Princess Nokia - Green Eggs & Ham
Princess Nokia raps about a lot of different things, because like anyone living a full and beautiful life, she has always been complex and proud of it. She recently said on Instagram that she has always been clear on the fact that she was going to “live unapologetically whether people liked me, or not.” In her music and everything she creates, she represents the relentless work it takes to actually, truly keep it real. And part of that work will always be reminding yourself and others that you contain multitudes. “Green Eggs & Ham” is about your inner child: celebrating that it’s still there, and speaking truth about where you came from. In every way, Nokia powerfully captures the carefree spirit of childhood on this track. She begins and ends the track with playful Dr. Seuss-style raps about breakfast, and the bright guitar, rhythmic piano chords, and gospel clap make you want to dance around your 1990’s living room while your mom tapes the whole thing. But the sunshine doesn’t mean as much without the full story, and for Nokia, the full picture of her childhood includes the ominous cloud of police presence surveying and dispersing her hangouts with her friends. So, like anyone who believes that children should be able to be children, she says, “Fuck these cops” not once, but three times, between breakfasts.Karl Snyder on June 5, 2020
Afro Comb - Faith?
Afro Comb is an alternative hip-hop duo from North London. Motivated by their drive to represent their stories, Afro Comb unabashedly addresses social and societal strife within their music. Ciara Naomi and Denzel Nonso are friends turned soulmates that use their platform to generate music that propels and supports each other's styles and vocalizations, along with expressing genuine representations of their hopes and fears in navigating the music industry.
In a period of deep political unrest and injustice, there might not be a more appropriate time than now to listen to "Faith?". In an interview with Tapped Brooklyn, Nonso described his personal inspiration this way: "At the root of every sound, is a black musician. The soul and power from our ancestors are what drives me. I would advise people to start reading and actively seeking knowledge to empower themselves."
Afro Comb combines soulful artistry with razor-sharp political commentary. "Faith?" in particular holds an urgency that's worthy of everyone's attention. "Oppression leads to anger, that's a fact" is a poignant pull-quote from "Faith? In the Tapped Brooklyn interview, Nonso later went on to say, "When it comes to music, we want our words to be relevant in 20 years and for it to still resonate with future generations." Afro Comb is an emerging London band to watch. Their influence certainly won't go unnoticed. Listen to "Faith?" wherever you stream.— Hannah Lupas on June 4, 2020
Phoebe Bridgers - I See You
To find solace in a song is a gift, and when that song is by Phoebe Bridgers, it hits differently. Bridgers’s new song off of her highly anticipated second solo album, Punisher, encapsulates the intensity of a relationship and the magnitude of what it means to be human.
“I See You” is the breakup ballad that chronicles more than just feelings, but a learned appreciation for a relationship, even though it has come to an end. Chaotic, almost stress-inducing instrumentation leads to a pleasant, quaint release once Bridgers sings the words, “But I feel something / When I see you now.” The song pauses just as time seems to pause when a certain person is around.
“I See You” is Bridgers doing what she does best—describing experiences that we, as sentient beings, often cannot find the words for. “‘Cause I don’t know what I want / Until I fuck it up” is her being transparent and raw, and “If you’re a work of art / I’m standing too close / I can see the brush strokes” magnifies an admiration that goes beyond a casual fling. Her ability to produce lyrics that pinpoint unspoken, yet relatable truths about life as we know it make “I See You” more of a sanctuary than an audible experience.— Elizabeth Shaffer on June 1, 2020
Nike Vendela - Pull me in
Nike Vendela must be a mermaid. “Pull me in,” she begs in her impressive debut single, but her siren voice will pull you in—like a sailor to a lovely, watery death. The track dives headfirst into an underwater dreamscape, complete with warbly, atmospheric guitars. Vendela’s lyrics are ambiguous enough to leave open to interpretation, but consider she just might be assuming Madison’s perspective from the classic 80s sea creature fantasy Splash: “Can you hold me up / While I climb these city walls and concrete halls / Pull me in / Make me feel like I’m dreaming / Write me a lullaby / So I can learn how to fly again.” While the term “overnight sensation” is usually problematic, it does seem like the ethereal singer/songwriter came out of nowhere. Now based in New York, the Swedish native boasts no YouTube videos, barely any biographical information, and her Facebook page has only one post past 2015—and it’s her only announcement about the new song. Surely this intoxicating talent has been putting in some major work behind the scenes, but I prefer to believe she recently emerged from the deep beyond after shaking fins with a sea witch.— Karyna Micaela on June 1, 2020
Kevin Herig - Honey Jar
"Honey Jar" by Kevin Herig is a mellow funk existential crisis. Well, perhaps not a crisis as much as an inner meditation on who you are and where you’re putting your energy. Bass and guitar lines gently sway through slides and circular melodies that conjure the feeling of floating in an ocean wave. Herig’s voice floats above it all, ebbing and flowing between anxiety and serenity. The lyrics wrestle with uncertainty centered around a single focal question that gives the track its name; “We conquer and divide, and when the honey jar is dry, what’s left to taste?" Like any good line, it could mean a number of things. To me, a chronically ambitious person with many eggs in many baskets at any given time, it’s a call to think about where you’re investing your energy. It cuts to the core of an internal discussion that’s healthy, albeit painful, to initiate sometimes. Are you where you want to be? Is your destination on the same path you’re on now, or is it a different one? No one can answer that for you, but maybe listening to "Honey Jar" on repeat will help you think about it.— Allison Hill on June 1, 2020
Baybs - These Things In My Head
"These Things In My Head" by Baybs proves from the first note to adhere to a so-called "tried and true," radio-friendly formula, and this is absolutely not a bad thing! The bouncy tune immediately conjures reminders of an early 2010's radio staple, like a track from Bastille, or then-college radio darlings Dawes and their early tune "Someone Will." Baybs vocalist Craig Jacobs' voice completes the nostalgic radio trifecta, with a hint of Marcus Mumford-esce vocal stylings thrown in for good measure.
Some could consider the duo's mastering of subconsciously knowing what type of sound works for radio, a victory so early in their career. "These Things In My Head", from Text Me Records, is only the fourth release from the twosome, and it perfectly does what its title seems to loosely promise; it will become one of the 'things' slowly revolving in your head by the third or fourth listen. Jacobs and his partner Melissa Russi's harmonic vocals blend together nicely under a danceable drum beat. What's better than a catchy tune with a groove?— Taylor Hodgkins on June 1, 2020
Becca Mancari - First Time
Growing up with ardent Catholicism as an integral part of my identity meant repressing my bisexuality any way that I could. How does it feel to admit that you are the contradiction of what you were taught to believe? It's a question Becca Mancari asks on "First Time," her coming out story. Mancari comes from a fundamentalist Christian household, her father a pastor. It's a heavy hit from the get-go, Mancari singing, "I remember the first time my dad didn't hug me back." Unraveling the bandages from her emotional wounds to write the track wasn't easy, but she notes, "as soon as the first line of the song came out of me, I knew there was no going back." The wistful song is one that I wish I'd had at fifteen when I struggled to lend myself an ounce of kindness, unable to live my truth. "Hey, did you find your way out?" Mancari asks over a homespun country folk-style plucking that harkens back to her Nashville roots. For me, the song reads like a love letter to my younger self from someone who found happiness on the other side. On the track, Mancari says, "My hope is that when you hear this song you feel less alone, and that you do indeed find your way out." "First Time" is the second single from The Greatest Part, her sophomore record coming June 26 via Captured Tracks. We're hopeful Mancari will be able to tour with her Bermuda Triangle bandmate Brittany Howard this fall.— Ysabella Monton on May 29, 2020
Olivia Reid - Take in the View
21-year-old Olivia Reid’s latest single “Take in the View” is composed with atmospheric brilliance, offering a lush soundscape that is sonically reminiscent of one’s breath. Acoustic melodies, lo-fi rhythms, and synth inspired accents melt together seamlessly to create a piece that is deeply moving and perfectly fit for daydream-like introspection. While Reid’s vocals are beautifully airy and understated, her lyrics soar with eloquent conviction and soft passion. Like many of the most successful ambient artists, Reid makes the intricate subtleties of her composition appear effortless and natural, as if “Take in the View” was something she discovered, rather than created. Her work, while staunchly original is mildly similar to that of Geowulf, S. Carey, and Axel Flovent, given its thoughtful authenticity and appreciation for the natural world.— Lilly Rothman on May 29, 2020
Chloe Berry - Bitter Melon
“I promise that somehow things will be okay” Chloe Berry offers, cutting through calamity with her new single “Bitter Melon.” This Brooklyn-based artist is stepping onto the music scene with a vengeance, especially with her background in writing music since the age of seven. When asked about the intentionality of the track, Chloe expressed that it was written with the sentiment in mind that “everything passes eventually." This high energy assemblage of sound is filled with the whimsical nostalgia of a coming-of-age film end-credit montage. Easing into the track, Chloe sings softly over a zig-zag of electric guitar until the percussion comes in and the track erupts into a vibrant invitation into her own escape from hopelessness. “Bitter Melon” is a precursor to promising future work to come from Chloe Berry, so get comfy and stick around.— Laney Esper on May 29, 2020
Japan, Man - I Like To Wait
It goes without saying that not everything is always as it seems. For instance, musical artist Japan, Man is neither Japanese nor a man. Instead, she is a Beirut, Lebanon-based teenager named Laeticia Acra. The laid-back title track from her new EP, I Like To Wait, introduces her as a creative songwriter and sharp lyricist. In the song’s first moments, springy synths and deep bass make you feel like you’re landing on the moon. And as it turns out, it’s very nice to land on the moon. But this instrumental intro is quickly intercepted by Acra’s forthright first line, "Are you afraid to die, like there’s no afterlife?” I would have never imagined this line could be sung in such a comforting way, and yet, here we are: her unassuming alto somehow communicates to me that it’s all going to be fine. That’s the beautiful paradox of Japan, Man’s inspired vibe: on paper, this song is about existential dread, but Acra manages to choose just the right intergalactic colors as the foil for her simple but heady lyrics. The takeaway is a balanced, engaging listen that bears repetition. When an artist’s first release is this inventive, you can’t help but wonder where she will go next. Luckily, after listening to this song over and over, waiting in general sounds surprisingly nice.— Karl Snyder on May 28, 2020
Nick Hakim - ALL THESE CHANGES
"ALL THESE CHANGES" is the spectacular opening statement for Nick Hakim’s exquisite, sensitive new album. At first we hear tentative sounds—a cry, a few notes plucked on a guitar, an electronic snare, a flute tuning in and out—coming together into a single undulating unit with the deep boom of a synthesized timpani-esque drum. Delicate, stacked vocals envelop us from within the groovy synth-drenched ambiance as Hakim sings an ode to Mother Earth, calling on humanity to change our ways before it’s too late. “Cities burning, tides that rise / She's in pain, she's been hurting / Can you feel our mother raging? / She'll flood us out, her heart is flaming / Pretty soon we'll be underwater.” The song grows in complexity and power before glitching to a stop; Hakim introduces a de-tuned piano and a wide vocal that sounds like a phantom prophet warning us of the danger of our ways, whispering “She will drown us” and “Hope is fading.” We’d do well to heed Hakim’s words even as we lose ourselves in his sublime soundscape.— Mikhal Weiner on May 28, 2020