Grace Ludmila - Hollow
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing Grace Ludmila perform live, then you know that she is a force to be reckoned with onstage—full of motion and emotion, and musically creating something unique and authentic that comes straight from the heart. Having described performance as “the ultimate catharsis,” Ludmila puts her whole self into her music, raw and real from start to finish. This is especially true of her latest single release, “Hollow,” which is heavy on guitar and packed with gut-wrenching lyrics. Ludmila is an expert in metaphor, and she sings a series of them as a means of expressing the dissonance between expectation and reality. She is “not a dream,” but “sleep paralysis;" she is “not soft, not smooth like porcelain” but “a fleshy mass of skin that you pick off when you can’t stand to see it again.” The rhythm and structure of the song reflect this dissonance as Ludmila makes her own rules, often adding onto these metaphors beyond where the ear expects them to end. “Hollow” is a proud admission of imperfection, a refusal to live life according to others’ ideals, and, ultimately, an expression of self-love and self-respect.
Ludmila’s influences range from the singer-songwriter scene in Austin, TX, where she began her music career and released an EP at age 12, to the punk artists she discovered later and her time in New York, where she is currently based. She also does a “Say My Name” cover that will make your jaw drop. Ludmila is currently working on her debut full-length album.— Maya Bouvier-Lyons on June 26, 2020
Joy Oladokun - Who Do I Turn To?
In “Who Do I Turn To?,” Joy Oladokun takes deep-rooted pain and pushes it to the surface, creating a poignant tune with only her voice alongside a piano. However, it’s not a simple song at all—hearing her meditate on repeated, unanswered questions is like hearing an echo in an empty home, only finding security in the fact that you are present, yet completely alone.
“I’m tired of turning on the news / And wondering why it happened again,” she sings, expressing her exhaustion. In a society where systemic racism is only now becoming prevalent for the comfortable majority, Oladokun asks her listeners: “Tell me who’s gonna make it right / When the good ones are to blame.” Her words are not masked by any intense instrumentation, but rather come fully exposed: “If I can’t turn to God / And I can’t turn to you / Who do I turn to?” A portion of her publishing royalties will be going to Launchpad Nashville, a shelter that LGBTQ youth can turn to in times of need.— Elizabeth Shaffer on June 25, 2020
Freddie - Weak
Just as a poured pail of cold water shocks the body, pale and wintry daylight wakes Genevieve from what is hardly a good night's sleep. Every breath she takes in the morning is slow and light. The song "Weak" by Freddie starts to materialize and piece itself together within the fractal a.m. mood. It's a warm dark here, something Genevieve daydreams about. Awake, she doesn't immediately jump into her life. She's content on her back, counting the number of cycles the ceiling fan completes, eyeing the birds chirping outside her window.
I don't see her again until I'm expected to have children. Dragged to a wedding by my brother, knowing, perhaps secretly hoping I may see her. The off-chance I run into her grasps my conscience, causing me to lose sleep. It couldn't have happened any smoother. I'm at the open bar, attempting to drown the night in warm liquor, and my eyes fall on hers, heart pounding like a fucking EDM rave.
Of course, she walks over, and you guessed it. She's doing excellent. She never used to say that word. I look at her thoroughly now, trying to find something. She's changed her hair up, she talks just a little faster, her nail polish glitters, and she's seen this airy, light persona through and stuck with it. She must feel like she's floating, I think. But, to me, she's still the same. I know it when we lock eyes from across the room, at different tables. I know it when I spot a single, silent tear roll down her cheek as she claps. I know it when she pulls me to her when the lights are off, catches me at the door, tells me how the song "Weak" by Freddie makes so much sense it hurts, asks what I'm doing tomorrow, forecasts the gloriously warm and sunny weather, dreams of a day spent outdoors sauntering down city sidewalks, scratches the itch I hold inside of my palm that is hardly different from the love I hold inside of my heart.— Mustafa Abubaker on June 25, 2020
pronoun – Song Number 1.5
Women are incredible. One should never be surprised at their feats, so please hide your shock when you learn that pronoun is a one-woman band, the musical project of Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Alyse Vellturo. In past releases, pronoun has exemplified tight melodies measured by fast rhythm, and it has worked incredibly well. For her latest release, “Song Number 1.5,” however, pronoun slows and strips things down slightly. As always with pronoun, there are many layers of complementary sound at play, though here the result is a bit mellower, her voice a bit lower. The soft guitar loops throughout as vocals, percussion, and synth come and go, and a seemingly distant voice chimes in with an echoing “Babe, you are love,” a line which both begins and ends the song.
On “Song Number 1.5,” Vellturo sings of missing, of longing, of dreaming of doing all of the things so many young lovers and city dwellers fantasize about doing, even if we know deep down that they are—at least for now—a fantasy. “We could have a couple kids / I could quit my job by June / We could move out to the suburbs / Maybe we would have some more room.” Released on her own label, Sleep Well Records, the song shows an added depth to the spectrum of emotions pronoun is willing and able to tackle in her songwriting. We hope to hear more from pronoun soon, but in the meantime, her full-length album i’ll show you stronger (Rhyme and Reason Records, 2019) is more than worth a listen.
Photo credit: Bella Peterson— Maya Bouvier-Lyons on June 25, 2020
Becca Mancari - Lonely Boy
Mancari delivers the perfect track for the summer, clocking just under two-and-a-half minutes; a decadent and triumphant pop song, which wouldn't be out of place if it were featured on the soundtrack to a beloved teen drama from the aughts. She takes her lonely subject on an upbeat ride, trying to figure them out.
Getting a lonely person to contemplate their loneliness would normally seem like a daunting task, but Mancari goes easy on them as she spends the majority of the song gently asking "Are you a lonely boy?" Mancari is intent on driving the question into her subject's mind, to the point where they're unable to avoid figuring out why they're always a loner—but they get a bit of a pass because this "lonely boy" still tries.
Becca Mancari's first album since 2017, The Greatest Part, will be released on June 26 via Captured Tracks.— Taylor Hodgkins on June 25, 2020
Yves Tumor – Gospel for a New Century
The staggering genius of Sean Bowie emerges immediately upon pressing play on their fourth album as Yves Tumor, which opens with “Gospel for a New Century.” Tumor’s own brand of brilliance survives in their own mystique, which shapeshifts in kaleidoscopic, sonic morsels that fleetingly reveal themselves through flashing emotional windows—into which Tumor allows us to momentarily gaze. “Gospel for a New Century” unfolds with a vintage horn sample that sounds freshly plucked from a James Brown or Edwin Starr song, soon supplemented by a full chorus of brasswinds fit for a 1970s spy-noir film score. By the time the bassline and Tumor’s vocals kick in, we’d be tempted to enlist the song as a masterwork in psychedelic, anthemic rock—but this is where we’d be wrong. Often the best art shocks and shakes us in unquantifiable ways, without grasping at labels or ticking genre boxes, and this is exactly how Tumor’s opus pierces our senses. In neon orchestral flares we can discern a host of influences from Prince and Lenny Kravitz to MGMT; yet, this recognition leaves us as rapidly as it arrived. Tumor’s “Gospel” is a roaring rhapsody of experimental funk-rock distortion, layered so finely we could spend ages dissecting it—but by the time we do, Tumor will have already entered another unexplored aural landscape.— Heddy Edwards on June 24, 2020
Arca - Time
The quiet inside of me could never match the stillness
outside, even on nights like tonight, when the world
stops and offers me a chance to unwind.
Of all the things I carried home
and secrets left behind,
there lives one in the neon chrome
waiting for her right time.
Alone with you, the truth comes soon,
exposed in afterglow.
I'll save it for the perfect moon —
when it's my time, I'll know.— Amy Lima on June 24, 2020
Tayla Parx – Dance Alone
A bassline groove sets the scene for Tayla Parx’s high-pitched glossy vocals to steal the show in this sparkly, nostalgic number as she sings of not wanting to “Dance Alone.” We’ve all been there—the night is nearing its inevitable end, but we’re not quite ready to go home. We want to keep on dancing (just not alone), and we’ll do anything to keep the party going “until the lights come on.” Whether you hear this as a metaphor for clinging to a doomed relationship, or a literal ode to and reluctance to leave the dancefloor, this single by Tayla Parx, in all its glitter and glory, will definitely keep you dancing for at least one more song.
Even if you have yet to listen to her debut full-length album We Need To Talk (2019), you’ve heard elements of her sound and style on some of the most popular songs of the last few years. From Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” and “7 rings,” to Khalid and Normani’s “Love Lies,” to Panic! At The Disco’s“High Hopes,” to Troye Sivan’s latest release, “Take Yourself Home,” Parx has infiltrated the charts with her poignant melodic and lyrical contributions. These songs all share a polished pop sound, and it is clear in the genre-bending and infectious track “Dance Alone” that Parx sets the same high standards for her own work as a solo artist.— Maya Bouvier-Lyons on June 24, 2020
Deb Never and Kenny Beats - Stone Cold
Backed by a groovy, amble bassline, Deb Never and Kenny Beats craft an intriguing ode to WWE fighter Stone Cold Steve Austin with “Stone Cold.” Simultaneously paying homage while breaking down the concept of toxic masculinity, Deb Never sings lyrics like “Slamming bodies left and right / Just to prove a point / That he’s the strongest man alive / But a lonely boy, yeah” in a cool, detached, and nonchalant manner. Though the man she’s comparing to Steve Austin wants to be perceived as being tough and unbreakable, it’s obvious that she sees right through his delicately crafted facade. He is emotionally distant and unreachable as she repeats “Can you pick up? / Can you hear me? / Can you make up your mind?” Though his tough-guy persona obviously bothers her, you can’t help but believe that she has it all under control. Her charisma is contagious and undeniable on this nostalgic, slow burner of a track. Listen to “Stone Cold” wherever you stream.— Paige Shannon on June 24, 2020
Dua Saleh - umbrellar
Dua Saleh’s "umbrellar" only gives us a few seconds before the storm sweeps us away. Once the first verse pours in, the energy of the arpeggiating synth is frantic, making our whole body vibrate with anticipation. And soon it’s here—when the beat comes in, the song morphs into a hurricane with a full force gale. That’s the point, in a way, that dizzying, hectic, heart-pounding feeling that is hard-core attraction. “Last pint from that last night / I don't know if that was real,” their vocals call out echoey over a pounding beat and a world of synths. It’s a party, and we’re melting into the intoxication. Suddenly the spell breaks, a moment of quiet, twisted vocals give us long enough to gasp for breath before diving headfirst back into the fantasy. “I swear I'm superstitious / 'Bout her sex appeal,” says Saleh even as they lose themselves again in the delirium.— Mikhal Weiner on June 23, 2020
Banoffee - One Night Stand
“One Night Stand” is a pop-anthem expression of how guilty pleasures become creature comfort. The track is off of Australian-born artist and producer Banoffee’s debut album Look at Us Now Dad, which features the likes of Empress Of and cupcakKe alongside production credits from Yves Rothman and SOPHIE. Rooted in the brutally honest confession of her unhealthy behavior, the chorus sings as an outright admission, “You should have been a one night stand / but now you’re a habit.” I’ve often found myself in this same addictive cycle and reflect on the feeling in my poem below:
tic-tac bottles —
Goodwill sweaters —
filth that feels
good.— Beck on June 23, 2020