Mackenzie Shrieve - In the Before
When I first heard "In the Before," I didn’t have any words to describe it other than “pretty... just so pretty.” The heart of the song is a gorgeous acoustic guitar melody that’s warm in the same way a cup of coffee is when you’re across the table from somebody you’ve been looking forward to seeing all week. The instant the guitar finishes introducing the melody, Mackenzie Shrieve’s voice jumps in — like the lyrics are announcing thoughts that have been lingering at the tip of her tongue for ages already. Her voice picks up melodic threads from the guitar, weaving and bobbing in a way that feels as unique as it does familiar. Sweetness coats every syllable as you sink deeper into the story. It’s a love story, though the lyrics never mention the word "love" at all. Instead, they narrate the quiet way you start to notice mutual whispers of affection. Lyrics that could almost be for anyone. A slightly lingering step as you pass by their door, wondering if they’re home. Delicate affirmations that your relationship is valued. They always stop short of a dramatic gesture, remaining in the hazy realm of something you only notice because you know each other so well. Each verse welcomes a subtle new instrumental layer that bubbles under the surface. It’s a slow but inevitable build until the song suddenly swells with so much love that it bursts at the seams. Finally expressed and fully reciprocated, the song re-centers to its heart. The acoustic guitar closes the chapter, as lovely as it began, ready for what comes next. "In the Before" is sonic storytelling at its best. It just sounds how love feels.— Allison Hill on October 5, 2020
Norma Tanega - A Street That Rhymes at 6am
My best friend moved back home to Australia last year, and when I miss her I put this song on. She told me once that Norma Tanega’s lyrics seem like things I would say to people I don’t like — she’s a really direct lyricist and the vocal recordings are so beat up and crackly, like she’s carried them around in a suitcase for years. Also. Harmonica. Underrated. — Fenne Lily
Be sure to follow Fenne Lily on Instagram so you can stay up to date on her latest endeavors and tune into The Bathtime Show, where every Wednesday via Instagram Live she broadcasts from her tub with a different musical guest.— Lilly Rothman on October 2, 2020
Okkervil River - Okkervil River R.I.P.
I was on an early-on date with someone I really liked, within the first few weeks of seeing each other. They’re at my flat, we’re listening to music and talking and drinking and they put this [Okkervil River] song on. I’d never heard it before and it hit me like a truck. Out of nowhere I started crying, proper crying, from my diaphragm, the way you cry when you’re a kid, whole body shaking. And I couldn’t stop, it wasn’t at all the right move for a date but I couldn’t help it. I still can’t explain why it made me so deeply sad, so suddenly — something about it just made me feel like I was mourning the loss of something I couldn’t define. I have to skip it if it comes on in public, I’m nervous of what’ll happen. — Fenne Lily
According to Dead Oceans, the title for Fenne Lily’s new album, BREACH, was inspired by a conversation she had with her mom about her own birth, wherein she was born upside-down or in breech. In many ways, BREACH acts as a soundtrack for rebirth and self-acceptance, confronting nostalgia and past memories but always with subtle hints of forward motion.— Lilly Rothman on October 2, 2020
The Shins - The Great Divide
The intimate lyrics of this single, co-written and produced by The Shins’ James Mercer, Jon Sortland and Yuuki Matthews, are a beautiful reminder of the notion of interconnectedness. “The Great Divide" was released last week via Mercer’s own label Aural Apothecary and Monotone Records.
Your hand in mine / the great divide
A stitch in time / then we recombine
The way it was / well dust to dust
Has led us here to collide
In every experience—especially in love or love’s longing—there seems to me to be an accordioning slide between the sharp freshness of the current moment and the velveted backlit tunnels of nostalgia. A constant reconstitution of memory, experience and hope into something new. Everywhere we’ve been and everyone we’ve shared our lives’ moments with have brought us to each subsequent spring-green point of "present" — an unbreakable link that exists despite, even, “the great divide.”
You’ve set us wandering
So let me ride through the night
Til love is everything
How we define “the great divide” may change from day to day: our communion with nature in the cycle of life and death, loss or separation of a forced or chosen kind, or shades of all of the above. Regardless, what tends to remain in the end, in starkest relief, is the realization of where love was or where it should have been.— Talia Pinzari on October 2, 2020
Wolf & Moon - Eyes Closed
Electro-folk duo Wolf & Moon offer a drawing of love’s attention span through “Eyes Closed,” their latest single. The racing pulse mentioned in the second half of the track is reflected in its very rhythm, aligning the physicality and musicality of a beating heart from its exposition on. Two voices fall in unison, as if to explain the sensation, through a series of focused, affectionate expressions.
The voices of Stefanie and Dennis compliment one another, calling forth the component of love that exists not in the personal body, but in that of another. Repeated lyrical fragments place great significance on small details (“Your mouth is, your mouth is, your cinnamon”). A collage of reflections like these join the listener to their enchantment.— Daphne Ellis on October 2, 2020
Empty Country - Marian
I remember hearing this [Empty Country track] for the first time in an airport on my way to Oslo with the band. We were sitting in a sushi place with all our instruments taking up too much room and I was feeling self-conscious and wrong, so I pretended to read and put this song on. It was a recommendation and usually I’ll listen to a minute or something and be like, "oh yeah love this, thanks so much," but since the first listen, I’ve played it most days. The perfect meandering intro, into that really satisfying guitar line over purposeful strumming, it reminds me of The Shins or Big Star. And the melody is perfect, that chorus is absolute gold. It’s anthemic but it’s sensitive. Whenever I hear a perfect song like this I wonder what it must’ve felt like to finish writing it and realise, "fuck this is good." — Fenne Lily
London-born, Bristol-raised singer/songwriter Fenne Lily is known for crafting symphonic tracks and lyrics that hover with soft urgency. Her sophomore album, BREACH, was released by indie powerhouse Dead Oceans on September 18.— Lilly Rothman on October 1, 2020
Boy Willows - Fila (with Dylan Minnette)
“Fila,” by Boy Willows with Dylan Minnette, is a two part story. Lulling hums intercept a metallic beat to welcome the first half, told by Landon Fleischman (Boy Willows), who vocalizes life’s cyclical nature in perfect contrast to his linear verse-interlude-verse composition. Fleischman experiments within a pool of genres, yet his work sustains an identity defined by welcoming conversations and gentle deliveries.
Minnette’s voice carries out the rest of the story in bright ripples of disguised panic. This is the actor/musician’s first collaboration with Boy Willows, and their voices are so cohesive that you might think they’re one at first listen. He concludes with an echo of Fleischman’s earlier sentiment, “I just feel like I don’t deserve this life.” The overall weightlessness of the track is effectively sympathetic to those competing feelings of attachment and detachment.— Daphne Ellis on October 1, 2020
Justy - Cool
With unassuming confidence, Brooklyn-born Staten Island-raised R&B artist Justy advocates for self-acceptance on the smooth jazz-hop single "Cool." While the production channels golden age hip-hop, Justy's vocals waft smoothly over the beat as she quips, "Money in the air, money in the air / I don't really care, I don't fucking care." She has this way of sounding both laid-back and indulgent in herself with these nonchalant lyrics. They're simple truths I wish I knew when I was eighteen, constantly remolding myself into what I thought people wanted. I'm taken with Justy's choice to sample Eartha Kitt, not in song, but rather in the form of a 1982 interview in which she scoffed at the thought of having to compromise who she is for a man.
Nothing matters, when you really think about it; what time of day is best to post on Instagram, what people will say about my next quarantine hair color (I've been through four already), whether I'm too much of this or not enough of that. "If I gave you the world, no it still wouldn't matter," Justy sings, a reminder that you can't please everyone, and that approval you think you need isn't the answer. Take it from both me and Justy: there's nothing sexier than knowing and loving yourself.
Jesse Kivel - William
As the fresh air of autumn circulates amongst us, so the delicacies of artists like Jesse Kivel circulate softly within and around us. “William” is Kivel’s first released track from what will be his very first solo LP, Infinite Jess, coming out in full on November 13. This track is similar in quality to the work of The War on Drugs in its timeless sound. It is the type of song that evokes the chill of an autumnal bike ride through suburban streets, feeling and fantasizing all the while. Through the ricochet of warm synth, the clearness of Kivel’s voice intones in honesty. Photo by David Kitz.— Laney Esper on October 1, 2020
Perfume Genius - Nothing At All
This [Perfume Genius] record came out during the hottest week of the year for us, in the middle of lockdown, and I was aching to be anywhere other than in my house. It was perfect timing because this whole record and particularly this song transports me. It’s enormous and close at the same time, and that line "I’ve got what you need, son, nothing at all" breaks my heart. I’m probably misinterpreting it, I hope I am, because the way I understand it is painful. — Fenne Lily
Fenne Lily first emerged within the indie spotlight in 2018 after her self-released album On Hold was discovered via online music platforms. Since then, she has amassed over a million monthly listeners on Spotify and toured with indie superstar Lucy Dacus. Photo by Camille Vivier.— Lilly Rothman on September 30, 2020
Fleet Foxes - Sunblind
September 21 welcomed the first day of autumn and a brand new album from the Seattle-based folkies, Fleet Foxes. “Sunblind,” the second cut off of Shore, is a bright and lush eulogy of influences and contemporaries. Throughout the track, frontman Robin Pecknold names off around nineteen artists that have both had an effect on Pecknold’s life and have passed away at a young age. Though the song deals with death, it never comes across as mournful, at least not in a traditional sense. Pecknold vows to carry on the legacy of Elliott Smith, Arthur Russell and a handful of others through his own music, celebrating and honoring by creating music under their influence. Instrumentally, “Sunblind” reflects the same idea, rising to a crescendo under sunny guitars and warm vocals. Fleet Foxes are a great band, and “Sunblind” finds the ensemble squinting to the heavens as they cite some of the sources of their success. Photo by Emily Johnston.— Jonah Minnihan on September 30, 2020