Lonnie Holley - Like Hell Broke Away
Lonnie Holley’s early life in Birmingham, Alabama was chaotic: working from the age of five, “home” was either a whiskey house, a state fairgrounds, or a rotating orbit of foster care. Now a musician and artist with work in major museums and on permanent display in the United Nations, his pieces are imbued with furious improvisational creativity born out of struggle.
Just listen to that spacey Mellotron: "Like Hell Broke Away," out now on Jagjaguwar from the EP National Freedom, suspends old school blues in a fiery galaxy far beyond here. Kind of like the surreal circumstances of our current national woe. The gravity of Holley’s voice though, with its grave-shaking gravel, holds us down from floating away.
I like to imagine him singing to a hot celestial blues club, stars on backup, with space suited expats swinging on his every word.
Hey Hubble bubble,
space scat and some rubble,
his growl transcended Neptune;
Beltin’ those low notes
Or eyein’ the band,
Three Sisters fly high on his croon.— Talia Pinzari on July 30, 2020
Amaria - Moon
Melting colors bleed into each other as Amaria’s new track "Moon" wraps itself around us like a delicious fog. The tune opens with a simple, oh-so-groovy bassline and a wah-wah synth but quickly becomes so much more. Amaria’s voice floats over a side-stick snare and a nearly imperceptible down-pitched vocal—something in between a duet and a ghost. "Caught up in all the motion / my mind is like the ocean," she sings, delicately placing each note in its place. It’s R&B at its most intimate and bedroomy, bringing to mind the romance of late-night infatuations. "Take me to the moon," she sings, "up high, up high," and we lift our eyes skyward in response.— Mikhal Weiner on July 29, 2020
Das Body - On Request
Norwegian band Das Body writes off-kilter pop music that simmers with quiet intensity, occasionally erupting and becoming unhinged. This catharsis, and the dark, catchy hooks that underpin it, is what makes “On Request” such an incredible listen. Singer Ellie Linden insists, “I can make the idea come true for you if I only know what you’re asking me.” It’s an offer to do whatever it takes to meet the demands of another, but it’s also searching for clarity; she can’t hit a target which she can’t see. Eventually, a sense of desperation builds, and roaring guitars surround the vocals. “On Request” explores the feeling of bending yourself to meet standards that are not your own and bristles with the frustration that comes from wanting to please someone without understanding how. The effect is soaring and raucous as Linden wails, “I’m gonna call up all my lovers. Tell them like it is.” She may not know how to meet the unspoken request, but the resulting tension becomes an explosive song.— Siena Ballotta Garman on July 29, 2020
Jim-E Stack feat. Empress Of - Note to Self
Shuffling about in our own existence this year sometimes feels like we’re playing a losing game. The days mesh together—some good, some already forgotten to the count of our isolated months. As if answering our loneliness, producer Jim-E Stack returns with “Note to Self,” a track that is equal parts aware and uplifting. "Note to Self" features a soul-cleansing vocal from Empress Of (aka Lorely Rodriguez), who he collaborated with on her songs “U Give It Up” and “When I’m With Him." Akin to the two's previous collaborations, the song holds optimism in both the lyrics and the production. The vocals urge us to “just let it knock you down” and not to fight what’s coming to you. In the end, you’re going to come up stronger than you were before. Danceable drums and light percussion carry us through the body of the track—uplifting in the midst of our summers.— Julie Gentile on July 29, 2020
Alex Banin - About April
Throughout the gorgeous, lush “About April,” Alex Banin fascinatingly explores the intoxicating effects of a love affair gone wrong. Love can be a drug in its own right, and Banin examines the painful emotions that can come with its withdrawal. As she states “Yeah, maybe you’re still lingering / In nothing but the rushes of adrenaline,” the beat starts to kick in, pushing the song towards a rolling groove. The track follows the journey that she takes as she comes to terms with the fact that the person she’s singing about has changed during their relationship, and they’ve irreparably grown apart. We all have to learn eventually that we cannot change or control other people, no matter how badly we may want to. By the end of “About April,” Banin reaches the acceptance stage of the grieving process—“No matter what happens I’m gone / There’s nothing else to do,” she sings yearningly—vocalizing the end of her relationship, and beginning to heal. Listen to “About April” wherever you stream.— Paige Shannon on July 28, 2020
Stray Fossa - For What Was
"For What Was," the new release from Stray Fossa glistens and glitters its way into a dreamy-dancey soundscape. This newest tune is in keeping with past releases by the Charlottesville, VA based trio—somehow maintaining a driving energy while creating what feels like infinite space. The song opens with a guitar progression and drum groove produced to sound narrow, but the vastness comes in immediately with the soft vocals in the first verse. "Lean into stranger thoughts," sings Will, "Stronger than I could dare ignore," right before taking us into stranger realms of ethereal sound design and vocal harmonies. From then on it spirals outward into the ether; this song is the soundtrack to a road trip in outer space.— Mikhal Weiner on July 28, 2020
Eric Cannata - Lonely Beast
Eric Cannata is known as the guitarist for Young the Giant, but earlier this year, he released an EP titled Lonely Beast. It's a personable, sweet, fascinating record—establishing him as a folk artist with his own distinct sound. Cannata recorded an acoustic version of the EP's title track in his home studio in California. His vocals are so clean, expressing the elemental and sincere themes in his lyrics. "Lonely Beast," he explains, is about a house cat.
Hearing this nuanced recording of the track illuminated a beauty in our quarantine loneliness I hadn't considered yet. It's difficult to be as graceful at being alone as the lonely beast seems to be. It's difficult to venture towards contentment and relish periods of rest. Maybe the cat is a "lonely beast," but it knows when to savor the warm light coming in through the window and the slow hours of a midday nap.— Hannah Lupas on July 28, 2020
Thanya Iyer - Please Don't Hold Me Hostage for Who I Am, Who I Was
Refreshing and whimsical, “Please Don’t Hold Me Hostage for Who I Am, Who I Was” opens a festival of worldly sounds, complete with folksy flutes and acoustic percussion. Thanya Iyer’s voice sounds at once youthful and wise as she cheerfully delivers a straightforward message: You control your own life, you can choose to heal. She repeats the message, this time making it personal: “I take it in my own time / I make the choice to get better / Please don’t hold me hostage for who I am, for who I was.” She goes on to say “I could be a dancer,” a suggestion that it’s never too late to pursue a dream, regardless of the past. The bridge section introduces a musical departure, in which Iyer repeatedly declares, “I know in life there are highs and lows,” the bassline closely following her vocal melody, a stark contrast to the airy counterpoint of the verses. A breakdown follows, the music growing darker as the meter slows. Edgy synth and almost robotic rhythmic vocalizations grow in intensity until the tension releases and light breaks through, ushering a return to the original groove. Iyer repeats her original message: a reminder that we all have the power to guide ourselves out of darkness.— Karyna Micaela on July 27, 2020
Helena Deland - Lylz
She’s back! It’s been almost two years since Canadian dream-pop sweetheart Helena Deland has released anything, but wow did she make the wait worth it. On its own “Lylz” is a brooding pop song full of grooving guitars and dark yet playful lyrics. However, as you begin to dive into Deland’s track, you find a touching, ominous, and eternal ode to friendship. The Boulanger sisters were a pair of composer sisters who swore to spread the musical genius of the other once one of them died. Nearly a century later Deland’s friend, Lylz, whom the song is named after, arranged a concert of the Boulanger sisters' music—giving inspiration to Deland and Lylz to make the same lifelong pact. “You’ll be famous / For burning / With desire / For everything,” swears Deland, as she commits herself to friendship and the never-ending desire for recognition.— Jonah Minnihan on July 27, 2020
Grace Gillespie - HUH
These days you’re unlikely to find somebody who isn’t jaded, filled with anxiety, or a little lost and exhausted by the day-to-day, but British singer-songwriter Grace Gillespie is traveling back to simpler times. On her second single released this year entitled “HUH," she begins imagining the world around her from the viewpoint of a child to better understand why we often commit ourselves to unfulfilling, taxing professions as adults. Her smooth, airy voice floats along as she matter-of-factly sings, “I am a child / I do not know / swaying in the sunshine / which way I go.” The marching instrumentation pushes you forward into a state of reflection, thinking about that care-free spirit that we all used to have compared to where we are now. The swaying guitar dives into the melodic chorus that has Gillespie sticking to her guns and refusing to be beaten down by the harsh realities of adulthood. As we get toward the end of the track, she asks “In your heart / In your soul / are you sure you are sold / on this life?” Then assures us that there is a place where there is no pressure to make decisions out of fear, but instead only love and excitement for the uncertainty. It’s up to us to decide how much negative weight our respective responsibilities will create—we must always keep in mind that diverting to another route is possible. “HUH” is out now via Kaleidoscope.— Meredith Vance on July 27, 2020
Your Grandparents - So Damn Fly
LA-based hip-hop trio, Your Grandparents know we all need to slow down the mood a bit. A calendar year has passed since they released their first EP So Cold, and so much has happened in the world since then. Now more than ever, Your Grandparents are here to lift our spirits with their lusciously smooth new single "So Damn Fly."
This song is a crisp and ethereal nod to the soulful tracks from yesterday. "So Damn Fly" evokes the old, familiar sense of warmth of a vinyl record spinning at a chill session—much like the cover photo of the group hanging out in a basement illuminated by the light from a vintage lamp that your (excuse the reference) grandparents might've owned.
"So Damn Fly" reels you in with its ability to weave between a track perfect for background play and then abruptly snaps you back into consciousness with a rap section over the song's bridge: "Be as coldhearted as you please / All the causes can't be common / Contemplate on your beliefs / Seeking confirmation and conversations about killed dreams." Suddenly you're in the middle of a discussion about the damning elements of our current cultural landscape. There's nothing better than a little reprieve these days, just as long as we're all still paying attention. Photo by xoxohadas— Taylor Hodgkins on July 24, 2020