Llusion feat. Cautious Clay & HXNS - Sad4good
On the tongue-in-cheek “Sad4Good,” Llusion breaks up the monotony of quarantine with help from Cautious Clay and HXNS. Glitchy and eccentric production bring elegance to the bedroom pop tune, crafting the perfect foundation for distorted vocals to state simply, "We're all alone, all alone anyway" and "I wanna be sad for good." I, like many of you, first found joy in not having to put pants on every day; however, as we enter week "who knows?" of our new normal, I'm facing some underlying anxieties as I find myself waking up anywhere from 8 am to 2 pm, never knowing what day of the week it is, questioning how many of the societal structures in life are real. In Llusion's world, if life has become nothing but refried beans and feeling trapped within four walls, it begs the question, what's left to lose? Llusion's irreverent approach to existential ennui over a bouncy beat offers a much-needed two minutes of relief from what feels like a dark age, and there's some ironic peace to accepting that "if everything hurts, then it couldn't get worse.”— Ysabella Monton on September 10, 2020
Angel Olsen - Waving, Smiling
A clean electric guitar, simply plucked chords and the sleepy sweetness of Angel Olsen’s gorgeous vocals unfolding in waves around us. These are the pieces that make up ‘Waving, Smiling,’ a delicate track off of Olsen’s new LP. The record is appropriately titled Whole New Mess—it seems to be describing everyone’s current state of existence. Indeed, Olsen’s vulnerability and open-eyed candid songwriting is easy to get lost in as we spend more and more days at home. “All my fears, cried out all of those years,” she sings with grace, “Look out my window, the sun is shining.” She’s right of course, we know she is, the sun has risen again today. We dive into her voice, wrapped in the softest of reverbs as she hits a high note and reaches the peak of the tune. “I’m waving, smiling, [...] alive and dying,” she sings to us. So are we, Angel. So are we. Photo by Kylie Coutts.— Mikhal Weiner on September 1, 2020
BTS - Dynamite
K-pop sensations BTS revive our spirits on "Dynamite," a glimmering disco-inspired pop gem made to uplift us amidst a desolate 2020. The pandemic forced the group to postpone their world stadium tour for which I've chosen to hold my ticket, whenever the rescheduled date may be. It left the seven of them feeling, according to Jimin, as though "we lost everything that we were doing and what we could be doing." Optimism and empathy are common threads throughout their music, making it no surprise to hear that while people have been discouraged and scared, said SUGA, "We thought, 'What if we release a track with a bright, positive message?'" The result is "Dynamite," which RM calls a "positive explosion"; it inspires effortlessly, not only in its infectious beat but also from the way Jungkook starts his day with an easy task: "Cup of milk / Let's rock and roll." It's a simple objective as put by Jungkook: "We receive a lot of energy from other people, and we believe we exist to give it back."
“'Dynamite' is for everybody," said V. "It’s about confidence and having fun.” The note on confidence takes on added meaning when considering their decision to do a song entirely in English, despite not being fluent in the language. Jin stated, “It was a challenge but it was also really fun... The English lyrics on the demo seemed just right so we decided to give it a go, and we are glad we did.” There lies a message of empowerment for Asian folks like myself who have not only experienced pandemic-induced racism, but seen our family and friends be criticized for their accents—the song may be in English, but was recorded with confidence and pride.
Amassing over 205 million views at the time of writing, the accompanying record-breaking music video transports us to a retro dreamland spanning from the flare-jeaned '70s to '90s hip hop moods. SUGA's TuneSquad jersey prompted me to text my little brother to check if we still have our Space Jam VHS in the shed. As j-hope referred to music as "one of our ways of healing" in this time, they've been at work on a new record that we can expect to hear before the year's end. As BTS have undoubtedly been a light for me in quarantine, the album is sure to aid in bringing my own 2020 to a gratifying close.— Ysabella Monton on September 1, 2020
Elvis Perkins - See Through
Elvis Perkins’ latest single, “See Through,” is a comforting slow burn fitting for a summer such as this one. Perkins’ smooth croon guides his introspective lyrics along as a warm orchestration of horns and strings create an ambience reminiscent of his early work.
“See Through” finds Perkins reminding himself of better days to come, hopeful and confident of the healing qualities of music itself. “Leave me alone with my headphones / I’ll be alright / I’ll leave you alone with your headphones / we’ll be just fine,” Perkins warbles. The Sam Cohen-produced track is the third single off the upcoming album Creation Myths, out October 2 via MIR/Petaluma. Photo by Ebru Yildiz.— Jonah Minnihan on September 1, 2020
Extra Special - True Fear
Amelia Bushell is what one might call ubiquitous or ever-present in the Brooklyn music scene. From her work in Belle Mare, a lustrous pop project, to Grim Streaker, her punk band, Bushell is a wealth of musical knowledge and flexibility. In her newest endeavor, her debut solo project by the name of Extra Special, she draws from her extensive experience with music and creates an entrancing, euphonious new universe of a project that focuses more solely on her. "True Fear" effectively encapsulates the concept of the sublime: drawing in, even when the fear is there. Photo by Michelle LoBianco.— Laney Esper on August 31, 2020
Joshua Speers - Other People
Sometimes songs come along that feel so familiar it’s almost as if I wrote them in a past life. When I first heard Joshua Speers’s newest single “Other People,” I listened to it on repeat trying to identify why, “I live in other people’s homes / doing dishes writing other people’s songs / I cover my ears from other people’s moans / but never me” put a lump in my throat each time. It starts with soft reverb-laden guitar and Speers’s sweet and warm voice before building gradually to a soaring second chorus. Speers has a knack for writing songs that feel universal yet personal, which he showcased brilliantly in his first EP, and continues to do so with his newest offering. The production is measured but noticeable—giving the folk-rock track a nice pop polish. It reminded me of a poem I wrote back when I was subletting a friend’s room in an unfamiliar city:
The window faces a brick wall
I get one beam of sunlight a day
From 10 to 11
I lay on the floor
My eyes in it
Getting my daily recommended 30 minutes
Of vitamin D
Maybe I will go outside
Maybe I will sit amongst my things
Scattered in and around his
I live in a puzzle of
What is mine and what is not
Tucking in and away
Myself and my things
I am learning to take up space
Stop apologizing for just being
Bit by bit I let myself be seen
As I sit in the sunlight
Building up energy
Antonioni - Mary Bell
Grief has many different facets. Some are subdued, almost gentle numbness. Others are all-consuming and intense. "Mary Bell" by Antonioni tastefully, and effortlessly, walks the line between the two. Verses oscillate between warm, barely tamed anger and the almost satisfying snap and snarl of unbridled, grief-driven resentment. One minute, you’re shaken up by a forefront drum kit and big bass sound as distorted guitars writhe and groan between lyrics. The next, the rhythm section eases off to reveal the delicate guitar melody underpinning the track. You never quite escape the drums though. They’re always present, like an ever tell-tale heart, driving the track forward as the lyrics narrate a loose story of loss. Only it’s not really about the loss itself; it’s more about the inconsolable feeling in acute absence. Filled with feeling and delicious crunch, it’s a track that won’t let you go easy—in a good way. Photo by Rolando Robles.— Allison Hill on August 31, 2020
First Aid Kit - On The Road Again
In this cover of Willie Nelson's iconic road trip tune, First Aid Kit inject their classic folk forbearance and dual harmonies into their version of "On the Road Again." Paired with a video montage containing footage of different memories and milestones they've experienced on tour, this jubilant and expressive tune about loving the open road is brought to different levels of nostalgic sweetness. In its best moments, this compilation of memories presents a posture of hope. It's as if First Aid Kit and their crew are saying, "We'll be back, doing our favorite things, just wait a little while longer." It's nice to see them smiling, hopping in pools, playing massive festival shows and just enjoying things we used to take for granted. It gives the viewer a sense of expectation that, in weeks and months to come, as the world slowly re-opens its doors, we'll approach every experience with a little more appreciation and reverence. This thought reminds me of this line from On Friendship by Kahlil Gibran:
"When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain."
First Aid Kit have always handled their covers with care (see their incredible rendition of Simon & Garfunkel's "America"). Their version of "On the Road Again" is joyful and beautifully done. Watch their video and let us know what you think!— Hannah Lupas on August 31, 2020
Anderson .Paak feat. Rick Ross - CUT EM IN
For their first collaboration, “CUT EM IN” finds genre-bender Anderson .Paak and rap mogul Rick Ross living for luxury. Following the release of his protest song "Lockdown," "CUT EM IN" takes on a more lighthearted approach as .Paak jokes about his accountant giving him a breakdown of his finances: "'The good news is you made a lot...The bad news is you spent more.'" The track grazes new era rapcore with its catchy guitar riff, with .Paak leaning more into hip hop than he did on Ventura, his latest full-length release. Underneath its showmanship, the song asserts the importance of loyalty to your roots and looking out for your friends who looked out for you on the come up. “You know the ones that lend a hand and wanna see you win,” .Paak explains, “When you come up on a lick, make sure you cut ’em in.” And according to Ross, staying grounded also includes looking out for yourself: “Sometimes you need to know your worth…Meditate, hydrate / Protect my energy before engagement.” The song will be featured on the Madden 21 soundtrack, which EA announced will be celebrating "the artists rising up to chase the throne.”— Ysabella Monton on August 28, 2020
McCall - Nothing Even Wrong
McCall's latest release “Nothing Even Wrong” blooms like a phosphorescent garden surrounded by a dense and shadow-casted forest. The track, which features stiff chords from an electric guitar, rose-toned vocals, and unconventional synth soundbites, has a distinct sound that is pleasantly jarring—time to wake up and smells the flowers!
While the compositional and stylistic elements of this song allow us to classify it as both modern and eclectic, its lyrical sentiments are surprisingly atemporal: emotions are complicated “Nothing Even Wrong,” is a piece that one experiences with all their senses. It is lush, harmonious, and undoubtedly fitting for the end of a long-over-complicated-paradoxical summer. Photo by Keegan Burckhard— Lilly Rothman on August 28, 2020
Freak Fingers - Romance
One of the mystical aspects of a romance is never knowing exactly where it's going to go. Freak Fingers' newest track exhibits this feeling right off the bat. Marked by the beginning sounds of a dreamy acoustic Spanish guitar, "Romance" suddenly drifts further into an otherworldly state influenced by the sudden appearance of synthesizers. As lead vocalist Joan Sullivan begins singing, she blends the beauty of both Spanish and English—taking you further down a soothing, romantic journey for the next two minutes. Clocking in at nearly five minutes, "Romance" maintains the feeling of a daydream abruptly cut short. An 80s influenced electric guitar comes in right before the song ends, illustrating the exhilarating moments of a brief romance when it has hit its peak.
The track is propelled by its slow-but-captivating moment—proving that beauty can still exist among upheaval. The idea of spending a night driving around with the one you love has become more or less of a fantasy taken for granted in 2020, but Freak Fingers help bring it back, if only for a brief few minutes inside your headphones.— Taylor Hodgkins on August 28, 2020