Dirty Projectors - Holy Mackerel
Dirty Projectors' latest, "Holy Mackerel," welcomes David Longstreth back into the spotlight after a wonderful string of releases had bandmates Maia Friedman and Felicia Douglass blessing the mic with two EPs: the beautifully poignant Windows Open and the joyous Flight Tower, respectively. "Holy Mackerel" will be featured in their third EP release this summer, Super João (out September 4), and this time will have Longstreth on lead vocals.
According to the band’s social media, the song’s title comes from a story about Longstreth’s partner, who supposedly at only ten months old exclaimed, ‘ho maaco!’ while observing a hippopotamus at a zoo. The story claims that those were her very first words—a cute backstory that adds on to the already personal and intimate songwriting, where the idiomatic expression takes on a new and romantic dimension. There is a soft, genuine tenderness in Longstreth’s vocals. The song floats away on a cloud of cool and breezy bossa nova rhythm patterns. Longstreth plucks on nylon strings with ease, but behind an apparent simplicity lies the band’s signature idiosyncrasies.
The ongoing release of their five-part EP series this summer has reminded us of the band’s incredible ability to keep itself constantly new, fresh and relevant—this time, allowing us to take turns getting to know each band member a little better, all while we continue to watch David Longstreth slowly turn into David Byrne. Photo by Jason Frank Rothenberg.— Alejandro Veciana on September 2, 2020
Freak Fingers - Romance
One of the mystical aspects of a romance is never knowing exactly where it's going to go. Freak Fingers' newest track exhibits this feeling right off the bat. Marked by the beginning sounds of a dreamy acoustic Spanish guitar, "Romance" suddenly drifts further into an otherworldly state influenced by the sudden appearance of synthesizers. As lead vocalist Joan Sullivan begins singing, she blends the beauty of both Spanish and English—taking you further down a soothing, romantic journey for the next two minutes. Clocking in at nearly five minutes, "Romance" maintains the feeling of a daydream abruptly cut short. An 80s influenced electric guitar comes in right before the song ends, illustrating the exhilarating moments of a brief romance when it has hit its peak.
The track is propelled by its slow-but-captivating moment—proving that beauty can still exist among upheaval. The idea of spending a night driving around with the one you love has become more or less of a fantasy taken for granted in 2020, but Freak Fingers help bring it back, if only for a brief few minutes inside your headphones.— Taylor Hodgkins on August 28, 2020
Salarymen - Runaway
It’s smooth, it’s got groove, it’s "Runaway" by Salarymen! It’s 4.5 minutes of lighthearted nostalgia rock, simultaneously full of longing and intense optimism. As the title implies, most of the song is dedicated to the duo trading verses daydreaming about running away together. Though de la Motte and Eagleton’s vocals don’t quite overlap, they flow effortlessly from one line to the next, creating a feeling of tender closeness. Crisp synth hits maintain momentum and excitement. Bass brings the groove and warmth, sitting coyly underneath it all, and occasionally tossing out some fun licks. Meanwhile, surfy guitars wrap around the rest of the track, painting everything over with a rose-colored sunset glow. Though it’s playful and light in nature, "Runaway" is anything but simple. It catches your ears and keeps them with a somehow feather-light density that yields new details to notice every listen.— Allison Hill on August 28, 2020
Tomberlin - Wasted
Tomberlin grew up in Florida within a religious community—her father was a Baptist pastor. Although she has splintered away from Christian doctrine, her music creates a certain kind of mystical nature that mirrors feelings of faith-based transcendence. “Wasted,” her first single off of her new album Projections, is a verbal tug of war, from wanting to say something, trying not to say it, but ultimately, having to. “I run my mouth and it runs me over,” she sings, describing quite literally feelings of regret after being vulnerable. It’s a give-and-take, trying to have faith in the situation, but not wanting to ruin it by admitting what she knows to be true. She opens with, “I tried to keep it close / Keep it in a locket,” as the repetitive nature from both the drumbeat and her wordplay creates a soothing ambiance, lulling you into thinking about higher matter.— Elizabeth Shaffer on August 27, 2020
Direct and extroverted, Oceanator’s "Heartbeat" hits you with high octane summer rock right off the bat. The main riff rips and rolls exactly the way your heart leaps and drops into your stomach when That Person texts you back. It’s the backdrop music to the spontaneous summer carnival date I always see in rom-coms and secretly yearn to experience someday. It’s not hard to conjure the mental image of grabbing your crush’s hand and sprinting to the Ferris wheel, partly because the view is great and partly to sneak a romantic moment at the top. The bass and whip-quick rhythm guitar flirtatiously pace each other, almost daring the other to run faster. Vulnerable lyrics and a slower-paced vocal line stand in assertive contrast to all the instrumental bravado, weaving in an intoxicating sense of intimacy. It’s an homage to the excitement of moving from the anticipation of interest to noticing something about this dynamic fundamentally works. Neither of you are half of a whole, but definitely complementary colors. You work well together and enjoy each others’ company immensely. At the end of the day, what’s a more compelling love story than that? Overall, this single is a delightful build of anticipation for Oceanator’s new album, Things I Never Said, due August 28, 2020— Allison Hill on August 27, 2020
James Ivy feat. Instupendo & Harry Teardrop - Yearbook
James Ivy has one of those pop-punk voices that easily transmits angst and intensity—in other words, it’s perfectly suited to chronicling the heightened emotions and dizzying mood swings of high school. “Yearbook” invites nostalgia, with each carefully crafted melody like a punch to the gut. The opening lyric, “I make it weird. I don’t even have to try,” introduces Ivy as the awkward underdog in his own coming-of-age film. That tone carries throughout the track, with collaborators Instupendo and Harry Teardrop as co-stars. Vocal layering reminiscent of BROCKHAMPTON builds emotional charge as Ivy spirals into bottomless infatuation. Backed by the low crunch of guitars, he feels “wide-eyed, tongue-tied,” then before you know it, he’s “spent the whole summer in your living room.” He sings about trying to recapture the vibrancy of an early love and the frustration of realizing that the colors have faded. It’s the ideal soundtrack for paging through old photos and superlatives, accessing feelings long since forgotten.— Siena Ballotta Garman on August 27, 2020
Lomelda - Hannah Sun
You could say that the best stories are the ones that leave space for the listener. Lomelda’s Hannah Read writes her lyrics in a style that allows you to fill in the details with your own imagination, and it’s one of the Los Angeles-based band’s greatest strengths. “Hannah Sun” is the third single from their new album, Hannah, which is set for a September 4 release date. In some ways, the track’s text feels porous enough to spill water through. You can’t always tell who’s talking, or to whom, or even who all is in the room. But in the gaps left by Read’s ambiguous “you’s” and “I’s” you might find there is a soft and powerful blooming that takes place in your own memory. Suddenly the song could be about you—or really, about anyone who has held somebody, or tried to get files out of an old drive, or “sent [someone] the sun.” Because while the song’s characters are left open to interpretation, the feelings communicated by Read’s uncompetitive vocals and the band’s slow bright build are universal. Nostalgic gratitude, distanced longing, tired determination—these are some of the pieces of humanity that provide the glue of any good story. So it works out well: whatever you need to fill the cracks with today, “Hannah Sun” is always going to end up being a good friend.— Karl Snyder on August 27, 2020
Glasshouse Worldwide - 2001*
Neo-soul collective Glasshouse Worldwide break hiatus to introduce “2001*," a nostalgic love note laced with the bitter back end of a summertime shandy. Jazzy piano tremolos drone beneath a spacey synth while they ponder one simple question: "I just really wanna know what love is about." Despite saying “she took my breath just like asthma,” it’s an undemanding infatuation, mirroring the out-of-body stillness of an endless drive to nowhere. It’s a mellow euphoria, more meditative than manic, as the love “feels like nirvana and you didn’t even try.” “We got the best sunsets,” they say, and you can almost see the pink haze over their native Baton Rouge skyline. "2001*" marks their first single since dropping Altitude in 2019, via BIP Records.— Ysabella Monton on August 26, 2020
Cape Francis - Home
It’s 2020 and by now there is an undeniable Cape Francis sound, a careful simplicity around musical arrangements that allows for big cinematic feeling without ever broaching the realm of dramatic. “Home” is this year’s third single from Kevin Olken Henthorn’s solo project, and it slides easily into place. With the signature finger-picked electric guitar and soft horns lent by The Westerlies, the gentle heartbeat of percussion keeps every element grounded while we, the listeners, are transported to somewhere a little calmer, more reflective of the past and future.
The winds of change are blowing and I’m reminded of the age-old allegory about the two trees weathering a storm, the story that councils us to bend, not break when faced with adversity. "Home" follows a similar idea, acknowledging what can’t be fought and that sometimes it’s best to let yourself be led down the path the universe has chosen for you, regardless if that path is hard and full of unknowns. We’ve all heard it before, it’s about the journey, not the destination, and sometimes that’s how the notion of ‘home’ can be defined as well. Pierced by lyrics like, “Standing out like a lightning rod / still aflame by the burns I’ve got,” it’s important to be mindful that we’re all grappling with our own trauma, and each of us is carrying our own baggage until we get to a place where we can finally put it down.
After many years on the east coast, Cape Francis will become an LA-based project by the beginning of September 2020.— Shasha Léonard on August 26, 2020
ØZWALD - It Was
Teaming with hazy and melancholic harmonies, “It Was” from ØZWALD’s latest LP Head Movies is simultaneously haunting and serene. The subject of the song—if one does exist—is impossible to determine given its enigmatic lyrics, yet, the shadow it casts can’t but help to garner the attention of those who listen.
“It Was” employs limited, but purposeful, instrumentation, ensuring that the most central element of the track is the meditative atmosphere it creates through the resurgence of its lingering chorus. The vocals are delicate and airy, yet seeped with unambiguous urgency—encouraging us to question our initial sonic perceptions and insinuating that what we hear is just the tip of a conceptual iceberg.— Lilly Rothman on August 26, 2020
My Morning Jacket - Beautiful Love (Wasn’t Enough)
After five years’ time, My Morning Jacket has freely given the kin-songs of their album The Waterfall with the release of The Waterfall II. Included in this release is a track called “Beautiful Love (Wasn’t Enough)” which draws on the notion that even when someone gives their all in love, it is not always liable to fulfill in the way that love is often promised to do. Starting off with a romantic and celestial piano solo, the track exemplifies what it feels like to drop into the mystery of love with another person. However, it takes on a new shape once the vocals come in. Things become heavier as the notion of not feeling the same way settles into the bones of the track.— Laney Esper on August 26, 2020