Samia - Triptych
Sometimes we are just too full of sadness, and all of that blue comes spilling out all over our lives. That’s what’s happening on Samia’s “Triptych,” a tune that swells and swells like a panic attack. It begins as a simple, clean electric guitar playing the same chord over and over, with a soft spoken vocal wondering, “Hey, did I make a mistake and do my mistakes worsen?” but quickly advances into a world of sound—a full band, a full choir of background vocals, a guitar riff repeating, a marching-band-esque drumroll. A synth that sounds like a horn section. More and more, it fills our ears until, all at once, it is gone. A metaphor for the relationship that ended, leaving Samia empty and full and ready to write this sweet, sad, beautiful song of surrender. “Feeding you my cake, eating it too, I’ll be good to you,” she promises, in a tiny, high, final chorus—a last ditch attempt to reclaim what was. But it’s gone. And then she is, too.— Mikhal Weiner on September 14, 2020
Fenne Lily - Solipsism
Right out of the gate, Fenne Lily hits us with a wall of distorted guitars and straight ahead drums and bass. The chords on "Solipsism" are simple and they hit us like a wall of water; it’s rock ’n' roll with a twist. It’s a surprising choice for an artist with a penchant for soft-spoken hits like “Top to Toe” and “For a While,” but the effect is captivating. Lily’s wispy voice floats like a phantom above the hard edges of the rock ensemble, crystallizing the heartbeat of this song: she is “empty, at one and twenty,” kept awake by a haunting feeling that she’s all alone here. We’re here for it, swept away by the catchy melody and groove, leaning into that short synth solo in the bridge, we’ve been empty, as well. It’s that emptiness that connects us. As if to punctuate this homage to brokenness, a few lonely notes on a piano echo out into a sudden expanse. Perfect. Photo by Nicole Loucaides.— Mikhal Weiner on September 10, 2020
Kelly Lee Owens - L.I.N.E.
“L.I.N.E.,” one of the latest offerings from Welsh electronic musician Kelly Lee Owens, finds her battling feelings of love, independence and her own memories of past relationships. Though the track adopts a more traditional pop structure, the experimental nature that Owens has become known for still shines through. The familiar drums and loops accompany Owens as she molds the track into a loop of its own, taking on an almost meditative feel as she recites the titular, “Love is not enough.” As the song progresses it feels as if the artist is attempting to remind herself of toxic, restrictive relationships of the past. Relationships that mean to keep her, and everything that makes her, in line. The recurring synths and cyclical structure of the track all work towards Owens reminding herself that “that’s what you get for wearing your heart on your sleeve.” “L.I.N.E.” is part of Owens' sophomore album, Inner Song, which is out now via Smalltown Supersound. Photo by Kim Hiorthøy.— Jonah Minnihan on September 10, 2020
Love Mansuy - Calm Me Down
Montreal-born and New Jersey-raised R&B artist Love Mansuy’s newest single “Calm Me Down” explores the vulnerability necessary in a romantic relationship. In his sweet and smooth voice, Mansuy sings, “What good is being honest if it doesn't cut deep? / What good is what you wanted if it's not what you need?” over minimalistic beats—allowing Mansuy’s voice and lyrics to be the main focus. The song circles around trust as an integral part of a healthy relationship. He continues with a sweet declaration: “You know how to calm me down / 'cause you mean that much to me.” A sweet and melodic love song that understands what love actually needs to thrive in the long term, “Calm Me Down” is the newest single off of his upcoming EP (món-swee) Side A, which is due out September 18.— Corey Bates on September 10, 2020
Llusion feat. Cautious Clay & HXNS - Sad4good
On the tongue-in-cheek “Sad4Good,” Llusion breaks up the monotony of quarantine with help from Cautious Clay and HXNS. Glitchy and eccentric production bring elegance to the bedroom pop tune, crafting the perfect foundation for distorted vocals to state simply, "We're all alone, all alone anyway" and "I wanna be sad for good." I, like many of you, first found joy in not having to put pants on every day; however, as we enter week "who knows?" of our new normal, I'm facing some underlying anxieties as I find myself waking up anywhere from 8 am to 2 pm, never knowing what day of the week it is, questioning how many of the societal structures in life are real. In Llusion's world, if life has become nothing but refried beans and feeling trapped within four walls, it begs the question, what's left to lose? Llusion's irreverent approach to existential ennui over a bouncy beat offers a much-needed two minutes of relief from what feels like a dark age, and there's some ironic peace to accepting that "if everything hurts, then it couldn't get worse.”— Ysabella Monton on September 10, 2020
Ruth B. - Dirty Nikes
Ruth B. rehashes old heartache on “Dirty Nikes,” a melancholy R&B single that longs for what once was. It’s a special sort of longing to be homesick for a person, and Ruth B. captures it beautifully, reminiscing on late night talks, aimless drives and promises made in the quiet spaces in between. Minimalist in its production, the track focuses on highlighting her haunting vocals, for which she initially went viral on Vine. “It makes me sick that I'm still singing 'bout you,” she whines; no matter how long it’s been, sometimes all it takes is one pair of dirty Nikes to know that you’ll never fully forget.
taco bell is taking shredded chicken
off the menu and it’s got me thinking
about the backseat of your car
at 4 am, first kisses and ghost stories;
about white orchids dipped in gold,
stepped-on toes slow dancing;
about allen stone and chamomile tea,
about strep bacteria festering in a twin-sized bed.
i wonder if a new girl, some pretty blonde
sits across the table, eating the tomatoes from your salad.
— Ysabella Monton on September 9, 2020
Divino Niño - Made Up My Mind
Divino Niño sure can whip up a tune. The Chicago, Illinois indie rockers' latest, “Made Up My Mind,” is John Cusack with a boombox outside your window. A heartbroken ballad pleading for a second chance at love and life. Though the track stays stylistically close to home for the band, the addition of a small brass section featuring Sen Morimoto and Whitney’s Will Miller brings a new depth instrumentally that has you hearing something new with each listen. Lyrically, the song takes on a lovesick feel as the singer serenades, “I made up my mind (forever wanna be by your side) / I just had to give life a chance / To come and show me what it could be / If I messed up fucked up everything we got.” Is this a topic we have heard before? Yes. But will we get sick of Divino Niño songs about this? Probably not. Their bilingual approach, swirling synths and infectious harmonies create an instant feeling of warmth and nostalgia that lets the listener place themselves within every track, and “Made Up My Mind” is no different. Photo by Alexa Viscius.— Jonah Minnihan on September 9, 2020
Nao & Lianne La Havas - Woman
Alternative R&B goddesses, Nao and Lianne La Havas, have teamed up to bring us empowering energy in the form of the insanely groovy single, “Woman.” This is Nao’s first release since her 2019 Grammy nomination for Saturn, and unsurprisingly, she delivers some heat. From the jump, we’re met with funk guitar interplay, a solid beat, sultry bass and unstoppable vocals from this powerhouse duo. Both contribute sweet, sweet harmonies and cascading, smooth dual vocals that speak to the strength of women and the power of self-confidence. “If God is Woman, then on Sunday I’ma worship us,” sings La Havas on the second verse, while Nao follows with, “Take my mirror out the bag and fill it with confidence." These women know that their resilience will only build up their strength. In a tweet, Nao mentions, “This is a song Lianne and I are so happy to put out. I believe this is the start of a new dawn where being a woman - esp a woman of colour - can & should be celebrated. This is our time! We all deserve to be celebrated.” Through their music, and this tune specifically, Nao and La Havas carve out a special place for their voices in the conversation surrounding the empowerment of women, and it’s safe to say this is just the beginning for them.— Deanna DiLandro on September 9, 2020
Lightning Dust - Material Life
There is a certain wildness and movement in “Material Life” that could awaken dusty bones. The eclectic release by indie-rock duo Lightning Dust, comprised of Amber Webber and Josh Wells, is a commentary on the need for more. There is always this desire in us for something deeper, something more valuable to dig into, giving us the feeling that we cannot and will not belong, that perhaps there is more for us that we have not yet been greeted by. The track begins with a steadiness, and at its midpoint slows down to say, “I’m in a world I don’t belong,” creating relevance within itself to the nature of being.— Laney Esper on September 9, 2020
Angel Olsen - (New Love) Cassette
Angel Olsen’s “(New Love) Cassette” is a gorgeous rumination on the feelings one experiences when starting a new relationship. Her haunting, emotive vocals, drenched in reverb, convey longing in the midst of limerence. “I’m gonna show you love all of the time / Gonna be your breath when you’re out of life / Love / Free / Take / Me,” she sings earnestly. The simple arrangement—the version on the album Whole New Mess is stripped back guitar/voice vs. the lush, full version featured on 2019’s All Mirrors—is striking and heartbreakingly honest. This song is the perfect balance of bittersweet and nostalgic—a tune for anyone missing the dreamy and unraveling emotions that come with falling in love with someone new. Listen wherever you stream. Photo by Kylie Coutts.— Paige Shannon on September 8, 2020
Anjimile - Baby No More
Boston-based singer-songwriter Anjimile reckons with ways their demons have caused hurt to a lover on “Baby No More," a modernized bossa nova tune more harmoniously balanced than the relationship itself. "Scary / What I done and might do," they open, a fragile moment of self-awareness, yet inability to stop themselves from doing more damage. Referring to themselves as "King Heartbreaker," their lightly rasped vocals send a simple message, the only fitting end for a doomed relationship: "I can’t be your baby no more."
For the greater part of 2019, I found myself in the thick of it. Drinking heavily more nights than not and equally as addicted to an emotionally abusive relationship, my sense of self was all but torn to shreds. Much like Anjimile, "I quite literally felt like I was losing my mind, vis-à-vis alcoholism," though it was my close friends whom I hurt the most. While the fresh, upbeat nature of "Baby No More" contrasts some of the darker lyrics, for me, the levity mimics the relief that comes with detaching yourself where you need to; it's that second of clarity, seeking help and coming out better for it. Anjimile's debut record Giver Taker, which will delve further into mental health struggles and coming out as transgender, is due out September 18 via Father/Daughter Records.