Mal Blum - I Don’t Want To
Mal Blum uses punk tropes like distorted power chords and driving drum beats not to express anger, but as “the next chapter of my therapy session,” they said in a press release for the album Pity Boy, due out July 12. “I Don’t Want To," the second single from the album, is a joyful, energetic song about feelings typically at direct odds with joy and energy, as Blum sings, “When I go out / When I come home I only feel relief.” Blum takes the trepidation expressed in the lyrics and cleverly plants those ideas in the music itself, too. They rush to get words out, finagling them into the correct number of beats, never quite finishing a complete thought. “Some people have / Commitment issues / Heard through the grapevine / That you moved into / A whole new life,” they sing, and even the verse’s guitars, played by Blum and Audrey Zee Whitesides of Speedy Ortiz, feel jumpy and excited. There’s an undeniable joy in “I Don’t Want To,” the sigh of relief of a weight finally being lifted off one’s chest. This sigh battles with the song’s themes until the explosion of the chorus, a triumphantly confident sing-along ultimatum — “I don’t want to / I don’t want to / I don’t want to / So I won’t.”— Daniel Shanker on May 10, 2019
Meernaa - Better Part
The word “adore” is one of the English language’s most affectionate and intense verbs to describe the giving of true, unconditional love to someone else. Quite literally, adoration is the deification of another human. In “Better Part,” Meernaa’s frontwoman Carly Bond sings over and over again “the way I adore you / the way I adore you” about her bandmate and new hubby Rob Shelton. Like all great love songs, her deeply intimate sentimentality extends to you, the listener, warming you from inside out. A sparse, Pet Shop Boys-esque minute long intro gives way to Bonds soluble vocals and the lithe track snakes along from there, whispering for snugs and love absent of doubt from her better half. The synth and drum production is deft and quietly confident, the songwriting is lovely and heart-baring. Released last month, “Better Part” is accompanied by a kaleidoscopic animated visual and will appear on the band’s debut LP, Heart Hunger, out 6/14 on Native Cat Recordings.— Devon Sheridan on May 9, 2019
Anderson .Paak ft. André 3000 - Come Home
“Come Home” is the smooth, crescendoing opening track on Anderson .Paak’s newest album, Ventura. The release finds .Paak making a successful return to soul after veering left, toward rap, on last year’s Oxnard, a decision that disgruntled fans hoping for a follow-up to his groundbreaking 2016 record, Malibu. Ventura, released just five months after Oxnard, is that follow-up; it’s a larger, livelier, and wiser ode to romance and classic soul, and “Come Home” is a powerhouse of an opener. The funk rock heart of the arrangement, which builds to gratifying release, compliments the impressive percussion and .Paak’s light, jovial vocal. He sings to his love with an effortlessly likable croon: “I’m begging you please / Come home / No one even begs anymore.” Later, André 3000’s rap solo acts as its own distinct section of the song and showcases his virtuosic talent with words. It’s the perfect bridge, balancing out .Paak’s tender, sincere soul with sharp words and a pulsing flow. With a groovy beat and compelling lyrics, “Come Home” is a fun ode to old school soul music.— Britnee Meiser on May 9, 2019
Fever Dolls - Mrs. Carver
“Mrs. Carver,” from Burlington, Vermont’s Fever Dolls, with its Americana imagery, feels like a piano ballad straight out of Springsteen On Broadway—right down to the wistful harmonica break . A disclaimer at the start of the music video warns, “Listeners can expect to feel sentimental / reflective / empathetic / verklempt,” the last of which of course is a derivative of the Yiddish word meaning “overcome with emotion.” The songs of Fever Dolls walk a fine line between melodrama and whimsy, in large part due to Evan Allis’ prodigious songwriting talents. “Mrs. Carver” showcases both his penchant for mining the emotional depths of expository songwriting and his playful dedication to word choice, snapping pictures of precise moments with the internal slant rhymes of lines like, “Mrs. Carver of West Virginia / Second daughter of a prominent fixture / Pride of Harvard, blight of the bay.” Singer Renn Malloy, able to belt the roof off of any covered bridge in Vermont, shows tactful restraint in “Mrs. Carver,” delivering the band’s most moving performance to date.— Daniel Shanker on May 9, 2019
Buzzy Lee - Sundown Queen
Indie singer-songwriter Sasha Spielberg, better known by her moniker Buzzy Lee, combines lush bedroom-pop and 80’s inspired synth tones with her enchanting, smooth vocals in her latest single “Sundown Queen.” The track is the first single from her new EP Close Encounters of Their Own Kind—produced by Justin Raisen and heavily influenced by keyboardist Tommy Mandel‘s 1979 record Mello Magic. “Sundown Queen" sounds like a vintage pop ballad with an isolated, dark vibe, and drips with subtle nostalgic summer imagery. The singer’s high-pitched vocal delivery on the pinched words descend smoothly as she sings poignant lyrics like, "I can play the part that you wrote for me / In the 70s, we'd be in love."— Alessandra Rincon on May 8, 2019
Lisel - Ciphers
Eliza Bagg, also known as one half of Pavo Pavo, has taken a side step to recenter and introduce herself as a solo artist. Taking the name Lisel, Bagg uses the space the solo project provides to digs deeper into her talent as a vocal artist and creates intricate sounds and rhythms using her voice as the lead instrument. Accompanied by timely pitched synths and tones, one thing is certain: experimental pop and Lisel are clearly a good fit for one another.
“Ciphers,” Lisel’s first single off her upcoming debut album, possesses traits that let her time with Pavo Pavo shine through. Like her work with the band, the sound is heavily comprised of airy whisps and slow builds with clever lyrics—but now, the focus on her voice is what sets her music apart. She pushes her vocal cords to the most alluring and haunting limits as those lyrics climb and the chorus swells. Bagg’s vocals are eloquently layered to develop this dreamlike state of heavy chords and soft weightless words. Like a heartfelt lullaby, the song draws you in from the very start, and by the end, you’re left craving more.— Monica Hand on May 8, 2019
Vampire Weekend - Flower Moon
Vampire Weekend’s fourth full-length record was forged amidst a sea of changes—in the band and in the world. Lead singer Ezra Koenig moved to LA and had a son with his partner. Producer and multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij, who had a heavy hand in the band’s signature sound, left to start a solo career. Climate change and persistent political apathy were (and continue to be) a huge threat to the planet, and are therefore at the forefront of many minds, including Koenig’s. “This life / And all its suffering,” he sings on the track “This Life,” indirectly asking the question: what’s the point of it all?
On Father of the Bride, Koenig addresses existential ennui by coupling it with issues of faith, the passage of time, and physical belonging amidst a backdrop of sunny, quirky alt-pop melodies, offsetting the themes with a healthy dose of optimism. Each track is uniquely atmospheric, incorporating elements of 60s surf rock, 70s psycheledia, 80s disco pop, and more. Perhaps the most delightfully out-of-the-box is one of Steve Lacy's featured tracks, “Flower Moon,” which pulls from a South American jazz-style influence. It opens with a gorgeously hypnotic, vocoded vocals over layers of acapella harmonies: “Flower moon / Curse the night / If the sun don't make things right / Then it's gonna take a year.” Steve Lacy’s presence is made apparent in the guitar tone and, later, in a low, crooning vocal. With Brazilian-style percussion and a variety of strange, intentionally random sounds in the bridge, the song culminates in a mood that feels busy and carefree. “Flower Moon” is an upbeat and surprising stand-out track on an album full of happily self-aware songs.— Britnee Meiser on May 8, 2019
Runnner - Frame
Like the workings of an anxious mind, “Frame” never settles in one spot. The chorus opens with an enormous, cathartic, rafter-rattling communal yell, only to fall silent seconds later and return gentler than ever before. It’s a burst of raw emotion, a count to 10 and finally a sigh. Frontman Noah Weinman sings of total paralysis in the face of anxiety and sadness—“I want to be productive / But I can’t get up off the floor.” Harder still is the constant struggle to appear as upbeat as everyone else, even when the bad outweighs the good, even if they’re pretending too, even if the effort itself is exhausting. “If you ask me how I’m feeling I’ll just lie / I see my best friends every weekend / I’m fucking reading all the time,” sings Weinman. In a brilliant act of subversion, he has gone and done something beautiful with his aimlessness and his existential dread. Runnner has grown sonically since their first album, a collection of charming but spare songs equally inspired by indie-folk and lo-fi electronic production. Now, with a seven-member lineup, the band has taken the opportunity to demonstrate an enormous dynamic range with synthesizers sitting in the background and a horn section stabbing at the melody. Band members span a veritable who’s who of a certain corner of Los Angeles indie-rock—Weinman plays with recent Buzzsession guests Worn-Tin, and bassist Rosie Tucker’s solo shows at SXSW garnered attention from NPR’s spotlight, to name just a few of the associated acts. Runnner’s EP Fan On is due out June 7th, and you can catch the release show on June 11th at the Bootleg in Los Angeles. Photo Credits: Nell Sherman and Silken Weinberg— Daniel Shanker on May 7, 2019
Jade Bird - Side Effects
English singer-songwriter Jade Bird leans into her folk side with “Side Effects” off her self-titled debut album. At first, it’s pretty bare with just acoustic guitar and minimal percussion, but it builds gradually as a full band comes in after the second verse and Bird's voice reaches its peak in the last chorus. The upbeat song holds the desperation and optimism of young love as she sings, “Give me a sign and we’ll go / if it’s tonight baby please.” That being said, there are some indications that the relationship may not be as good as she wants it to be and that she doesn't like the person her lover has turned into. The tried and true trope of running away together is the through-line of the track. There’s this idea that maybe if they get out of here, the bad things will fade into the rearview mirror. Maybe they could leave all their troubles behind. Jade’s trying to convince both herself and the person she loves that everything will be ok.— Corinne Bates on May 7, 2019
Mac DeMarco - All Of Our Yesterdays
The Canadian indie rock legend Mac DeMarco recently released "All of Our Yesterdays"—the second single from his upcoming album, Here Comes the Cowboy. Following the release of "Nobody," the album’s first single, it's clear that DeMarco will be touching on some of his classic somber themes of loss, aging, and moving on.
"All of our Yesterdays" is reminiscent of his last album, This Old Dog. In many ways, it is also very representative of what makes Mac DeMarco, Mac DeMarco. The slow build is something he’s always been known for, using a steady beat and simple chords to create a chill vibe that attracts the listener. He's the master of writing sad songs that aren't outright melancholy. With the layering of several harmonic elements floating beneath his lax vocals, he succeeds in pushing the lyrics to the forefront of his listener's mind as he draws out emotions of longing and loss.
The acoustic guitar and lyrical brevity is not only beautiful but also uplifting within the sad context of the song. Though he’s singing of his loss of yesterdays, a line that was inspired by Macbeth and an old episode of Star Trek, he urges that it does not mean it's over. Throughout the chorus, you can hear him pointing this out “And that don't mean your dream is over / And that don't make your heart beat slower/ Such a shame to complain” Even with his generally bleak tone, he so often alludes to a silver lining. DeMarco isn't afraid to acknowledge that there’s a brighter side to it all. This goofball performer is full of wisdom in sometimes surprising ways, and we can’t wait to see what’s to come on Here Comes the Cowboy.— Monica Hand on May 7, 2019
Gabe Goodman - Redacted
Carefree and fun, “Redacted” is the harmonic new single from indie artist Gabe Goodman. The track, reminiscent of a folkier Passion Pit, is a sunny soundscape filled with buzzy bass lines, quirky percussion, and compelling vocal harmonies led by Goodman’s clear, easy voice. The melody is a far cry from the lyrics, which address the difficulties of being honest and vulnerable with loved ones. The song opens with a fight: “You don’t mean that / you were just looking for a reaction.” From there, Goodman’s lighthearted approach to the vocal reflects the optimism at the core of the song. “Redacted” has a cool beat and nice vocal, and it will be your next feel-good summer jam.— Britnee Meiser on May 6, 2019