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Haley Blais - On a Weekend
Haley Blais - On a Weekend

Haley Blais - On a Weekend

Pressing into a dual-toned reflection of solitude, Haley Blais croons over effervescent sun-showers of synth on her new single "On a Weekend." With her drifting, alluring sound, Blais gives her voice to the delicate, yet matter-of-fact sentiment of “holding [her] own hand on a weekend." While the track’s origins were born out of the hearth of social anxiety, it has taken on a new meaning as we are asked to only clasp the hands attached to our own bodies. While isolation has its disadvantages, it also acts as a breeding ground to take yourself to the movies, to hold your own hand, and to nourish your own soul. Photo by Lindsay Elliott

Laney Esper on July 23, 2020
Joya Mooi - Bitter Parts

Joya Mooi - Bitter Parts

Joya Mooi can’t stop creating. Fresh off her album The Ease of Others released last September, Mooi delivers her second single of the year, "Bitter Parts." A beautiful new offering, a song that moves with urgency. Moments of insight and stunning lyricism dot the path to and from the chorus. One that shows Mooi reckoning with herself, facing the truths she might have been avoiding before. The verses spotlight moments where that reckoning proves necessary. Articulated more explicitly in the video, this self-reflection becomes an endless pursuit—looking in the mirror, finding strength in her vulnerability. The production is fantastic. A deep synth-bass provides a growling foundation, while the drums give it a harsh, relentless feel. It’s all tied together by Mooi’s vocals—with a calming warmth, she makes this tough introspection feel so easy. The bridge is a standout moment, the swirling synths and gentle harmonies working perfectly together to prove Mooi’s mastery. Infinitely repeatable, this dark but dreamy tune just feels good.

Max Himelhoch on July 22, 2020
ekay - Vacant

ekay - Vacant

Leaning into a time of disarray, Dubai-based neo-soul artist ekay has crafted a transcendental realm in her latest release, “Vacant." Before quarantine went into full effect, ekay traveled to LA and stayed for several months—during which the track was crafted. Describing “Vacant” as “what I wish I heard someone say during quarantine,” she ruminates in the unfamiliarity, seeking a muse, someone to “show me something true.” Conserving our collective sanity are "temporary highs," which "keep contradicting conditioned minds"—as circumstances have forced us to face the fallacy of present societal structure. The expectation to constantly be creating in this "free time" despite our anxiety is not lost on us, but ekay challenges that notion; "Production on maybe / Delays on save me," she worries, before resolving, "I mean, I should sleep." On the song, she says, "During this time where change is inevitable, I wanted to help find lightness in the new normal." "Vacant" finds peace in the tension between restlessness and inspiration drawn from accepting that you're lost in the here and now.

Ysabella Monton on July 22, 2020
St. South - RED

St. South - RED

Our minds have the ability to run rampant, to think about hundreds of different things in the amount of time it takes to open a bottle of water, take a sip, and put the cap back on. St. South encapsulates this sensation in her song “RED.” Starting with what sounds like someone taking a drink of water, the songwriter, singer, and producer delves into her inner monologue. Her airy vocals accompany synths that sound like the musical equivalent of skipping rocks on a river. This is in direct juxtaposition to sharp percussion and lyrics that detail the reasons she no longer wants to be with her partner. While at times it sounds like St. South could be singing directly to this person, upon closer inspection it sounds as though “RED” is a reminder to herself that she deserves better. The repetition of the line, “I’ve got things to do / Things to do today,” affirms that. Whether she uses it as a mantra for self-discipline or as a casual reminder to push through the hurt she may be feeling, it leaves the listener to reflect on their own priorities. As someone whose brain is always racing at a hundred miles a minute, I found comfort in St. South’s ability to conceptualize the feeling that accompanies knowing that your relationship is unhealthy and your priorities are not aligned. Photo by Liam Gillie

Sloan Pecchia on July 22, 2020
Cape Francis - Just Because

Cape Francis - Just Because

In many ways, 2020 has beckoned us to take personal responsibility for our actions; to be brutally honest with ourselves and others, as well as understand that we must change our lifestyles to protect our neighbors from sickness, injustice, and ignorance—even when this ignorance resides within ourselves. In this way, one of the latest tracks from Cape Francis (solo project of Kevin Olken Henthorn) is a sign of the times. “Just because I looked in a mirror / Don’t make my life appear any clearer / I’m sick of blaming everything else on everyone / So I can pretend it ain’t my bad.” Filled with poignant lyrics and pensive strumming recognizable from Henthorn’s 2019 album Deep Water, “Just Because” reminds us that we must shine a light on ourselves; not only to more clearly see the effects of our words and actions on those around us, but to banish old habits and complacency, and start anew. It brings to mind a mantra I jotted down at the beginning of quarantine:

& i die

a thousand little deaths

each day, so that

tomorrow, i might

be born again.

Heddy Edwards on July 22, 2020
Dinah Is- Thinking Backwards

Dinah Is- Thinking Backwards

If you’re looking for a summer fling anthem to live through vicariously, "Thinking Backwards" is the song for you. Lyrically, Dinah Is effortlessly charms with her wit, tossing in lines that tickle your inner English major with playful imagery. A particular favorite of mine: “Weird voices are onto me; they follow me like they’ve lost their key." Alongside sparkly layered synths and compelling rhythms, the track chronicles thrills and chills of flirting with that cute person you’ve kind of got a crush on. Kick drums bring you into the groove, imitating the feeling of your heart leaping up into your throat and pulsing in your ears. Stacked harmonies and effects add a sense of cinematic augmented reality—letting you sink into the rom-com fantasy we’ve all wanted to live in sometimes. Overall, "Thinking Backwards" feels like walking home drunk from a party with someone you really like, swept over with bliss, and harmonies ringing in your ears over the fact that they like you too.

Allison Hill on July 21, 2020
Aunty Social - Thinking about Thinking about Thinking

Aunty Social - Thinking about Thinking about Thinking

Bath House

I found a bath house nested on the peak of a mountains back
and all that was asked:
to untie my corset of abandonment 
and surrender it to the eye

Crosslegged I sat, watching seasoned hands
swim above the sponge towards the rusted steel wool
For this was no ordinary forgiveness
and I was of no simple repair

I begged instead,
can she pick the guilt from beneath my nails 
and trim the unkempt shame hiding my eyes

she scrubbed thy skin of
romantic sin until
my bodies hue blushed rouge

Then looked away
as my vertebrae's sang
the sweet confessional tune

Warmth spilled from shoulder 
to toe like children's red striped pajamas
and for a sweet instant, I felt
I glittered in the sun

Daniela Gitto on July 21, 2020
Holly Humberstone - Overkill

Holly Humberstone - Overkill

On “Overkill," Holly Humberstone is preparing to do something brave. Maybe you’ve had to be brave before too, so you’re probably familiar with how it works. Once you realize you can do it—the brave thing—time starts moving more quickly. You can’t backpedal; you’ll do the thing, or you won’t. For a while, each thought feels like a drop in a bucket that will eventually overflow.

That realization is exactly where we find Humberstone at the beginning of the song. She’s almost ready to spill big, unwieldy feelings to her partner, and she is afraid they will come across as too much—as overkill. But throughout the track, she shows us that she has a lot of things going for her. Like some of her indie-pop elders—Tegan & Sara, Empress Of, Robyn—Humberstone beautifully harnesses the power of stark simplicity in her lyrics. “You don’t have to say it back / I just want to know where your head’s at,” she tells herself in a frosty alto, and you can feel a waterfall of subtext fill every crevice. As the song goes on, the lyrical tone shifts gradually from restrained deliberation to decisive declaration, and the music follows. The musical climax—an immaculate syncopated drum hit at 2:20—is the sound of that final drop in the bucket; and the electronic swirl of twinkling stars that emerges in the track’s final minute is what tells us—and Humberstone—that tonight's the night.

Karl Snyder on July 21, 2020
H.E.R. - I Can’t Breathe

H.E.R. - I Can’t Breathe

The Black Lives Matter movement didn’t start in 2020, but this year is ushering in an era ripe for new protest music. “I Can’t Breathe” by H.E.R. could very well be the definitive anthem against racial profiling and police brutality. The title, which has since become a slogan often used in protest messaging, references the last words of multiple victims of murder at the hands of police, starting with Eric Garner and most recently and famously by George Floyd. This song is meant to be listened to actively, with no distractions, so as to fully absorb the message, of which every word is important. Gabriella Wilson, the artist known professionally as H.E.R., sings clearly and with a careful pacing, likely intentional for the sake of communicating the lyrics most effectively. With an emotional, pleading tone in her voice, she delivers a straightforward gut punch: “I can’t breathe / You’re taking my life from me / I can’t breathe / Will anyone fight for me?” A slam poetry-style rap section tackles multiple aspects of the complicated issue of racial injustice in America, from systemic oppression to white privilege. “Be thankful we are God-fearing because we do not seek revenge; we seek justice,” the poet cries, with equal parts heart-wrenching fervor and activist authority. “I Can’t Breathe” is the message we all need to hear right now.

Karyna Micaela on July 20, 2020
Secret American - Here Comes a Man

Secret American - Here Comes a Man

The newest single from bi-coastal-based Secret American, “Here Comes a Man,” seems to float along an island breeze. A mournful trumpet opening preludes heartbeat-style drums that whisk you inside an indie romance film—one where you happen to be sipping a piña colada on the beach while locking eyes with your summertime love-at-first-sight. Lead vocalist Derek Krzywicki offers us rose-colored vision into this meet-cute in the opening line, softly singing in the vein of an Americana Alex Turner, “Hello, I’ve seen your face before, I don’t recall your name / You’re looking at me too long through a glass of champagne.” But before we know it, he has craned his neck to notice his love-interest’s sub-par boyfriend and the song transforms from an ode to instant attraction into a declaration of daring confidence: “Is he making you happy, doesn’t look like he can." As the protagonist walks up to them, he grunts both musically and memorably, and announces his own presence with “Here comes a man.” It brings to mind the otherworldly recognition that comes with meeting the eyes of our future love, and smirking as we approach them—knowing we’re about to shatter their world in the best way possible:

how curious, as

you glide on cumulus

clouds, instantly

i realize—i’ve climbed

all of the mountains

contained in the galaxies

swirling inside 

your eye’s azure iris;

nine, ten lifetimes

before. now, if only

this time, you could 

tell me

your name?

Heddy Edwards on July 20, 2020
Jónsi - Swill

Jónsi - Swill

“Swill,” one of the latest singles from Icelandic born singer and multi-instrumentalist Jónsi, is a bombastic and towering piece that feels both simultaneously familiar and foreign. Opening with a stark A.G. Cook produced mix of drums and horns, “Swill” sounds more like a new track from Cook collaborator Charli XCX than new content from the Sigur Rós frontman. However, once the rest of the instrumental settles in and Jónsi's wispy falsetto begins to deliver, familiar themes from the singer’s work begin to show. Lyrically, Jónsi is coming to terms with mistakes made in the past, “You say I did something wrong yesterday / You're right, of course, I'm making a fool of myself (In every way).” Though the almost bubblegum pop instrumental teeters on the edge of feeling out of place, there is still a billowing, orchestral vein running through it that tethers it to the singer. If the track does anything, it’s a sign that Jónsi is not only back, but he is again pushing the sonic boundaries in the most familiar way.

Jonah Minnihan on July 20, 2020