Miki Ratsula - second
What does it mean to be loved? To be loved wholly? To be loved for who you are, for the parts of yourself that will never change and the parts that will?
Love can feel unexplainable or unreasonable, even. Doubt and anxiety can turn slight conflicts into unsettling internal attempts to investigate why someone loves you and how they could possibly do that. Amidst the familiar uncertainty of navigating relationships and identity, it’s not hard to believe that love is undeserved. As Miki Ratsula captures in “second,” accepting love can become complicated when it feels impossible to show love to yourself.
Ratsula’s wispy vocals deliver the unease with a gentle demeanor, lyrics gracefully bearing the weight of such a tender message: "After the scars heal you'll change how you feel, overnight." It’s natural to wonder if our partners will be able to withstand the inconstancy of an evolving identity because of our refusal to let go of the idea that their love must be conditional. Instead of looming here, Ratsula challenges the discomfort by learning that their dynamic life is not a burden and working to be uplifted by the love of those around them. Struggling with who you are can make it hard to feel sure of anything, and “second” finds a way to show just how empowering unconditional love can be. Akin to an affirmation, "I just wanna love myself so I can love you better" is Miki Ratsula’s expositional cry to move forward towards a place of pride. Photo by Ashley Osborn.— Jenna Andreozzi on June 11, 2021
Sakura - I Can't Call You Baby
“Say it,” he said in his Oxford blue button-up shirt, khaki pants and white sneakers from the other side of the room. He may as well have been on Mars; he felt that distant to her as she stood her ground on the corresponding side. How could I? she thought to herself, her eyes meeting his, telling him everything he needed to know. “You won’t say it,” he muttered to himself, cast his eyes downwards like he invented shoegaze. “It’s not that I won’t. I can’t,” she said, breaking her own vow of silence, the tears flowing now, the regret palpable now.
Written, produced and performed by Sakura herself (yes, even the backing vocals), Sakura’s “I Can’t Call You Baby” is a strings-heavy ode to resignation from toxicity. Shades of 15-time Grammy award winner Alicia Keys float to the surface around 2:33 when Sakura’s vocals reach new heights. “I hope that you’re on the way / I always say your name before I go to sleep,” Sakura sings, hinting at the possibility who or what the song is about was once a regular in her dreams and still may be welcomed at that. Attraction is such a fickle and flexible thing.— Mustafa Abubaker on June 9, 2021
Nathaniel Paul - Silence
It was the first time you would see my apartment, but it was my last. All set to move out tomorrow. Already moved most of my things out but kept my bed and my pots and pans to make eggplant parmesan for you and me. How could I be so unsure about our future when we were as emotionally close as we we were physically? I thought of the As Tall As Lions song "I’m Kicking Myself." You were quiet as a writer or a painter at work, but your puppy eyes were thunderous as gunfire or rockets. You would stay the night, and we would wake up here together for the one and only time, and we would either lay our heads together once more somewhere else or part ways. My future with you hung in the balance, and yet my past with you sung in Dallas, and my present with you stung in challenge.
Nathaniel Paul’s “Silence” is the type of song born out of an unexplainable uncertainty; a bizarre and hard-to-shake emotion. The song calls back to the chillwave sounds pioneered by Toro y Moi, but has its own modern influx of drum and synth work. Play this one at the beach and drink coffee to it.— Mustafa Abubaker on June 8, 2021
Kaley Rutledge - Tough Enough
After some years of releasing music under the sobriquet of “De Joie," which translates to “of joy” in the French language, Kaley Rutledge has made the embraved decision to attach her new releases to her given name. Under her own name, Rutledge releases an unapologetically true-to-self anthem by the name of “Tough Enough." This track is a reckoning of self, coming from a place of knowing that the vulnerability we are offered as people, to share our stories, is the most sacred and important aspect of living. “Tough Enough” is a product of the recounting of a relationship that didn’t work out and the thought process of coming to that fatal realization: “I don’t want it that badly / To change a thing about myself that I quite like." Everything about the track wriggles with release of a past thing and circles back to the self, where healing happens and good can grow. Photo by Mindy Dunlap.— Laney Esper on June 4, 2021
Luna Li - Alone But Not Lonely
Scoring the arrival of Hot Girl/Gay/They Summer, “Alone But Not Lonely” is the latest release from Toronto-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Luna Li. The tune glimmers with hints of nostalgia; a gliding synthesizer introduces the helplessly funky groove as Li begins to recite her self-care mantra. The beat becomes infectious—I can’t avoid shaking my head along to the euphonic confidence of her lyrical affirmations. Focus is then swept away from the melody by a commanding guitar solo that brings a sense of power and knowingness to the playful track. The magnetic bassline and layered harmonies compliment her signature angelic-pop sound, allowing Li to jump back into the choral groove with even more energy than before. Despite its brevity, just 102 conclusive seconds, “Alone But Not Lonely” has me turning up the volume when it comes on because every single moment feels present. If you’re taking time this summer to cultivate inner power, I suggest putting on Luna Li’s dreamy discography and trying not to worry about the rest. Photo by Felice Trinidad.— Jenna Andreozzi on June 2, 2021
SHIMA - Fade Out
Tokyo-based producer, singer and engineer SHIMA has just released “Fade Out,” a track filled with those same enchanting textures and beats that have earned her much credence in such a small amount of time. Shortly after SHIMA graduated from the University of Miami Frost School of Music in 2019, she left her job as a software engineer to pursue her passion full time, and her ability to mesh beats and delicate but striking lyrics is hard to leave unnoticed. “Fade Out,” like many of her songs, uses a mix of English and Japanese all perfectly balanced and sung in a way that excites the mind and soul. “Fade Out” allows the waves of lyrics to cascade through the textured beat, making it the kind of song you want to get lost in, to let yourself fade into the surging tide of sonic prose on a rainy day. Photo by Yuri Horie.— Monica Hand on May 28, 2021
Jelani Aryeh - From These Heights
As we’re continuing the strife to uncover a new “normal,” we can’t help but settle in the uncertainty that these past few years have left us floating within. So much has happened and so much has changed all from behind the confines of the four walls that we call home. For the moments when the sky feels like it's falling and you need someplace to plant your feet, the San Diego-raised artist Jelani Aryeh offers his latest drop, “From These Heights."
Uniquely its own entity, "From These Heights" both separates itself from modern music and sows new roots for the music of the future in a quick 3-minute go. Aryeh reorients early 2000s indie rock to suit our time of need. Featuring existential lyricism and that good ole’ stripped-down garage band sound, this gem channels the energy of music in the past to invoke worldwide change for the future.
Aryeh began crafting this track during the pandemic, at the height of civil unrest, sharing on his Instagram: “I made this song with Alex Craig of Slaters last May...George Floyd had just been murdered, and the riots were just starting to take place. It felt like there was so much chaos + uncertainty in the air and it seemed like everywhere you’d turn there was something threatening your livelihood. It was like everyone was trapped in a box of mayhem with no exit. I know that's still the case for a lot of you and many others around the globe. At the least, I hope this song can ease your feelings and give you somewhere to settle yourself. Even if that’s for 3 minutes.”
The young Black and Filipino artist has been making wide strides in the industry since 2018, with his track "Daunt" catching fire in the hearts and ears of alternative indie lovers. Aryeh is a trailblazing creative, never ceasing to hone his craft or personal growth, both of which evolve with each new release. “From These Heights '' is the third single from his forthcoming debut album I’ve Got Some Living To Do and merely a preview of the young artist’s musical dexterity and effortless ability to transform hearts and minds. See for yourself. Photo by Zamar Velez.— Bianca Brown on May 27, 2021
Soccer Mommy - Wide Open Spaces (The Chicks Cover)
Indie darling Soccer Mommy dropped a cover of The Chicks' "Wide Open Spaces" on May 14. Because of Soccer Mommy's melancholy rock sound, a cover of a country hit from the 90s took me by surprise. The "circle the drain" singer reminds the world that she hails from Nashville and is no stranger to country tunes as she naturally dons her metaphorical cowboy hat and clicks into this country melody. The arrangement is fun and original, and it's strangely refreshing to hear her refined, soft vocal on a song originally sung by country powerhouse—and blueprint—Natalie Maine. According to Instagram, Soccer Mommy recorded this cover a few years ago. Definitely better late than never, and I hope this means we could be getting more nostalgic country covers from the indie queen sometime soon. Photo by Brian Ziff.— Hannah Lupas on May 26, 2021
Ashe - Serial Monogamist
The day she loved him could not have been sunnier. Light felt heavy on her skin, and even heavier on his. Even in the depths of emotion in which she found herself, her mind sauntered towards worlds of separation and distance between the two of them. Why? Was she that self-destructive? Or was her pining for long-term exclusivity with a man so fierce he had to be just right—like a glove or a sock?
“Serial Monogamist” by Ashe is one of those bass and melody-rich tunes fit for countryside serenades in the middle of flower fields and grassy lawns. The only urban thing about the song is the allusion to “checkin’ in at midnight;” whether that is into a hotel with off-hours or with the person she has written about is up for debate, but her sincerity is not. Her vocals soaring high over the production as the pre-chorus rocks and rolls onwards, and her chorus is every bit as calculated as her decision to move on without the drama and do someone right by love. Cheers to Ashe, and here’s to less sneaky links and cheating when and where two people are just trying not to bore each other. Photo by Dana Trippe.— Mustafa Abubaker on May 25, 2021
Flew Away - Fanclubwallet
“Flew Away” is the third of five stunning lo-fi tracks on the debut EP from fanclubwallet, Hurt is Boring. Ottawa-based musician and illustrator Hannah Judge looks back from a place of acceptance on the demise of a relationship, exploring themes of misunderstanding and miscommunication, what-ifs and so-whats, and how our own emotions can take us by surprise. She sings, “I didn’t know that it would make me feel this way seein’ your face online every day,” which is a testament both to the virtual spaces we have largely existed in for the past year and to the challenge of creating distance from our hurt when it always seems to be one tap or scroll away.
Judge’s description of her style as “writing emo shit that doesn’t sound emo” is spot-on. Her vocal style is relatively understated, but her words pack a punch, and both complement the lo-fi instrumentals to give her music an undeniably nostalgic yet poignant bedroom pop sound. The mood is relaxed, but the sound is tight, guitar and bass riffs keeping time with a drumbeat during verses that punch between choruses and bridges backed by the youthful and energetic plinking of a toy piano—a favorite instrument of Judge’s that can be heard peeking out from behind layers of sound throughout the EP. A joyfully chattering crowd can also be heard at times in the background of “Flew Away,” adding a house-party vibe to the track—a nod, perhaps, to social lives past, and a sound we’ll hopefully all be hearing more of sooner rather than later.
Written from her childhood bedroom during the pandemic, which coincided with a Crohn’s disease flareup for Judge (the line “I went to bed and didn’t get out for 10 months” is meant literally in her latest single, “C’mon Be Cool”), the EP is “about taking the good with the bad,” Judge has said. “You can’t really appreciate one without the other.” Not only was the EP written in Judge’s childhood bedroom, but it was also produced by her childhood best friend, producer Michael Watson. The pandemic has allowed many of us to reach back and connect (and/or reckon) with our past selves and past lives and take the good with the bad in what we find there. Judge likes to leave her lyrics up for interpretation, specific enough to allude to a situation, but vague enough to leave room for the listener to find their own meaning within the words. In keeping with this practice, “Flew Away” is sure to offer a little something for everyone. Photo by Ian Filipovic.— Maya Bouvier-Lyons on May 21, 2021
Premiere Coma Culture - Martha
We are delighted to premiere Coma Culture’s beautiful new single “Martha,” prior to the release of their debut album, Camouflage. Coma Culture is the new indie-rock project from Young The Giant’s Eric Cannata and Francois Comtois, along with producer/songwriter Jon O’Brien.
Previous releases found Coma Culture dealing with the complexity and shallowness of modern life, as well as the feel-good, carefree joy that comes from falling in love. Mixed by Yuuki Matthews, “Martha” finds them pushing into complex emotional territory as they candidly navigate the struggles of addiction.
Soft swirling synths and gentle keys establish an unwavering honesty that is present throughout, as ghostly vocals let us know from the start that this is a direct confession to the narrator’s wife, Martha. Droning sounds mimic the repetitive background pull that is dependence, while the narrator reveals “Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat / And I need something in my veins”. The beat intensifies, different elements of percussion set in and a whirlwind of synths come forward as though we’re moving through a maze of old alluring habits and resisting them. Despite that, there is also a felt sense of a glimmer of hope, something that keeps grounding the narrator and it comes in the form of another person, in this case, Martha herself.
On the track, O’Brien said: "'Martha' is a story about waking up and fighting through the haze of addiction—choosing to live selflessly for at least one day and attempt a change for the person you love most. My biological father has spent most of his life in prison and drug addiction has always been a constant battle. The song is based on the premise that there is a fork in the road, a choice is to be made, and the future looks daunting but hopeful."
The optimism mentioned by O’Brien is felt when swelling strings arise, giving us a sense that the right choice will be made and despite the difficulty, the narrator will be able to pull through for the person they love. This stunning instrumental outro ends with the words “I woke for you today, Martha,” hitting us straight in the gut and reminding us of the truly positive ways other people can help shape our lives.James Ramos on May 20, 2021