Jelani Aryeh - From These Heights
As we’re continuing the strife to uncover a new “normal,” we can’t help but settle in the uncertainty that these past few years have left us floating within. So much has happened and so much has changed all from behind the confines of the four walls that we call home. For the moments when the sky feels like it's falling and you need someplace to plant your feet, the San Diego-raised artist Jelani Aryeh offers his latest drop, “From These Heights."
Uniquely its own entity, "From These Heights" both separates itself from modern music and sows new roots for the music of the future in a quick 3-minute go. Aryeh reorients early 2000s indie rock to suit our time of need. Featuring existential lyricism and that good ole’ stripped-down garage band sound, this gem channels the energy of music in the past to invoke worldwide change for the future.
Aryeh began crafting this track during the pandemic, at the height of civil unrest, sharing on his Instagram: “I made this song with Alex Craig of Slaters last May...George Floyd had just been murdered, and the riots were just starting to take place. It felt like there was so much chaos + uncertainty in the air and it seemed like everywhere you’d turn there was something threatening your livelihood. It was like everyone was trapped in a box of mayhem with no exit. I know that's still the case for a lot of you and many others around the globe. At the least, I hope this song can ease your feelings and give you somewhere to settle yourself. Even if that’s for 3 minutes.”
The young Black and Filipino artist has been making wide strides in the industry since 2018, with his track "Daunt" catching fire in the hearts and ears of alternative indie lovers. Aryeh is a trailblazing creative, never ceasing to hone his craft or personal growth, both of which evolve with each new release. “From These Heights '' is the third single from his forthcoming debut album I’ve Got Some Living To Do and merely a preview of the young artist’s musical dexterity and effortless ability to transform hearts and minds. See for yourself. Photo by Zamar Velez.— Bianca Brown on May 27, 2021
Soccer Mommy - Wide Open Spaces (The Chicks Cover)
Indie darling Soccer Mommy dropped a cover of The Chicks' "Wide Open Spaces" on May 14. Because of Soccer Mommy's melancholy rock sound, a cover of a country hit from the 90s took me by surprise. The "circle the drain" singer reminds the world that she hails from Nashville and is no stranger to country tunes as she naturally dons her metaphorical cowboy hat and clicks into this country melody. The arrangement is fun and original, and it's strangely refreshing to hear her refined, soft vocal on a song originally sung by country powerhouse—and blueprint—Natalie Maine. According to Instagram, Soccer Mommy recorded this cover a few years ago. Definitely better late than never, and I hope this means we could be getting more nostalgic country covers from the indie queen sometime soon. Photo by Brian Ziff.— Hannah Lupas on May 26, 2021
Ashe - Serial Monogamist
The day she loved him could not have been sunnier. Light felt heavy on her skin, and even heavier on his. Even in the depths of emotion in which she found herself, her mind sauntered towards worlds of separation and distance between the two of them. Why? Was she that self-destructive? Or was her pining for long-term exclusivity with a man so fierce he had to be just right—like a glove or a sock?
“Serial Monogamist” by Ashe is one of those bass and melody-rich tunes fit for countryside serenades in the middle of flower fields and grassy lawns. The only urban thing about the song is the allusion to “checkin’ in at midnight;” whether that is into a hotel with off-hours or with the person she has written about is up for debate, but her sincerity is not. Her vocals soaring high over the production as the pre-chorus rocks and rolls onwards, and her chorus is every bit as calculated as her decision to move on without the drama and do someone right by love. Cheers to Ashe, and here’s to less sneaky links and cheating when and where two people are just trying not to bore each other. Photo by Dana Trippe.— Mustafa Abubaker on May 25, 2021
Flew Away - Fanclubwallet
“Flew Away” is the third of five stunning lo-fi tracks on the debut EP from fanclubwallet, Hurt is Boring. Ottawa-based musician and illustrator Hannah Judge looks back from a place of acceptance on the demise of a relationship, exploring themes of misunderstanding and miscommunication, what-ifs and so-whats, and how our own emotions can take us by surprise. She sings, “I didn’t know that it would make me feel this way seein’ your face online every day,” which is a testament both to the virtual spaces we have largely existed in for the past year and to the challenge of creating distance from our hurt when it always seems to be one tap or scroll away.
Judge’s description of her style as “writing emo shit that doesn’t sound emo” is spot-on. Her vocal style is relatively understated, but her words pack a punch, and both complement the lo-fi instrumentals to give her music an undeniably nostalgic yet poignant bedroom pop sound. The mood is relaxed, but the sound is tight, guitar and bass riffs keeping time with a drumbeat during verses that punch between choruses and bridges backed by the youthful and energetic plinking of a toy piano—a favorite instrument of Judge’s that can be heard peeking out from behind layers of sound throughout the EP. A joyfully chattering crowd can also be heard at times in the background of “Flew Away,” adding a house-party vibe to the track—a nod, perhaps, to social lives past, and a sound we’ll hopefully all be hearing more of sooner rather than later.
Written from her childhood bedroom during the pandemic, which coincided with a Crohn’s disease flareup for Judge (the line “I went to bed and didn’t get out for 10 months” is meant literally in her latest single, “C’mon Be Cool”), the EP is “about taking the good with the bad,” Judge has said. “You can’t really appreciate one without the other.” Not only was the EP written in Judge’s childhood bedroom, but it was also produced by her childhood best friend, producer Michael Watson. The pandemic has allowed many of us to reach back and connect (and/or reckon) with our past selves and past lives and take the good with the bad in what we find there. Judge likes to leave her lyrics up for interpretation, specific enough to allude to a situation, but vague enough to leave room for the listener to find their own meaning within the words. In keeping with this practice, “Flew Away” is sure to offer a little something for everyone. Photo by Ian Filipovic.— Maya Bouvier-Lyons on May 21, 2021
Premiere Coma Culture - Martha
We are delighted to premiere Coma Culture’s beautiful new single “Martha,” prior to the release of their debut album, Camouflage. Coma Culture is the new indie-rock project from Young The Giant’s Eric Cannata and Francois Comtois, along with producer/songwriter Jon O’Brien.
Previous releases found Coma Culture dealing with the complexity and shallowness of modern life, as well as the feel-good, carefree joy that comes from falling in love. Mixed by Yuuki Matthews, “Martha” finds them pushing into complex emotional territory as they candidly navigate the struggles of addiction.
Soft swirling synths and gentle keys establish an unwavering honesty that is present throughout, as ghostly vocals let us know from the start that this is a direct confession to the narrator’s wife, Martha. Droning sounds mimic the repetitive background pull that is dependence, while the narrator reveals “Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat / And I need something in my veins”. The beat intensifies, different elements of percussion set in and a whirlwind of synths come forward as though we’re moving through a maze of old alluring habits and resisting them. Despite that, there is also a felt sense of a glimmer of hope, something that keeps grounding the narrator and it comes in the form of another person, in this case, Martha herself.
On the track, O’Brien said: "'Martha' is a story about waking up and fighting through the haze of addiction—choosing to live selflessly for at least one day and attempt a change for the person you love most. My biological father has spent most of his life in prison and drug addiction has always been a constant battle. The song is based on the premise that there is a fork in the road, a choice is to be made, and the future looks daunting but hopeful."
The optimism mentioned by O’Brien is felt when swelling strings arise, giving us a sense that the right choice will be made and despite the difficulty, the narrator will be able to pull through for the person they love. This stunning instrumental outro ends with the words “I woke for you today, Martha,” hitting us straight in the gut and reminding us of the truly positive ways other people can help shape our lives.James Ramos on May 20, 2021
Annie Blackman - Souvenir
New Jersey's Annie Blackman is no newbie to the world of turning pain into lyrics, but with her latest single "Souvenir," that pain feels less metaphorical and more concrete. As you listen to her calm voice softly sing "Separately / I’m struggling and / standing at the sink / I deserve whatever hurts / I think," it feels like watching yourself experimenting piercing aches, so far removed from the hurt but knowing exactly what it feels like. Perhaps this is the way she paints a picture, through comparing her body to physical objects as she expresses the feel of the touch and how badly it stings. Even the titular "Souvenir" is nothing but the aftershock of the undeniable crash. "Souvenir" is Blackman's second single under the label Father/Daughter Records. Photo by Daniel Dorsa.— Giulia Santana on May 20, 2021
Will Orchard - Smoke Alarm
Opening with a gleaming piano that heightens Will Orchard’s natural sense of magic, “Smoke Alarm” is just one of the several sweetly euphonic tracks on the Boston-based folk artist's latest release, I Reached My Hand Out. Soon diverted from focus, the nearly iridescent piano falls behind a gentle and welcoming acoustic guitar that echoes around Orchard’s contemplative lyrics. The track ruminates on attachment and even obsession with people we don’t actually know, creating preconceived notions that they are not guaranteed to fulfill. Orchard steps back to recognize his role in perpetuating an unachievable fantasy and realizes that our expectations can’t be met if we aren’t able to communicate them. As he describes "the pain of not knowing what to say,” the track resolves into a cathartic instrumental break—the introduction of a mellow drum machine signifies a wistful turning point into self-realized understanding. As the words return, a sense of intimacy washes over the track; the subdued second verse is scattered with delicate swells of piano before building into an outro that is as enchanting as it is emotional. Among the collection of heartfelt tunes presented on the record, “Smoke Alarm” is just a glimpse into the vulnerability and awareness that Will Orchard attains on I Reached My Hand Out. Photo by Tim Ryan.— Jenna Andreozzi on May 19, 2021
Sexy Pigeon - Hold My Hand, Sunshine
True to its name, Sexy Pigeon’s “Hold My Hand, Sunshine” is a feel-good summer sunshine track. Playful barbershop harmonies announce the beginning of the adventure, quickly displaced by some lighthearted ah-la-la-la-la’s. It’s like a setup to a good-natured joke by that one friend who always wears a smile and has a knack for coaxing a grin out of everyone else they meet. Buoyant bass bounces along the track, reminiscent of those little pointers that bob along karaoke tracks, tracking the words as you and your friends are singing your hearts out. Fluttery synth parts of various textures spring up and fade out, as though the song is trying on different hats trying to find one that best fits the vibe of the day. It ultimately closes with a reverb-ed-out shortstop, echoing in the exact way the surface of the water does when you cannonball into a pool on the first 100-degree day in July. Sweet and refreshing, it’s sure to tempt your toes into the water of all the summer pop to come. Photo by Pjotr van Kleef.— Allison Hill on May 18, 2021
Ali Awan - Climb
Born to an immigrant Pakistani father and a first-generation Turkish American mother, Philadelphia-based artist Ali Awan has a unique take on music, informed by his upbringing and passion for expression. His upcoming EP Moon Mode is a collection of stylistically varied songs tied together by a unified emotion. On Moon Mode, Awan takes on a strenuous quest from darkness to light. His latest single “Climb” finds him right in the midst of that journey.
Jangly chords set the stage for an iconic guitar line that plays throughout. Supported by stirring drums and a deep bassline, Awan recounts the uncomfortable and taxing position he finds himself in. However, he is quick to grasp his own agency and capacity in order to get out. Bright samples from collaborator Will Brown (Astronaut Jumpshot) play as Awan slowly starts to move towards greater clarity, singing earnestly, “Dirt up on my knees / Looking kind of crazy / But feeling alright.” He vividly conveys the physical and emotional effort it takes to come out on the other side of a murky ditch.
Awan is generous with his hard-earned wisdom as he shares some advice: “ I wanna let you know / Climb up of all those holes you dive in / Pick every piece back up.” He celebrates his triumph with a flurry of guitars, samples and a shimmering sitar, creating a mesmerizing soundscape that lets us know we can do it too. Moon Mode will be released on June 11th via Born Losers Records. Photo by Don Vincent Ortega.— James Ramos on May 18, 2021
girl in red - Did You Come?
A standout track from girl in red’s debut album if i could make it go quiet, tl. Beginning with hollow, echoey keys and rolling, fast-paced drums, the raw emotion in the music is a slow build that rises alongside the lyrics. Here, Norwegian singer/songwriter girl in red, born Marie Ulven, is irrevocably honest; by emoting lines such as “You’re so fake / It’s all lies / Was she good? / Just what you like? / Did you come? / How many times? / Tell the truth / Wait, never mind,” she captures the vulnerability that comes along with realizing that you’ve just asked a question you don’t really want the answer to. By being so straightforward, Ulven chronicles the disintegration of a relationship and the confusing feelings that follow in a way that everyone can relate to, proving that what is most personal is most universal. Even more impressive, however, is the way she does all of this while reclaiming herself and her power—which is always the best revenge. Photo by Jonathan Kise.— Paige Shannon on May 14, 2021
spill tab - Anybody Else
"Anybody Else" is another unique and masterfully distinct offering from spill tab, the latest in a string of wonderful releases. It’s hard to pin her "sound," yet this feels so clearly her. That is part of the excitement of a spill tab release—not knowing quite where it’ll take you. But there are some familiar puzzle pieces here: a beautiful vocal performance, a chorus that’s both massive and personal, production that’s willing to be adventurous from the very first second, honest and tender songwriting, an explosive finish. And like every song of hers, it packs its devastating punch in but is over in a blink of an eye, and you’ll be left craving more. This one in particular rides alongside our narrator, consumed with passion, as they walk up to the edge of new love. The final chorus, with its raw and vulnerable first few lines over a single guitar. It’s a palpable and relatable uncertainty, but lucky for us, spill tab leans all the way in like The Fool taking the next step off the cliff and into the unknown, just trusting life will catch them. And catch them it does. A bit of feedback bubbles up, cueing the band’s return at full force, with a choir of voices to belt the final lines together. It’s a bold love song and a distinctly spill tab love song. Another gem from the rising pop star. Photo by Jade Sadler.— Max Himelhoch on May 13, 2021