Kelly Lee Owens - L.I.N.E.
“L.I.N.E.,” one of the latest offerings from Welsh electronic musician Kelly Lee Owens, finds her battling feelings of love, independence and her own memories of past relationships. Though the track adopts a more traditional pop structure, the experimental nature that Owens has become known for still shines through. The familiar drums and loops accompany Owens as she molds the track into a loop of its own, taking on an almost meditative feel as she recites the titular, “Love is not enough.” As the song progresses it feels as if the artist is attempting to remind herself of toxic, restrictive relationships of the past. Relationships that mean to keep her, and everything that makes her, in line. The recurring synths and cyclical structure of the track all work towards Owens reminding herself that “that’s what you get for wearing your heart on your sleeve.” “L.I.N.E.” is part of Owens' sophomore album, Inner Song, which is out now via Smalltown Supersound. Photo by Kim Hiorthøy.— Jonah Minnihan on September 10, 2020
Ruth B. - Dirty Nikes
Ruth B. rehashes old heartache on “Dirty Nikes,” a melancholy R&B single that longs for what once was. It’s a special sort of longing to be homesick for a person, and Ruth B. captures it beautifully, reminiscing on late night talks, aimless drives and promises made in the quiet spaces in between. Minimalist in its production, the track focuses on highlighting her haunting vocals, for which she initially went viral on Vine. “It makes me sick that I'm still singing 'bout you,” she whines; no matter how long it’s been, sometimes all it takes is one pair of dirty Nikes to know that you’ll never fully forget.
taco bell is taking shredded chicken
off the menu and it’s got me thinking
about the backseat of your car
at 4 am, first kisses and ghost stories;
about white orchids dipped in gold,
stepped-on toes slow dancing;
about allen stone and chamomile tea,
about strep bacteria festering in a twin-sized bed.
i wonder if a new girl, some pretty blonde
sits across the table, eating the tomatoes from your salad.
— Ysabella Monton on September 9, 2020
Divino Niño - Made Up My Mind
Divino Niño sure can whip up a tune. The Chicago, Illinois indie rockers' latest, “Made Up My Mind,” is John Cusack with a boombox outside your window. A heartbroken ballad pleading for a second chance at love and life. Though the track stays stylistically close to home for the band, the addition of a small brass section featuring Sen Morimoto and Whitney’s Will Miller brings a new depth instrumentally that has you hearing something new with each listen. Lyrically, the song takes on a lovesick feel as the singer serenades, “I made up my mind (forever wanna be by your side) / I just had to give life a chance / To come and show me what it could be / If I messed up fucked up everything we got.” Is this a topic we have heard before? Yes. But will we get sick of Divino Niño songs about this? Probably not. Their bilingual approach, swirling synths and infectious harmonies create an instant feeling of warmth and nostalgia that lets the listener place themselves within every track, and “Made Up My Mind” is no different. Photo by Alexa Viscius.— Jonah Minnihan on September 9, 2020
Nao & Lianne La Havas - Woman
Alternative R&B goddesses, Nao and Lianne La Havas, have teamed up to bring us empowering energy in the form of the insanely groovy single, “Woman.” This is Nao’s first release since her 2019 Grammy nomination for Saturn, and unsurprisingly, she delivers some heat. From the jump, we’re met with funk guitar interplay, a solid beat, sultry bass and unstoppable vocals from this powerhouse duo. Both contribute sweet, sweet harmonies and cascading, smooth dual vocals that speak to the strength of women and the power of self-confidence. “If God is Woman, then on Sunday I’ma worship us,” sings La Havas on the second verse, while Nao follows with, “Take my mirror out the bag and fill it with confidence." These women know that their resilience will only build up their strength. In a tweet, Nao mentions, “This is a song Lianne and I are so happy to put out. I believe this is the start of a new dawn where being a woman - esp a woman of colour - can & should be celebrated. This is our time! We all deserve to be celebrated.” Through their music, and this tune specifically, Nao and La Havas carve out a special place for their voices in the conversation surrounding the empowerment of women, and it’s safe to say this is just the beginning for them.— Deanna DiLandro on September 9, 2020
Lightning Dust - Material Life
There is a certain wildness and movement in “Material Life” that could awaken dusty bones. The eclectic release by indie-rock duo Lightning Dust, comprised of Amber Webber and Josh Wells, is a commentary on the need for more. There is always this desire in us for something deeper, something more valuable to dig into, giving us the feeling that we cannot and will not belong, that perhaps there is more for us that we have not yet been greeted by. The track begins with a steadiness, and at its midpoint slows down to say, “I’m in a world I don’t belong,” creating relevance within itself to the nature of being.— Laney Esper on September 9, 2020
Angel Olsen - (New Love) Cassette
Angel Olsen’s “(New Love) Cassette” is a gorgeous rumination on the feelings one experiences when starting a new relationship. Her haunting, emotive vocals, drenched in reverb, convey longing in the midst of limerence. “I’m gonna show you love all of the time / Gonna be your breath when you’re out of life / Love / Free / Take / Me,” she sings earnestly. The simple arrangement—the version on the album Whole New Mess is stripped back guitar/voice vs. the lush, full version featured on 2019’s All Mirrors—is striking and heartbreakingly honest. This song is the perfect balance of bittersweet and nostalgic—a tune for anyone missing the dreamy and unraveling emotions that come with falling in love with someone new. Listen wherever you stream. Photo by Kylie Coutts.— Paige Shannon on September 8, 2020
Anjimile - Baby No More
Boston-based singer-songwriter Anjimile reckons with ways their demons have caused hurt to a lover on “Baby No More," a modernized bossa nova tune more harmoniously balanced than the relationship itself. "Scary / What I done and might do," they open, a fragile moment of self-awareness, yet inability to stop themselves from doing more damage. Referring to themselves as "King Heartbreaker," their lightly rasped vocals send a simple message, the only fitting end for a doomed relationship: "I can’t be your baby no more."
For the greater part of 2019, I found myself in the thick of it. Drinking heavily more nights than not and equally as addicted to an emotionally abusive relationship, my sense of self was all but torn to shreds. Much like Anjimile, "I quite literally felt like I was losing my mind, vis-à-vis alcoholism," though it was my close friends whom I hurt the most. While the fresh, upbeat nature of "Baby No More" contrasts some of the darker lyrics, for me, the levity mimics the relief that comes with detaching yourself where you need to; it's that second of clarity, seeking help and coming out better for it. Anjimile's debut record Giver Taker, which will delve further into mental health struggles and coming out as transgender, is due out September 18 via Father/Daughter Records.
Alice Boman - Wake Me Up
After debuting her beautiful and heartbreaking album Dream On in January, Alice Boman is now back with a new single. And like her album debut, her latest track "Wake Me Up" balances light and darkness by contrasting a glowing, ethereal serenity against a deep and dark restlessness. The track builds on repetition: each time she sings “wake me up” she brings you in deeper and deeper into her dream/nightmare. Her heavenly voice is lifted by atmospheric synths that echo some of her Swedish dream-pop compatriots like Anna von Hausswolff or El Perro del Mar. “Tell me it’s a bad dream,” she sings over and over as if trying to comfort herself, “everything will be alright”—but will it? We are left somewhere in between solace and fear. "Wake Me Up" is a mesmerizing track with a beautiful simplicity. It’s hard not to contextualize all new music coming out this summer with our current global predicament but this particular song seems to resonate louder, wishing it’s all just one bad dream we can just wake up from. Photo by Märta Thisner.— Alejandro Veciana on September 8, 2020
Will Butler - Close My Eyes
Arcade Fire’s Will Butler has released the second single off his upcoming solo record, Generations. “Close My Eyes” grapples with the pain and hopelessness that fuel desire for a revolution. This soul-inspired, synth-y cruiser may sound lively, but Butler is shedding some warm lamplight on the reality of racism and collective trauma, and insinuates his need to stay in the backseat as a white male. The line “I’ve got to dance to keep from crying,” nails this sentiment. The chorus is a much needed release, with stacked harmonies to match the upswing.
Butler’s jangly ballad digs into some Motown and also nods at early 2000’s indie-pop. These inspirations, as we know, generate a heart-swell that Butler knew was important to lend—leaving the listener feeling heavy with the reminder of today’s realities, but also appreciative of what we have to get us through. The rest of Generations drops on September 25, where more of these themes are sure to emerge. Photo by Will Butler.— Alex Stills on September 8, 2020
girl in red - rue
girl in red's new single "rue" is a haunting, emotional track, obviously inspired by the HBO show Euphoria both sonically and lyrically. From the start, the pounding drums and reverb-drenched instrumentals recall the dark nights and neon dreamscapes depicted in the series. The lyrics describe a relationship in which her mental health issues have made things hard on her partner, taking a toll on the relationship—similar to the dynamic between Rue and Jules shown in Euphoria. She describes crippling depression in the lines, "I hate the way my brain is wired / Can't trust my mind, it's such a liar / Believe me when I say / I can't carry the weight." Despite her struggles, though, it becomes obvious throughout the song that she wants desperately to save the relationship, repeating "I will make it work" in the bridge like a mantra, almost as if her saying it enough times will make it come true. "rue" is an emotionally impactful, atmospheric track with a booming, catchy chorus that will not be leaving your mind anytime soon. Listen to "rue" wherever you stream. Photo by Isak Jenssen.— Paige Shannon on September 4, 2020
Lupin - May
Ahead of the release of his first solo project under the name of Lupin, Hippo Campus's vocalist and guitarist Jake Luppen presents track "May". The single is a delightfully chaotic introduction to him as Lupin, even for the fans who were already used to him as Jake. An honest reflection on his relationship at the time, May's lyrics might remind you of the feeling of the passage of time this year: "It lasted longer than you had expected / (Oh May) But shorter than I thought it'd be." The daze of the energetic beat or the heightened vocals only corroborates the idea of ever-so-reluctantly letting go of a connection with someone. While his writing on Hippo Campus had the mixed energy of a crew of artists, Lupin's self titled debut album is set to be a deeper dive into him as a whole—his story, his ups and downs, his most profound fears, the mark he is leaving in the world. The album's release is set for October 9.— Giulia Santana on September 4, 2020