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Shura - religion (u can lay your hands on me)

Shura - religion (u can lay your hands on me)


On her second single “religion (u can lay your hands on me)” from her upcoming album forevher, UK-born, Brooklyn-based artist Shura pays homage to R&B and 80s pop titans while poetically repurposing the historical tension between queer love and religious faith. Within seconds, token 80s symphonic strings introduce the listener to instrumentation that dances with the help of airy synths, sharp guitar riffs and funk bass—akin to the sound of Prince, doubly recognizable by Shura’s falsetto range. Along with the infectious melody, her lyrical hooks are catchy, clever, and blasphemous. Though queerness and faith are often a contentious pairing, she uses this historically unfortunate dynamic to achieve meaning on multiple levels—further breaking out of the box of how to write a typical love song. Her forthcoming album is inspired by her long-distance relationship with her girlfriend that resulted in her relocating to Brooklyn. At one point, she sings “I wanna consecrate your body / Turn the water to wine.” Parodying the concepts of the holy sacrament, Shura also asserts the sanctity of love, expressing just how much she feels for her partner. In a sense, Shura achieves poetic justice by using these religious themes to write a song about queer love and lust.

Thomas Paparella on June 27, 2019
Fruit Bats - Ocean

Fruit Bats - Ocean


Eric D. Johnson, one-time member of The Shins and current member of the supergroup Bonny Light Horseman with Anais Mitchell, has been at it for more than 20 years under his Fruit Bats moniker, and Gold Past Life may be his finest work yet. The new album largely adds his characteristic funky edge to his folk-rock influences, but “Ocean” is the soothing acoustic product of a seasoned songwriter. A love song that could soundtrack the closing scene of even the most heartfelt Scrubs episode, the track opens with a delightful hammer-on riff reminiscent of Vampire Weekend’s “Harmony Hall” as Johnson recognizes his immaturity, that he’s “still waiting around for some mystical shift in the winds.” Johnson was quick to admit that “Ocean” is a sappy song dedicated to a love that helped him grow up but its heart is so big that its authenticity is never called into question. The song is littered with pleasant little nuggets—surprising chord changes and his momentary lapse into falsetto as he sings the title lyric, to name a few—like pearls in the ocean.

Daniel Shanker on June 27, 2019
Noah Gundersen - Robin Williams

Noah Gundersen - Robin Williams


Singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen touches on life’s impermanence in his newest single “Robin Williams.” The Seattle artist makes a return to his folk roots with a nod to the alt-rock sound of his last album White Noise—combining sentimentality with tasteful production. The simplicity of the instrumentals allows the focus to land on the message that “nothing lasts forever / and every other trope.” It leads with buzzing electric guitar, creating an atmosphere before paring down to just an acoustic guitar and Gundersen’s signature ardent vocals. “Robin Williams” is about love, life, and the difficulty of making art in a consumerist society ending with the self-aware and almost dismissive line “Who the hell are we fooling / no one buys records anymore.” The track is the first single from his upcoming fourth solo album Lover due out via Cooking Vinyl on August 28.

Corinne Bates on June 27, 2019
Magic City Hippies - Modern Animal

Magic City Hippies - Modern Animal


Lush with psychedelic soundscapes and infectious grooves, “Modern Animal” is an electro party anthem for hot summer nights. The newest single from Miami’s masters of indie funk, Magic City Hippies, “Modern Animal” defies moods and genres. The arrangement encourages you to lose yourself in it, seamlessly weaving together jazz, soul, EDM and indie influences over a pulsing beat. The instrumentation is colorful and surprising. A funky bass line and horn solo add vibrancy, while the effervescent scale of the bridge emits power and carefree abandon, like a casual prowl through Miami’s streets at night. There's confidence in vocalist Robby Hunter’s croon as he sings “I'm just another modern animal” repeatedly throughout the chorus, a line meant to celebrate letting go of reservations and giving into intuitions—at least until the sun comes up. Bold and intricate, “Modern Animal” proves Magic City Hippies knows how to keep the party going. Look out for the group’s debut album, Modern Animal, out August 16.

Britnee Meiser on June 26, 2019
Grady - Lemon Sun

Grady - Lemon Sun


Grady Wenrich aka Grady is one of indie rock’s most lovable goofballs, and unabashedly so. His onstage dance moves and hair flips do nothing to distract from his clever lyrics and thoughtful composition, but instead, highlight just how much he loves his craft. Known to fans of Nashville-based band The Lonely Biscuits as the charismatic frontman with a penchant for Modest Mouse-inspired guitar lines and a sing-spoken hip-hop cadence, Grady’s recent move to Los Angeles saw him shift his focus to a solo project. His most recent single, “Lemon Sun,” is a windows-down, last-day-of-class summer jam with all of the existential uncertainty fans have come to expect. Recorded to a tape machine once owned by the founder of the legendary punk-rock club CBGB and discovered at a garage sale for pennies, the song has a glimmering retro fidelity and features guest vocals and guitar work from The Wild Reeds’ Mackenzie Howe. Together, in life as in music, the two of them navigate “this confusing, scary, dumb place under the perfect lemon sun.” It just takes support, perspective, and a little sunlight.

Daniel Shanker on June 26, 2019
Fruit Bats - Two Babies in Michigan

Fruit Bats - Two Babies in Michigan


Soaked in reverb and nostalgia, “Two Babies in Michigan” is the moving closing track on Fruit Bats’ eighth full-length, Gold Past Life. After nearly 20 years in music, frontman and writer Eric D. Johnson wrote this album as a rumination on the “autumn of his years” by looking back fondly on life’s most intimate moments—the good, the bad, the bittersweet—and capturing those feelings like snapshots in a collection of unique and resoundingly hopeful arrangements. With reminiscent lyrics, the synth-pop ballad “Two Babies in Michigan” basks in Johnson’s childhood in Michigan through a message to his sister. “Oh sister, do you remember that time / When we were lined up waiting for the waterslide / Swollen clouds and airplanes in the sky?” The soothing arrangement, undeniably melancholic in theme, shows its beauty in small moments of reverie: the warm strum of the acoustic guitar, or the soft but persistent strings in the back of the chorus. Johnson’s distinctly high vocals are as strong and emotive as ever, reflecting the wisdom of the ages while basking unabashedly in the wide-eyed innocence and optimism of childhood. Bleak and beautiful, “Two Babies in Michigan” is a gripping portrayal of age and imminence that will stand the test of time.

Britnee Meiser on June 25, 2019
Nia Andrews​ - Seems So

Nia Andrews​ - Seems So


LA native Nia Andrews introduces her recently released debut album No Place Is Safe with the self-produced second single, "Seems So." After two EPs and lending her vocals to projects by artists like Solange, the soul singer presents a full-length project that shows her story and artistry in a more intense way than any of her previous work. Every aspect of "Seems So" claims the freedom of doing whatever you want with the art you make. The lyrics are a love song to a careless and confident soul. It appears Andrews, the songwriter, yearns to possess that same liberation. Starting with a reminder of how hard it is to leave a track when you’re set on its way, Andrews finishes the chorus with “and I wish I didn’t think so much, it seems so wonderful”. Though the singer says she wishes she could scream a little more, her voice is undoubtedly loud enough to be worth listening to. Andrews’ album No Place Is Safe is out now.

Giulia Santana on June 25, 2019
Whitney - Giving Up

Whitney - Giving Up


Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek, a duo affectionately known as Whitney, open their arms to welcome us back into their familiar upbeat, indie folk musical fortress with their lyrically forlorn new single “Giving Up”. The narrative of this track is one of a woebegone lover, clinging to what is left of the connection between the two. Whitney has a way of living out hurt in a whimsical fashion: through bursts of brass, and Kakacek’s brilliant & bright guitar genius. This track is the first single from their upcoming album, Forever Turned Around, set to be released on August 30th. With their indubitably bona fide spirit, Whitney comes back around with “Giving Up” to woo us like they never left.

Laney Esper on June 24, 2019
Divino Niño - Melty Caramelo

Divino Niño - Melty Caramelo


The smooth, nostalgic sounds of Divino Niño’s newest single, “Melty Caramelo," conjure up washed out images of hot and sticky summers spent lazing around a bright blue pool. Together, the quartet’s rhythmic blend of psych-pop and Latinx punk create something of a daydreamy slow-jam. A pleasing 60s-inspired acoustic guitar strums lazily along with an upbeat keyboard and tight, bopping snare, evoking a melody laced with South American soul and a little psychedelic charm. Their sound is true to the group’s roots: both guitarist Camilo Medina and bassist Javier Forero grew up in Bogotá, Colombia, and then reconnected in Miami later in life. Now, along with guitarist Guillermo Rodriguez and drummer Pierce Codina, Divino Niño makes music as a four-piece in Chicago. Their new album, Foam, is out now via Winspear.

Britnee Meiser on June 21, 2019
Julien Baker - Red Door

Julien Baker - Red Door


The dust has settled from Record Store Day 2019 and the cratediggers everywhere have made off with their scores, b-sides and rarities and reissues galore. Julien Baker’s contribution to the nationwide phenomenon was a pair of unreleased singles, including the haunting “Red Door,” finally released in digital format. The track features many hallmarks of Baker’s sound, like reverb-heavy electric guitar, booming atmospheric percussion, and a steady build, while also addressing the typical Julien Baker themes of fighting expectations, conflicting emotions and dealing with anger. Baker has long been praised for her emotional songwriting and pristine voice. Still, many critics—at least until seeing her play a face-melting solo in “Salt in the Wound” to close out her shows with fellow boygenius members Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers—have underrated her guitar playing. While her slow, contemplative style doesn’t often leave room to show off lightning-fast technical chops, she employs impressive guitar riffs here both expertly and tastefully. But where Baker truly shines is in finding beautiful imagery hidden in everyday scenes, notably when she describes herself as “pale as a flickering bulb outside of a liquor store.” Her ability to evoke an emotional response from an audience is due in part to that juxtaposition, creating a space where our most extraordinary feelings seem commonplace and acceptable.

Daniel Shanker on June 21, 2019
Cat Clyde - So Cold

Cat Clyde - So Cold


“So Cold" is one of the many chilling ballad's off Cat Clyde's recently released album, Hunters Trance. The Ontario alt-country artist leans heavily into her blues influence as she croons, “why are you so cold / whoever told you you could act like that?” She’s not letting this person off easy. Clyde is not mourning—she’s calling them out without being abrasive or cruel. "So Cold" abounds with honesty. It’s eerie and toned down compared to other songs on the album, showing Clyde’s impressive range as a lyricist and vocalist. The forlorn, floating guitar riffs allow the vocals to hold the spotlight until the chorus when everything builds to emphasize the track's lyrical message. Clyde’s voice holds a deep bluesy grit that makes every word hit hard. Nothing is thrown away. Every word and riff has a purpose and completes it.

Corinne Bates on June 21, 2019
​Future Generations - Try

​Future Generations - Try


Future Generations find a sweet positivity in love and hold onto it in their newest single “Try.” It is a sweetly stripped-down love song driven by a soothing melodic synth with rhythmic accents. The simplicity of the instrumental allows the message to take center stage as lead singer Eddie Gore sings, “your eyes make me try.” It’s an ode to a lover that focuses on one simple feature but obviously means so much more. The Brooklyn-based electro, indie pop band has a knack for feel-good songs perfect for summer, and “Try” is no exception. It’s hard not to be happy while listening to someone sing, “your eyes have made a scene/ I need to watch it all.” Sometimes it seems like all anyone sings about is sadness and heartbreak, but this track is optimistic. There is no underlying pain just pure love and adoration that seeps into you even if it’s just for three minutes. The song was put out as a double single along with the track “Spirit of My Youth.” These two songs are the group's first releases since the band’s LP Landscape, which came out in 2018.

Corinne Bates on June 20, 2019
Amber Mark - What If

Amber Mark - What If


With her sultry, soaring vocal on one of her latest tracks, "What If," Amber Mark lets us know that she understands the butterfly effect. The multifaceted artist speaks to the mistakes that have led her to love. The “what ifs” float away with the track’s effortlessly groovy, R&B-influenced production and inspire the kind of pulsing vibe that makes your entire body want to move. Mark shows off her range on this song, hitting notes all the way up in her whistle tone, pushing her into the club of vocally exceptional pop artists like Mariah Carey and Ariana GrandeAmber Mark is a massive artist to watch and seems to be one proper debut LP away from major limelight. Don’t sleep on her!

Deanna DiLandro on June 20, 2019
Japanese Breakfast - Head Over Heels

Japanese Breakfast - Head Over Heels


Michelle Zauner, AKA Japanese Breakfast, has created a world of dark and dreamy soundscapes on her newest single, a cover of the 1985 Tears for Tears track “Head Over Heels.” The track’s original, almost anxious pulse has been slowed down and stripped back to its raw, moody essentials, proving that sometimes, power in songwriting is about restraint, not force. A glistening piano lures you in above faint white noise with an eerie sort of seduction, building up to Zauner’s clear, haunting vocals. They, like the rest of the arrangement, are soaked in reverb to gorgeously ethereal effect. Lyrically, the song is about delirious love, and Zauner gets that across with a straightforward sort of urgency. She sings the line we all know, “Something happens and I’m head over heels,” but there’s a purity in her cadence that makes it feel new. The song’s minimal arrangement, just vocals, piano, and that otherworldly synth, is so deceptively simple it’s actually striking; it forces you to focus on a feeling, rather than a complex array of sounds, and that’s where its true beauty lies. “Head Over Heels” is Japanese Breakfast at her best. Plus, a portion of streaming proceeds will benefit the ACLU, so don’t be afraid to play it on repeat.

Britnee Meiser on June 19, 2019
Painted On - Fall

Painted On - Fall


To grapple with contextualizing the dark cloud of uncertainty and existential anxiety hanging over our society is, it seems, to be an artist in 2019. It’s an attempt to cope, to suss out the myriad terrors of our times. “We stay inside our homes / we’re a face that never shows / and a light that never glows"—these are the first lyrics from Painted On, the nascent collaboration between Brooklyn’s Hillary Capps and Anthony Farina. “Fall,” is the duo’s debut single, a downtempo, brooding apologia to appeal to the better angels of our nature. Capps sings of a need for us to be our own light in the darkness. But towards the end of the song, as a beating war drum heaves climactic, Farina’s vocals enter into the fray, and he posits that the comfortable corner of darkness may be the best place to weigh it all out. By the time the coda hits, Capps sings the opening line one last time, and you’re led to wonder how much faith we should really have in ourselves.

Devon Sheridan on June 19, 2019

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