Okkervil River - Okkervil River R.I.P.
I was on an early-on date with someone I really liked, within the first few weeks of seeing each other. They’re at my flat, we’re listening to music and talking and drinking and they put this [Okkervil River] song on. I’d never heard it before and it hit me like a truck. Out of nowhere I started crying, proper crying, from my diaphragm, the way you cry when you’re a kid, whole body shaking. And I couldn’t stop, it wasn’t at all the right move for a date but I couldn’t help it. I still can’t explain why it made me so deeply sad, so suddenly — something about it just made me feel like I was mourning the loss of something I couldn’t define. I have to skip it if it comes on in public, I’m nervous of what’ll happen. — Fenne Lily
According to Dead Oceans, the title for Fenne Lily’s new album, BREACH, was inspired by a conversation she had with her mom about her own birth, wherein she was born upside-down or in breech. In many ways, BREACH acts as a soundtrack for rebirth and self-acceptance, confronting nostalgia and past memories but always with subtle hints of forward motion.— Lilly Rothman on October 2, 2020
Empty Country - Marian
I remember hearing this [Empty Country track] for the first time in an airport on my way to Oslo with the band. We were sitting in a sushi place with all our instruments taking up too much room and I was feeling self-conscious and wrong, so I pretended to read and put this song on. It was a recommendation and usually I’ll listen to a minute or something and be like, "oh yeah love this, thanks so much," but since the first listen, I’ve played it most days. The perfect meandering intro, into that really satisfying guitar line over purposeful strumming, it reminds me of The Shins or Big Star. And the melody is perfect, that chorus is absolute gold. It’s anthemic but it’s sensitive. Whenever I hear a perfect song like this I wonder what it must’ve felt like to finish writing it and realise, "fuck this is good." — Fenne Lily
London-born, Bristol-raised singer/songwriter Fenne Lily is known for crafting symphonic tracks and lyrics that hover with soft urgency. Her sophomore album, BREACH, was released by indie powerhouse Dead Oceans on September 18.— Lilly Rothman on October 1, 2020
Boy Willows - Fila (with Dylan Minnette)
“Fila,” by Boy Willows with Dylan Minnette, is a two part story. Lulling hums intercept a metallic beat to welcome the first half, told by Landon Fleischman (Boy Willows), who vocalizes life’s cyclical nature in perfect contrast to his linear verse-interlude-verse composition. Fleischman experiments within a pool of genres, yet his work sustains an identity defined by welcoming conversations and gentle deliveries.
Minnette’s voice carries out the rest of the story in bright ripples of disguised panic. This is the actor/musician’s first collaboration with Boy Willows, and their voices are so cohesive that you might think they’re one at first listen. He concludes with an echo of Fleischman’s earlier sentiment, “I just feel like I don’t deserve this life.” The overall weightlessness of the track is effectively sympathetic to those competing feelings of attachment and detachment.— Daphne Ellis on October 1, 2020
Justy - Cool
With unassuming confidence, Brooklyn-born Staten Island-raised R&B artist Justy advocates for self-acceptance on the smooth jazz-hop single "Cool." While the production channels golden age hip-hop, Justy's vocals waft smoothly over the beat as she quips, "Money in the air, money in the air / I don't really care, I don't fucking care." She has this way of sounding both laid-back and indulgent in herself with these nonchalant lyrics. They're simple truths I wish I knew when I was eighteen, constantly remolding myself into what I thought people wanted. I'm taken with Justy's choice to sample Eartha Kitt, not in song, but rather in the form of a 1982 interview in which she scoffed at the thought of having to compromise who she is for a man.
Nothing matters, when you really think about it; what time of day is best to post on Instagram, what people will say about my next quarantine hair color (I've been through four already), whether I'm too much of this or not enough of that. "If I gave you the world, no it still wouldn't matter," Justy sings, a reminder that you can't please everyone, and that approval you think you need isn't the answer. Take it from both me and Justy: there's nothing sexier than knowing and loving yourself.
Jesse Kivel - William
As the fresh air of autumn circulates amongst us, so the delicacies of artists like Jesse Kivel circulate softly within and around us. “William” is Kivel’s first released track from what will be his very first solo LP, Infinite Jess, coming out in full on November 13. This track is similar in quality to the work of The War on Drugs in its timeless sound. It is the type of song that evokes the chill of an autumnal bike ride through suburban streets, feeling and fantasizing all the while. Through the ricochet of warm synth, the clearness of Kivel’s voice intones in honesty. Photo by David Kitz.— Laney Esper on October 1, 2020
Perfume Genius - Nothing At All
This [Perfume Genius] record came out during the hottest week of the year for us, in the middle of lockdown, and I was aching to be anywhere other than in my house. It was perfect timing because this whole record and particularly this song transports me. It’s enormous and close at the same time, and that line "I’ve got what you need, son, nothing at all" breaks my heart. I’m probably misinterpreting it, I hope I am, because the way I understand it is painful. — Fenne Lily
Fenne Lily first emerged within the indie spotlight in 2018 after her self-released album On Hold was discovered via online music platforms. Since then, she has amassed over a million monthly listeners on Spotify and toured with indie superstar Lucy Dacus. Photo by Camille Vivier.— Lilly Rothman on September 30, 2020
Fleet Foxes - Sunblind
September 21 welcomed the first day of autumn and a brand new album from the Seattle-based folkies, Fleet Foxes. “Sunblind,” the second cut off of Shore, is a bright and lush eulogy of influences and contemporaries. Throughout the track, frontman Robin Pecknold names off around nineteen artists that have both had an effect on Pecknold’s life and have passed away at a young age. Though the song deals with death, it never comes across as mournful, at least not in a traditional sense. Pecknold vows to carry on the legacy of Elliott Smith, Arthur Russell and a handful of others through his own music, celebrating and honoring by creating music under their influence. Instrumentally, “Sunblind” reflects the same idea, rising to a crescendo under sunny guitars and warm vocals. Fleet Foxes are a great band, and “Sunblind” finds the ensemble squinting to the heavens as they cite some of the sources of their success. Photo by Emily Johnston.— Jonah Minnihan on September 30, 2020
cehryl - Superbloom
There’s a special kind of innocence tied to the tumultuous journey of an immature love. From the spirited beginnings that paint our worlds crimson red all the way through to the disillusioned end, an immature love is often one that we cannot forget. The Hong Kong native cehryl simulates these mercurial highs and lows in her charming release “superbloom.” The lo-fi bedroom pop track is minimal in nature yet speaks volumes of its own in such a short amount of time. Utilizing story-like lyricism to guide the song in a poetic fashion, and a youthful soundscape to maintain a sense of innocence, cehryl unfolds a good-natured love that is not quite yet able to bloom. In the words of the young creative, “['superbloom'] is about the death of immature love.” The song sees itself as the artist’s third 2020 release following "Hide n Seek / Moon Eyes” and a “Together Lonely” remix with Tim Atlas. Although “superbloom” is much shorter than the former tracks, it’s definitely one you’ll find yourself listening to on a loop!— Bianca Brown on September 30, 2020
Shannon Lauren Callihan - Love You Right
Nashville-based R&B/soul singer-songwriter Shannon Lauren Callihan delivers a romantic groove that is sweet and sultry in its proclamations. “Love You Right” is a track that is full of sweet-somethings, one of my favorite lines being, “I don't need no shiny things / Just want the joy your smile brings / It's in the way you look at me.” Reminiscent of the modern sounds of Natalie Prass and Tom Misch, while infusing elements of classic soul, Callihan is an artist you can listen to and satisfy any mood. Smooth vocals mixed alongside funky bass and an air of vinyl crackle creates a sound that could be described as both modern and timeless. A multi-instrumentalist known for her guitar playing, Callihan started releasing singles in 2019 and shows no sign of slowing down. Working with Nashville producer Jude Smith, she is focused on putting out more music and solidifying her place in the world of neo soul. Photo by Sydney Conrad.— Beck on September 30, 2020
Belle and Sebastian - Sleep The Clock Around
I was given Write About Love on CD when I was 12 and I listened non-stop for years, and then got to a point where I kind of disregarded music I’d loved and reinvented my taste for no reason. Like I was rebelling against myself. So there was a long period of time where I forgot about Belle and Sebastian and recently this track came on a discover playlist, something like that, and I felt so stupid for leaving them behind. A perfect melody — it’s so simple, I tried to play it myself and it sounds shit, too empty, it’s that constant harmony that makes it so addictive. Everything about the arrangement is essential, nothing goes to waste. I’m also getting more and more obsessed with finding The Perfect Snare Sound, which I know seems boring, but this one’s a really, really good snare. — Fenne Lily
Fenne Lily’s sophomore album, BREACH, is nothing short of a feminist masterpiece. Her song writing brims with confessional authenticity and poetic self-awareness. Many of the tracks from this album confront the intermediate space between love and loss, providing a soundtrack to the grey areas of our life.— Lilly Rothman on September 29, 2020
Jamila Woods - Sula (Hardcover)
Jamila Woods’ Toni Morrison–inspired “SULA (Hardcover)” has a sensual groove, and revolves around what it means for her to be in her own body. She rejects the notion that women should be submissive when it comes to their sexuality, stating “I don’t wanna make no babies / I don’t need a man to save me” in a sharp, searing tone. “Freedom and triumph, they weren’t meant for me / Girls of my color find something else to be / I’m better / I’m better,” she then sings effortlessly over the rollicking beat. As an empowered Black woman, she reflects on the boxes Black women have been forced into for centuries, and in turn creates a sonic oasis where she can feel comfortable being herself without having to worry about society’s pressures closing in on her. A fascinating exploration of the erotic and the unique kind of intimacy that one can only have with themselves, “SULA (Hardcover)” is a moving anthem of self-love and bodily autonomy. Listen on Bandcamp or wherever you stream.— Paige Shannon on September 29, 2020