Hazel English - FIve and Dime
Hazel English steps outside for a breath of fresh air on "Five and Dime," the latest single from the Oakland-based Australian crooner. Confessing her need for space, English couldn't be blunter: "I was running free 'til you called me up...Gotta get away / 'Cause you're taking up all of my time." Bright vocals animate the track's shoegaze essence with a neo-psychedelic nostalgia. The idea for the song came from a trip she took to Oakland to find space from an increasingly hectic LA. English explains, "'Five and Dime’ is actually an old slang term for the area code 510 which covers the East Bay, so I thought it would be a fun way to refer to the place that once used to be my home.” As we brace ourselves through uncertain times, the story of this breezy track is a glint of sunshine for us social distancers who might be finding our own metaphorical "five and dime" to escape to. "Five and Dime" is the latest of singles from her debut album Wake UP!, released on April 24 via Marathon/Polyvinyl.— Ysabella Monton on May 21, 2020
Similar Kind - Maria
"Maria,” the new single from indie-pop band Similar Kind, successfully captures the enchanting yet endlessly frustrating emotional cocktail associated with deep infatuation. The band, originally formed in Norwalk, CT, released their debut EP Faces & Places last year. “Maria” is the first single to be released from their follow-up project. The song introduces itself with a few sustained synth chords and draws you in with an inviting palm-muted guitar lick. Singer Julia Breen’s hypnotic vocal first appears about 40 seconds in with the rhetorical question, “Maria, why can’t I breathe without ya?” and from that moment on the listener is fully enveloped into the track’s swirling world of desire. Billowing around the vocal is a dreamy instrumental haze that continues to build and morph throughout the song with flourishes from the keyboard, guitar and bass. "Maria" is grounded by a funky drum line that seems to effortlessly drive the music forward while leaving plenty of space for the other instruments to breathe. As the track progresses, the groove seeps into your body, and if you’re not careful you’ll find yourself dancing unabashedly around your bedroom before it ends.— Mikhal Weiner on May 18, 2020
Dan Croll - Work
Dan Croll’s latest drop Grand Plan is a quick six-track project, including the captivating song “Work." Subdued electronics and keys lead us into the British musician’s dreamy voice, which sings “Been a long day, been a long week / I can tell you’re tired from the way that you speak." The hi-fi collection of sounds accompanying his vocals is cool and calm, a perfect relaxer for the subject this track is addressing. Carefully crafted combinations of keys, strings and percussion seamlessly weave their way in and out of the soundscape as he sings, “Come and rest your head on the fine silk sheet." "Work" feels as silky as the sheet that he’s singing about, and the subtle complexities and changes throughout build a sense of calm optimism that will have us all asking, “Hey, do you have to go to work today?”— Ben Burke on May 18, 2020
Jordana - I'll Take It Boring
Leave it to bedroom pop artist Jordana to write a relatable song about social anxiety while we're all social distancing. The 19-year-old dives into why sometimes simplicity may be the best thing on her latest single, "I'll Take It Boring." The lo-fi song shares the story of an experience Jordana had at a Halloween party in 2017. She sets the scene and immediately expresses that she regrets her decision to go out, describing the party as a "fever dream." The bittersweet track induces both joy and social anxiety with its breathy vocals, snappy basslines and brooding synths. Her inner introvert truly shines through in lyrics like, "Should've stayed at home I would rather be asleep / I could write a poem, maybe read a magazine / Maybe all of this is exactly what it seems / I am in a movie and the scene is a catastrophe."
Simen Mitlid - Birds
On his new single “Birds," from the upcoming album of the same name, Norwegian singer-songwriter Simen Mitlid expertly guides you through a maze of self-reflection. Memories of friendship, family, doubt and loss are bound together by the consistent sense of longing, both for connection and meaning. The acoustic riff that repeats throughout most of the track, grounds the song as it seamlessly shifts from scene to scene, bringing a sense of cohesion to the vignettes flashing through the narrator’s mind. The additional guitar, flutes, harmonized vocals and eventual drums flow around the repeated guitar line to shape the atmosphere of the song. Mitlid's soft and haunting vocal, reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens, ensnares and transports you. The song closes with the repeated line “it’s something for the future," adeptly summing up the four-minute journey you have just undergone, down into deep introspection and back out again into cautious hope.— Emerson Obus on May 15, 2020
Pantayo - V V V (They Lie)
The all-women, Filipinx band Pantayo is coming at us strong with the third single off of their self-titled album, "V V V (They Lie)." This track is a power mantra; an iron hymn that begins muttered under the breath and finishes in a scream of fury. This is the song you blast on repeat when you need to pump yourself up. If I had to fight someone, this is the track I would play as I take the gloves off.
While most people seem to fear confrontation more than death itself nowadays, this song stares it straight in the face without blinking. “They lie they will never tell the truth” is repeated over and over as a reminder that you can’t change other people’s bad behavior, but you sure as hell can rise above it. In lieu of a marked evolution, "V V V (They Lie)" stays the course with a steady beat that shoulders the bullshit aside and plows on, unwavering. What do you do when someone insists on lying because they know when it comes to the truth, “it ain’t cute?" You roll your eyes and keep on walking, folks. Karma will take care of the rest.
Pantayo marries kulintang and other traditional instruments from Southeast Asia with modern synth and lo-fi beats to create a genre of their very own. Each of the 3 singles off the album have been very different from each other, and the full album as a whole is only more versatile and exciting. Check out the full record, via Telephone Explosion Records, today wherever you stream.— Shasha Léonard on May 15, 2020
Ester - Not the Kind
Ester’s “Not the Kind” is an unflinchingly honest song about seeing what’s right in front of you. “I’m not the kind that you’re thinking of…I’m not the kind that you’re dreaming of;” a series of clauses set the scene. Chicago band Ester’s lyrics are clear and concise. There are no double meanings to untangle or complex production to hide behind. They lay it all on the line. Heartbreak, rejection, conflicting notions of how and what to be in this world; Ester channels that emotion on Turn Around, their refreshingly introspective sophomore album. “You’re not the way to the mountaintop / Hate to say I’ve climbed enough...I’m not the kind that survives that stuff.” Insecurity can be empowering if it lets you move on. If you love Lucius and The Wild Reeds, you’ll probably like Ester too.— Corinne Osnos on May 15, 2020
Francesca Blanchard - Happy For You
A warm, wandering guitar leads to Francesca Blanchard’s carefully parsed confessions on "Happy For You," from the singer and songwriter’s upcoming record, Make It Better. That same warmth ignites Blanchard’s white hot unease, born from conflicting feelings about the dissolution of a relationship, as the track treads emotionally wrought territory with a deft sense of purpose. These two words feel swiftly different—a quiet, tempered anger and ambivalent, cheerful instrumental stylings—but cumulatively, these choices illuminate the dynamics at the heart of the circumstance. Blanchard is both intuitively and musically aware of this conflict, and says the song recounts “trying to salvage the remaining pieces of a broken relationship while making as little noise as possible. It's a submission to grief, and there is something so fragile in that.”— Emma Bowers on May 14, 2020
Ela Minus - they told us it was hard, but they were wrong
Ela Minus’s new release, "they told us it was hard, but they were wrong" is an otherworldly escapade into a dancey multiverse of sound. She wastes no time getting under our skin with a persistent beat and a layered vocal echoing over it’s pitched-down mirror image. One can imagine Minus staring into the looking glass, a conjurer spinning planetary magic around her. Ambient sounds swirl around her as she speaks a simple truth: “Everyone told us it’s hard but they were wrong. When you love, you love it all, and nothing is impossible.” The layers grow in energy and complexity, a tapestry of synths swelling and stuttering over a four on the floor kick drum that won’t quit. It’s a tripped out victory dance and an explosive ode to love.— Mikhal Weiner on May 14, 2020
Hala - Somehow
“Somehow,” a standout track from Hala’s Red Herring, is the pure distillation of only the best parts of the rock and roll ethos. It is sunglasses-and-leather-jacket cool, with none of the pretense. Singer-songwriter Ian Ruhala, who plays essentially every instrument on the album, plays the part of your friendly neighborhood Julian Casablancas, delivering a perfectly crafted pop song with a simplicity that feels effortless. Artists like Stef Chura and Anna Burch (for whom Ruhala played guitar on tour), among many others, set a high bar for Detroit’s vibrant indie rock community, but it is a community Hala slides into nicely. Though he retreated to the woods of Washington to record the album, he now broadcasts his Mid-Day Show sporting a sweater and his dulcet voice from his Detroit home, giving guitar lessons and music production tips from a safe distance. In the song’s music video, Ruhala and his ragtag bowling team narrowly defeat the bigger, meaner favorites, but even after all of the bad blood he reaches out to offer a handshake over a game well played. Ruhala is an underdog poised to break out, the hero of whatever story we need.— Daniel Shanker on May 14, 2020
Elah Hale - ITPA
Relationships can be challenging, we know this. A partnership could have a pair of fantastic communicators, and somehow the whole thing can still unravel. Elah Hale, singer/songwriter, model & native New Yorker, at only 20-years-old, has her own story of disconnect to tell on the track “ITPA,” short for “in the party alone.” Apparently, after getting into it with a significant other, Hale went to a party to clear her mind. During the party, she came to certain realizations about the relationship. “You only miss me when you’re by yourself, I’m losing patience,” Hale sings with her tender, silky vocal, sharing a storyline that so many young lovers face. Hale’s cadence is fixed with a sense assurance that might confirm her desire to find a healthier affair. Despite it’s melancholic message, the smooth, alt-pop track is melodic magic that sounds like it could fit right into any party playlist. The beat is churning, steady and provides proper space for atmospheric textures and Hale’s vocal to be the track’s driving force. “I don’t know myself, I just can’t do it,” she sings. Hale’s honesty and lush confidence will get her to where she needs to be, and it’s likely a path that will be her own.— Deanna DiLandro on May 14, 2020