Momma - Habitat
In ecology, a habitat is the environment that’s the most compatible with an organism’s specific traits. In other words, it’s the exact place where the same things that make you unique allow you to thrive—just by existing as you are. This sense of finding a home you’re perfectly adapted for is hard to find as a person, and that universal yearning is exactly what "Habitat" by Momma captures. Sonically, "Habitat" could easily find a home nestled in a playlist next to works from an assortment of other artists. The tight vocal harmonies would sit comfortably next to tracks by Girlpool or Hand Habits. The harmonically patient guitar lines, floating between reverb and grunge, would pair well with Chastity Belt. The lyrics are masterfully balanced between whimsical and serious, similar to their label-mates, Current Joys. However, Momma’s talent is their strong skill to weave a multi-faceted narrative. The verses are poetic and confrontational; the chorus is tender and longing. Overall, the song paints a picture that will resonate with anyone feeling small, filled with fire, and slightly out of place everywhere they go. So go ahead, sink your teeth into it while you wait for Momma’s sophomore album, Two of Me, due June 5 via Danger Collective Records.— Allison Hill on May 26, 2020
Parcels - Overnight (from Hansa Studios, Berlin)
Parcels, the Aussie fivesome known for their disco-pop bangers, recently released Live Vol.1 as a follow up to their 2018 self-titled debut album. Among the classic studio recordings made in Hansa, Berlin is “Overnight," famously cowritten with Daft Punk and carrying the same funky vibes off of the iconic French duo’s Random Access Memories. If you’re familiar with Parcels, you know they have a knack for transporting their listeners back to the groovier days of the ’70s. I wasn’t alive yet, but tracks like “Overnight” feel like the rainbow that bridges the generational gap between us all.
The recent turn of weather is a reminder of the New York City summer looming over our heads, and with quarantine, the uncertainty of what that summer looks like. Before self-isolation, we could rely on the routine of heavy heat like clockwork. Everyone knows some iteration of what I’m talking about; when Friday finally rolls around and the murderous sun has set, you hit play on a track like ”Overnight” and start to get ready. It’s a reminder of late nights spent out with friends, in your best outfits, dancing at halogen lit bars like Mood Ring or Friends and Lovers, skin sticky with the humidity, and the pulse of too many people packed into too small of a room. The bathroom line might be long but the possibility in the air is electric. Under the flashing lights, the silhouettes of your friends are bobbing up and down to the beat. One catches your eye and smiles, teeth glowing blue-white. Another is across the room, leaning over the bar with cash in hand. "Do you want anything?" they mouth over the heads of strangers. There is the laughter of shared inconvenience, of worries saved for another day. It may be hot and loud, but with the right music and the right people, there is a feeling of fullness; a promise of life, playing on repeat.— Shasha Léonard on May 22, 2020
RAC Feat. Luna Shadows - Boomerang
The third studio album from RAC titled BOY is a collection of songs that reflect the innocence of youth while exposing the angst and pain that comes with growing up. André Allen Anjos is the musician and producer behind RAC, which leaves room for a variety of vocalists to feature on his projects. The instant I saw Luna Shadows on the tracklist I knew the song “Boomerang” would become an instant favorite from the album. California alt-pop artist Luna Shadows is known for her ability to pair contrasting subjects and for finding a way to blend light and dark. “Boomerang” does exactly that by referencing all the ways in which we try to stay connected via social media— revealing how they ultimately leave us lonely. The playful way in which she sings, “Everyone who loves you is leaving,” almost has me believing this song is a happy one. The swinging melody and reverberated guitar insist that Juul pods, Instagram DMS and Boomerangs are cool, but the lyrics unveil the bigger picture that they lack any lasting substance. As the song comes to a close I find myself wanting to post a selfie and delete Instagram all at once.— Beck on May 22, 2020
Blake Mills - Window Facing A Window
If it wasn’t blatantly obvious from his previous work, the guitar mastermind and accomplished producer Blake Mills has a way with words, too. Mutable Set, Mills’ newest LP, is an intricately intimate album that sounds gentle but packs a lyrically gut-wrenching punch.
In “Window Facing A Window,” we are moved through an empty house, to a bare garden, then to a lacking bedroom, where Mills traces just where the vivid memories and past meanings from a relationship go. A slight line change in the chorus from “Are you upset?” to the latter “Are you all set?" shows the development—or rather, the deterioration—of a relationship, set to a sparingly played guitar and gentle piano sounds.
Mills’ humble voice makes his lyrics more raw and relatable, allowing him to capture a sound of longing that feels like waking up next to a warm body and knowing that it will be for the last time. All that is left is Mills, crafting poignant sounds in combination with desolate imagery that makes the song sorrowful, yet entirely comfortable. Almost like it was made in a bedroom, “with a bed that isn’t there anymore.”— Elizabeth Shaffer on May 22, 2020
Dirty Nice - My Dead End Self
“My Dead End Self” begins with technological reminiscence. The stillness around me is filled with the recognizable yet abrasive sound of a skipping CD. I am briefly teleported back to my childhood, recalling the countless hours spent playing the same albums on a purple boombox until they too developed that eerie but familiar skip. However, as the song continues, I am jerked from my reverie and tactfully reminded that, for all intents and purposes, CDs are extinct. We live in an age where music is produced, consumed and promoted on the internet, and the band Dirty Nice couldn't be any more aware of this phenomenon.
If the Talking Heads were a product of the late 2010s as opposed to the mid-1970s, they would probably sound just like Dirty Nice.With a sound that pays homage to previous new wave artists through skilled sampling and synthesizing, “My Dead End Self” is hauntingly existential, yet ironically emotive—"All I need in these dead-end times is a place to live my dead-end life." The track and its accompanying music video pulse with an impending sense of doom and engage in a one-way conversation with what seems to be the end of the world. While the track itself is only three and a half minutes, its message is profound and long-lasting, giving you something to think about long after the sound fades into the atmosphere.— Lilly Rothman on May 22, 2020
Little Simz - might bang, might not
On her stunning new EP, Drop 6, Little Simz demonstrates that confinement can be a conduit to creativity. While stuck inside over the last couple of months, she self-produced the collection and released it through her own independent label, Age 101. The first song, though humbly named “might bang, might not,” clearly bangs. Big bass booms and jazzy snares make up the track’s relatively simple but sonically huge production, creating the perfect smoky floor for Simz’s bars to float on top of. Simz stacks witty brag upon witty brag here (my favorite is that she not only “crashed the party,” she “is the party”), but at the end of the day, show is always going to be more important than tell. What she shows is that she’s (still) ready to claim her place in the GOAT conversation. She claims she “ain’t slept good in days,” but with flows that bob like a butterfly, subtle and quick delivery, and a confident sense of humor, maybe she’ll be able to rest more easily if more of us finally acknowledge that she’s one of the most talented rappers alive.— Karl Snyder on May 21, 2020
Ronboy - Wake Up
Los Angeles-based Ronboy brings together a DIY indie energy with highly produced soundscapes. "Wake Up" is the band's first single off of a gorgeous debut EP and it’s a tune that feels like a vision, the kind with half-remembered impossibilities and a hazy feeling that follows you around all day. The song is immaculately crafted, with a carefully built arrangement that draws us in layer by layer until we’re surrendering ourselves to the waves of synths and honey-dipped reverb-y vocals. Julia Laws, lead singer and bandleader, sings with a laid back, expansive sound. Its richness only adds to the general vibe of this track, described by Laws as "nostalgic and dreamy." If this is what dreams were always like we’d never want to wake up.— Mikhal Weiner on May 21, 2020
Zella Day - People Are Strangers
As she proved with her 2015 single “Hypnotic,” 25-year-old Zella Day has some experience with delivering engaging and ‘hypnotic’ pop with a groove. Five years later, Zella is still producing hypnotic pop, but she is slowing things down a bit with her new single “People Are Strangers.”
Like many of us, Zella seems to have loads of extra time on her hands to get introspective, and the dream-like state of “People Are Strangers” reflects on her deepest thoughts; you can almost hear her moving from one thought to another. In a time where the world is relying on human connection more and more, Zella ponders human interaction over a melody which sounds reminiscent of the dreamy sun-kissed pop produced in 1970’s California. Zella gets confessional as she sings about wanting to push people away, and insecurity over wanting to maintain relationships while being acutely aware of the negative aspects of getting to know someone and forming a new bond. Zella candidly admits of her habits, “People are strangers / I’m getting stranger / The moment they wanna get closer I push them further.”
Zella seems to open up more as the song progresses on its dreamy legs, almost writing off the idea of meeting anyone new altogether, while she sings “People are danger / It’s human nature.” It sounds like she would rather be safer than sorry because she holds an awareness that many don’t: Humans are more alike than we realize.
Zella Day plans to release an EP sometime in 2020. Look out for Where Does The Devil Hide.— Taylor Hodgkins on May 21, 2020
Hazel English - FIve and Dime
Hazel English steps outside for a breath of fresh air on "Five and Dime," the latest single from the Oakland-based Australian crooner. Confessing her need for space, English couldn't be blunter: "I was running free 'til you called me up...Gotta get away / 'Cause you're taking up all of my time." Bright vocals animate the track's shoegaze essence with a neo-psychedelic nostalgia. The idea for the song came from a trip she took to Oakland to find space from an increasingly hectic LA. English explains, "'Five and Dime’ is actually an old slang term for the area code 510 which covers the East Bay, so I thought it would be a fun way to refer to the place that once used to be my home.” As we brace ourselves through uncertain times, the story of this breezy track is a glint of sunshine for us social distancers who might be finding our own metaphorical "five and dime" to escape to. "Five and Dime" is the latest of singles from her debut album Wake UP!, released on April 24 via Marathon/Polyvinyl.— Ysabella Monton on May 21, 2020
Arlo Parks - Black Dog
References to Robert Smith and Sylvia Plath aside, 19-year-old, London-based artist Arlo Parks doesn’t just write about loneliness and melancholy, her songs allow some light to shine through too. Her follow-up to her previous single, “Euguene” (a soul-wrenching song about jealousy and heartbreak), “Black Dog” feels much like a second act, as if we come across the same character battling depression. “I would do anything to get you out your room” the narrator tells them. Parks' lyrics are deeply empathetic, connecting with anyone who has lived with someone struggling with mental illness or has gone through it themselves. “It’s so cruel what your mind can do for no reason,” she sings softly— the verse sinks into your soul. But aside from being a gifted songwriter, she is equally careful with her sound, blending R&B with a dreamy pop aura that echoes some of her fellow compatriots like Nilüfer Yanya or Pip Millet.
The song's music video is a beautiful companion piece, showing two seemingly lonely people in different enclosed spaces. But like the song itself, the video has a subtle twist that quickly becomes apparent: they are not really alone after all.— Alejandro Veciana on May 20, 2020
Renée Reed - Out Loud
Renée Reed takes us through a haunted daydream in her debut single “Out Loud.” It’s a hazy and stripped-down folk offering that is mesmerizing in its simplicity. The Lafayette folk gaze artist has an undertone of Cajun influence that bleeds into her delicately plucked acoustic guitar that rises and falls rhythmically. She entrances us with echoing warbled vocals—singing, “I could be daydreaming / hanging out / deep in the corner I tell all your secrets out loud.” It feels like something between a warning and a promise. Reed is a strange marriage between Mazzy Star and Adrianne Lenker. The track is foggy and disorienting with moments of brightness that fade as quickly as they come. With such an oddly satisfying debut released via Austin label Keeled Scales, I am inclined to believe her when she sings, “who am I? / you’re about to find out.”— Corey Bates on May 20, 2020