NAKAYA - Fire Becomes Me
Low strings set a somber mood before NAKAYA’s enchanting voice comes through on her new demo “Fire Becomes Me.” Steady as can be, the Brooklyn-based artist guides us through a story of calm turmoil, which eventually boils over as she sings, “Well is it true / what can I do / I'm finding / fire becomes me now.” The tranquil sound of this track juxtaposed with the fiery imagery couldn’t be more apt during a time in which isolation has become the norm though the fires of societal tumult and change rage on. All of the proceeds from this demo's digital downloads on NAKAYA’s Bandcamp are being donated directly to Color of Change.— Ben Burke on August 7, 2020
Hovvdy - Runner
Sometimes songs are special because they are good. Sometimes songs are special because the context surrounding your first listen is significant in some way. Sometimes, but rarely, a song is special because the first listen superimposes it with such a strong feeling that the song is forever etched in your brain. For me, "Runner" by Hovvdy wholeheartedly claims brain space in that way exactly. My first listen was about 20 minutes after it came out, as one of innumerable music recs bounced back and forth between me and one of my close friends. On its own, it’s a pleasant 3 minutes and 44 seconds that suits both of our tastes. Gentle syncopated bass and sentimental almost-love lyrics catch my ears and heart first. For him, it’s probably the percussion, gentle guitar (heavy on beat two), all overlaid with vocals that melt over everything else. Subtle effects tempt you in for repeat listens, your ears determined to mine every sonic easter egg you can find. I can’t count the number of elements to admire, but ironically the most poignant piece is something that was never written in at all. It’s memories of every piece of friendship with the person who shared it with me, montaged like videos on fuzzy aged film, in a way that makes me as happy as it does sad. The past is as gone as it is good, and only the future remains. That’s the core feeling of this new Hovvdy single, and I adore it. "Runner" is nostalgia, bottled and fizzy.— Allison Hill on August 3, 2020
Andy Shauf - Judy
"Judy," the latest from Saskatchewan-born singer-songwriter Andy Shauf, is one of two B side releases from his most recent record, The Neon Skyline. In keeping with Shauf’s signature narrative form, "Judy" finds its protagonist nostalgic about his times playing the lottery with his eponymous ex-girlfriend. “What would you buy?” one of them asks in the chorus. “I’d buy a ticket for the Thursday night and try to win twice,” the other answers—a risky move, but what’s a romantic relationship without a little risk? Shauf makes a clear comparison here.
Echoing the mellow and gentle vocals of Stuart Murdoch from early Belle & Sebastian records with the playful tenderness of Jens Lekman, Shauf establishes himself as the friendliest voice in indie folk music. But all Canadian stereotypes aside, the track's brilliance lies in its straightforwardness. Shauf’s swaying guitar strumming seasoned with a pinch of a 60s-styled tambourine shake adds the perfect base to Shauf’s most notable ingredient: a genuinely simple and sincere story.— Alejandro Veciana on August 3, 2020
The Septembers - Night Games
Berlin-based songwriter and soul singer Donna Arendse is The Septembers. On “Night Games,” her voice floats confidently atop the slowly expanding production of Melbourne-based producer Wayfarer//. The result is a deeply affecting electro-soul track that eventually grows to a sudden and surprising catharsis. At first, there is only a lonesome piano sample, and Arendse’s layered vocals lifting from the ground around it like swirling mist. When the bass finally kicks in, it seems to circle the piano like prey, and the poetry of the first lyrics shrouds the scene with even more mysterious tension. Halfway through the song, as Arendse sings the track’s mantra over and over in her honeyed alto, the words seem hesitant to leave their home in her heart. But the feeling is too powerful to stay in there. Soon it swells into a thunderous wave of sound, booming in and out of focus. And when the wave recedes, the five words written in the sand need no further explanation. “No one wants to hurt.”— Karl Snyder on July 31, 2020
Linden Jay - Got Me All Wrong
Less is more on Linden Jay’s latest track "Got Me All Wrong." Half of FARR, the talented and accomplished producer creatively turns on the charm on this track. Beautiful vocals echo words that evoke the realization of incompatibility, “I think you've got me all wrong / you don't know me at all / you like the way I make you feel / you like the way I see right through you,” still, the exclamation, “I think your soul is so beautiful” dramatically stands out for more reasons than one—as isolated vocals highlight a sentiment seemingly juxtaposed from the rest.
Playful electronic elements accent bassy undertones and unique vocal distortions. The stylization of repeated lyrics plays nicely with the beat, adding an air of novelty akin to getting to know someone familiar all over again. It's hard to deny the way "Got Me All Wrong" pulls you in lyrically and sonically with such stunning simplicity—a true testament to Jay's production prowess.— Jazzmyne Pearson on July 31, 2020
Mona Lisa Tribe - Fly
Cherished hometown heroes of West Palm Beach, Mona Lisa Tribe is a locally loved delicacy moving in a new direction, in terms of location, to Nashville. Their new song “Fly” was written on an airplane—a breeding place for boundless creativity and rumination amidst the company of strangers and the clouds. This track was originally written by band member Tabitha Meeks about a moment in her life where she felt that multiple people she loved had approached a time in which they could move forward and “reach their full potential." In a manner true to their form, they share charming harmonies, exemplifying (with their voices) exactly how they made the city of West Palm Beach fall in love with them. While the song was originally about friends of the band, it has taken on a new meaning as they’ve migrated to a new city to pursue their own full potential with all of the support of the loving community in front of whom they came to life.— Laney Esper on July 31, 2020
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
The Sleepovers - Come Back
Songwriter cham ii’s third single as The Sleepovers, “Come Back,” was created at home alone. Its location in the world of music is that uncontrollable molten center of true DIY bedroom pop: a person giving time to a feeling, alone, perhaps literally in his bedroom, and seeing what music comes out of it. In this case, the feeling being explored is FOMO: the fear of missing out. “Where are you guys going? Can I come along?” starts the track, and the question is never answered. But as time passes, it feels like cham is escaping deeper into his own mind, and that is an answer in itself. “Feel like a square, feel bad / that I can’t find my path,” he sings, and you start to realize the whole song is built on that feeling of meandering in the dark. But another word for “meandering” is “improvising,” and the sense of unedited spontaneity is one of the track’s strong suits. As soon as you compare The Sleepovers to another artist, the vibe shifts drastically and the comparison is gone. When the warm humming of synths is joined by the blooping funk of electronic water droplets in the track’s first moments, it might remind you of early chillwave artists like Toro y Moi. But then when cham delivers a stream-of-consciousness flow over an echoey breakbeat later on, it feels like hip-hop alchemists BROCKHAMPTON are more nearby on the musical family tree. Sometimes you just start walking and the path finds you, again and again.— Karl Snyder on July 30, 2020
Boy in Space - Take on Me
Boy in Space, the moniker of Swedish singer-songwriter Robin Lundbäck, reimagines the 80s hit “Take on Me” by a-Ha. While the original holds all the best parts of the era including iconic synths, this live version brings a renewed focus to the lyrics. Letting the words breathe allows for their weightiness to hit in lines like, “Slowly learning that life is okay / Say after me / It's no better to be safe than sorry.” Sustained falsetto musings from Boy in Space hammer in the point that being uncertain is no way to live if you don't want life's best moments to pass you by.— Beck 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