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Plási - Where I Belong
Plási - Where I Belong

Plási - Where I Belong


Swedish-Greek singer-songwriter and producer, Plási tells a story of passionate self-discovery on "Where I Belong." Channeling a yearning that is universally relatable, Plási takes the listener through his search of finding his place in the world—in old passions and new—with his signature folk riffs. The accompanying video is nostalgic (if not dream-like) in nature, making us long for home, whatever that means for each of us.

After the sun goes down,

and all that's left is the dried salt on your skin,

you choose your words more carefully. 

They linger now, 

like sea glass in the sand where a wave once stood.

Together, and all at once, you come to understand:

the castles you built will be here, still,

even if the fragments return back to the tide,

even if you stay.

Amy Lima on August 25, 2020
Xelli Island - 02 20 20

Xelli Island - 02 20 20


Half-Filipina vocalist, songwriter and self-proclaimed shapeshifter, Lianna Vanicelli concocts ethereal tracks with a tropical twist. It’s a little Grimes, a lot Beach House. Xelli Island paints us familiar scenes from a normal day, presumably February 20, 2020. Hustling downtown on the train to make a shift, racing to someone else’s door. The beat is well-paced to a sense of urgency. “Try not to think about it, what could go wrong,” she sings, as if trying to prevent an endless feedback loop of anxieties and pressure that accompany being young and trying to make it in a city. The glitchy feedback that disrupts the pre-chorus is a nice touch. According to Vanicelli, the synth-heavy track is about experiencing serendipity, and “thinking about the millions of little things that have to work properly in order for anything to happen.” Stay tuned for an EP dropping later this year.

Corinne Osnos on August 24, 2020
Sufjan Stevens - Video Game

Sufjan Stevens - Video Game


One thing about Sufjan Stevens is that there is basically no telling what his new music will sound like. This has been true now for two full decades. Sure, there are some elements you can predict pretty safely. It’s pretty likely that the song will contain earnest and somewhat poetic lyrics scattered with Christian mythological imagery. It will almost certainly feature his iconic sandpapery vocals, and it could very well be anchored by its interesting rhythmic patterns. Other than that, part of the joy of a Sufjan release is the lead-up to inevitable surprise. Where will the new release lie in the field of artistic breadth that he has always tended to so methodically? Will the track break down into unpleasant screeching guitar after a 9-minute chant? Or will it plod on with pleasant banjo or piano for two minutes and call it quits? Will it sound basically acoustic with sneaky subtle electronic effects? Or will it bleep and bloop all over the place like a robot fever dream?

In my estimation, “Video Game” is the farthest Stevens has gone down the rabbit hole of melodic electronic music since his 2010 album, Age of Adz. And, in the iconic words of Bernie Sanders, let me be very clear: I am super here for it. Although I was originally hooked as a teen by the lush and folksy orchestration in albums like Michigan, I’ve always held a special place in my heart for electro-Sufjan. In fact, it is my suspicion that the world of electronics is where Stevens feels most comfortable, most able to invent. In the case of “Video Game,” the effect is something like "faux futuristic,” and the “faux" feels intentional to me. Maybe that’s because the lyrics are also focused on fakeness—specifically, renouncing repeatedly all the fake value of celebrity. In a statement about the song, Stevens says, “I think we should all be doing our best work without looking for accolades or seeking reward.” That genuinely sounds really nice, and I think there is truth in it. But also, Sufjan, if you’re reading this: I really, really like your new song. Will you sign my t-shirt?

Karl Snyder on August 24, 2020
City Dress - Missouri Boy

City Dress - Missouri Boy


As "Missouri Boy" opens, the urgent fingerpicking and open-ended wails create an instant tension. It’s almost as though the instruments are pulling time in different directions while the kick keeps us grounded. A fitting feeling for a song whose lyrics mirror the same balance. A reflection on a past relationship, trying to move beyond it while still thinking about what could have been. As City Dress repeats “I try” over and over, the lyric seems to struggle with the same. Across the verse gentle, gorgeous harmonies add depth to an intimate vocal. The bass and piano arrive, a beautiful pair that gives the song even more heft. The chorus's release into “See Me” is so pure, so authentic, such a visceral emotional release. You can feel her ask, “Is that too much to want?”—still swept up in this struggle between righting wrongs and moving on. It’s the first time the band is in concert, a powerful moment that elevates her plea even further. The bridge leans into the song’s most vulnerable side, a swaying softness, almost like a leaf drifting down to the ground, a story that winds up sad but lands easy. City Dress comes full circle leaving the song as she returns to the “I try” refrain, this time, beyond the tension, she continues to move forward. City Dress continues to impress with vulnerable and human stories shared over thoughtful guitar-led instrumentals.

Max Himelhoch on August 24, 2020
Halo Kitsch - f l a w l e s s

Halo Kitsch - f l a w l e s s


Summer was almost over, and there wasn’t a lot to do in the city except call up Halo and sit by the waters on the piers and watch the tinier boats and jet skis shoot ripples into the lapis ocean. Cordless phone to my ear, I pulled a couple blinds down with my left index finger as I eyed the sun. It was ready to set. Halo picked up on the third ring. She sounded happy. She had just recorded a song called “f l a w l e s s,” and I picked her up so she could show it to me in person, near the water because she wanted me to hear it with the sound of the waves in the background. Once we parked and settled in on the pier, she started to play the song off her phone.

"f l a w l e s s" is the latest from LA indie-pop singer/songwriter Halo Kitsch. Halo, of course, is not just a homage to Beyoncé’s hit, but the word for the crown that adorns the heads of angels. Kitsch is any art, object, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way. Her song is all about denying her flawlessness and instead embracing her flaws. She makes her subject see her for who she really is. Maybe that’s real love.

Mustafa Abubaker on August 21, 2020
Hovvdy - I’m Sorry

Hovvdy - I’m Sorry


You can write it on a cake, spell it in M&Ms on a pizza, hire a plane to skywrite it—or, you can say it in a heartfelt song. Hovvdy’s latest, “I’m Sorry,” is their second single (following July’s “Runner”) since their glistening 2019 album Heavy Lifter. In this era of quarantine releases, Hovvdy has honed their use of syncopated beats and percussive touches that feel as light and casual as tapping your thigh along to a song on the radio. While the group’s signature lo-fi vocals are still baked into their home base bedroom-rock atmosphere, they’ve employed some new tricks, including an addictive, near trip-hop bassline and moments of auto-tuned vocals. The track feels as fuzzy as memories of night drives amid high school heartbreak, while managing to recall the blazing orange-pink sunsets of summer as it wanes to fall. Hovvdy seems to know what so many of us do; it’s easy to know when we should apologize, but sometimes our hurt and words unsaid get in the way (“Give me one good reason / To say what I should / And I need a real one / You can tell I would”). It inspired me to revisit the other side of the coin, where we can place our pride aside and look truth in the eyes: 

more than anything

i would like to reach the

atrophy of ego

the place where 

soul and shine splice

how i think i’d like to get

to the root of it all, buried

under the field where 

you first met me

i’d like to get the heart of it; 

to one true, glowing thing.

Jessie Nicole on August 21, 2020
SG Lewis, Robyn & Channel Tres - Impact

SG Lewis, Robyn & Channel Tres - Impact


When we are parachuted into the world of “Impact,” it sounds like the dance party has been going strong for a while. From above, it’s a blurred warehouse party montage, and nobody is holding anything back. Zoomed in though, there are individual nights happening. Channel Tres works through some feelings about his origins, as he realizes he’s putting his guard up on a girl that he doesn’t want to admit he's starting to fall for. Meanwhile, Robyn is well cast as the ultimate free spirit, determined to have the night of her life, every cell and chemical in her body giving every ounce of its energy towards the physiology of fun. Steeped in SG Lewis and TEED’s synths and house beats, both vocalists are fully in their natural habitat on this track. And as they become one with the landscape, their nights seem to blend as well. They sound magnificent together: Channel’s gruff and brainy half-rapped musings are the perfect foil for Robyn’s iconic hedonistic wails. And as the beat goes on and on and on, you can only imagine what the night still has in store for the other 200 people in the room.

Karl Snyder on August 21, 2020
CASTLEBEAT - TI-83

CASTLEBEAT - TI-83


Seeped in technicolor and emerging from a dream, CASTLEBEAT’s latest single “TI-83” perfectly captures the ambiance of this year’s bummer summer. The track’s lo-fi harmonies are gorgeously laced with psychedelic flares, drawing our attention inward and leaving us in a state of submerged tranquility.

“TI-83” miraculously resurfaces the reveries we likely forgot existed sitting in stiff classroom desks, pretending to think about calculus yet undoubtedly fooling no one. The song’s accompanying music video not only enhances its temporal fluidity, but provides an aesthetic picture show that any film buff is sure to appreciate.

Lilly Rothman on August 20, 2020
Slow Pulp - Falling Apart

Slow Pulp - Falling Apart


"Falling Apart" by Slow Pulp is the song equivalent of a weighted blanket, providing warmth and comfort when you need it. Violins and soft vocals surround you, wrapping you up in compassion, understanding and paradoxically major harmonies. You’re not alone. You’re not the only one periodically dissociated on the couch at 4 am, worrying if depression might always be lapping at your feet like a high tide. It takes a lot to resist the comfort of familiarity when you’re feeling so vulnerable, so it’s okay to settle for wrapping up in your hoodie instead of that familiar feeling. Tender melodic whispers coax your thoughts into daylight. Learning how to be compassionate to yourself is hard, and questioning the value of perseverance in something that doesn’t feel rewarding is natural. Self-sabotage is almost a talent, so “why don’t you go back to falling apart?” The implicit answer is “Because it sucked, and I’ve worked so hard to get where I am." It’s not always a satisfying answer, but at least you’re not alone. You’ve got Slow Pulp’s sweet harmonies to keep you company, and—when you can move past having to seem alright—several loving friends too.

Allison Hill on August 20, 2020
Eastern Souvenirs - No One Else

Eastern Souvenirs - No One Else


Eastern Souvenirs is spearheaded by singer-songwriter and producer Brian Fisher, who recently brought the project from the West Coast to the East. While their hazy summer sound is heavily nostalgic, inspired largely by the garage and surf rock of the 1960s, “No One Else” is a song about being somewhere new. A lo-fi surf rock love song for the ages, “No One Else” was the first song Fisher wrote after his move from Seattle to Boston last year. The song delves into the flurry of feelings that come with being in a new place, both physically and emotionally, and explores how distant the past can seem when suddenly a new future emerges on the horizon. Remarkably easy listening, Eastern Souvenirs would make a great soundtrack for your next day trip to the beach—windows down, sun shining, waves crashing, and those slow, sweet guitar riffs accompanied by Fisher’s soothing vocals. Eastern Souvenirs has set a virtual record release for their upcoming album Only for a Time set to stream on August 28.

Maya Bouvier-Lyons on August 20, 2020
Tkay Maidza - Don’t Call Again

Tkay Maidza - Don’t Call Again


After an hour or so of drunken, 5 am crying comes unfamiliar relief. “You’re a weed, not a seed,” I decide. Been listening to a lot of Jay Shetty lately. Not my emotional responsibility to coddle someone who thinks therapy isn’t working after one session. “The universe is doing the most for me lately,” I recognize, and bow in gratitude. A girl got some closure, but you know she had to have the last word.

-

Illustrating the art of letting go, Tkay Maidza’s “Don’t Call Again” radiates that power you feel upon deciding that you’ve had enough. “It’s just about realizing that some situations are just not good for me and letting them go,” she explained, “but not being sorry for doing that anymore.” Having let my own unhealthy relationship go last year, lines like “Out of murky water, I would blossom like lotus / I guess that getting hurt is just a big part of the process” resonate; Maidza finds the seed for growth while making it clear that she’s said, “all I need to say.” Tapping Kari Faux for a forceful verse on the funk-inspired track, she also leaves nothing unsaid: “I’ma keep it a buck with ya, I don't fuck with ya.” The empowering release is the second single from the freshly released Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2, her first record on independent British label 4AD.

Ysabella Monton on August 19, 2020

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