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Ali Holder - Reborn
Ali Holder - Reborn

Ali Holder - Reborn


When an artist sounds like where you come from, it can be an immediate, visceral kind of connection, and such is the connection I’ve found with Ali Holder’s track, “Reborn.” The pillowy organ, slow rhythm guitar, and ever-so-slight drawl on this track had already transported my heart to my hometown of Austin, TX before my mind had time to recognize the nostalgia. Growing up in Austin, I always assumed that no matter where you went in the world, you’d find singer-songwriters on every street and in every restaurant, every day of the week. I thought it was a basic part of shared human experience, like fending off grackles or getting unlimited free refills of unsweet iced tea. And from the ubiquitous, strumming masses of my youth, I have come to recognize there is absolutely an “Austin sound.” To me, it's a sound that I will never be able to shake as long as I live; to many, it’s inextricably linked to the strong, warm breezes of July evenings; and if you want to know what it can mean to you, well—I’d start here with Ali Holder.

Karl Snyder on April 29, 2020
Cisco Swank - Home

Cisco Swank - Home


We just announced a partnership with Quadio, a social music streaming platform for college students, and are excited to be taking over their Artists of the Week section this week and next. First up we have Berklee student Francisco Haye (aka Cisco Swank), who pays homage to several of his jazz, soul, and R&B ancestors on his new track, “Home.” With chord progressions and vocal runs that evoke a young Stevie Wonder, bare and buttery production in the style of Frank Ocean, and the full live jazz band appeal of Anderson .Paak The Free Nationals. Haye demonstrates not only that he’s been doing his literal homework, but also that he is capable of synthesizing these royal influences to make something fresh and uniquely Cisco Swank. At times, the beat is so syncopated that it feels like time is going backwards—in a good way. And though the lyrics may at first seem simple and repetitive, by the end lines like, “I know you been searching for way too long” have a mantric, centering effect. So if you have been looking for a new self-produced soul artist who is just getting started but already knows what he’s doing, you may have “finally found the answer” here.

Karl Snyder on April 28, 2020
Faye Webster - In A Good Way

Faye Webster - In A Good Way


Atlanta singer-songwriter Faye Webster returns to the scene with a love song that is unapologetically sweet as honey. Lulling strings, staccato guitar and interjecting keyboard fuse together to create a track that touches an array of genres ranging from folk to pop all the way to R&B. I’ve always appreciated Webster’s way of expressing the most nuanced emotions with such few words—“In A Good Way” is no exception. The track explores the feeling of finding a love that is overwhelming in the most beautiful way, so beautiful in fact, that it makes you cry. The song opens with the line, “I didn’t know I was capable of being happy right now, but you showed me how,” and accurately depicts, how even in the midst of the unknown, love has the ability to poke through the cracks. All too often we look at crying as a negative expression of emotion and "In A Good Way" helps to remind us that it’s okay to cry and that sometimes, it’s even a good thing.

Megan Beck on April 28, 2020
​Serena Isioma - Cookout

​Serena Isioma - Cookout


Serena Isioma’s new EP Sensitive showcases the artist in all their genre-defying glory. It’s an extremely well-rounded release, led by the brilliant "Cookout." A sunny song, the bass and drums kick it off, bringing the energy of a surfy garage band. Isioma’s smooth vocals recontextualize the entire track. While the melody in the verses stays simple, the flow feels completely fresh. Sprinkled with background vocals bouncing about underneath to add even more texture. The chorus is so catchy, instantly memorable and begging to be sung along to. Isioma comes out firing in the second verse, amping up the intensity, finding new ways to shine on the now-familiar groove. The songwriting, in the context of this production, brings heavy themes to life in a bright and surprisingly fun fashion. A balance made effortless by Isioma. The entire EP is a smash, but "Cookout" feels completely unique, something only Isioma could pull off. And they certainly have.

Max Himelhoch on April 28, 2020
Geographer - When Will I Belong

Geographer - When Will I Belong


Before even listening to “When Will I Belong," the newest release under Mike Deni’s moniker of Geographer, it’s worth noting that this track was never supposed to be a single. The plan was to make it a bonus track to the forthcoming album—the song was initially created for placement on NBC’s New Amsterdam, and Deni presumably thought the episode would come and go without many noticing his work. Thankfully, the artist couldn’t have been more wrong. The praise for the track was so effusive that Deni decided that the once-bonus track would serve as the first single despite its lengthy runtime, and we are all better for it. On a casual first listen, you would be forgiven for thinking the start of the nearly-seven-minute “When Will I Belong” was from a hymnal; Deni’s plaintive ruminations in his beautiful, almost ethereal soprano take on an air of reverence in the track’s opening minutes, as he backs his singing with only a plucky synth loop and occasional brief interjections of strings. As the track crescendos and instrumentation build, the urgency in Deni’s questioning refrain from which the song gets its title becomes palpable, but there’s no answer to be found at its conclusion. Instead, “When Will I Belong” does a remarkable job creating a soundtrack to the ennui that can sometimes overcome us at our darker moments—a sentimental testament to human’s capability to face the uncertainty of the unknown and press on regardless.

Alec Bollard on April 28, 2020
girl in red - midnight love

girl in red - midnight love


“Midnight love” is the first single from girl in red since her second EP chapter 2 was released in September. The 21-year-old Norwegian, indie-pop singer-songwriter broke ground in the summer of 2018 when, from her bedroom, she managed to create the DIY queer anthem we all needed with “girls.” Her music delves into the intricacies of love and longing, the gray areas of relationships, and the questions and doubts that creep in when we are alone, and it does so with soothing sound and poetic precision. In this way, “midnight love” is no different. A one-woman show by the name of Marie Ulven, girl in red ordinarily writes, records, and produces all of her own music, though for “midnight love” she brought in fellow Norwegian artist Matias Tellez for co-production. The song’s cinematic intro sets the scene for Ulven’s reverberating vocals to take hold as she describes the complex emotions that come with being someone’s “second best.” Her echoing voice engages in a delicate and tumultuous dance with the instrumentals throughout—the layers of sound ebbing and flowing, pushing and pulling, creating a tension that builds as it mirrors the inner turmoil expressed in the lyrics. “Midnight love” addresses the struggle to find inner strength and clarity in the face of unrequited love, and ultimately to find the power to walk away, or at least leave that late-night text on read.

Maya Bouvier-Lyons on April 27, 2020
Skylar Gudasz - Rider

Skylar Gudasz - Rider


“Rider” is just one of nine passionate and lyrically stunning tracks off Skylar Gudasz’s new album Cinema, which takes us into the world of a black-and-white movie scene. The North Carolina-based musician's lyricism instantly places sharp images into the mind. “You ask me to be candid as you comb your errant hair / Well what, I want to whisper if my true voice is despair / or I’ve got too good at drinking or I’ve told untowardly tails / or I’ve hung too close the shimmering of your mirror on the stairs.” Cinema is Gudasz’s first album since her 2016 record, Oleander, where she was compared to a southern Joni Mitchell. A sweet folksy sound is prominent in “Rider” and brings the Mitchell mood back once again. At a time when many of us are feeling stuck and anything but free, Gudasz’s song is there to make us feel as if we are riding unbound on the back of a motorcycle— on our way to everywhere and nowhere all at once.

Bailee Penski on April 27, 2020
Haux - Heavy

Haux - Heavy


Losing a loved one is never easy, and in Haux’s latest single “Heavy” he grapples with the heartache of losing his aunt to an accidental overdose. Told from her perspective, he explores the difficulties of substance abuse and fighting addiction. In the very first lines of the single—“I took my life in the palm of my hands / I apologize for all that I am”—he paints the struggle of being self-aware of the problem but feeling helpless to stop it. Layering painful piano melodies, soft percussion and haunting vocals, Haux leaves you with a heavy heart and a solemn look at the importance of life and those who matter most. He repeats the chorus, "Take a sigh, take a breath in / Keep ‘em close, keep ‘em guessing / People lie, learn a lesson / Count your friends and your blessings," throughout the track as a plea to pause, reflect and appreciate the world around you. If this single is an indication of what’s to come on his new album Violence in a Quiet Mind (set to release this summer), I think we’ll need a lot of tissues.

Mona Dwedar on April 27, 2020
Dirty Projectors - Search for Life

Dirty Projectors - Search for Life


Dirty Projectors deliver a mesmerizing aria with the release of "Search for Life." This song could complement a tableau of rolling fields and wildflowers just as easily as it could fit into the soundtrack for The Graduate. Featuring vocals from guitarist Maia Friedman, the indie production on the track falls right in line with DP's previous work. Their vocal processing and indie instrumentation communicate a sense of adventure and a quest for understanding. The group does a fantastic job evoking some of the current feelings folks are having with lines like, "All over are the days / When we wandered through the world." "Search for Life" is off their four-track project Windows Open which came out in March 2020.

Ian Lutz on April 27, 2020
Salt Cathedral - How Beautiful (she is) feat. duendita & MC Bin Laden

Salt Cathedral - How Beautiful (she is) feat. duendita & MC Bin Laden


Brooklyn duo Salt Cathedral tap Brazilian rapper MC Bin Laden and songstress duendita for their latest single "How Beautiful (she is),"  exhilarating affirmation of beauty through soft dream pop textures diffused with Brazilian funk. It's as if vocalist Juliana Ronderos's airy vocals cradle you from the opening line, "I see her, so pretty, why can't you see?" before reaching the chorus. "She wines up / Shining on through every color," she insists, wanting you to recognize the good she sees in you. "Menina linda, 'cê veio da onde? / Tô me perdendo e perdendo o foco" ("Beautiful girl, 'Where did you come from? / I'm losing and losing focus") echoes MC Bin Laden in admiration, over a building bass. duendita's lavish verse rounds out the track on a moving note, simply stating, "Don't forget you're perfectly made." "How Beautiful (she is)" is the latest single leading up to Salt Cathedral's long-awaited debut album CARISMA, slated for a May release via Ultra Records.

Ysabella Monton on April 24, 2020
Margaret Chavez - Honeysuckle

Margaret Chavez - Honeysuckle


“Honeysuckle” is a dark folk masterpiece in balance from Austin-based Margaret Chavez (Marcus Striplin). The track opens with hypnotic guitar arpeggiations that draw you in like waving wildflowers drawing honeybees. Then come the lyrics, which paint vignettes of tragedy that seem initially at odds with the cheerful guitar melody. As the song progresses, the track unfolds into a retrospective of loss and love. Each verse relays another heavy anecdote of someone the narrator has loved and lost in some form. The stories that hit the hardest are underscored with dark, warbly synths that make you feel as though you are being teleported into the world of memory. The lyrics are so heartbreaking, it would be easy for the song to sink into sadness as deep as Striplin’s beautiful baritone voice; however, the buoyant guitar lines keep the song in the realm of bittersweet. It will be exciting to see what else Margaret Chavez has in store on their sophomore album “Into an Atmosphere," due to release July 31, 2020, via We Know Better Records.

Allison Hill on April 24, 2020

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