Halo Kitsch - f l a w l e s s
Summer was almost over, and there wasn’t a lot to do in the city except call up Halo and sit by the waters on the piers and watch the tinier boats and jet skis shoot ripples into the lapis ocean. Cordless phone to my ear, I pulled a couple blinds down with my left index finger as I eyed the sun. It was ready to set. Halo picked up on the third ring. She sounded happy. She had just recorded a song called “f l a w l e s s,” and I picked her up so she could show it to me in person, near the water because she wanted me to hear it with the sound of the waves in the background. Once we parked and settled in on the pier, she started to play the song off her phone.
"f l a w l e s s" is the latest from LA indie-pop singer/songwriter Halo Kitsch. Halo, of course, is not just a homage to Beyoncé’s hit, but the word for the crown that adorns the heads of angels. Kitsch is any art, object, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way. Her song is all about denying her flawlessness and instead embracing her flaws. She makes her subject see her for who she really is. Maybe that’s real love.— Mustafa Abubaker on August 21, 2020
CASTLEBEAT - TI-83
Seeped in technicolor and emerging from a dream, CASTLEBEAT’s latest single “TI-83” perfectly captures the ambiance of this year’s bummer summer. The track’s lo-fi harmonies are gorgeously laced with psychedelic flares, drawing our attention inward and leaving us in a state of submerged tranquility.
“TI-83” miraculously resurfaces the reveries we likely forgot existed sitting in stiff classroom desks, pretending to think about calculus yet undoubtedly fooling no one. The song’s accompanying music video not only enhances its temporal fluidity, but provides an aesthetic picture show that any film buff is sure to appreciate.— Lilly Rothman on August 20, 2020
Slow Pulp - Falling Apart
"Falling Apart" by Slow Pulp is the song equivalent of a weighted blanket, providing warmth and comfort when you need it. Violins and soft vocals surround you, wrapping you up in compassion, understanding and paradoxically major harmonies. You’re not alone. You’re not the only one periodically dissociated on the couch at 4 am, worrying if depression might always be lapping at your feet like a high tide. It takes a lot to resist the comfort of familiarity when you’re feeling so vulnerable, so it’s okay to settle for wrapping up in your hoodie instead of that familiar feeling. Tender melodic whispers coax your thoughts into daylight. Learning how to be compassionate to yourself is hard, and questioning the value of perseverance in something that doesn’t feel rewarding is natural. Self-sabotage is almost a talent, so “why don’t you go back to falling apart?” The implicit answer is “Because it sucked, and I’ve worked so hard to get where I am." It’s not always a satisfying answer, but at least you’re not alone. You’ve got Slow Pulp’s sweet harmonies to keep you company, and—when you can move past having to seem alright—several loving friends too.— Allison Hill on August 20, 2020
Eastern Souvenirs - No One Else
Eastern Souvenirs is spearheaded by singer-songwriter and producer Brian Fisher, who recently brought the project from the West Coast to the East. While their hazy summer sound is heavily nostalgic, inspired largely by the garage and surf rock of the 1960s, “No One Else” is a song about being somewhere new. A lo-fi surf rock love song for the ages, “No One Else” was the first song Fisher wrote after his move from Seattle to Boston last year. The song delves into the flurry of feelings that come with being in a new place, both physically and emotionally, and explores how distant the past can seem when suddenly a new future emerges on the horizon. Remarkably easy listening, Eastern Souvenirs would make a great soundtrack for your next day trip to the beach—windows down, sun shining, waves crashing, and those slow, sweet guitar riffs accompanied by Fisher’s soothing vocals. Eastern Souvenirs has set a virtual record release for their upcoming album Only for a Time set to stream on August 28.— Maya Bouvier-Lyons on August 20, 2020
Tkay Maidza - Don’t Call Again
After an hour or so of drunken, 5 am crying comes unfamiliar relief. “You’re a weed, not a seed,” I decide. Been listening to a lot of Jay Shetty lately. Not my emotional responsibility to coddle someone who thinks therapy isn’t working after one session. “The universe is doing the most for me lately,” I recognize, and bow in gratitude. A girl got some closure, but you know she had to have the last word.
Illustrating the art of letting go, Tkay Maidza’s “Don’t Call Again” radiates that power you feel upon deciding that you’ve had enough. “It’s just about realizing that some situations are just not good for me and letting them go,” she explained, “but not being sorry for doing that anymore.” Having let my own unhealthy relationship go last year, lines like “Out of murky water, I would blossom like lotus / I guess that getting hurt is just a big part of the process” resonate; Maidza finds the seed for growth while making it clear that she’s said, “all I need to say.” Tapping Kari Faux for a forceful verse on the funk-inspired track, she also leaves nothing unsaid: “I’ma keep it a buck with ya, I don't fuck with ya.” The empowering release is the second single from the freshly released Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2, her first record on independent British label 4AD.— Ysabella Monton on August 19, 2020
Helvetia - Echo Location
If you’ve been to a lot of festivals, the first minute of “Echo Location” might sound familiar to you. You’re staking out the perfect spot for your favorite band of the day; you're hot, and your feet are tired. Anyway, you’re standing there, heartbroken because you’ve had to leave your second favorite band’s set fifteen minutes in, and now you can just make out the sound of them, 500 feet away, playing their best song. Meanwhile, back at the stage where your heroes will be in less than an hour, a very bored-looking person comes out and starts playing the drums. They will only ever be known to you as “Soundcheck Guy,” and it goes without saying that they are not much of a performer. Just like the drummer at the beginning of “Echo Location," they play the same simple drum beat over, and over, and over. There is nothing like the awkward, lonely, pre-anticipatory feeling of watching a soundcheck happen.
Or so I thought until I heard the first minute of “Echo Location.” Helvetia is the now-Portland-based project of Jason Albertini. The group creates the kind of unpretentious experimental indie rock music that doesn’t seem to seek answers, and the beginning of this track from their new album This Devastating Map feels like the instrumental version of asking yourself a rhetorical question. Eventually though, the percussive inertia gives way to something stranger. Just over two minutes in, the guitar disintegrates into a series of acquiescent squeals, like a balloon very slowly losing air, or a jaded banshee ready for retirement. By this point in the track, you’ve almost certainly accepted that it’s instrumentals only, so when the vocals come in with a minute remaining, that is pretty disorienting too. Albertini’s vocal intonation has the same satisfying and self-aware smirk of a late 90s Isaac Brock. And as he sings cryptic, surprising things like, “This ambulance has echo location,” your mind turns again to "Soundcheck Guy." Maybe he's a performer after all; maybe there is beauty in the wait itself.— Karl Snyder on August 19, 2020
sweater boy - i think i lost a friend
Nashville-based artist sweater boy tells the relatable tale of combating loneliness and not allowing yourself to fall into the cycle of a comfortable, yet toxic relationship on his latest release "i think i lost a friend." He sings lyrics that cut straight to the truth, “don’t know who I am / or how to let go / I think I should have said / I’d rather be dead than be alone. “i think i lost a friend” comes off of sweater boy’s (aka David Moran’s) debut EP, aptly titled i’d rather be dead than be alone. Co-produced by Moran and collaborator DËAN, this track is filled out by layered guitars and purposeful samples that create an indie-pop sound reminiscent of fellow Nashville-based band, COIN. Moran perfectly captures the vibe of this song when he says, “The lyrics, specifically, feel anthemic to me, switching from introspection to outrospection every verse and chorus. It plays well with the nostalgic, teenage, coming-of-age sunset movie scene that I constantly find myself chasing with every song.”— Beck on August 19, 2020
Runnner - New Sublet
Runnner, the sometimes-solo-sometimes-collaborative project of Noah Weinman, is back with his third release of 2020. “New Sublet” has the band’s characteristic lo-fi slacker-folk vibe, but this time it’s met with strumming reminiscent of early 2000s Coldplay, meets the folk sensibilities of Caamp, with the croon of solemn horns. Melancholy and candid, the song describes an experience all too familiar to many 20-somethings: something in your life ends, whether it’s a relationship or a job, and it sparks a desire to browse new apartments in faraway cities—aching for the chance to begin again. But what happens when running away starts to become a habit? Does a fresh start ever truly fix what is in need of repair? Throughout the track, Weinman tries to talk himself out of craving a dive into the unfamiliar. Over a soft banjo melody, Weinman sings, “you’re just getting addicted to starting all over again.” After all, “New Sublet” reminds us that no matter where you go, you take yourself with you.— Heddy Edwards on August 18, 2020
cehryl - Moon Eyes
Bedroom soul artist cehryl sings on the innocent side of unrequited love on “Moon Eyes,” channeling the effortless sincerity of jazz standards of yore. “It’s about being abandoned, left to wonder,” she explains, “specifically, to wonder with a childlike optimistic naivety.” “Darling, you don't have to be so kind / To travel down all for my surprise / Darling, I'm covering my eyes / So I don't see you've gone a long, long, long time" she sings, melancholy longing lurking under her cheerful scatting. Those first few times you notice someone pulling away, it’s easier to tune out, feigning innocence to hold onto the slim chance of hope that they may return. cehryl returned to her native Hong Kong after her tours with Jeremy Zucker and Cavetown were put on indefinite hold due to Covid-19. Despite her worry that her roots in the music and arts community there weren’t as strong, she collaborated with Jonny Ho to craft a quirky video with snapshots of Hong Kong amidst the pandemic’s second wave.
you’ll pluck the glasses from my face
to polish them without asking
we’ll put our own drinks down and wordlessly
pick up each others’ to try
i often substitute candy
for meals and these days, i find myself
choosing gummy bears more and more
when we kissed goodbye you said,
“i’ll see you around”
i’ve slept diagonally ever since.— Ysabella Monton on August 18, 2020
Dent May - Easier Said Than Done
In anticipation of Dent May's forthcoming record Late Checkout due out 8/21 via Carpark Records, the Los Angeles based pop master released his second single from the album, "Easier Said Than Done." Very much in Dent May fashion, he has constructed another groovy tune with an unforgettable melody, one you can't help but bop along to. Dent is joined by Andres Renteria (Weyes Blood) on percussion and Joachim Polack (Pearl & The Oysters) on keys. The music draws on Latin influences while Dent croons a simplistic tale of finding love after a long time coming. "It's easier said than done to fall in love / but finally it's happening to me." As the song comes to an end we recommend getting swept away in Dent May's funkadelic synth-pop breakdown. Keep your eyes peeled for more coming from Dent later this month!— Sophia Theofanos on August 18, 2020
Blvck Hippie - Bunkbed
“Bunkbed," the recent track by self-described, “sad boy indie rock band from Memphis, Tennessee,” Blvck Hippie showcases the powerful combination of bold lead guitar and impassioned vocals. Front person Josh Shaw opens the song by ripping a guitar lick, which weaves together seamlessly with the bass. Shaw’s lead line is an ever-present force throughout the song, matching the emotive energy of the vocal and adding depth. Shaw’s mastery of expression through his instrument is on full display at the end of the bridge, where he repeats the phrase, “god I hate being alone.” The solo that he plays underneath those lines perfectly matches the sentiment and magnifies the emotional potency for that cathartic section of the song.
In addition to his guitar chops, Shaw shows off his impressive lyrically skill, machinating on dualities and dichotomies for much of the song. In the second verse, Shaw poignantly juxtaposes vodka and perfume—indicators of adulthood—with a twin-sized bed and a teddy bear—representations of the innocence of childhood. During the coda he shines a spotlight on the two-sided nature of any relationship or breakup, asking, “are you better off than I was?” Even the title refers to an object with an inherent paradox; a bunkbed provides connection and isolation simultaneously.
“Bunkbed” is the first release of several singles recorded in one 10 hour session at Sun Studio in Memphis.— Emerson Obus on August 17, 2020