 1st and me thinking, wow, I have literally three new songs to share for my June playlist and that's about it. June was an absolute blur for me, I spent 80% of my time studying and strictly listening to "Cafe music with rain sounds". It was probably my best music find for that month, but I think sharing a 4-hour long mix of just jazz and rain sounds as a "playlist song" would have been a bit...much? Nevertheless, I decided to postpone the June Playlist and just incorporate it with July, a time when I'll be freer to discover new music and actually enjoy it. And just like that, July flew by and now here I am, in August (???), sharing my music faves from the past two months. Hope you enjoy them!

Sometimes the Youtube algorithm is the best thing ever and a perfect example of that would be Do You Miss Raving? by Everyone You Know. At first, I thought it would be just another short video about quarantine, something like spoken word poetry, but then that beat kicked in and I quickly realized this was way more than that. The remixed sample of Jorja Smith's cover of Lost is A+ and it goes perfectly with the slow build-up for the song. This little discovery left me puzzled and intrigued - who are Everyone You Know? And more importantly, what other music do they have? This led me to their cover of Play God by Sam Fender which is just exquisite. I never knew I was the type of person who would deeply appreciate angsty British music but here I am. 

When I saw that Kaytranada and Lucky Daye made a collaboration I literally screamed because I LOVE THEM, and I sometimes consider myself a psychic when things like these happen haha. And when I first heard the track titled Look Easy, it sounded awfully familiar - and then it hit me! He teased the instrumental version of it at the beginning of his "Need It" music video. I love when musicians leave easter eggs in everything they put out, and I felt even more excited about this song after that realization. 

Ego Death is one of those songs that I was peer pressured by Instagram to listen to. Okay, maybe peer-pressured is too strong of a statement, but I definitely saw a lot of people sharing it and thought, okay, since everyone likes it, let's see what the fuss is about. And my final opinion on the song is one shared with the majority - FKA DESERVED MORE! Her part is absolute FIRE, and I was soo disappointed when I realized it was only 15 seconds. I think we all deserve a three-minute version of this song just with the beat from that part and FKA's vocals only!

My baby Aminé is releasing a new album in a couple of days and I am sooo excited for it, especially because so far the two singles he has released from it are top tier. Both Riri and Compensating are upbeat, with Riri being a tad slower but still a bop. I just love how much he doesn't take things seriously and is a fun visual storyteller as well. If you're looking for upbeat R'n'b this is the guy for you. 

I know, I know. Tik Tok made this song resurface. But honestly, it's well deserved because Wait A Minute by Willow is SUCH A BOP! I love the beat, I love the chill guitar that appears throughout the song, and of course Willow's unique voice. It's just one of those feel-good songs that everyone should listen to. 

Of course, since I already mentioned Willow, there's no way I didn't fall into the Jaden Smith hole as well. Summertime In Paris just gave me major chilled back, gloomy summer vibes and I'm all about it. Both him and Willow are highly underappreciated as artists (IMO) in the music industry and that's really unfair because they're both quite genius honestly. 

I discovered Hair Down by SiR featuring Kendrick Lamar in a random Apple Music playlist (which is something I rarely do) and it was an instant A+ for me. I looove chilled out R'n'b and this one hit the nail on the head - the tempo, the beat, the lyrics. Chefs kiss. 

Another Apple Music discovery was rum•gold and his perfectly chill EP called yaRn (which I would highly recommend) but his single called Cashmere Cage just completely transported me to a land of calm and collected thoughts. A very soulful, smooth and delightful track to listen to. 

As always, to listen to the whole playlist on Youtube, click HERE and if you want to listen to each song individually, click on the titles above. Happy listening! 
Monday, June 8, 2020

May Playlist | 2020

Another month behind us, another playlist post! May was a big blur, to be honest. Things started to look up here in Skopje, so it became a little bit more acceptable for us to see our friends, while still maintaining a distance and sticking to the protective measures. Personally, it was hard for me to "step back into the real world" because I'm a very weary person by nature, and I'm always cautious about what I do and how I act, especially in an extreme situation such as this one. Music was a big part of this month just like the previous one, I used it as a way to escape from reality. And it helped until everything went south, but I guess that's more on June's territory.
But anyway, here's what I've had on repeat for the month of May:

I put Benee's Glitter on my playlist for April, so you can imagine how excited I was when I found out Ta-ku released a new song, and it was none other than Glitter, but of course with his own twist! I swear, in moments like these I feel like the music I listen to was destined to reach me at the point that it did, because for example, if I hadn't listened to Glitter (practically to death) before Ta-ku released his rework of it, this song wouldn't have had so much more meaning to me - and that's beautiful to think about. Ta-ku's cover is just as magical as the original but evokes such different feelings. Benee's version is a feel-good-dance-around type of song, while this rework is dreamy and melancholic, so just two completely different states of mind. That's honestly why I love Ta-ku so much, he has a way of seeing things in a different way and proves that everything can be original and authentic, even when it's just a re-imagining of something that already exists. Ok, rant over haha. 

Lucky Daye is back on this playlist as well, I mean how can he not be since his music is literally sent down from heaven? Roll Some Mo is, of course, a song about what it entails, but it's so damn smooth and sexy! This song has so many layers to it, but the effortless transition from down-tempo to up-beat is my favourite. And then the last two minutes are just pure instrumental paradise. I highly recommend everyone go listen to it, it's amazing.  

A big part of this month was the realisation that Apple Music is free for 6 months (thanks Filip haha), so I jumped on that real quick. Somewhere between perfecting my playlists and scouring the web for the perfect photos to go with my playlist moods, I listened to a random Apple Music playlist called Alt-R&B and found two absolute gems: Rendezvous by Col3trane & Miraa May and Third Degree Love Crimes by Lili Kendall. Rendezvous is slower and bit more sensual, while Third Degree Love Crimes is more upbeat and pop-ish. 

I wasn't planning on putting Own It on the playlist because by this point it's old news and everybody and their mother has listened to it, BUT I wanted to pay it the respects it deserves because it truly, honestly, unconditionally SLAPS. Nothing more left to be said here. 

May was dedicated to my new favourite person - SG Lewis. Honestly, where have I been?? His music is so fun and fresh! I've been making my way through his discography, and so far Aura and Hurting are the chosen ones to be on repeat at all times. I read a comment that Hurting sounds like a mix between Disclosure and Kaytranada and I've never agreed with something more in my life. Highly recommend listening to his music if you're in a down mood and just want something that's very ~summer vibes~. 

This is another part where the whole "music coming back 360" thing is at play again. So basically, I follow Rickey Thompson on Instagram (because he's just the best human ever) and through him, I often find really cool music (more specifically through his dancing videos, which are EVERYTHING). And this is where the 360 moment happens, these two songs that really caught my attention were from artists that I absolutely love and adore but had no idea those songs were theirs, so Shazaming the songs and finding out who they're by was one big, happy coincidence. One of them was Elevate by Gorgon City and the other a Kaytranada remix of Beverlay's Typically Her.  BOTH ON MY PREVIOUS PLAYLIST, JUST LIKE BENEE! If you don't find this even the tiniest bit fascinating, Idk what to tell you...

That wraps up another monthly playlist! For the whole playlist on Youtube click HERE or click on each individual title above. Happy listening!