cehryl - paprika
From Hong Kong to the UK, then to Berklee College of Music in Boston, followed by a stint in LA and now, full-circle back to Hong Kong, singer/songwriter cehryl is well-versed in leaving things behind. Having lived across three continents at just 25 years old, time and transience permeate throughout her music. In time machine, her new beautifully vivid and deeply nostalgic EP, cehryl weaves together memories from her past in a poetic and intimate six-track record. time machine takes us through past relationships, faraway places, and fleeting memories. “paprika” is one of these memories and can stand in for many things. “You were my neighborhood / You’vе crossed the line, gonе for good / You were my lullaby, too” she sings with a soft and soulful voice that falls somewhere in between folk and R&B. Whoever or whatever "paprika" was, it’s clear that it is now gone—tucked away in a nostalgic past. time machine is already an intimate record, but “paprika” requires an even closer listen. You can hear the sound of the metal strings from her acoustic guitar as if you’re in the room with her.
It’s interesting to note that she lists the cinema of Wong Kar-Wai as a source of inspiration, as well as the music of Avril Lavigne, which makes perfect sense since, like her own music, both artists are best enjoyed on a rainy day. Photo by Jonny Ho.— Alejandro Veciana on April 16, 2021
Fake Dad - Listen
We're all stressed and overwhelmed with life, and if there’s anything we learned during the isolation of the pandemic, it’s that being alone and forced to face yourself leads to anxious thoughts and a heightened need to create. The latest song from the Brooklyn-based duo Fake Dad captures both that anxiety for the future and craving for it all at once through delicate sonic layers.
As the song starts, you first hear from a child’s voice talking about wanting to be supernova. It’s an all-too-relatable childlike desire to be remembered and seen, like a “really really big star up in space.” Andrea de Varona then descends in with soulful lyrics that sing not only to that desire but the anxiety that comes along with it. Almost somberly, the lyrics highlight the fear that any accomplishment will be followed by losing oneself or the spark that started it all: “I listen and hope to hear / How to make it and keep from breaking everything I make.” Simple, wispy and emotional, Fake Dad creates the perfect song for a slow morning or a late night. Photo by Lady Gleep.— Monica Hand on April 8, 2021
Homeschool - Smartest Man (feat. Samia)
“Smartest Man” is an indie rock anthem of existential proportions. It is the second release from Homeschool, the solo project of Tom D’Agustino, formerly the lead singer of Active Bird Community. Over layered guitars and loose drums, D’Agustino sparks complex thoughts through deceptively simple phrases, like how and why we make the decisions we do in life. If one choice has the power to change not only our world but the worlds of those we love, why don’t we do things differently at certain times? (“No matter what you do / It’s like the whole world / Is doing it too”). With this magnitude at our fingertips, it’s amazing we don’t recklessly seize every day by doing the wildest things just to feel alive, for which D’Agustino has some ideas: “I wanna go diving / Or get struck by lightning / So I can feel the current in my hands." Yet so often we find ourselves stuck in patterns or monotony we can’t break, away from those we love. Featured after the first chorus, Samia laments on this idea: “Mom asked me / Can you come back home / I said I wonder whether that’s a question." Her vocals nestle perfectly into the pensive track before she and D’Agustine unite for one final towering chorus that will leave you wanting to climb the nearest mountain while calling your grandparents. And maybe by the time you hike back down, you’ll remember you’re always one choice away from changing your life. Photo by CJ Harvey.— Heddy Edwards on April 7, 2021
Annie DiRusso - Nine Months
With sharp, striking honesty, Annie DiRusso crafts the kind of letter we all write to our exes but never have the guts to send in her latest single “Nine Months.” The instrumentation is textured, vigorous and emotionally charged, mirroring the build-up of anger represented in the lyrics. Through words, the song chronicles everything from the couple’s first meeting (“The first thing you said the night we met is I was beautiful”) to the fiery, impassioned fallout that results from a bad breakup (“I took my time now I know what it was / So don’t you ever say we were in love / You ruined my life for nine fucking months”). Arguably, the most important—and impactful—lyric of the song arrives in the chorus, as DiRusso devastatingly sings, “And every time I think of you / I hate I didn’t run away / Cause I never thought / I’d be the girl who stayed.” As everyone who has been in a toxic relationship knows, no one ever thinks they’d stay in a miserable relationship until they find themselves in that very situation. By offering up this relatable story, though, DiRusso will certainly make a lot of people feel that they aren’t alone. Listen to “Nine Months” wherever you stream. Photo by Lily Lee.— Paige Shannon on April 7, 2021
Valerie June - Stardust Scattering
"Stardust Scattering" opens heralded with drums that come closer and closer until they settle underneath gentle rhythm guitar and fade into a background pulse. It sounds like a summer rainstorm, percussive taps on roofs and window panes turning into song as the stream of raindrops becomes steadier and heavier. Valerie June’s voice layers on itself in ethereal harmonies, like a cool breeze bringing in momentary relief from August heat. Twinkling keys drop in like raindrops in a puddle. Swelling brass begins to ebb and flow like thunder, rolling close then far again. The track sits somewhere between sorrow and euphoria, with the lyrics delicately touching loss as often as buoyant optimism. Joy is nestled among grief, like stars in the middle of the desert: shining, hopeful and also so far away. It’s a beautiful addition to Valerie June's latest album, The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers, out now via Fantasy Records. Photo by Lelanie Foster.— Allison Hill on April 6, 2021
Lightning Bug - The Right Thing Is Hard To Do
“The Right Thing Is Hard To Do,” the latest offering from New York-based, indie-rock group Lightning Bug, is a sprawling tune full of warm and honest moments. From the start, the track feels bigger than the confines of a pair of speakers. The towering guitars and singer Audrey Kang’s tender yet confident vocals bring the country-adjacent track to Grand Canyon proportions. Within these confident vocals, Kang is calling for fundamental change within the world she sees, “The right thing is hard to do / When you’ve got so much to lose / Still in fear, it’s hard to move / When you’ve got so much to prove / Doubt / Ebbs and flows / Well, I’ll let it flow,” questioning whether we really ever know if the right thing is being done.Jonah Minnihan on April 6, 2021
Jesse Gold - R.I.P.
The funniest part about putting in work to improve oneself is that you rarely notice the fruits of your labor until someone else points it out. Those small steps that have to be taken every day to reach a goal are invisible to the outside world, but once that change is made more evident, it can be startling to look at just how much has altered in the process. Jesse Gold’s newest single, “R.I.P.,” is a slinky pop-leaning statement piece about the musician taking pride in how far he’s come, both as an artist and a person. His smooth tenor is a fitting match to the bouncy synths and funky bassline that accompany him, and the earworm melody that serves as the track’s centerpiece belies a natural pop sensibility. The confidence and comfortability that Jesse has cultivated are apparent in his delivery throughout, and that extra degree of assuredness acts as an effective reinforcement of the track’s core message: if you believe in yourself and put in the time, the end result will always be something you can take pride in. Jesse's debut EP, Stupid Hours, is being released on May 7. Photo by Arman Saturday.— Alec Bollard on April 2, 2021
Chloe Berry - Breakfast
It's rise-and-shine with Chloe Berry's charming new single “Breakfast.” The twenty-year-old NYC artist cooks up a delightful bedroom pop treat filled with bright guitar strums, syncopated drum beats and hazy vocals à la Frankie Cosmos, Clairo or beabadoobee. “Breakfast” serves as a single for her upcoming EP, Blueberry Jams and makes for an endearing and easy listen—but much like Berry's music, it also packs a good punch. The song, while structurally simple, also manages to be quite unpredictable. The combination of retro background vocals in the style of 50s pop, its swift rhythm changes and overall low-fi textures makes the whole track shine and come alive.
Berry now records with her partner and producer Sam Poon (aka Spoonuel) but says she’s been making music since she was seven years old—and it shows. She’s a gifted songwriter and has the kind of sharp, smokey voice that can easily translate beautifully on stage. As an upcoming artist, Chloe Berry is one to definitely look out for. Photo by Sam Graff.— Alejandro Veciana on April 2, 2021
Ethansroom - Tides
“Tides,” a new release from Ethansroom (solo project of William Ethan Fortenberry) is a sonic letter to everything we know we shouldn’t think about yet find ourselves ruminating upon regardless (“Shouldn’t think about it / But I’ll do it anyway / I’ll just start from / Further back / So I don’t get carried away”). The cyclical track mimics its title, with layers of banjo, guitar, mellotron, soft synths and steady drums churning over Fortenberry’s gritty-yet-smooth vocals. The atmosphere of the track—similar in feel to acts like Novo Amor and Adam Melchor—recalls days much like those now in early spring, that stretch further their hours of light over the horizon, making amber shadows on our walls. As the world warms, we feel nostalgic for summer suns past, and we push these thoughts away during daily monotony until we are alone under the moon and free to dream (“I’ll come back at the crescent / Give it another try”). In all its soft-glowing edges, “Tides” reminds us that sometimes there’s a reason we can’t stop thinking about something, a lesson there to learn—we just may not grasp it until the tide turns over and we start anew. Photo by Landon Edwards.— Heddy Edwards on April 1, 2021
Japanese Breakfast - Be Sweet
The first single off of Japanese Breakfast’s forthcoming third studio album Jubilee, set for release on June 4, “Be Sweet” sets the tone of upbeat optimism, finding joy and freedom in forgiveness. In “Be Sweet,” singer/songwriter Michelle Zauner explores the courage it takes to be honest with oneself, to swallow one’s pride, to own our desires, and to have faith in their manifestation and, ultimately, to forgive. The Seoul-born, Oregon-raised, Philadelphia-based artist masterfully fuses her own contemporary musical style with sparkling synth sounds reminiscent of the universal favorites of the 80s: think Thompson Twins, Tears for Fears, The Cure. In her ever-distinct vocal style, sweet in its own right, Zauner takes us on a journey of forgiveness—from being caught up in our feelings and overthinking the truth, to letting someone back in after they’ve recognized their mistakes, ultimately acknowledging that it’s not too late, that the love there remains.
The song’s title, “Be Sweet,” appears as a command throughout the chorus, as Zauner declares over and over, “I wanna believe in you / I wanna believe in something,” and the urgency of this mantra is profoundly felt. We all need something to believe in, and sometimes (or often) that comes with the risk of being hurt or let down. Despite all of that, “Be Sweet” is an ode to forgiveness and hope, and with both a memoir (Crying in H Mart) and a full-length album set for release in the coming months—and a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel for all of us—Zauner’s optimistic sound on this track is extremely well-founded. Photo by Peter Ash Lee.— Maya Bouvier-Lyons on March 31, 2021