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Little Simz - might bang, might not
Little Simz - might bang, might not

Little Simz - might bang, might not


On her stunning new EP, Drop 6Little Simz demonstrates that confinement can be a conduit to creativity. While stuck inside over the last couple of months, she self-produced the collection and released it through her own independent label, Age 101. The first song, though humbly named “might bang, might not,” clearly bangs. Big bass booms and jazzy snares make up the track’s relatively simple but sonically huge production, creating the perfect smoky floor for Simz’s bars to float on top of. Simz stacks witty brag upon witty brag here (my favorite is that she not only “crashed the party,” she “is the party”), but at the end of the day, show is always going to be more important than tell. What she shows is that she’s (still) ready to claim her place in the GOAT conversation. She claims she “ain’t slept good in days,” but with flows that bob like a butterfly, subtle and quick delivery, and a confident sense of humor, maybe she’ll be able to rest more easily if more of us finally acknowledge that she’s one of the most talented rappers alive.

Karl Snyder on May 21, 2020
Arlo Parks - Black Dog

Arlo Parks - Black Dog


References to Robert Smith and Sylvia Plath aside, 19-year-old, London-based artist Arlo Parks doesn’t just write about loneliness and melancholy, her songs allow some light to shine through too. Her follow-up to her previous single, “Euguene” (a soul-wrenching song about jealousy and heartbreak), “Black Dog” feels much like a second act, as if we come across the same character battling depression. “I would do anything to get you out your room” the narrator tells them. Parks' lyrics are deeply empathetic, connecting with anyone who has lived with someone struggling with mental illness or has gone through it themselves. “It’s so cruel what your mind can do for no reason,” she sings softly— the verse sinks into your soul. But aside from being a gifted songwriter, she is equally careful with her sound, blending R&B with a dreamy pop aura that echoes some of her fellow compatriots like Nilüfer Yanya or Pip Millet.

The song's music video is a beautiful companion piece, showing two seemingly lonely people in different enclosed spaces. But like the song itself, the video has a subtle twist that quickly becomes apparent: they are not really alone after all.

Alejandro Veciana on May 20, 2020
Renée Reed - Out Loud

Renée Reed - Out Loud


Renée Reed takes us through a haunted daydream in her debut single “Out Loud.” It’s a hazy and stripped-down folk offering that is mesmerizing in its simplicity. The Lafayette folk gaze artist has an undertone of Cajun influence that bleeds into her delicately plucked acoustic guitar that rises and falls rhythmically. She entrances us with echoing warbled vocals—singing, “I could be daydreaming / hanging out / deep in the corner I tell all your secrets out loud.” It feels like something between a warning and a promise. Reed is a strange marriage between Mazzy Star and Adrianne Lenker. The track is foggy and disorienting with moments of brightness that fade as quickly as they come. With such an oddly satisfying debut released via Austin label Keeled Scales, I am inclined to believe her when she sings, “who am I? / you’re about to find out.”

Corey Bates on May 20, 2020
Wet - Come to You

Wet - Come to You


Indie-pop group Wet continues to quietly release singles, and the latest release of “Come to You” is heartening in a time when it’s so easy to feel defeated and isolated. Kelly Zutrau creates a waterfall of vocals that echo the sentiment, “I will come to you wherever you are / I will comfort you no matter how hard.” This track is produced by DJ Dahi, perhaps best known for his credits with Kendrick Lamar and Drake, but more recently credited with production on Father of the Bride with Ezra of Vampire Weekend. Production is kept open on this track to allow for Zutrau’s spilling vocals, but the chiming synths and staggered percussion set the tone for a thoughtful reprise. This song serves as a comforting reminder that, although we may not be able to see our loved ones, we can still be there for them if only by way of words. Selfishly, I am hoping that “This Fog” and “Come to You” are the promise of an upcoming album or EP.

Megan Beck on May 20, 2020
Max Bloom - Cold Hard Light

Max Bloom - Cold Hard Light


Max Bloom has released his first solo album, Perfume after eight years as part of the band Yuck. On the track “Cold Hard Light” his guitar serves as a centerpiece and guide, leading you through a journey of post-break-up sentiment and internal crisis. Though upbeat and tonally bright, Bloom’s guitar line is able to communicate a sense of regret, most notably in the cascading riff which precedes both the first and second verses. It feels like a false smile and juxtaposes beautifully with the lyrics that are draped around it. The ending guitar solo expertly does what a solo is meant to do, and carries the emotional message further on past where lyrics leave off. The last lyric before the solo is “..that’s all we’ll ever be,” and the guitar picks up right there, capturing both the melancholic idea that the best times have already come and gone, as well as a sense of resiliency to move forward anyway.

Emerson Obus on May 20, 2020
Kue Varo - Just Don’t Lie

Kue Varo - Just Don’t Lie


Kue Varo’s debut single “Just Don’t Lie” is a dream-pop offering that would fit right into an episode of Twin Peaks. The Montreal-based artist begs for the truth before crooning about her shortcomings as a partner, “and forgive / how intense I get / when I want / to be right.” The track is dripping with reverb as it moves forward slow and steady to the laid back drum beat. The lead guitar weaves in and around adding a brightness as the bass drives on heavy and strong. Varo pleads for honesty with a raw despair of someone afraid of losing something they’ve worked tirelessly to get as she sings, “just don’t lie / please don’t lie.” The single was released early on Bandcamp as an effort to raise money for artists who have lost work due to COVID-19. It is the first track off of Varo’s upcoming album Daffodil-11.

Corey Bates on May 19, 2020
HAIM - I Know Alone

HAIM - I Know Alone


For many months, HAIM has been gracing our ears with gem after gem from their upcoming album, Women in Music, Pt. III. The upbeat and timely “I Know Alone” is no exception. Though the song was written well before most of us knew what a COVID was, its compatibility with the current moment is downright eerie. The first line of the song, “Been a couple days since I’ve been out,” sounds more like the first line of a Zoom call with one of my New York friends. And when Danielle sings about driving around while “screaming every word” of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now,” it sounds like I have new plans for this weekend. Even removed from time, “I Know Alone” is an apt ode to malaise, a candid series of vignettes that honor the timeless feeling of being the only one with access to your own mind. Often the first step towards defeating inertia is simply recognizing it. Now if I can only remember the second step: biking around my neighborhood screaming along to HAIM.

Karl Snyder on May 19, 2020
Kathleen - Seven Miles

Kathleen - Seven Miles


There’s no right place to start with "Seven Miles." The vocals, the lyricism, the production, the arrangement—each folding so perfectly into one another. An avalanche of a verse barrels forward amassing energy and urgency. Yet rather than climax, the chorus chooses to stop time completely. A masterful touch, Kathleen taking the chance to offer plainly from the heart. She sings with stunning ease and a convincing assuredness, the moment both intimate and heavenly. The chorus explodes beyond itself, its two characters soaring together above the world’s chaos. Returning with added passion, Kathleen shines again, a warm richness developing in the second verse. The perfect bass run sneaks in, teasing more to come, and as the chorus ends more arrives. Kathleen unleashes a breathtaking moment, the band in full force, hoisting her up above the clouds to belt the refrain one last time. With a standout track within a standout EP, Kathleen has found a new sound in a familiar world. Instantly recognizable yet utterly unique, it’s something to behold.

Max Himelhoch on May 19, 2020
Mt. Joy - Death

Mt. Joy - Death


On a charity livestream, Mt. Joy frontman Matt Quinn explained that “Death” is a misnomer—it is a life-affirming song, he assured, about lending a hand to help others work through problems rather than run away from them. “I know why you like death,” he sings, “‘Cause when you get in trouble, pulled under rubble / You want something else,” but he is there to pull you out of the rubble. Quinn says of the song, “I was hoping this song would remind people and myself that there are so many family members / friends here on earth that want to help us find our peace, and there really is so much beauty here, especially when you let people help you.” The song’s meandering verse gives way to a raucous chorus best sung en masse, shoulder to shoulder, shouting with little to no regard for tonality, joining on the “Ooh la la” even if you don’t know the words. “Death” is a reminder of all of the beautiful moments in life and succeeds in creating one all by itself.

Daniel Shanker on May 19, 2020
Jónsi - Exhale

Jónsi - Exhale


The summer after I graduated high school, I sat with bulky headphones on a hard metal stool at Waterloo Records in Austin, TX, completely spellbound, as I learned that music can literally make you feel like you’re on another planet. At the time, the newly released album Me∂ su∂ i eyrum vi∂ spilum endalaust was the first music I’d ever heard by Jónsi Birgisson, and his band Sigur Rós quickly became my favorite. To me, Birgisson’s music has always been about the sacred, inextricable relationship between filling and releasing. So when I saw that his first true solo release in a decade would be called “Exhale,” I smiled. The track begins with what is essentially a guided meditation: cavernous piano chords lead slowly to eight simple words: “Breathe in / breathe out / learn to / let go.” But the beautiful message of “Exhale” is that in moments of instability, you have to be able to forgive—at the very least, yourself; and perhaps, the universe. As the soundscape begins to shimmer and awaken post-meditation, Jónsi sings, “This is the way it is / It isn’t your fault / It isn’t your fault,” and maybe it’s just me, but right now that’s exactly what my anxious brain needs to hear. Around the halfway point, we begin to hear distant electronic chirps: the first signs of the track's brilliant co-producer, A. G. Cook, and a subtle amuse-bouche for the pounding, cathartic pop he provides for the song’s magnificent coda. The space created by the contemplative second verse (“Hold on / Inhale / Exhale / Exhale it from today”) is then filled with an ecstatic sun-shower of sound: anchored by A.G. Cook’s buoyant bass, Jónsi’s vocals swirl around themselves like a hive of butterflies, and eventually disappear. Then, filled with a fresh hope, you exhale.

Karl Snyder on May 18, 2020
Max Garcia Conover - “Handsome Suit”

Max Garcia Conover - “Handsome Suit”


Max Garcia Conover’s new single “Handsome Suit” is a stunning acoustic ballad that weaves sentiments of past and present into one harmonious and well-crafted track. Conover’s gravelly voice radiates feelings of warm nostalgia in a way that is as beautiful as it is bittersweet. “Handsome Suit” combines the sonic qualities of a tactile bedroom demo combined with the refinement and lyrical sophistication of an artist who has mastered his craft. Conover’s first lines, “Half-Puerto-Rican in a handsome suit / skinny little nothing in the buffalo news” sets the tone of the entire song, and prompts the singer’s authentic reminiscence on the childhood and family events that have led to his current multifaceted identity. Conover’s gruff vocals and sincere vibrato are sure to please anyone who enjoys the work of Donovan Woods, Father John Misty and Jackie Green, and nearly anyone else who is looking for a thoughtful Americana tune.

Lilly Rothman on May 18, 2020

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