Ted Taforo - Island (feat. Lenka Shockley)
Simply beautiful. Two words that describe Ted Taforo’s track “Island.” From the captivating lyrics to the electro-R&B vibe brought by the percussion, “Island” feels like silk through which one entangles their fingers. The addition of Lenka Shockley’s vocal makes it even more whimsical, almost as though one is traveling on a cloud, or in this case, a boat. “Island” serves as a metaphor for love and how it makes us feel stranded in our decisions. “Out in the sea/ searching for guidance,” Shockley sings with soft harmonies to add cadence. It reflects the ways in which our heart turns in different directions, overthinking the little things and failing to consider the big things. Known for fusing jazz elements into his compositions, Taforo's saxophone blares near the end of the track, allowing a feeling of comfort to run through. Taforo’s debut album, entitled Outside, will be released later this year under Future Gods. Photo by Ted Taforo.— Bianca Brutus on February 26, 2021
Sun June - Bad with time
The latest from Austin-based indie group Sun June is an anthemic offering from their new record, Somewhere. Gradually building over its three-minute run, “Bad with time” continues the band’s streak of somber, lingering tunes to beautiful effect.
The track evokes Yeah Yeah Yeahs—appropriate, considering another cut-off of Somewhere borrows its name from Yeahs’ singer Karen O. A sparse opening and booming drums recall the iconic “Maps,” but the song never loses its identity as being distinctly Sun June. Singer Laura Colwell’s lyrics fill the song with imagery of the desert and southwest, crooning “You’re too cool for LA” over the song’s chorus as twin guitars tangle and build into the conclusion.
The band has described the record as a “prom record,” encapsulating the highs and lows of rushing love. With “Bad with time,” the album opener, the band gets right to the point, setting the tone with a gentle, swaying tune fit for a drive at dusk across the desert, or perhaps someday, pandemic-pending, an actual prom. Photo by Jade Skye Hammer.— Pablo Nukaya-Petralia on February 8, 2021
Kaiti Jones - Gettin Around To It
Right off the bat, Kaiti Jones’ “Gettin Around to it” ropes in listeners with upbeat folk-rock pep and gets movin’ and groovin’ with a reviving, yet honest sound. With lyrics like “I wear an analog watch around my wrist / It hasn’t told me the time since 2016,” Jones’ witty charm and soothing voice serve as the perfect homage to indecision and procrastination. In “Gettin Around to It,” the songwriter acknowledges that problems are meant to be resolved. Continuing to put things off only leads to more frustration. Jones grapples with the idea of being motionless with progress when it comes to facing the truth, amidst physically moving to try and avoid her struggles. “Gettin Around To It” should not be labeled simply as your newest song to jam in the car to, but it should also be appreciated for the lyrical honesty the song contains. The single is the Boston-based artist’s first release of 2021 and the second single off her upcoming album Tossed, scheduled to release March 5. All in all, there are many things we should be gettin’ around to, and listening to Kaiti Jones should be on top of that list. Photo by Paula Champagne.— Keely Caulder on February 8, 2021
Ayoni - The Patriots
Navigating her identity as a young Black woman in a world that actively works to put you down has long permeated Ayoni's music in songs like "Unmoved (A Black Woman Truth)." It's a uniquely transient perspective informing the songwriting of the Barbadian-born performer and producer, who has spent time in both Singapore and Indonesia but now calls California home. And it's with her observations and experiences in the US that Ayoni hits her stride in her newest single "The Patriots," holding nothing back as she denounces institutionalized American white supremacy. Simple acoustic guitar chords and minimal production allow her vocals, oscillating between layers of choral harmonies and powerful belts, to shine as she recounts incidents from the murder of George Floyd to Trump supporters' protests to "stop the count"; "If hate is what's required," she sings, "I don't want to be a patriot." With this anthem, Ayoni rises as a voice we need now more than ever. In a statement, she said, "I felt my ancestors in the room the profound night I wrote this song, and they have guided me since." "The Patriots" is a beautiful protest piece that challenges not only the present-day America she describes as "very bloody, very white and very blue," but generations of trauma and violence that are so deeply woven into the fabric of a colonized world. Photo by Domia Edwards and Caleb Griffin.— Ysabella Monton on February 5, 2021
ELIO - elio.irl
A smooth and glittering ambiance encompasses ELIO’s new track off of her second EP, Can You Hear Me Now? However, the dazzlingly produced instrumentals contrast with the longing and loneliness evoked in the lyrics. Through dreamy vocals, Charlotte Grace Victoria intertwines reflection about missing someone with what feels like an online, intimate conversation with that same person. Named after her Instagram handle, “@elio.irl” points at both how incredible and frustrating FaceTime is, and with lyrics like “I hope you think of me tonight / Holding my hand and telling me you’re mine / I miss you so much I wanna die,” she reminds us how hard it is to have someone we love be far away. This of course hits home for most of us in a completely different way, as we navigate the loneliness and uncertainty of a global pandemic. Photo by Kyle Kirkwood.— James Ramos on February 5, 2021
Miss Grit - Grow Up To
Miss Grit's "Grow Up To" ignites with a fuzzy distorted guitar slide, somewhere between an alarm and a siren. It’s a wake-up call to something, energizing and restless. Suddenly, you hear a voice, sweet and clear, singing out a message like a radio broadcast: “When I fall dead, I’ll still crave the next place all the same." Not long after, drums and bass state their piece- aggressively percussive, kicking up the drive another notch. There’s a sense of pent-upness that reminds you simultaneously of being nine, seventeen and twenty-three. You want so desperately to be somewhere farther along than you are, even though you have no idea where that is. You’ve outgrown where you are, but all the same, it’s too soon to spread your wings in the way you crave. Just as it becomes almost too much to bear, a new rhythm guitar line gracefully enters, a welcome balm on the building sense of angst. This new layer also turns on a lightbulb; you’re always growing up. You’re an ever-evolving entity, an active agent in your own growth. There will always be growing pains but also the delight of climbing somewhere ever higher and more dangerous. Miss Grit's latest track is a delightfully raucous anthem for embracing the weight and the joy in the ceaseless desire for growth. Photo by Miss Grit.— Allison Hill on February 5, 2021
slenderbodies - superpowerful (feat. Crooked Colours)
Indie pop duo slenderbodies join forces with Crooked Colours for the uplifting tune "superpowerful," sending forth positive vibes to start 2021. Taking the soulmate theory to another level, slenderbodies sing of a connection to another human that surpasses earthly means; the illusory string of fate, "tinted red" and "tugging heartstrings." slenderbodies have always existed in a haze, but these celestial sounds take it to an otherworldly level; gossamer guitar licks and airy, whisper-like vocals are balanced with a breezy, homegrown California charm for a feel-good tune that warms this winter right up. The duo just launched a campaign on Propeller where fans can take action to support The Trevor Project and, in turn, be entered to win a virtual meet and greet, signed vinyl and more. Photo by Alex Parker.— Ysabella Monton on February 4, 2021
CARM - Song of Trouble (feat. Sufjan Stevens)
37d03d, the fledgling Bon Iver-associated label, has put together an eclectic and exciting roster in their short time as an entity, with previous releases spanning everything from art house rap to a self-proclaimed folk supergroup. Their latest release comes courtesy of multi-instrumentalist, producer and arranger CARM, and his self-titled debut album is a meticulously constructed musical soundscape. Album opener “Song of Trouble” is assisted by Sufjan Stevens, and his typically profound and plaintive lyrics are a welcome accompaniment to the deliberately subdued instrumentation that backs him. The icy synths and horns that serve as the track’s foundation are a testament to CARM’s unique approach as a producer, and the triumphant swelling of strings and horns that complement Sufjan's trademark croon towards the end lends a meditative, almost religious quality to the song—and like any good prayer, I have been returning to this track on a daily basis. Photo by Shervin Lainez.— Alec Bollard on February 4, 2021
BOYO - Analyze This
The creative mind behind BOYO, Robert Tilden (they/them), has yet again fashioned tracks that balance uplifting beats and grounding lyrics in their second LP of 2020, Alone Together in Los Angeles. This record further illustrates their sonic development and growth as an artist. Emotionally, this record comes with a much desired brighter feel, a contrast felt to the anxiety, albeit beautiful, that was so prevalent in their first LP of 2020, Where Have All My Friends Gone? which pulled so much from their experience of dealing with the uncertainties of facing a 2017 medical scare.
For Alone Together in Los Angeles, that anxiety seems to have slipped away while still keeping the lyrics that question and comment on the nostalgia and realities of life. In "Analyze This" specifically, a light but stirring chord adds an extra layer of playfulness to the bit of comedic commentary that the lyrics themselves give. Tilden’s interest in social anxieties is felt as they sing on our day-to-day interactions and the way one might look back on moments and scrutinize the minute details – something we all found ourselves doing while stuck in quarantine. “You could laugh, choose to laugh / Analyze this, analyze that,” a reminder that it can all be a joke and a memory unless you let it keep nagging you in the back of your mind until you go mad.
Tilden has even said they drew from Stephen Malkmus for this song, and it’s an influence that’s easily heard in the pairing of the socially observational lyrics paired with the upbeat and catchy chords reminiscent of Malkmus’ "Juliefuckingette" or "Ballad of a Thin Man." Photo by Tanner Lemoine.— Monica Hand on February 3, 2021
French Cassettes - City Kitty
Some people find joy in the electric buzz of city lights at night, pleasant company and the serendipity of figuring out what happens as you go. Others prefer to ride that midnight roller coaster more on special occasions than every weekend. Oftentimes, though, those two people are friends. Or lovers. Or significant others. French Cassettes' "City Kitty" is a slick groove that stands at the precipice of both, weighing the glamorous tug of the nightlife against the equally strong desire to curl up with someone you love on a couch for a nice night in. The track opens with washy guitars and an enigmatic vocal line that’s hard to distinguish under reverb and a fuzzy telephone vocal effect. Soon the bass comes in like a siren coaxing your body into moving with a will almost its own. The lyrics, meanwhile, beg the listener to consider spending a night at home. But how could you, when there is dancing to do and music to groove to? So what if you end the night feeling a little bit too old for this, trading every sunrise for a few hours of sleep? But sung to the right tune, staying in sounds tempting and pleasurable in its own way. After all, you can dance without inhibitions in your living room just as easily as any bar out there—or at least, you can with "City Kitty" on the radio. Photo by Nikki Neumann.— Allison Hill on February 3, 2021
Great Good Fine Ok - You Don't Look at Me the Same (feat. Yoke Lore)
Beloved Brooklyn-based pop-duo Great Good Fine Ok and folk-pop soloist Yoke Lore have collaborated to create an enchanting recognition of the trials which come with the risk of love and trusting someone outside of yourself. Gliding in with a few incandescing synth notes and the atmospheric voice of Great Good Fine Ok vocalist Jon Sandler, what is a melancholy concept becomes that of a balmy and gleaming, yearning of hope. Yoke Lore’s signature, diaphanous banjo plucking dresses this track with a refreshing, subtle folk sound. The honest lyrics of “You Don’t Look at Me the Same” paint a picture of a relationship wherein the love has grown tired and is teetering on the line of moving on or putting in the work to sustain unity, and leaning into the latter. Photo by Shervin Lainez.— Laney Esper on February 2, 2021