Ruth B. - Situation
The other night, I was sitting on a patio in East Austin chatting with friends. With vaccines rolling out and folks excited to start stretching their limbs, maybe it was talk of travel that sparked this query to the group:
Friend: “You know when you’re first dating someone, or the relationship’s young...and you kind of ask yourself, are we cool? We’re cool right? Like when one of you is out of town, or you haven’t seen them in a bit? But then when the relationship’s more mature, you don’t think twice about it even when you’re apart.” She added with a smile: “It’s just—yeah, we’re cool. You know.”
As it should be.
Ruth B.’s latest single, "Situation," brings to mind that overthinking, feel-your-cell-phone-vibrating-even-though-it's-off sense of uncertainty that can get muddled in with early relationships, or those lacking transparency and honest communication, especially around commitment.
Despite her description of this uncertainty, Ruth B.’s lyrics spotlight self-awareness, and her silkily straightforward melody lets the song’s meaning ring clear—like the kind of communication everyone deserves to have (and give) in their relationships: "If you love me let me know or let me go / Let me know or let me go." Photo by Gabriel LN.— Talia Pinzari on April 22, 2021
Billy! - Palmetto
“Palmetto,” simply put, is a love song. It’s a song of honesty and companionship. But it isn’t a love song written for a beloved, it’s for a friendship. Lyrically and sonically, the arrangement captures the product of surrounding yourself with friends who love and understand you like family. Confronting the hardships of growing up alongside these loved ones, Billy! sings, "We drove around here / 'Til holes were in our tires and our jeans / They can't relate much / To the things that me and you have seen." Billy!’s southern Birmingham roots mixed with DIY Nashville influence shine to craft a modern alt-country masterpiece laced with the comfort of home. Written on his little sister’s bedroom floor at the peak of summer, the song didn’t take much time to write. Billy! exclaimed, “I really wanted to make a guitar part reminiscent of an Irish folk ballad, and had never really experimented with open tunings or anything like that, but when I sat down to write, it all came very naturally!”
Echoes of glass slides on the guitar, warm trumpets, sweet harmonies and knocks and picks on the acoustic provide for a full sound and an organic flow. As Billy! repeats, “Go to sleep my brother / I miss you so much / when you wake up in the morning / the glory days will have begun,” a steady instrumental build-up emphasizes his optimism for days to come. Not only are we in awe of the instrumentation, but it’s the hidden memos that make the song so captivating. Friend-filled choirs, sounds of roommates washing dishes, cats sneezing and distant joyful giggling add to the thoroughness of the song. At just 20 years old, Billy!’s first release is the product of years of growing a supportive community. Despite “Palmetto” being an early single, Billy!’s iteration of persistence through hard times is mature, personable and detailed. Photo by Keely Caulder.— Keely Caulder on April 14, 2021
Gracie Gray - alienlover
Tinkering in with soft, muted keys and the far-away voice of her brother, LA-based Gracie Gray’s new single “alienlover” encapsulates the otherworldly. This track materialized from a dream she had where she heard her own voice amidst her sleep. “alienlover” is a pristine example of what happens when we listen in carefully to the worlds that we live in when we are not awake. Barreling in with grace, a distorted electric guitar draws the listener into the foreground of a dream landscape wherein love between an earthly woman and an alien cannot exist. Gray’s voice rolls over iterations of itself, “I’ll love someone else instead.” Photo by Cashmere Studio.— Laney Esper on April 14, 2021
Samantha Crain - Bloomsday
This week, Choctaw singer/songwriter, musician and producer Samantha Crain takes us on an intimate walkthrough of her newest EP, I Guess We Live Here Now. Follow along as she discusses the meaning of each track and her journey crafting them. Photo by Dylan Johnson.
This song is an anthem of sorts about the possibility of each new, seemingly meandering and unimportant day. I use the reference to Bloomsday, born from James Joyce’s “Ulysses”, as a substitute for any day, just a normal, nothing special, any day. The song is meant to inspire the agency we have over our participation in any day. Although it feels like much of the time we are being pulled along in life, we have the instrumentality to find within us light and belief. — Samantha Crain— Ysabella Monton on April 13, 2021
Shayla McDaniel - Let Me Breathe (How To Break Our Hearts)
A delicate guitar descends as a robust beat kicks in, echoing the complex sentiments of Shayla McDaniel’s latest single “Let Me Breathe (How To Break Our Hearts).” The Knoxville, Tennessee-based artist’s solemn vocals open with unsure musings on the state of her relationship, seemingly having one foot in and one foot out. As a driving beat (written by Deep Sea Diver’s Peter Mansen) goes on and a bright electric guitar strums in, you can feel McDaniel’s disorienting emotions.
A delay-filled arpeggiated guitar is introduced just as McDaniel's thought process starts to disentangle. It becomes more tenacious as she grows more self-assured, peeling the veil to recognize the actual nature of her relationship: “We’re living in a nightmare of a dream / You’re stealing all I have left of me.”
This all comes to a definite realization when the chorus sweeps in. The drumbeat opens up, triumphant horns make their way in the background and McDaniel’s voice swells lively in the front and center, leaving us with a painstaking question: “I don’t need you / You don’t need me / Why do we keep doing these things?” She invites us to look deeply and evaluate: are the relationships we are in actually nurturing, or instead have they become something unhealthy that we only hold on to out of habit? Photo by Shayla McDaniel.— James Ramos on April 13, 2021
Dafna - Sweeter
John Casey held Emily Franklin in his skinny arms atop of the park near their neighborhood. John was home for the weekend visiting his parents, but they were still asleep at the crack of dawn, which is when John sent Emily an iMessage from outside her front door just a house down, asking if she was ready. The truth was that Emily had never been more prepared than she was at that moment, well-rested on account of going to bed by 9 PM the night before, giddy with anticipation. A long Saturday with family could wait. With their young beating hearts in tow, they strolled to the park, listened to the birds chirping. “You make me feel sweeter, like I’m no longer a burden,” Emily said after a silence that peacetime in 1940 couldn’t hold a flame to. John didn’t speak but held her even closer as they watched the sunrise. “But it makes me feel weaker when you hold me,” Emily finished. John felt one or two of Emily’s tears splash upon his right wrist as they trickled down and off her face before he asked Emily if he could play a new song he liked: “Sweeter” by the artist Dafna. Photo by Jivan West.— Mustafa Abubaker on April 9, 2021
GOLDEN - Never Too Late
GOLDEN's "Never Too Late" is tender, intimate and sprinkled with optimism. Warm keys welcome you into the track, and Bailey Cooke’s melodic voice rises from the depths not long after. Harmonies pour out like ripples in a pond where you see your reflection for the first time in who knows how long. The lyrics look self-destructive habits in the face, caress their cheek and say, “It’s never too late to find a way out"—no judgment, just a gentle reminder that there are lighter things out there for you. Suddenly invigorated, the second verse grips your hand and takes off running. Percussion that snuck in without you noticing like motivation after months of numbness. Everything clicks into place. If you want out (and you really do) it’s never too late to find the way. And it’s never too early to start looking, either. Photo by Kevin Condon.— Allison Hill on April 9, 2021
Ziggy Alberts - getting low
Doubt and emotional fatigue can become a burden when coupled with something as unsettling as prolonged loneliness, whether that comes by choice or not. With rushes of acoustic percussion and gentle inquisition, each second of Ziggy Alberts' "getting low" illustrates the feeling of becoming distant from purpose. Just one of the twelve intimate tracks featured on Alberts’ latest record searching for freedom, “getting low” moves through a story of idle longing into a place of delicate self-affirmation. The body of the track incorporates soft, elegant harmonies that work to bring a sense of warmth to its patient and sincere lyrics. Before diving into a dynamic outro, the song poetically fixates on how solitude can impact intimate connections, professing that “nothing makes me feel alone like when I can't see the difference in being with someone and somebody.” An outpour of trumpets and strings emphasizes Alberts' lyrical affirmations as the song moves towards closure, creating an immersive sonic landscape of elevated potential, laced with bravery, strength and hope. Albert's delves into the complexity behind a developing relationship with self-love on his exploratory seventh record, and akin to the other impassioned tracks in this collection, “getting low” chooses persistence when faced with imminent seclusion. Photo by Janneke Storm.— Jenna Andreozzi on April 8, 2021
Fake Dad - Listen
We're all stressed and overwhelmed with life, and if there’s anything we learned during the isolation of the pandemic, it’s that being alone and forced to face yourself leads to anxious thoughts and a heightened need to create. The latest song from the Brooklyn-based duo Fake Dad captures both that anxiety for the future and craving for it all at once through delicate sonic layers.
As the song starts, you first hear from a child’s voice talking about wanting to be supernova. It’s an all-too-relatable childlike desire to be remembered and seen, like a “really really big star up in space.” Andrea de Varona then descends in with soulful lyrics that sing not only to that desire but the anxiety that comes along with it. Almost somberly, the lyrics highlight the fear that any accomplishment will be followed by losing oneself or the spark that started it all: “I listen and hope to hear / How to make it and keep from breaking everything I make.” Simple, wispy and emotional, Fake Dad creates the perfect song for a slow morning or a late night. Photo by Lady Gleep.— Monica Hand on April 8, 2021
Homeschool - Smartest Man (feat. Samia)
“Smartest Man” is an indie rock anthem of existential proportions. It is the second release from Homeschool, the solo project of Tom D’Agustino, formerly the lead singer of Active Bird Community. Over layered guitars and loose drums, D’Agustino sparks complex thoughts through deceptively simple phrases, like how and why we make the decisions we do in life. If one choice has the power to change not only our world but the worlds of those we love, why don’t we do things differently at certain times? (“No matter what you do / It’s like the whole world / Is doing it too”). With this magnitude at our fingertips, it’s amazing we don’t recklessly seize every day by doing the wildest things just to feel alive, for which D’Agustino has some ideas: “I wanna go diving / Or get struck by lightning / So I can feel the current in my hands." Yet so often we find ourselves stuck in patterns or monotony we can’t break, away from those we love. Featured after the first chorus, Samia laments on this idea: “Mom asked me / Can you come back home / I said I wonder whether that’s a question." Her vocals nestle perfectly into the pensive track before she and D’Agustine unite for one final towering chorus that will leave you wanting to climb the nearest mountain while calling your grandparents. And maybe by the time you hike back down, you’ll remember you’re always one choice away from changing your life. Photo by CJ Harvey.— Heddy Edwards on April 7, 2021
Annie DiRusso - Nine Months
With sharp, striking honesty, Annie DiRusso crafts the kind of letter we all write to our exes but never have the guts to send in her latest single “Nine Months.” The instrumentation is textured, vigorous and emotionally charged, mirroring the build-up of anger represented in the lyrics. Through words, the song chronicles everything from the couple’s first meeting (“The first thing you said the night we met is I was beautiful”) to the fiery, impassioned fallout that results from a bad breakup (“I took my time now I know what it was / So don’t you ever say we were in love / You ruined my life for nine fucking months”). Arguably, the most important—and impactful—lyric of the song arrives in the chorus, as DiRusso devastatingly sings, “And every time I think of you / I hate I didn’t run away / Cause I never thought / I’d be the girl who stayed.” As everyone who has been in a toxic relationship knows, no one ever thinks they’d stay in a miserable relationship until they find themselves in that very situation. By offering up this relatable story, though, DiRusso will certainly make a lot of people feel that they aren’t alone. Listen to “Nine Months” wherever you stream. Photo by Lily Lee.— Paige Shannon on April 7, 2021