Eric Gabriel - Tara Street
I have a tendency to live in my memories. When I miss someone who’s no longer in my life or I want to relive a really good day, I’ll put myself back in a specific scenario, letting the emotions that I felt then wash over me, taking me out of my current reality. There are certain songs that provoke that same process, even if it doesn’t generate a specific scene, but only the lingering embers of an emotion. “Tara Street” by Eric Gabriel reignites those embers, making you feel less alone in the journey of finding yourself. Sonically, “Tara Street” sounds like a combination of the erratic yet cohesive production choices of The 1975, mixed with the poetic vulnerability of Sufjan Stevens.
The track starts with a very light and airy synth with the hum of background vocals, before Gabriel’s voice comes into play. As the song continues the instrumentation becomes more complex, as saxophone, piano and bass are introduced. His arrangement of synthetic and natural instruments will leave you grasping onto old parts of yourself, as you slowly start to morph into someone new. The chorus lets us in on Gabriel’s inner turmoil surrounding that process, as he sings, “I’m losing my way / With each step that I take / 'Cause I’m following bells and whistles / That fade in the wind, and turn into nothing / Again and again.” As the song progresses the instrumentation heightens, with the addition of new synths, percussion and both electric and acoustic guitar, just as an inner monologue might when you feel off-balance within yourself. Though lyrically he seems to be spinning out, his meticulous choices in both the instrumental arrangement, as well as in his vocal control, create a beautiful contrast. While music allows us to live in our memories, it also provides space for us to simultaneously create new ones. With “Tara Street,” Gabriel succeeds in fostering an environment for that growth to occur.— Sloan Pecchia on October 7, 2020
The Shins - The Great Divide
The intimate lyrics of this single, co-written and produced by The Shins’ James Mercer, Jon Sortland and Yuuki Matthews, are a beautiful reminder of the notion of interconnectedness. “The Great Divide" was released last week via Mercer’s own label Aural Apothecary and Monotone Records.
Your hand in mine / the great divide
A stitch in time / then we recombine
The way it was / well dust to dust
Has led us here to collide
In every experience—especially in love or love’s longing—there seems to me to be an accordioning slide between the sharp freshness of the current moment and the velveted backlit tunnels of nostalgia. A constant reconstitution of memory, experience and hope into something new. Everywhere we’ve been and everyone we’ve shared our lives’ moments with have brought us to each subsequent spring-green point of "present" — an unbreakable link that exists despite, even, “the great divide.”
You’ve set us wandering
So let me ride through the night
Til love is everything
How we define “the great divide” may change from day to day: our communion with nature in the cycle of life and death, loss or separation of a forced or chosen kind, or shades of all of the above. Regardless, what tends to remain in the end, in starkest relief, is the realization of where love was or where it should have been.— Talia Pinzari on October 2, 2020
Wolf & Moon - Eyes Closed
Electro-folk duo Wolf & Moon offer a drawing of love’s attention span through “Eyes Closed,” their latest single. The racing pulse mentioned in the second half of the track is reflected in its very rhythm, aligning the physicality and musicality of a beating heart from its exposition on. Two voices fall in unison, as if to explain the sensation, through a series of focused, affectionate expressions.
The voices of Stefanie and Dennis compliment one another, calling forth the component of love that exists not in the personal body, but in that of another. Repeated lyrical fragments place great significance on small details (“Your mouth is, your mouth is, your cinnamon”). A collage of reflections like these join the listener to their enchantment.— Daphne Ellis on October 2, 2020
Empty Country - Marian
I remember hearing this [Empty Country track] for the first time in an airport on my way to Oslo with the band. We were sitting in a sushi place with all our instruments taking up too much room and I was feeling self-conscious and wrong, so I pretended to read and put this song on. It was a recommendation and usually I’ll listen to a minute or something and be like, "oh yeah love this, thanks so much," but since the first listen, I’ve played it most days. The perfect meandering intro, into that really satisfying guitar line over purposeful strumming, it reminds me of The Shins or Big Star. And the melody is perfect, that chorus is absolute gold. It’s anthemic but it’s sensitive. Whenever I hear a perfect song like this I wonder what it must’ve felt like to finish writing it and realise, "fuck this is good." — Fenne Lily
London-born, Bristol-raised singer/songwriter Fenne Lily is known for crafting symphonic tracks and lyrics that hover with soft urgency. Her sophomore album, BREACH, was released by indie powerhouse Dead Oceans on September 18.— Lilly Rothman on October 1, 2020
Boy Willows - Fila (with Dylan Minnette)
“Fila,” by Boy Willows with Dylan Minnette, is a two part story. Lulling hums intercept a metallic beat to welcome the first half, told by Landon Fleischman (Boy Willows), who vocalizes life’s cyclical nature in perfect contrast to his linear verse-interlude-verse composition. Fleischman experiments within a pool of genres, yet his work sustains an identity defined by welcoming conversations and gentle deliveries.
Minnette’s voice carries out the rest of the story in bright ripples of disguised panic. This is the actor/musician’s first collaboration with Boy Willows, and their voices are so cohesive that you might think they’re one at first listen. He concludes with an echo of Fleischman’s earlier sentiment, “I just feel like I don’t deserve this life.” The overall weightlessness of the track is effectively sympathetic to those competing feelings of attachment and detachment.— Daphne Ellis on October 1, 2020
Justy - Cool
With unassuming confidence, Brooklyn-born Staten Island-raised R&B artist Justy advocates for self-acceptance on the smooth jazz-hop single "Cool." While the production channels golden age hip-hop, Justy's vocals waft smoothly over the beat as she quips, "Money in the air, money in the air / I don't really care, I don't fucking care." She has this way of sounding both laid-back and indulgent in herself with these nonchalant lyrics. They're simple truths I wish I knew when I was eighteen, constantly remolding myself into what I thought people wanted. I'm taken with Justy's choice to sample Eartha Kitt, not in song, but rather in the form of a 1982 interview in which she scoffed at the thought of having to compromise who she is for a man.
Nothing matters, when you really think about it; what time of day is best to post on Instagram, what people will say about my next quarantine hair color (I've been through four already), whether I'm too much of this or not enough of that. "If I gave you the world, no it still wouldn't matter," Justy sings, a reminder that you can't please everyone, and that approval you think you need isn't the answer. Take it from both me and Justy: there's nothing sexier than knowing and loving yourself.
Jesse Kivel - William
As the fresh air of autumn circulates amongst us, so the delicacies of artists like Jesse Kivel circulate softly within and around us. “William” is Kivel’s first released track from what will be his very first solo LP, Infinite Jess, coming out in full on November 13. This track is similar in quality to the work of The War on Drugs in its timeless sound. It is the type of song that evokes the chill of an autumnal bike ride through suburban streets, feeling and fantasizing all the while. Through the ricochet of warm synth, the clearness of Kivel’s voice intones in honesty. Photo by David Kitz.— Laney Esper on October 1, 2020
Perfume Genius - Nothing At All
This [Perfume Genius] record came out during the hottest week of the year for us, in the middle of lockdown, and I was aching to be anywhere other than in my house. It was perfect timing because this whole record and particularly this song transports me. It’s enormous and close at the same time, and that line "I’ve got what you need, son, nothing at all" breaks my heart. I’m probably misinterpreting it, I hope I am, because the way I understand it is painful. — Fenne Lily
Fenne Lily first emerged within the indie spotlight in 2018 after her self-released album On Hold was discovered via online music platforms. Since then, she has amassed over a million monthly listeners on Spotify and toured with indie superstar Lucy Dacus. Photo by Camille Vivier.— Lilly Rothman on September 30, 2020
Fleet Foxes - Sunblind
September 21 welcomed the first day of autumn and a brand new album from the Seattle-based folkies, Fleet Foxes. “Sunblind,” the second cut off of Shore, is a bright and lush eulogy of influences and contemporaries. Throughout the track, frontman Robin Pecknold names off around nineteen artists that have both had an effect on Pecknold’s life and have passed away at a young age. Though the song deals with death, it never comes across as mournful, at least not in a traditional sense. Pecknold vows to carry on the legacy of Elliott Smith, Arthur Russell and a handful of others through his own music, celebrating and honoring by creating music under their influence. Instrumentally, “Sunblind” reflects the same idea, rising to a crescendo under sunny guitars and warm vocals. Fleet Foxes are a great band, and “Sunblind” finds the ensemble squinting to the heavens as they cite some of the sources of their success. Photo by Emily Johnston.— Jonah Minnihan on September 30, 2020
cehryl - Superbloom
There’s a special kind of innocence tied to the tumultuous journey of an immature love. From the spirited beginnings that paint our worlds crimson red all the way through to the disillusioned end, an immature love is often one that we cannot forget. The Hong Kong native cehryl simulates these mercurial highs and lows in her charming release “superbloom.” The lo-fi bedroom pop track is minimal in nature yet speaks volumes of its own in such a short amount of time. Utilizing story-like lyricism to guide the song in a poetic fashion, and a youthful soundscape to maintain a sense of innocence, cehryl unfolds a good-natured love that is not quite yet able to bloom. In the words of the young creative, “['superbloom'] is about the death of immature love.” The song sees itself as the artist’s third 2020 release following "Hide n Seek / Moon Eyes” and a “Together Lonely” remix with Tim Atlas. Although “superbloom” is much shorter than the former tracks, it’s definitely one you’ll find yourself listening to on a loop!— Bianca Brown on September 30, 2020
Shannon Lauren Callihan - Love You Right
Nashville-based R&B/soul singer-songwriter Shannon Lauren Callihan delivers a romantic groove that is sweet and sultry in its proclamations. “Love You Right” is a track that is full of sweet-somethings, one of my favorite lines being, “I don't need no shiny things / Just want the joy your smile brings / It's in the way you look at me.” Reminiscent of the modern sounds of Natalie Prass and Tom Misch, while infusing elements of classic soul, Callihan is an artist you can listen to and satisfy any mood. Smooth vocals mixed alongside funky bass and an air of vinyl crackle creates a sound that could be described as both modern and timeless. A multi-instrumentalist known for her guitar playing, Callihan started releasing singles in 2019 and shows no sign of slowing down. Working with Nashville producer Jude Smith, she is focused on putting out more music and solidifying her place in the world of neo soul. Photo by Sydney Conrad.— Beck on September 30, 2020