Exnations - Love in the Time of Quarantine
Spoiler alert: we’re living in a pandemic. It’s weird. It’s raw. It’s denial with existential dread bubbling underneath, and beyond even that, it's moments of joy that feel absolutely wild in their daring and stolen existence against their reality's backdrop. Brooklyn/Jersey City-based Exnations’s single “Love in the Time of Quarantine” is the glossy, gorgeously produced, retro-pop anthem that this moment in time has birthed.
It kicks off pulsing, with some expansive reverb-y electric guitar reminiscent of The Cure, opening up to its rousing cinema-ready chorus (Jack Antanoff is, I expect, clapping somewhere in NYC, wishing he’d been able to be part of this one). Its lyrics are simple and honest, surprisingly poignant. “We get high, we get low, we got nowhere else to go / When this is all over, I’ll be lyin’ in the grass with you." As someone now gearing up for a shotgun-style elopement rather than a ‘real’ September wedding, “Love in the Time of Quarantine” might as well have been playing behind every one of my partner’s and my hard conversations and glorious nights spent butchering Salsa Dancing 101 on Youtube, terrified, but together. It’ll be hard to find anyone who doesn’t see themselves in this song’s message of hope and shared resiliency, especially in their native New York.Stephanie Lamond on May 27, 2020
Momma - Habitat
In ecology, a habitat is the environment that’s the most compatible with an organism’s specific traits. In other words, it’s the exact place where the same things that make you unique allow you to thrive—just by existing as you are. This sense of finding a home you’re perfectly adapted for is hard to find as a person, and that universal yearning is exactly what "Habitat" by Momma captures. Sonically, "Habitat" could easily find a home nestled in a playlist next to works from an assortment of other artists. The tight vocal harmonies would sit comfortably next to tracks by Girlpool or Hand Habits. The harmonically patient guitar lines, floating between reverb and grunge, would pair well with Chastity Belt. The lyrics are masterfully balanced between whimsical and serious, similar to their label-mates, Current Joys. However, Momma’s talent is their strong skill to weave a multi-faceted narrative. The verses are poetic and confrontational; the chorus is tender and longing. Overall, the song paints a picture that will resonate with anyone feeling small, filled with fire, and slightly out of place everywhere they go. So go ahead, sink your teeth into it while you wait for Momma’s sophomore album, Two of Me, due June 5 via Danger Collective Records.— Allison Hill on May 26, 2020
My Son the Doctor - Fork
Bushwick-based indie rockers My Son the Doctor have released the carefree anthem “Fork,” an upbeat ode to letting loose with your friends via 90s-style grunge rock and dancing like nobody's watching. The cool arrangement is stripped down to its garage-rock essentials but filled with an infectious energy. Tight, muffled drums, low, groovy bass, and shredding electric guitar strike a rebellious tone, imbuing the instrumentation with a loose attitude and giving vocalist Brian Hemmert room to shine. Clear and commanding, his voice is full of the kind of angst and yearning reminiscent of early aughts-era Modest Mouse or Spoon, and his lyrics are just as quippy and memorable: “So you croon your craft / Crack and scream the hits away / And I’ll pretend you’re my best mistake.” Upbeat and pulsing with a contagious energy, “Fork” is catchy and cool, and will make you want to have a solo dance party in your room. The track is only the second release for the quartet and precedes their debut EP Dad Time out at the end of the month.— Britnee Meiser on May 26, 2020
Güero - Waiting
The Sacramento-based indie skate rock quartet, Güero has for several years created fun music, influenced by and best enjoyed in the outdoors. Their most recent release, "Waiting" sets the scene for their upcoming album and encourages you to go back and explore the band's previous projects. This track brings you to a place of comfort and introspection as it builds to an exciting, rather unanticipated bridge—leaving pockets of space with stripped-down instrumentation along the way, which allow you to fill in the blanks with your own thoughts and sentiments. Güero'ssound flows in a very soothing, unceasing manner like the constant crash of a wave or the wind's incessant howling through the trees. This group's love for natural life is reflected in their music in a truly magical way.— Ian Lutz on May 26, 2020
Sketchy Lines - Not Claiming Anything
Sketchy Lines is the moniker of Swedish artist Fredrik Kjellman. Evoking dark, sentimentalist singer-songwriter sounds, similar to Conor Oberst or Death Cab, Kjellman's music is a cohesive mixture of soft, post-punk rock and deep indie-folk. Kjellman's music harkens to the era of emerging folk/pop that amassed popularity for artists like Ben Folds and Sufjan Stevens. Sketchy Lines is still fresh, making music that feels familiar but intimate. His latest single, "Not Claiming Anything," is an easy-listen track about the appreciation of connection. Released on April 30, this song was dropped in the heart of the coronavirus pandemic, making its themes all the more piercing. Kjellman croons about wanting to take every risk for the possibility of new love. "I would spare no expense / I'd be placing a bet." Putting yourself out there, even amidst the social desperation of our time, is still a tall task. Sketchy Lines new single "Not Claiming Anything" is giving you permission to feel afraid of connection even if it's the one thing you're longing for. Listen to "Not Claiming Anything" wherever you stream!— Hannah Lupas on May 26, 2020
Parcels - Overnight (from Hansa Studios, Berlin)
Parcels, the Aussie fivesome known for their disco-pop bangers, recently released Live Vol.1 as a follow up to their 2018 self-titled debut album. Among the classic studio recordings made in Hansa, Berlin is “Overnight," famously cowritten with Daft Punk and carrying the same funky vibes off of the iconic French duo’s Random Access Memories. If you’re familiar with Parcels, you know they have a knack for transporting their listeners back to the groovier days of the ’70s. I wasn’t alive yet, but tracks like “Overnight” feel like the rainbow that bridges the generational gap between us all.
The recent turn of weather is a reminder of the New York City summer looming over our heads, and with quarantine, the uncertainty of what that summer looks like. Before self-isolation, we could rely on the routine of heavy heat like clockwork. Everyone knows some iteration of what I’m talking about; when Friday finally rolls around and the murderous sun has set, you hit play on a track like ”Overnight” and start to get ready. It’s a reminder of late nights spent out with friends, in your best outfits, dancing at halogen lit bars like Mood Ring or Friends and Lovers, skin sticky with the humidity, and the pulse of too many people packed into too small of a room. The bathroom line might be long but the possibility in the air is electric. Under the flashing lights, the silhouettes of your friends are bobbing up and down to the beat. One catches your eye and smiles, teeth glowing blue-white. Another is across the room, leaning over the bar with cash in hand. "Do you want anything?" they mouth over the heads of strangers. There is the laughter of shared inconvenience, of worries saved for another day. It may be hot and loud, but with the right music and the right people, there is a feeling of fullness; a promise of life, playing on repeat.— Shasha Léonard on May 22, 2020
RAC Feat. Luna Shadows - Boomerang
The third studio album from RAC titled BOY is a collection of songs that reflect the innocence of youth while exposing the angst and pain that comes with growing up. André Allen Anjos is the musician and producer behind RAC, which leaves room for a variety of vocalists to feature on his projects. The instant I saw Luna Shadows on the tracklist I knew the song “Boomerang” would become an instant favorite from the album. California alt-pop artist Luna Shadows is known for her ability to pair contrasting subjects and for finding a way to blend light and dark. “Boomerang” does exactly that by referencing all the ways in which we try to stay connected via social media— revealing how they ultimately leave us lonely. The playful way in which she sings, “Everyone who loves you is leaving,” almost has me believing this song is a happy one. The swinging melody and reverberated guitar insist that Juul pods, Instagram DMS and Boomerangs are cool, but the lyrics unveil the bigger picture that they lack any lasting substance. As the song comes to a close I find myself wanting to post a selfie and delete Instagram all at once.— Beck on May 22, 2020
Blake Mills - Window Facing A Window
If it wasn’t blatantly obvious from his previous work, the guitar mastermind and accomplished producer Blake Mills has a way with words, too. Mutable Set, Mills’ newest LP, is an intricately intimate album that sounds gentle but packs a lyrically gut-wrenching punch.
In “Window Facing A Window,” we are moved through an empty house, to a bare garden, then to a lacking bedroom, where Mills traces just where the vivid memories and past meanings from a relationship go. A slight line change in the chorus from “Are you upset?” to the latter “Are you all set?" shows the development—or rather, the deterioration—of a relationship, set to a sparingly played guitar and gentle piano sounds.
Mills’ humble voice makes his lyrics more raw and relatable, allowing him to capture a sound of longing that feels like waking up next to a warm body and knowing that it will be for the last time. All that is left is Mills, crafting poignant sounds in combination with desolate imagery that makes the song sorrowful, yet entirely comfortable. Almost like it was made in a bedroom, “with a bed that isn’t there anymore.”— Elizabeth Shaffer on May 22, 2020
Dirty Nice - My Dead End Self
“My Dead End Self” begins with technological reminiscence. The stillness around me is filled with the recognizable yet abrasive sound of a skipping CD. I am briefly teleported back to my childhood, recalling the countless hours spent playing the same albums on a purple boombox until they too developed that eerie but familiar skip. However, as the song continues, I am jerked from my reverie and tactfully reminded that, for all intents and purposes, CDs are extinct. We live in an age where music is produced, consumed and promoted on the internet, and the band Dirty Nice couldn't be any more aware of this phenomenon.
If the Talking Heads were a product of the late 2010s as opposed to the mid-1970s, they would probably sound just like Dirty Nice.With a sound that pays homage to previous new wave artists through skilled sampling and synthesizing, “My Dead End Self” is hauntingly existential, yet ironically emotive—"All I need in these dead-end times is a place to live my dead-end life." The track and its accompanying music video pulse with an impending sense of doom and engage in a one-way conversation with what seems to be the end of the world. While the track itself is only three and a half minutes, its message is profound and long-lasting, giving you something to think about long after the sound fades into the atmosphere.— Lilly Rothman on May 22, 2020
Little Simz - might bang, might not
On her stunning new EP, Drop 6, Little Simz demonstrates that confinement can be a conduit to creativity. While stuck inside over the last couple of months, she self-produced the collection and released it through her own independent label, Age 101. The first song, though humbly named “might bang, might not,” clearly bangs. Big bass booms and jazzy snares make up the track’s relatively simple but sonically huge production, creating the perfect smoky floor for Simz’s bars to float on top of. Simz stacks witty brag upon witty brag here (my favorite is that she not only “crashed the party,” she “is the party”), but at the end of the day, show is always going to be more important than tell. What she shows is that she’s (still) ready to claim her place in the GOAT conversation. She claims she “ain’t slept good in days,” but with flows that bob like a butterfly, subtle and quick delivery, and a confident sense of humor, maybe she’ll be able to rest more easily if more of us finally acknowledge that she’s one of the most talented rappers alive.— Karl Snyder on May 21, 2020
Ronboy - Wake Up
Los Angeles-based Ronboy brings together a DIY indie energy with highly produced soundscapes. "Wake Up" is the band's first single off of a gorgeous debut EP and it’s a tune that feels like a vision, the kind with half-remembered impossibilities and a hazy feeling that follows you around all day. The song is immaculately crafted, with a carefully built arrangement that draws us in layer by layer until we’re surrendering ourselves to the waves of synths and honey-dipped reverb-y vocals. Julia Laws, lead singer and bandleader, sings with a laid back, expansive sound. Its richness only adds to the general vibe of this track, described by Laws as "nostalgic and dreamy." If this is what dreams were always like we’d never want to wake up.— Mikhal Weiner on May 21, 2020