In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, our Music Department, along with some of our friends involved in different AAPI serving orgs, put together a playlist to highlight our favorite musicians who identify as Asian American and/or Pacific Islander! We have also included a list of newly added albums by AAPI artists. Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, we hope to uplift the voices of these artists and shine a light on their talents! Read on to check out the albums we chose, and personalized descriptions on why we all chose the songs we did for our playlist!
Marion’s Album Adds
“Parking Lot” by Hana Vu
This Hana Vu album features four live versions of songs from her album Public Storage, as well as two new singles. Vu continues to release uncompromisingly raw and honest tracks. The Echo Park-based, indie-punk legend continues to be vulnerable to her audience, finding strength in the act of exposing her insecurities through her music.
“GIZMO” by Tanukichan
Hanna van Loon, a.k.a Tanukichan, collaborated with Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bear on her newest album, GIZMO. While this album features shoegaze sounds heavily, it definitely incorporates some dream and chamber pop-elements to create a balanced and nuanced work.
“The Problem With Me” by Seam
Seam was a grunge/shoegaze trio from Chapel Hill, North Carolina fronted by Sooyoung Park. Even though this album came out in 1993, I decided to add it to the library because it is highly underrated. The sound of this album reminds me of bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Duster
Jack’s Album Adds
“Sweet Company” by Vicky Farewell
With this debut album by Vicky Farewell, she perfectly executes and places you in a dreamlike world as she talks about her experience with love. This love spans from actual past lovers to fictional characters, making for an exciting, cute, and at times sad album that is overall very intriguing and unique. Having worked with big artists such as WILLOW, Kali Uchis, and Anderson .Paak, she has gained much experience, and through this album has taken the leap into starting her own solo career, and I must say, she killed it.
“INTERMISSION” by Deb Never
INTERMISSION by Deb Never is an album that is unfortunately only on Bandcamp, and was released during the height of the COVID pandemic, with all of the proceeds going directly towards efforts to provide direct support to healthcare providers working on the frontline. Deb Never herself is an openly gay, openly queer, and Asian American artist who does not want to be defined by genre or identity, and this album perfectly showcases this sentiment. With musical influences that are reminiscent of indie rock, R&B, and that singer/songwriter sound, this album definitely lives up to her genre-bending attitude and mindset. As one would expect with an album released during the pandemic, it is filled with many introspective and somewhat melancholic themes, but is definitely another must listen to album.
“EXIT“ by Layton Wu 雷頓狗
This album was very interesting to me, for it is also only found on Bandcamp, and the only description Layton Wu wrote was “sad.” This was interesting because it is not at all what emotion I would associate with this album. Utilizing many well known samples and distorted vocals, this mixtape centered around experimental beats is quite a mystery. With almost every song including airy percussion and some form of electronic influence, it makes for a jumble of songs that somehow just work together. It is really hard to describe, but we’ll just go with fun and funky, and I love it. It’s very much worth checking out, for I feel like everyone would get something different out of listening to it.
Justin’s Album Adds
“Korea Girl“ by Korea Girl
Korea Girl was a 4-piece indie rock band from San Jose, active only long enough to put out one full length, self-titled album in 1997 through Asian Man Records, which was run by fellow South Bay Korean musician/DIY guy Mike Park. Their sound is no doubt distinct, but fall under whatever umbrella of mid-fi, emo-adjacent rock you would place over other bands from the same era like Pot Valiant, Far Apart, P.E.E, and, of course, Ee, the all-Asian band that succeeded Korea Girl, formed by the band’s Tobin Mori and Che Chou, along with a sometimes shifting cast of other collaborators (which notably included Seam’s Sooyoung Park).
This 2002 interview Ee did with the Korean blog Weiv shows that Mori and Chou clearly identified as an Asian-American band, and considered how they fit into a mostly white music scene. My favorite quote is from Chou, who had an interesting take when asked about the “model minority” myth:
“Stereotypes are evil, but the model minority variety is the lesser of the evils. Being a model minority is kind of like having a mullet. You can be business in the front, but party in the back. It’s kind of subversive. You don’t look like a typical rock band, but then it’s to your advantage because when you actually rock, people are shocked in a pleasant way. I’m not sure what most folks think when they see an all Asian band. Do they really expect us to bust out gongs and shit?” Thanks to both the intangible force of streaming algorithms and a fantastic tape reissue from 7th heaven, Korea Girl’s short discography has experienced newfound appreciation online through a new crop of 20-something year old last.fm users. An album this damn good taking several decades to being rediscovered online is a perfect example for why you should always keep digging.
“nước“ by hawak
Some more Bay Area based “emo,” this time leaning towards the more discordant side of politically conscious, Loma Prieta-sounding math rock and hardcore. Hawak’s lyrics are certainly cryptic and angsty enough to satisfy your average skramz enjoyer, but go beyond self-centered poetics by connecting their own personal alienation to Southeast Asian collective traumas, and the struggle that comes with being separated from your family’s native “home.”
trapped in my thoughts I’m held
hostage in body I dwell
do you know the feeling
of being divided by
“Everybody Works“ by Jay Som
I know we’re in the year 2023 and American Bedroom pop has the reputation of sounding “generic” but I promise this album really is built different and deserves some proper revisiting. It’s a little unfortunate that Jay Som tracks tend to frequent AI-generated playlists with names like “Dope and Chill Summer Vibes,” but if you really think about it this just adds character and charm to her music. I’m also pretty sure the beginning soundbite on “One More Time, Please” is a candid recording of someone playing CS:GO.
RECS FROM FRIENDS OF KCSBfm:
We’ve compiled some recommendations from student community members who work with different AAPI serving organizations on UCSB’s campus! These organizations do great work in supporting AAPI students at UCSB
** Note: The ARC in particular has their own AAPI playlist, so make sure to give it a listen if you wanna hear what they have playing within their center: In the ARC Playlist **
Christine Choi (EOP Counselor and ARC Coordinator) – Sundial
My favorite AAPI artist would be “sundial”, a pop-duo made of Jisu Kim and Dorothy Chan. I first started listening to them when I was in undergrad here at UCSB in 2017! I’m currently loving their tracks: “grass is greener” and “24” because it feels all too relatable to how I’ve been feeling. I would describe listening to their music to the feeling of when you’re on the couch, it’s raining outside, but you’re warm underneath a fuzzy blanket, thinking about life :’)
Destiny Ngoy (ARC Peer Mentor) – Orange Ocean
One of my favorite artists that I like to listen to is Orange Ocean! They’re a Chinese-Indie band from Qingdao, China. I would describe their melodies as beachy and nostalgic, perfect for listening to while driving along the coast or staring out at the ocean and reminiscing about last summer. I would recommend listening to them if you enjoy alternative/indie music 🙂
Phuong Vy Tran (ARC Peer Mentor) – SHAUN
My music taste jumps around WAYYY too much, so it was so hard to choose one artist. However, if I had to go off consistency and who I listen to every full moon, I would say “SHAUN” because he has a lot of variety. Kim Yun-ho, aka SHAUN, is a South Korean singer-songwriter, music producer, and DJ, and I discovered him in 2020 when I was starting to run again. I would say his music leans towards electronic and Indie pop! My favorite song by SHAUN is Closed Ending 🙂 I loved this song so much that I played it on a first date!
Kiyan Atrian (KCSB, MCC, Jackson Social Justice Legacy Scholarship) & Devon Tumalak (MCC, Jackson Social Justice Legacy Scholarship)
“Happy” by Yaeji
“Please Don’t Hold Me Hostage For Who I Am, For Who I Was” by Thanya Iyer
“chix” – Unfinished by Jai Paul
“Monsoon” Daydream by Ben Khan
“hawthorn” by Rachika Nayar
“Sa Mo Jung” by TOKiMONSTA
“Say it” by Sasami
“END” by CHAI
“YAKITORI” by CHAI
“Bites on My” Neck by yeule
Rachelle Ignacio (Kapatirang Pilipino)
“Sino” by Unique Salonga
“Come Inside Of My Heart” by IV Of Spades
“Brown Out” by Ruby Ibarra
“US” by Ruby Ibarra
“Binbini” by Zack Tabudlo
“Listen Up” by Ginger Root
Ginger Root is the project of Cameron Lew, a former student at Chapman University and current emerging bedroom pop/funk star. Lew grew up in Huntington Beach California and is Chinese American. The sound of Ginger Root lands somewhere between funkiness of bands like Vulfpeck and Toro y Moi, and the laid-back indie style of bands like Mild High Club. Even though the influences from all of these bands are very apparent in the music, Lew pinpoints his own distinct style. Additionally, the production of the songs is incredible, creating a highly texturized listening experience.
“Mr. Rain” by Tanukichan
Tanukichan is the stage name of Hannah van Loon. The UC Berkeley alum’s 2018 debut album Sundays was produced by Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bear. Her newest album, GIZMO, which features my favorite track of hers- “Mr. Rain”- is significantly more fuzzed-out than Sundays. I love the vocals on this song, which remind me a lot of Mazzy Star. I also love the combination of acoustic guitar and fuzz, as well as the reverb-laden drums and violins.
“Holy Roller” by Thao, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
Thao Nguyen was born to two Vietnamese refugees who resettled in North Carolina. I love the line played by the banjo in the beginning of the song, and the fact that when lyrics come in, the banjo mimics the melody that is being sung by Thao. Thao seamlessly combines the sounds of folk and country with the upbeat nature of 2010s indie rock.
“Mr. Lonely” by Hana Vu
– Hana Vu is one of the heroines of the recent LA D.I.Y scene. I remember being in awe of her debut album, How Many Times Have You Driven By (which she wrote at the age of 17!) as a sophomore in high school. Since then, Vu has continued to grow as an artist, opening for artists like Wet and Soccer Mommy, and developing an increasingly nuanced sound. I love this track specifically because it contrasts from a lot of her heavier tracks and showcases her versatility and the power of her voice.
“Cherry Pit” by Luna Li
Although Luna Li is Korean-Canadian, it felt appropriate to include her in this list because of her music’s popularity in the United States and the cultural similarities between Canada and the U.S. In the beginning of this track, there is a collection of psychedelic, fuzzed-out guitars and synthesizers, which get abruptly cut off to introduce a very stripped down drum beat, guitar, and electric piano. As the song progresses, more and more sounds are added. Finally, the song culminates with the same wild collection of sounds that it began. This journey is my favorite aspect of the song, but it is also worth pointing out that it is masterfully produced!
“That’s On You – Japanese Remix” by Joyce Wrice ft. UMI
Originally a song that only included Joyce Wrice, this remix features UMI, yet another insanely talented and rising R&B artist. In this Japanese remix, the artists, who both have an African American father and Japanese mother, hone in on their Japanese roots, singing both in English and in Japanese, singing about a relationship that seems as if it is becoming one-sided. They implore their significant other to show that they are all in, debating whether or not their love and effort is for nothing. They are tired of waiting and this is the last straw. The song is accompanied by a fun and groovy backtrack, seeming almost contradictory to the song’s lyrics, yet it still just feels like it works.
“Are We OK?” by Vicky Farewell
Vicky Farewell, an Asian-American artist from Orange County who seems to have mastered the dream aesthetic. In this song, Vicky is unsure whether or not her partner is still interested in her, and she is beginning to debate whether or not she is drifting out of love as well. As she constantly asks Are We OK?, she questions her love more and more, accepting that if her partner is ready to leave, that they should just do it. Just as the previous song, the joyful and dreamlike track makes it seem as though it is a love song, even though it is quite the opposite, with Farewell questioning if love is still in the air at all.
“universe” by Thuy
Unfortunately we have yet another sad song from Vietnamese-American artist Thuy. In this song, Thuy is describing the perfect love she had, someone who uplifted her, and made her feel like her best self. Although this sounds like a romantic song, unfortunately Thuy is struggling with attachment, for even though she feels like this person is her universe, she can only imagine if she put her trust into them, running away as soon as things got too real, hoping that this person would chase her when she was scared. Unfortunately they were everything she wanted, in the past tense, and this love never reached its full potential. It is very interesting to me because many people see this song at the surface as a cute romance song to relate to, but when diving deeper, it is definitely one to get you in your feels, and not the good kind. Although this is true, it is a beautifully done song nonetheless, and even one of my favorites.
“Stone” by Raveena
Yup, unfortunately we got another sad one here. Coming from Queens, New York, Raveena is an Indian Punjabi American and an insanely talented R&B artist. “Stone” is another song about a decaying relationship, figuring out how long each person in the relationship wants to stick around. With beautiful guitar playing, chords, and a steady bassline, this song feels just like what it talks about. It makes you feel that sense of gliding through a relationship with someone you know you love, but it just isn’t quite there anymore. It is a bittersweet feeling, knowing you are figuring out what is best, but having to go through the hardship of letting go, and this song encapsulates just that.
“She Wanna” by Guapdad 4000, !llmind, & P-Lo
Finally, here at the end, we have a song that is basically the complete opposite of all of the previous songs I have added to the playlist. Here we have Black and Filipino artist Guapdad 4000, Filipino producer !llmind, and Filipino artist P-Lo from the Bay Area all teaming up to make a very fun and funny track. In traditional Norcal rap fashion, this song is about freaky women, detailing all the little things that are going to go on in the bedroom, but in a comedically “realistic” way. This is done through Guapdad whispering so the kids don’t hear, and using just about every sexual cliché you can think of. This makes for an entertaining song that is driven by some infectious 808s and some simple percussion, making it very easy to get into.
“Upside Down” by Korea Girl
If I was a really cool cat with sunglasses I’d listen to this song on repeat and possibly even make this my theme song.
“nuoc” by hawak
Love how mathy and heavy this track is. Reminds me a bit of Big Ups.
“1 Billion Dogs” by Jay Som
This song ends with the “worst” guitar solo of all time, which I personally happen to think goes pretty hard.
“even after the room is cleared i will disappoint someone” by Kaho Matsui
Perfect water level music.
“- – – – “ by Ana Roxanne
Same for this one.
“Tagalog” by Eskapo
A mostly Filipino hardcore punk band from Vallejo, CA, who were active in the early 2000s. There’s a pretty deep history of Bay Area Southeast Asian hardcore bands and Eskapo were one of the earliest that I’ve come across.
“Disposable Parts” by Enon
High Society is a classic album but Toko Yasuda carries with her vocals on this track. Super prolific #rock and roller during the early internet age-American underground scene who deserves more recognition.
“Le Pain Perdu“ by Cibo Matto
Cibo Matto is a New York based duo created by Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori that combines art pop, hip-hop, and indie rock. The instrumentation in this song is so cool, it starts off with booming percussion, horns, and an organ that sounds kind of like those ones you’d hear at a baseball game. The vocals move rhythmically with the percussion and organ in an almost hypnotic way, repeating “we gotta get out, to get out, the hell out” over and over. I think this song is really fun, as are most of Cibo Matto’s songs. Cibo Matto means crazy food in Italian and a lot of their songs are named after food, including this one! (Pain Perdu is french toast in France :3) Cibo Matto announced their split in December 2017, but they’ve come out with a few remixes and collabs in the past year so I’m hoping that they produce more new music.
“Right Down Here“ by Asha Puthli
Asha Puthli is an Indian American artist famous for her jazz vocals. You can definitely hear that in this song, her voice is so smooth and sultry, it is at the forefront of the sound. The instrumentals are really cool too, though they seem like they’re more to support and surround her voice than anything. This song combines jazz piano and horns with psych rock guitar to create a groovy backdrop.
“Lions and Tigers“ by Asobi Seksu
Asobi Seksu is a shoegaze dream pop band from New York. Their lead singer (who also plays the keyboard), Yuki Chikudate, has such a dreamy voice and combines English and Japanese lyrics in many of their songs. I chose this song in particular because I think it really encapsulates their sound: the vagueness of the vocals, the heavy guitars, the delicate xylophone in the background. Asobi Seksu mixes a lot of contrasting sounds, airy and heavy, soft and harsh, and it all comes together to create a vague, dream-like sound. My parents would play the Citrus album a lot when I was growing up, so the sound is very nostalgic to me, though I think the whimsy and overall dreaminess of their sound creates a nostalgic feel in general. Also! I found out that Asobi Seksu is played in the TV show Skins which is pretty cool and fits with their 90s alternative feel.
“Blade of Grass“ by Versus
Versus is a 90s indie rock band from New York formed by Filipino American brothers Richard and Edward Baluyut. Their third brother, James, joined the band for a couple years as well. Their sound has been described as “loud-soft,” you can hear this in this song with the contrast between the light vocals and the heavy guitar. Their overall sound combines grunge, indie rock, and noise; they sound like a lot of the grunge from the 90s but lighter and with a sense of whimsy. Versus opened for Yo La Tengo in 2007 and was chosen by Jeff Magnum to perform in the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in 2011.
“Girl Boy“ by Blonde Redhead
Blonde Redhead was formed when Kazu Makino (who does the vocals, keyboard, and rhythm guitar) met twins Amedeo and Simone Pace in New York at an Italian restaurant. Their debut album, Blonde Redhead was produced by the drummer of Sonic Youth, Steven Shelley, who liked their no wave sound. This song is really gentle and sweet, it feels like spending a rainy day in a cozy place. The rest of the album has more of a chaotic art punk sound that uses heavy distortion and airy vocals.
“Catch The Waves“ by T. Rexico
T. Rexico is from Los Angeles, half of the band is Filipino American and the other half is Latine American. Throughout the album, you can hear influences from surf rock, jazz, and psychedelic rock to create a very peaceful, beachy sound. This song is perfect for summer in Isla Vista, whether you’re biking around campus, going to the beach, or just hanging out in the sun.
“Hunters of Heaven“ by Harumi
Harumi’s history is a lot more vague than the rest of these artists. In 1967, he came to New York from Japan to record his album and then disappeared. This album was created with Tom Wilson, who produced albums for Simon and Garfunkel, The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, and more greats. The ambiguity of Harumi’s background only adds to the fantastical album that he produced. A single was recently released under his name, though it is not him, it is a woman named Harumi from Hiroshima. This psychedelic pop album is really incredible. The jazz instrumentals, strings, horns, and fuzzy guitars combine to make a unique acid rock sound. On top of that he has a really great voice, it’s a little eerie and throughout they use effects that make it sound like he’s in another room or underwater.
“Over the Hill” by Ginger Root
Something about Ginger Root’s music is just so… happy. The electronic pop project, headlined by Cameron Lew, will not hesitate to tug on the nostalgia-heartstrings inorder to guide your listening experience. The warbled keyboards and cassette-tape synths of “Over the Hill” let you relive memories from a time that may not have even existed, but you enjoy recalling nonetheless. I love the appreciation for groups like Yellow Magic Orchestra and entire genres like citypop that Ginger Root so transparently promotes, especially since such groups/genres were widely overlooked in western popular culture at their initial heights. Through their project, Ginger Root is introducing a whole new generation to these sorts of sounds, and I look forward to seeing their influence spread.
“Circle of Power” by Soundgarden
Six years before Superunknown, the soon to be powerhouse Soundgarden was still finding their footing in the budding Seattle grunge scene. The original lineup consisted of three friends, Chris Cornell, Hiro Yamamoto, and Kim Thayil, later adding Scott Sundquist before the release of their debut album. The lyrics and vocals to “Circle of Power” are written and performed by Yamamoto, who was the bassist for the band at the time. I think “Circle of Power” is a great representation of the sort of proto-grunge sound that would’ve still been developing in the late 80s. It is most definitely reminiscent of hardcore punk with its loose, energetic guitar riffs and vocals, but its production is more similar to thrash or heavy metal. Yamamoto would eventually leave the group after the release of their second album, but not before shaping the future of grunge through his foundational role in Soundgarden.
“Higher” by HIRIE
HIRIE seeks to combine the laid-back warm weather attitudes of the Hawai’ian islands with the similar sensibilities presented in reggae music. Although they have a light and poppy vibe, you can tell that the grooves in her music are reggae to their core. I think this song is a great representation of that; it’s all about taking it easy, kicking back, and forgetting your troubles. HIRIE also tours locally pretty often, and the laid back vibe of her music translates amazingly into the live format.
“Kill As One” by Death Angel
The Kirk Hammett produced demo for “Kill As One” proved popular among bootleggers awaiting the birth of the Bay Area Trash scene before the Death Angel, a band made up of four Filipino Cousins, had ever even released any official music. The production on the album version (appearing on their debut record The Ultra-Violence) is much cleaner, but both showcase the amazing energy and synchronization so prevalent in Thrash from this era. This is especially impressive considering all the members of Death Angel were all under 20 at the time of the album’s recording and release.
“Storm Riders” by DJ Q-Bert
DJ Q-Bert keeps the art of scratching alive through his work in hip-hop instrumentals. Born in San Francisco to Filipino immigrants, Q-Bert started his career as a turntablist in NYC in the early 90s. Over the course of over 30 years, Q-Bert has accumulated a large collaborative discography and a DMC World DJ Championship title. I love the looming, rotund, industrial feel of this song. Some of the sounds remind me of loops that would’ve been featured in old pieces of Musique Concrete, and the mixing style is reminiscent of other DJs who work with turntables and obscure samples like Fatboy Slim.
“Mr. Fear So Long (Money Mark Rework)” by Imaad Wasif
Mr. Fear So Long is a collaboration between LA based Indian musician Imaad Wasif and Japanese-Hawaiian/Chicano keyboardist Mark Ramos Nishita better known as Money Mark. Mark is known for his elemental role working with the Beastie Boys, and later collaborations with a number of other artists including MF DOOM and Jack Johnson. Imaad’s Vocals and Mark’s eclectic musical sensibilities, which combine traditional electronic pop with some hip-hop elements, make for a wonderful full-bodied track that has a fresh and unique sound.
“After That” by Yaeji
Yaeji’s rapid ascent can be largely attributed to her captivating and distinctive music, which seamlessly blends hip-hop, house, and pop genres to create a truly unique style of her own. Her music has an infectious quality that draws listeners in and has undoubtedly contributed to her meteoric rise. I think this song really captures what makes her music great. The atonal melody combined with the techno-inspired bass makes for a strangely danceable beat. Combine that with her unconventional vocals which seamlessly mix English and Korean lyrics, and you have a perfect contemporary house-pop track.