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Emmett Kai - Tiger Balm
Emmett Kai - Tiger Balm

Emmett Kai - Tiger Balm


Full of vibrant instrumentals and crisp, cool production, “Tiger Balm”  is the edgy new alt-rock single from indie-pop artist Emmett Kai. A worthy follow-up to his 2019 debut, Baby Hits!, the track showcases some of his boldest, brightest songwriting to date, and is the perfect song to listen to when you need to get out of your head. Lush with nostalgic guitar tones, shimmering synths, and Kai’s smooth, smoky vocals, the arrangement feels grand and all-encompassing, like you’re listening live on a cool summer night surrounded by a couple hundred of your closest friends. That’s due in large part to the tight, full percussion, which injects the track with a thrashing, pulsing energy, making it nearly impossible to listen to without dancing. With a contagious hook and an upbeat tempo, “Tiger Balm” is expansive and experimental, and its unique brand of moody pop is a fitting escape from the world right now.

Britnee Meiser on March 26, 2020
Moses Sumney - Cut Me

Moses Sumney - Cut Me


“Isolation comes from ‘insula’ which means island.” So begins part one of Moses Sumney's græ, a two-part album which the artist describes as “a conceptual patchwork about grayness.” On a cold and wet Wednesday in New York amid a worldwide pandemic, that grayness feels uncannily prescient. “Cut Me” explores the forces beyond our control that hold us captive (and close). Hauntingly clear vocals cut through the silence, “Masochistic kisses / Are how I thrive." The horn section delivers us to the chorus, where Sumney doesn’t shy away from his message. “Might not be healthy for me but I need what cuts me, cuts me, cuts me, cut me, cut me, cut me,” he sings over droning synths. His radical acceptance awakens something spiritual within us all.

Corinne Osnos on March 25, 2020
Pip Millett - Deeper Dark

Pip Millett - Deeper Dark


Pip Millett isn’t the first artist to sing about uncertainty surrounding a romantic relationship. Love and the difficulties that come with it are well-trafficked topics in music, particularly in the realm of soul and R&B—two genres whose lineage Pip’s sound is clearly rooted in. Despite this, a cursory listen to “Deeper Dark” will show that craftsmanship and immense talent can make any topic sound unique. “Deeper Dark” finds the artist exploring the feelings of finding yourself locked in a relationship seemingly out of nowhere. While most would approach this topic with a sense of wonder and bliss, Pip comes across as borderline forlorn at the prospect of losing her relative freedom, sullenly proclaiming “I don’t want to be in love, not yet / I don’t have all of my stuff, not yet.” The instrumentation is sparse, with the only accompaniment being slowly plucked acoustic guitar and occasional background harmonies. This gives Pip the appropriately blank slate to display her immense vocal capabilities; her anguish and uncertainty are palpable as she crescendos to an emotional climax on the final chorus. The song ends suddenly—perhaps mimicking the uncertain conclusion of the relationship in question—but the emotion of her performance will linger long after the last chord has faded.

Alec Bollard on March 25, 2020
Nap Eyes - Mystery Calling

Nap Eyes - Mystery Calling


“Mystery Calling,” the third single from Nap Eyes forthcoming album, Snapshot of a Beginner, is shrouded in uncertainty and littered with the kinds of questions that fill your mind during those insular bouts of insecurity. Amongst deliberate, haunting guitar riffs, front person Nigel Chapman ponders how “mundane routines” can distract from gaining new and unique experiences—what he refers to as the “mystery.” The outside world and the unknown can be scary, and Chapman’s distinctive croon remains steady and inviting, as he contemplates whether to step out of his comfort zone. The song’s sedated and relaxed vibe is reflected in its brisk guitar tones, soothing rhythm section, and soft drums. Whether intentional or not, "Mystery Calling" is certainly prescient with respect to the current state of the world during this global pandemic. There’s a mystery outside that Chapman speaks to, and though avoiding it may be the only choice, the final refrain symbolizes how he hopes it’s still there on the outside: “please don’t give up on me; Give up on me. I won’t give up on you.” Snapshots of a Beginner is out on March 27 via Jagjaguwar.

Tom Gallo on March 24, 2020
Magdalena Bay - Airplane

Magdalena Bay - Airplane


When I listened to “Airplane” earlier this week, I instinctively knew it belonged on my Tokyo Drift playlist. It’s a playlist that tries to capture the feeling of passing something (or in the case of “Airplane,” someone) by, from 30,000 feet above. It’s full of ambient pop tracks where the narrative plays out in your brain like a game of Sims. Magdalena Bay is the moniker of singer/songwriter Mica Tenenbaum and producer/songwriter Matthew Lewin. The pair met in high school and have been musical collaborators ever since. “Airplane” describes the feeling of ascending at someone else’s expense; the growing pains in a relationship when you realize you aren’t as compatible as you first believed (hoped). Magdalena Bay bottles up the feeling of coming into your own, alone. Similar to Robyn’s Dancing On My Own,” it’s a cathartic blend of electropop that depending on your mood, makes you want to dance or cry (or both). The mood shifts halfway through the song, as excitement outpaces anxiety for the first time (epiphany!). The pace of the chorus quickens, mirroring the emotional shift playing out lyrically. “You know I'm fine alone (But I'm feeling alright!) You know I'm taking off on my own, oh / (I guess I've never been an optimist before) And when I feel the wind / I won't look back no more.”

Corinne Osnos on March 24, 2020
Hala - Emotional R&B

Hala - Emotional R&B


There are certain styles of guitar playing that are indelibly linked with a specific form of Americana; when you turn on a song and are immediately greeted by jangly, laid back acoustic chords, you can almost conjure the feeling of the sun beaming on your face as you’re relaxing. That feeling is at the heart of the new track "Emotional R&B" by Detroit singer-songwriter Hala. The song is a lighthearted rumination on the early excitement and uncertainty that a relationship can bring with it—an uncertainty that Hala confronts with a devil-may-care attitude, responding to his own feelings of confusion and ambiguity by crooning  “I ain’t complaining / Emotional R&B’s got me singing / All of these words to you.” As a multi-instrumentalist, Hala performs every instrument heard on the song; while this particular brand of musical self-sufficiency can sometimes lead to overproduced or unnecessarily showy fare, Hala adds layers of instruments and melodies without ever leaning into maximalism. The bright guitars and smooth, understated drums provide a suitable canvas for Hala to express his complicated emotions over, and the result is a sun-kissed ode to indefinite futures and living in the moment.

Alec Bollard on March 24, 2020
Kathleen - The Longest Year

Kathleen - The Longest Year


Kathleen’s “The Longest Year” is a gorgeous single fit for trying times. A calm intro seduces, warm chords gently sway and gain some pace as the bass joins, chugging away underneath. All the while, Kathleen’s unquestionably stunning vocals are on full display—intimate, confident. An acoustic guitar joins the arrangement, suddenly adding even more urgency while Kathleen pushes on. A palpable swell of passion and energy forming just below the surface. The first taste of the chorus teases a harp, swirling yet withholding. Fed by the continued momentum, the tension builds until it’s all but unavoidable. It culminates in an absolutely flooring moment. Kathleen belting the chorus over an astonishing wave of sound. A moment full of such earnest drama and emotion. Yet, when it all falls away, the vocals land with even more power. Kathleen’s ability to live so fully between these intimate and expansive moments is one of a kind. The production gets the spotlight in the bridge, as filtered vocals sing of a dream but sound of a nightmare. As it resolves, Kathleen pleas for change and lets the listener consider it all. An exceptional and thoughtful artist, she delivers a timely and timeless anthem to pull you through anything.

Max Himelhoch on March 23, 2020
Brother Moses - Bathroom Floor

Brother Moses - Bathroom Floor


Brother Moses’ “Bathroom Floor” expresses a direct “I’m over this” mentality. It is sincere, acknowledging the truths about a failed relationship, yet done in a nonchalant manner: “This is not a confrontation / This is me just calling your bluff.” The four-piece indie rock band from Arkansas has a way of connecting to the masses, while never giving too much away: “So you wanted to meet up / First time we spoke in months / I faked it like a regular person / I tolerated you at coffee.” This song, along with others like “Older” or “Sandwich Bags” from their first album released in 2016, make you feel as if you’re the one being sung to while being taught valuable lessons about life. The track suggests being truthful to yourself and what you’ve been through: “I kind of let you push me over / It felt a little too familiar / At once what pushes me away / And pulls me in.” The lessons change but the relatability stays consistent. If you are going through a difficult breakup, the band’s newest album Desperation Pop will put you in the mood to tear up and come to terms.

Bailee Penski on March 23, 2020
Elizabeth Woolf - Goodbye Old Friend

Elizabeth Woolf - Goodbye Old Friend


Sometimes a goodbye feels great; sometimes it just feels awful. But a real goodbye with someone you had a deep relationship with is bound to feel more complicated, more in-between. On “Goodbye Old Friend,” the first single from Elizabeth Woolf’s upcoming debut album, she explores one of these more nuanced kinds of goodbye. On paper, the lyrics tell us that this parting of ways is for the best and was probably even a long time coming; but from the beginning a melancholic tinge in the guitar whispers shades of disappointment nonetheless. Woolf’s smooth, smoky vocals and joyful vocal runs, which quickly evoke the setting of a jazz lounge, add to the dramatic arc of the track as well. While at the start she seems to have completely acquiesced to the whims of the universe as she sings, “Time is slipping from our fingers this time,” by the end of the song every instrument, including her voice, is bursting with bold agency, as we witness her claim this goodbye as what it really is: a self-empowered and hopeful choice. And you get the feeling it might lead to something better down the road.

Karl Snyder on March 23, 2020
Dizzy - Sunflower

Dizzy - Sunflower


In the “About” section on their Facebook page, the Canadian band Dizzy declares: “We write sad dream pop.” While their latest single, “Sunflower,” is literally about dreaming, it sounds more like a savory-sweet escape from reality than a tearful tragedy. Swathed in amber rays of late afternoon sun, the delightfully nostalgic track conjures flashes of those deliciously restless teenage years. Katie Munshaw’s lulling vocals paired with Alex Spencer’s ethereal guitar parts recall late 90s-era female-fronted indie-pop bands such as Sixpence None the Richer and The Corrs. Charlie Spencer’s synth work keeps the production feeling modern while maintaining the “dream pop” genre. “Sunflower” pairs well with writing in one’s diary and longing for social contact with peers.

Karyna Micaela on March 20, 2020
Allie X feat. Mitski - Susie Save Your Love

Allie X feat. Mitski - Susie Save Your Love


We all know a Susie: The friend with the toxic boyfriend you wish you could just shake and let them know they deserve better. Canadian songstress Allie X describes this exact sentiment on her new song “Susie Save Your Love." The track features an elusive songwriting credit and vocal from Mitski, who has been on a break from releasing and touring music since 2018. The swaying vocals and 80s synth undertones bring to life a story that cuts close to those who have watched someone they love stay in an unhappy relationship when they have people all around them that truly love them. X continues to be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community as this song works as a personal narrative of loving a woman, whether that be as a friend or something more. The song comes off of X’s latest album release Cape God. She is currently working on rescheduling her North American tour.

Megan Beck on March 20, 2020

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