Aisha Badru - The Way Back Home
The first thing any listener of Aisha Badru’s music has to notice is her uniquely haunting vocal tone. Soaring over simple acoustic guitar strums and the pulsing four-on-the-floor drumbeat of “The Way Back Home,” Badru’s lush lead vocal takes this emotive acoustic track to new heights. Shimmering, delicate synths in the background of the production are a clever touch to echo Badru’s own otherworldly vocal quality. This is a song to listen to on a misty night, possibly while tracing the steady beacon of a lit lighthouse over dark waters.
The lyrics of “The Way Back Home” are simple, possibly because they don’t have to do much more than provide a way for us to experience Badru’s voice. Lines like “There’s a world out there and it’ll come calling” are repeated with subtle differences throughout, evolving just enough to illustrate the song’s message of constancy and certainty even as new experiences beckon. However, the arrangement of this track is more layered than you might expect from a typical acoustic ballad. The choruses especially feature a thick, warm low-end that you could melt into. Overall, from the rich instrumentation to the moving vocal to the mantra-like lyrics, Aisha Badru’s “The Way Back Home” is a song that invites you to dissolve into it, trusting that it will carry you back to where you came from.— Belle Shea on October 19, 2021
Premiere Abby Huston feat. Benét - Higher
Premiering today is the sweet new single "Higher" by Abby Huston, a hometown signing to Richmond's EggHunt Records, which flaunts Virginia's flourishing local music scene. Akin to the delicate, emotionally resonant crooning of artists like Raveena and Arlo Parks, Huston blends a mellow R&B sensibility with the impassioned intensity of the emo revival music they cite as a major influence. Crafted alongside collaborator Cameron Smith, who also produces under the moniker Not Kevin, "Higher" finds Huston approaching insecurity with gentle nuance. Fellow RVA singer/songwriter Benét joins to say "I just got a feeling that things will change," their rich vocals a nicely rounded foil to Huston's own airy delivery. Together, they make space to raise themselves up in a world that might not always be as forgiving as we need. Sometimes, the most meaningful gift is to honor oneself.
In Huston's words, "'Higher' was such a pleasure to make with Cam and Benét. It was a kinda rainy day...Benét and I stepped out on the porch and wrote through the walls while Cam was laying the beat and we had a really beautiful conversation about how I had been feeling. Sometimes we aren't feeling uplifted in our lives but ultimately it is only our onus to honor our worth and not internalize every little thing people could be thinking about us."Ysabella Monton on August 16, 2021
Big Thief - Little Things
New Big Thief! Everyone rejoice! The Big Thief fandom was well-fed in 2019, getting back-to-back albums from the indie-folk quartet in a matter of months. The self-identified "earth sister" albums garnered critical acclaim, with U.F.O.F. earning a Grammy nomination in 2020. While the band hasn't made music together in some time, their lead vocalist and songwriter Adrienne Lenker released an album titled songs and instrumentals, which also received critical acclaim and was easily my personal favorite record of the year. "Little Things" is one of two singles that dropped this week from Big Thief, the other track being "Sparrow." These tracks operate best when played side by side, embodying what Lenker does so well as a songwriter: world-building. Every song has its specific place within a purpose-driven order of play. The vibrant and glistening musicality of "Little Things" quickly becomes more and more chaotic and disjointed as the song plays on, elevating and squeaking as the lyrics escalate in tension and worry. The speaker feels used, out of place and claustrophobic. But there are still ruminations of deep affection, leaving her obsessed and restless.
These songs are a fascinating introduction to whatever new project Big Thief has in the works, and I personally can't wait for them to blow our minds again. Listen to "Little Things" wherever you stream! Photo by Josh Goleman.— Hannah Lupas on August 13, 2021
Naina V - Play Pause
Naina V's debut single "Play Pause" is a much-needed break from both the universe outside and the universes we all carry inside. The Singapore-based singer/songwriter chose to present her music to the world with a light song about going slower and getting "lost in white noise." It's particularly symbolic of a moment where life goes faster than it's ever gone, but we've just been forced to stop and contemplate the finitude of everything and everyone. While the guitar track on "Play Pause" will make your soul soar towards a simpler, dreamlike life, the bridge will ground you back to the present, reminding you of the moments in life that allow a deep breath. This song is a strong debut for a powerful voice that is just getting started. Photo by Harsha/Honest Media.— Giulia Santana on August 13, 2021
Holly Humberstone - Please Don't Leave Just Yet
British indie rock newcomer Holly Humberstone's newest single "Please Don't Leave Just Yet" is as emotionally direct as its title entails. A bare-bones breakup song, the track finds Humberstone wrestling down her own desperation as she pleads to not be left alone. It's a glowing, moody pop song that you'll want to hear over and over (even if it makes you a little emo). It's got that gorgeous, lagging, night drive quality prevalent in so much of Humberstone's music. The urgency of her language couples perfectly with Matty Healy's arrangements. Sweeping, vulnerable and frail, the lyricism is bolstered by Healy's surprising and nuanced pop production. It's quintessentially The 1975-esque pop, with layered, interesting vocal effects and punchy saxophone parts that you'd never envision for an emotionally charged pop hit, and yet it somehow fits. That's the mastery of these two British indie pop voices: they revel in the unexpected. The 1975's most recent album, Notes on a Conditional Form, was their most experimental album yet, genre-jumping from electronic to country. Humberstone is an anomaly herself, having garnered critical success following her first EP release (Falling Asleep At The Wheel) at the age of 21. Healy's established himself as a household name in the modern Britpop scene, working with everyone from beabadoobee to FKA Twigs, and Humberstone is quickly emerging as a titan in her own right. I'm looking forward to hearing more from these two in the weeks to come, with Humberstone's sophomore EP arriving on November 5.— Hannah Lupas on August 12, 2021
Amelia Meath & Blake Mills - Neon Blue
Imagine you’re watching a car drive down a mostly empty highway; it’s dark and late, they pull off into the parking lot of a 24-hour diner. A lambent neon sign hangs from the window illuminating the now-parked car’s glossy exterior. The passengers get out and order coffees at the booth under the light fixture. The sign’s glowing message shines against the glass, each letter taking a turn before they blink together. Feeling restless in their seats, they finish their coffees and decide to go: It’s nothing new here anyway, they agree and turn towards the road. Onto the next spot, onto the next night, wherever that may be.
Amelia Meath’s rich vocals and Blake Mills mellow and subdued instrumentation decorate “Neon Blue,” a track that’ll find you nestled within the ominous comfort of a late night and a good friend. The gently eerie debut single arrives as Meath and her Sylvan Esso-counterpart Nick Sanborn launch Psychic Hotline, an artist-led record company that strives to do right by creators in radical ways. “Neon Blue,” along with its B-side reinterpretation by Sam Gendel, is the first of several collaborative singles to be released over the next few months. In addition to this project, entitled the Psychic Hotline Single Series, Sylvan Esso has announced that their self-titled debut album will be the first release of what they’re calling the Psychic Hotline Reissues. Welcoming a new era of the movement-filled and sonically charged project that so many have come to love, “Neon Blue” masterfully scores the transition as a new chapter of Sylvan Esso begins. Photos by Blake Mills, Nick Sanborn and Marcella Cytrynowicz.— Jenna Andreozzi on August 12, 2021
Atlas Engine - All I Want is Everything // Alternate State
With their newest EP When the Compass Resets… Part 1, indie rock band Atlas Engine brings us back into their expansive universe of sound with standout track "All I Want is Everything // Alternate State." The vocals of the band's founder Nick LaFalce and vocalist Meredith Lampe narrate an unbound, relatable sentiment, yearning for something that doesn't feel like it's ever going to come. There's no denying the atmosphere of nostalgia and desire that grows from start to finish. Artists like Atlas Engine so seamlessly weave together two individual halves into one cohesive story, like the track is almost in conversation with itself. The striking crescendos exemplify the tone of the song's body and the last portions retain that trademark gorgeous soundscape. We end with a montage of sound that blends perfectly and then takes its final rest. When nothing seems satisfying enough, let your ears find respite in the capable hands of Atlas Engine and their atmospheric, cinematic universe of sound. Photo by Atlas Engine.— Julie Gentile on August 11, 2021
Drauve - Search Party
Dream pop duo Drauve is comprised of Pittsburgh natives, Victoria Morgan and Stephen Grzenda. In their second track out this year, "Search Party," Drauve musically captures a relatable story about finding oneself amidst the noise of others’ expectations and opinions. Intertwined through textured euphoric reverb and echoing vocals, the lyrics reveal the singer’s personal journey dealing with mental illness while grasping for a sense of her own truth. “Reaching for a sign of life 'cause there’s no end in sight" reveals the necessity for an escape from what others think and how empowering it could be to simply to live authentically. A sense of honesty and inward reflection defines the song’s journey home. The combination of airy vocals, lyrical depth and a mesmerizing, dreamy soundscape leaves us hopeful for more tracks from the duo. Photo by Jesse Schlauch.— Erica Tello on August 6, 2021
Samia - Elephant
What does it mean to be “too much?" Does it somehow, ironically, mean we’re not enough for someone? It can feel that way when we try hard to please everyone, yet somehow fall short of their expectations. On “Elephant,” Samia laments on this burden with arresting honesty and candid stream-of-consciousness thoughts about the cycle of disappointing others, then reconciling with oneself. Over distorted synths and lo-fi guitar, she sings, “I brought an elephant / To the most delicate place.” When we fail to please people, it can be difficult to avoid placing blame on ourselves. But, it takes a hard-earned, emotionally resilient and self-assured mindset to realize that your expectations of yourself are the only thing that matters at the end of the day—that sometimes, you can only do your best to be a good person and bow out to preserve your energy when it isn’t enough for someone else (“I reset my tolerance / Now it’s easier to fail the audience”). Samia has learned one of the most important lessons in life, which she offers listeners in the most poignant lines of the song: “You cannot make everyone happy / But you can force a smile on their face / Just place your fingers / On each side of their mouths / And pull towards heaven / Until their teeth peak out.” You can hear the track on her new EP Scout, out now via Grandy Jury Music. Photo by Sophia Matinazad.— Heddy Edwards on August 5, 2021
Caroline Loveglow - Patience Etc...
With her debut single, LA singer-songwriter Caroline Loveglow creates an indie-pop dreamscape with swelling synthesized pads, a tight drum groove and her silvery vocals. Produced by Loveglow herself, the song’s use of hypnotic minimal instrumentation and a generous dose of reverb allows for her vocals to shine through. The melody is infectious and the hook will leave you singing along in your head long after the song is over. Euphonious, the track features lyrics that tell the story of laborious love and the slow and cautious attempts to make it work. Loveglow’s songwriting is precise and punctilious, painting a clear image with few words and the poetic nature of the lyrics radiate with the line “if you don’t mind, I want to see daylight through your eyes.” “Patience Etc…” is a track that is sure to be enjoyed by fans of dreamy pop melodies and clever songwriting. Photo by Arianna.— Sofia Soriano on August 4, 2021