Masego - Passport
Two years after Masego’s debut album Lady Lady introduced the world to the artist’s one-of-a-kind "TrapHouseJazz" sound, “Passport” is here to take you away. In a summer that’s felt largely sour, Masego leaves us with the aftertaste of wanderlust and wishful thinking. He conjures up the mental and physical claustrophobia that accompanies staying in one place (or room) for too long. “I can’t wait to get out / things are lookin’ too familiar,” he sings over simple instrumentation. A Japanese koto gives the melody an ethereal twang. Well-rounded vocals make the most ordinary lyrics sensational, which Masego tackles in both English and Japanese. “Passport” is the latest single from a concept EP set to release later this year.— Corinne Osnos on September 24, 2020
Sufjan Stevens - Sugar
On "Sugar," Sufjan Stevens continues his pilgrimage into the territory of electro-pop, an area where we’ve perhaps not seen him dwell too often. And yet, like any Sufjan Stevens song, it feels oddly appropriate. No matter how fresh or new a Sufjan song may feel, there’s always something very warmly fitting about it, as if we’ve listened to it a thousand times before. And for an artist with a prolific two-decade-long career which includes countless singles, EPs and compilation albums, as well as seven full-length solo records, staying as relevant as he is is a nearly impossible feat.
"Sugar" is the newest single from Stevens’ upcoming eighth solo album, The Ascension (out on September 25). And much like his previously released singles this summer, "America" and "Video Game," "Sugar" is a sonically rich track full of electronic textures and soundscapes. The song “is ultimately about the desire for goodness and purity (and true sustenance),” Stevens said in a press release. Accompanied by a beautifully choreographed music video, the song has an incredibly familiar feel to it. If it weren’t for Stevens’ unmistakably gentle voice, the song's hook, “Come on, baby, gimme some sugar,” might as well be lifted straight out of any ordinary pop song. “All the shit they try to feed us / Don’t drink the poison or they’ll defeat us” could be perceived as such a banal line in any other song, but that’s not the case here. There’s a sense of urgency in Stevens’ lyrics, an urgency that builds up throughout the song. Starting from a nearly three-minute instrumental intro and ending at seven minutes and change, Stevens leaves us once again with an intricately produced song coated with catchy but charged melodies that can easily warrant many listens.— Alejandro Veciana on September 23, 2020
Darlingside - Green + Evergreen
“Green + Evergreen,” which serves as a precursor to innovative folk quartet Darlingside’s forthcoming album Fish Pond Fish, is an earthy masterpiece that delicately captures the idea of life’s dynamic evanescence and strained temporality. This track features fragmented guitar riffs, a synthesized pipe organ and soft vocals that allude to the song’s overall transience. “Green + Evergreen’s” lyrics, much like its instrumentation, teem with beauty and wonder; the band makes great use of subtle rhyme schemes and mellow repetition, allowing for a layered interpretation of each verse. Fans of Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens will doubtlessly revel in this gorgeous new track and celebrate the introspection it eloquently prompts.— Lilly Rothman on September 23, 2020
Anjimile - In Your Eyes
Anjimile sings of being ostracized in his new track, “In Your Eyes.” His voice swings from clear and soft to deep and brooding over a steady finger-plucked guitar and perfectly sparse percussion. It’s a lament of not being able to be what people want you to be. The Boston-based singer/songwriter does a call and response in the second verse: stating, “I can't run and I can't hide,” he is answered with a question, “Was my body denied?” before they sing “I don’t know” together. It feels like a communal response to a very personal feeling of not belonging to your body and subsequently the world around you. “In Your Eyes” is the third single off of their album Giver Taker, which was released via Father/Daughter Records on September 18.— Corey Bates on September 23, 2020
Future Generations - Little Bit Longer
Things are falling apart. You don’t have to look at the persistent onslaught of news updates to know it anymore. With the upcoming election, winter around the corner and no vaccine for COVID-19 in sight, “Little Bit Longer” is a short but sweet encouragement to hang in there. Future Generations’ third single this year keeps in line with their usual upbeat, shimmery ear candy, but has brought tighter cuts and a grittier but more controlled production quality.
Like waking up these days, our thoughts already frantic, the drumline hits the ground running with a staccato of arpeggiated synth. Frontman Eddie Gore’s daydream-haze of a voice, reminiscent of Julian Casablancas, sweeps over the panic with immediate effect, bringing the sound together into that carefree and vibrant end-of-summer feeling the band is so known for. There are the small details that delight: the punk rock lite bassline prefacing the first verse, the twinkly guitar waiting to be sewn into the chorus, the structurally impressive manner in which the instruments take turns entering and exiting around each other.
The lyrics “shake the bonds that turned our hearts to one / only to find them stronger” stand out as well, a powerful mantra against the day’s familiar discouragement. Instead of measuring our losses after the storm, we should take stock of everything that keeps us afloat during. While those might be less than we imagined, with so much feeling out of our control it is a reminder to be grateful for what we do still have and to keep our eyes on the horizon for first light. “Little Bit Longer” is a song worth keeping on repeat, especially as the nights grow only longer. Photo by Britnee Meiser.
Michi - Escondida
On “Escondida," Michi lets us in on her deepest secret. With a haunting rhythmic melody and chilling use of harmony, "Escondida" is a dreamy indie pop track on finding comfort in loneliness. The Spanish word "escondida" translates to “hidden,” and in the lyrics Michi uncovers that she longs to stay hidden in her own oasis. The track's narrative is highly relatable; wanting to escape from the world in one’s bedroom is a justifiable truth. Solitude is arguably where we can be ourselves, and Michi admits this. For her, being “escondida" signifies untangling the vulnerabilities that no one knows. The transition from English to Spanish going into the chorus is a highlight of the track: “Escondida aquí / mi soledad junto a ti / mi secreto aquí / sin ti no puedo vivir.” In a world where Latinx indie artists are far too often overlooked, Michi is giving the world yet another reason to listen.— Bianca Brutus on September 22, 2020
San Cisco - Alone
Separation is not for the faint of heart on “Alone,” San Cisco’s love letter that’s scared to say “I miss you.” The Australian indie pop trio fashions their psychedelic pop quintessence into a vulnerable ballad, singing of the constant push and pull in a long-distance relationship. It seems impossible to quiet the voice asking, “Does love drift away / A little bit every day?” when you wear yourself thin attempting to exist in two places at once, both where you reside physically and with the one person who feels like home. There’s an idyllic nostalgia in love feeling “elastic,” how it “pulls me back to pink sunsets”; it calls to mind an old love of mine tied to strawberry skies and golden sand between my toes, one that I lost to distance, yet still enraptures me years later.
The emotionally challenging song strays greatly from first track of theirs I ever heard, the infectiously bouncy “Run,” which still sits close to my heart as the first and only time I’ve ever heard my name in a song. The group’s new sense of self-awareness permeates their latest record, Between You and Me.
we close a 400-mile gap and I fall
onto your shoulder in the cab, hoping
my head will still fit into the crook of your neck.
fingertips trace the outline of my bare legs
blue eyes move from my chest, lifting and dropping
to the numbers on the meter, rising
back to the lights, meshing
into a blur of white out the window.
Will Davila - Yours
“Yours,” the latest single from Will Davila, fits perfectly into his catalog of easygoing songs with skillful guitar work and heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics. The vocals are warm and, at times, slightly muffled. The song’s raw honesty shines through a cloud of mellow keys and guitar, as Davila expresses uncertainty about a relationship: “What if I tried to do the same? Would you need me in your life like you did before?” It’s a song about commitment, the patience to wait for someone else (“Just as long as I’m the one you’re waiting for,”) and especially, the desire to treat them better than they have been treated in the past (“I won’t be like him ‘cause it’s not what you deserve”). “Yours” goes down as smooth as its tender message; the understated arrangement and gentle groove make way for emotive lyricism and vulnerability. When Davila sings, “Baby, I’m all yours,” he leaves it all out in the open.— Siena Ballotta Garman on September 22, 2020
Cape Francis - Haunted
Cape Francis is the solo project of Kevin Olken Henthorn, former singer/songwriter of Brooklyn indie rock band Stone Cold Fox. Embracing cooler, softer textures under his new folk moniker Cape Francis, Henthorn exhibits his chameleon ability to transform his sound into something more similar to Cigarettes After Sex or Yoke Lore than the grittier rock mentalities of his former band. "Haunted" is a single off of the new album Plateaus, which was released on September 18. This track seems to be about the neurosis of coping with social stress. Musically even-keeled, it nicely juxtaposes the rising tension in the lyrics. Henthorn's gentle vocals remind me of Winston Yellen's (of Night Beds) voice on his earlier work (like "Cherry Blossoms" on Country Sleep).
Listen to "Haunted," and all of Plateaus, wherever you stream.— Hannah Lupas on September 22, 2020
Lani Renaldo - Trainwreck
Lani Renaldo's “Trainwreck” is a dreamy garage rock anthem for every 20-something dwelling over how late is too late to reach your full potential. As one of six songwriters selected for GRAMMY Camp as a high schooler, the LA-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is no stranger to a gifted child syndrome of sorts. In her case, it manifested as a panic disorder that had her believing "I could never live out my dreams."
Rather than fostering my creativity, a life of gifted schooling impaired me with a thrumming pressure to prove myself to no one in particular. I'd never felt more lost than the moment I realized, as Renaldo sings, that "I was the golden child, but now she's gone." Writing was the only skill I ever felt I had, but in a society that measures success by financial gain rather than fulfillment, it seemed so useless. Much like Renaldo, I was resigned to an endless cycle of "passing go to cash another paycheck" because I lost the ability to believe in myself as a writer.
While the pandemic has shifted the way we live, I've been working on nurturing my talent, both for stability and as an act of self-care. There's no doubt that Renaldo has honed in on her craft as well, with her self-produced NOHEARTBREAK2020 EP due out sometime this year. So how late is too late to make those dreams come true? The answer, according to Renaldo, is never.— Ysabella Monton on September 21, 2020
Bill Callahan - Let's Move to the Country
A true romantic, Bill Callahan sings from the heart of a wayward troubadour in "Let's Move to the Country," a track off his most recent album, Gold Record. An exhibition of his love and reverence for the old west, Callahan dons a figurative cowboy hat in his discography as he talk-sings his way through loafing country western lullabies and ballads. "Let's Move to the Country" is a sweet, simple love song. It feels like Callahan is pleading, holding his hat against his chest. He paints the vision of what their lives would look like now that he's put his roving days behind him. Callahan previously included this track on his album Knock Knock, under the moniker Smog. Callahan performed as Smog until 2007, when he stylistically shifted from underground rock to more Americana style sounds. Gold Record was released on September 4. Give it a listen wherever you stream.— Hannah Lupas on September 21, 2020