Lionel Boy - Flower Girl
Pastels on a clothesline swaying in the wind, pregnant clouds of smoke, the subtle glow of the moon and Georgia O'Keefe imagery; the visual cues in the “Flower Girl” music video do an excellent job of capturing the intended vibe, one imbued with melodic bass lines and spacey synthesizers. “Flower Girl” is the latest release from Hawaiian artist Lionel Boy in the new year, following his debut Who Is Dovey EP. “It’s about watching someone close to you become who they’re meant to be...it feels a lot like watching a flower blossom,” the Long Beach resident said of his inspiration for the song. The song fades out with the sound of a girl belly-laughing, saying the words “go again.” It’s a great ending for a song that’s as mellow and honeyed as an early spring Sunday, without tasting saccharine. Photo by Casey Liu.— Corinne Osnos on March 12, 2021
Julien Baker - Relative Fiction
Cascading in with a robust bassline and sweet, summoning keys, Julien Baker’s “Relative Fiction” is the type of song that begs for a night drive, and leaves you feeling like you’ve been lucky enough to taste a fraction of the human experience in a few short minutes. Baker has the gift of stowing delicate ruminations on God, our own choices and the consequences of them in all-emotive, weather-filled arrangements. Throughout the track, she makes mention of instances wherein help is offered, but it is not what she needs: “I don’t need a savior, I need you to take me home / I don’t need your love, I need you to leave me alone." While much of the verbiage seems to fasten itself to religious concepts, the desire to be taken home and to be left alone accounts for the experience of so many, who want help but choose to grip only to themselves. “Relative Fiction” is a track from Julien Baker’s first full-band album, Little Oblivions, released on February 26. Photo by Alyssa Gafkjen.— Laney Esper on March 11, 2021
Francis, & Her Fawn - Eyes & Ears
“Eyes & Ears,” the lead single off of Chicago-based ambient-folk artist Francis, & Her Fawn's debut album, I Wrote You A Letter Today, is a catchy folk tune full of confidence and introspection. From the start, a crisp guitar pulls listeners in with a skittish riff and acts as a guide throughout the track as it slides amidst singer Dillon Pfau’s warm vocals. The track finds its legs once the assertive drums kick in after the second verse, bringing the once bare instrumental to a vibrant melody that floats along as Pfau hazily sings, “Don’t need any of it / Fuck the feeling of it,” begging for a blank slate as conflicting thoughts cloud his mind. However, as quickly as the ambiance builds, it once again fades away, leaving only a now-familiar looping guitar and soon enough, silence for self-reflection. Photo provided by Tiny House Records.— Jonah Minnihan on March 11, 2021
Charlie Hickey - Two Haunted Houses
Opening with a wave of ambient crowd noise, “Two Haunted Houses” from Charlie Hickey’s gorgeous debut EP Count The Stairs sonically expresses what it feels like to be truly alone, even when you’re surrounded by people—stream of consciousness thoughts about life, love and loss included. Produced, mixed and engineered by Marshall Vore, known for frequently collaborating with Phoebe Bridgers, the song is strikingly intimate. When you’re listening to it, it feels like you’re in the room with Hickey singing to you, spilling his secrets. The lyrics are made up of poignant vignettes and sepia-toned memories strung together with an emotional throughline. By pulling from seemingly everyday observations and conversations, Hickey manages to make the mundane feel earth-shattering. Verses like “Once I let your cat out of your house / But only for a little while / It’s gonna be funny in ten years / In fact you can already crack a smile about it” build up to a chorus that leaves us wondering if loving someone really means losing ourselves in them. The peak moment of the song, though, comes in the last verse when he sings, “And when I’m pretty sure I’m dying / Promise you won’t leave my bedside / It’s just a symptom of being alive / Sometimes I need reminding.” We all do. Listen to “Two Haunted Houses” wherever you stream. Photo by Olof Grind.— Paige Shannon on March 10, 2021
Beharie - Worry
“Worry” is the first single from Norway-based artist Beharie's upcoming sophomore EP, due later this year. Although this is a break-up song, you probably wouldn’t get that from a first listen. This genre-bending tune feels cheerful and fun, as it shifts smoothly between R&B, soul and a bit of indie pop.
An arpeggiated guitar plays gently before a groovy beat and lively vocals kick in, making it feel like a windows-down type of song. However, upon listening closely, it is evident that Beharie sings about a moment most of us have gone through, when it finally settles in that we’ve actually broken up with someone who was very special to us. In the verses, he invokes the heaviness of loneliness and the strangeness of navigating who we are as individuals once a relationship ends.
The instrumentals slow down and build beautifully between sections, echoing the uncertainty and the “two steps forward, one step back” process of getting over someone. This culminates in the chorus where a deeper understanding arises as Beharie sings optimistically, “Don’t worry child / It soon will end / We’ll be alright.” Beharie is firm in reminding us that the key to growth is to face your heartache head-on, leaving us hopeful that everything will be ok in the end. Photo by Malin Longva.— James Ramos on March 10, 2021
Derek Ted - W h i s p e r S
“W h i s p e r S,” the latest offering from Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Derek Ted, is an introspective and vulnerable emo-folk tune that finds comfort in self-examination. Leading with a strong, cyclical guitar and a wandering bass that serve as a guide for Ted as he recites the haunting opening line, “I hear whispers… dreams tell the truth of your heart,” the track finds Ted struggling to come to terms with his true desires. The harsh reality of the expectations and truth becoming misaligned comes crashing down as the track reaches a breaking point with a flurry of guitars. Yet, a glimmer of hope shines through as the track comes full circle by repeating its opening line, finding comfort in ultimately knowing the truth of your heart.
“W h i s p e r S” is the lead single from Ted’s upcoming KEEP TRYING ep, releasing April 20. Photo by Jason Lin.— Jonah Minnihan on March 9, 2021
Justy - Rinse, Repeat, Regress
Listening to Justy's latest single feels a bit intrusive. The Brooklyn-based musician cracks herself wide open in "Rinse, Repeat Regress," and she takes us all on a tour through her perspective on the all-too-familiar tango with remembering that self-love exists in a muddled post-break-up haze. Justy dives into a deep corner we all have after a break-up where she realizes she has nothing but time to tune into herself and her deepest feelings. In her lo-fi, but funky exploration into her inner-self, she begins her monologue cautiously in terms of coming clean with herself and her current reality, but she's confident in telling the listener she knows her heart is broken beyond repair, which influences her current outlook on love.
As the track progresses, Justy moves through her inner-monologue behind a 90s-influenced R&B beat reminiscent of TLC. As the beat and her self-banter flow on, she slowly comes to the conclusion that the type of real love worthy of celebrating is the love she has for herself, which comes alive in the chorus where she sings, "Now I'm single and I got nowhere to run / Unless I'm running to myself, I was looking for the answers / But I never thought I'd ask myself for help." Justy runs into her own arms with the proclamation, "Maybe when I love myself again / Maybe I could Iove again."
"Rinse, Repeat, Regress" is hardly a tale of regression: her perspective shift on self-love allows her to look at her break-up through a new lens, allowing for genuine gratitude for her ex to take over. Photo by Justy.
Samia - Pool - Bartees Strange Version
The introduction track to Samia’s debut record The Baby, the original version of "Pool" is a beautifully expansive song. Samia explores a fleeting intimacy, the song bubbling up as more questions come pouring out. With his contribution to The Baby Reimagined, Bartees Strange dials up both the expansiveness and the intimate tone. The intro and first verse deliver an extremely personal moment, so raw, driven by clean acoustic guitars and Strange’s stunning and gentle tone. The two fit hand in hand. Just after the minute mark the song blossoms. Powerful chords extend out like beams of light shooting into the sky while drums push the song onward underneath. Strange stays steady; a rock amidst the chaos, his voice is something to cling to. But, as we turn to the outro, the intensity and building passion overflows. The questions come pouring out again as the effects on the vocals give it a harsh edge, an edge that puts the visceral emotion of the moment front and center. “Is it too much to ask?” the refrain repeats over and over, and both Samia and Strange just want to know how long these moments will last, a question set in the assumption that they can’t. The two seem to be hoping that this awareness can empower them, keep them present in some way. It’s a feeling we all experience, a feeling anyone can, proven as both Strange and Samia fill this song with their own style and authenticity. But as the questions get harder, so do the emotions (and in this case, the music). All we can do is try to appreciate what we have when we have it, floating in that pool. Photo by Jessica DiMento.Max Himelhoch on March 5, 2021
S. E. Webster - You & I Would Die
S. E. Webster’s “You & I Would Die” can’t help but transport us to some western desert town where the horizon meets long dirt roads and desolate terrain. The layering of guitar, strings and an emotive choir craft a theatrical vision of the song. As Webster sings in an almost rugged yet delicate tone, he begins recounting a narrative of an experience with a past lover. The story follows Webster’s process of coming to terms with the "death" of a relationship ultimately taking place in California. Working alongside LA-based producer/composer Erik Groysman (Karmina, Cape Weather), mix engineer Steve Bone (Mario Jose) and mastering engineer Philip Shaw Bova (Andy Shauf, Father John Misty), the team crafted a stimulating and experiential project. Those who dwell in the environment of S. E. Webster Americana revival sound are welcomed with unconventional lyricism and tasteful instrumentation. The single is the title track from Webster’s 4-song debut EP, released February 26. Photo by Luke Armitage.— Keely Caulder on March 5, 2021
Baby Boys - Desperado
Crafting insane, bizarre, abundantly creative tunes is second nature to Baby Boys. The production/ multi-instrumentalist team is made up of well-versed music industry wunderkinds, including the likes of two Hippo Campus alumni: Jake Luppen and Nathan Stocker. Joining friend Caleb Hinz, the St. Paul trio seem adept at crafting their own chaotic sound, even though they've only been releasing music together for a few years.
Hyperactive, bouncy, fun and surprising, "Desperado" joins Baby Boys' handful of singles that continue to jostle and excite the scene. It's a wildly intelligent listen, and an effortlessly engaging alt-pop song. But unlike a lot of experimental pop, this track still manages to be accessible for unrefined ears. Baby Boys have carved out a niche in the rising indie scene that's all their own. In spite of the kaleidoscope nature of their soundscape, there's obviously a clear creative direction this band is following. Whatever it is, it's working. They manage to create cohesion out of gritty vocal distortion, gentle acoustics and dance beats. I can't explain why it works, it just does. Baby Boys has the talent, originality and acumen to succeed in anything they try. Whenever live shows come back, I plan to be front row at theirs. Photo by Muriel Margaret.Hannah Lupas on March 4, 2021
Pell - Technicolor
Pell's "Technicolor" may be more of a personal examination of his inner-self at first listen than we may think.
The fifth track on glbl wrmng, vol. 1 is a sample of the collaborative effort between Pell and multiple artists from his hometown of New Orleans, in this track, LeTrainiump and Dominic Scott. The record features multiple nods to Pell's home, thus providing the rapper with many opportunities to go back to basics. "Technicolor" goes back to square one and the most valuable asset of them all: Pell, himself.
A reoccurring theme in "Technicolor" explores the concept of the narrator going within in order to figure out his path in life. The journey of self-growth is not intimidating or heavy; the chorus of "Technicolor" celebrates the triumph in realizing the writer has moved through different thoughts and perceptions of himself, as illustrated through comparisons of viewing the world through a black and white lens. He finally discovers the value of his views, thus having the clarity to view thoughts and feelings through the bright technicolor lens; the self-assurance in understanding his worth allows for the exploration of the goals Pell later lays out.
glbl wrmng, vol. 1's ode to self-discovery and going back to one's roots was released on February 19. Photo by glbl wrmng.— Taylor Hodgkins on March 4, 2021