San Cisco - Alone
Separation is not for the faint of heart on “Alone,” San Cisco’s love letter that’s scared to say “I miss you.” The Australian indie pop trio fashions their psychedelic pop quintessence into a vulnerable ballad, singing of the constant push and pull in a long-distance relationship. It seems impossible to quiet the voice asking, “Does love drift away / A little bit every day?” when you wear yourself thin attempting to exist in two places at once, both where you reside physically and with the one person who feels like home. There’s an idyllic nostalgia in love feeling “elastic,” how it “pulls me back to pink sunsets”; it calls to mind an old love of mine tied to strawberry skies and golden sand between my toes, one that I lost to distance, yet still enraptures me years later.
The emotionally challenging song strays greatly from first track of theirs I ever heard, the infectiously bouncy “Run,” which still sits close to my heart as the first and only time I’ve ever heard my name in a song. The group’s new sense of self-awareness permeates their latest record, Between You and Me.
we close a 400-mile gap and I fall
onto your shoulder in the cab, hoping
my head will still fit into the crook of your neck.
fingertips trace the outline of my bare legs
blue eyes move from my chest, lifting and dropping
to the numbers on the meter, rising
back to the lights, meshing
into a blur of white out the window.
Lani Renaldo - Trainwreck
Lani Renaldo's “Trainwreck” is a dreamy garage rock anthem for every 20-something dwelling over how late is too late to reach your full potential. As one of six songwriters selected for GRAMMY Camp as a high schooler, the LA-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is no stranger to a gifted child syndrome of sorts. In her case, it manifested as a panic disorder that had her believing "I could never live out my dreams."
Rather than fostering my creativity, a life of gifted schooling impaired me with a thrumming pressure to prove myself to no one in particular. I'd never felt more lost than the moment I realized, as Renaldo sings, that "I was the golden child, but now she's gone." Writing was the only skill I ever felt I had, but in a society that measures success by financial gain rather than fulfillment, it seemed so useless. Much like Renaldo, I was resigned to an endless cycle of "passing go to cash another paycheck" because I lost the ability to believe in myself as a writer.
While the pandemic has shifted the way we live, I've been working on nurturing my talent, both for stability and as an act of self-care. There's no doubt that Renaldo has honed in on her craft as well, with her self-produced NOHEARTBREAK2020 EP due out sometime this year. So how late is too late to make those dreams come true? The answer, according to Renaldo, is never.— Ysabella Monton on September 21, 2020
Bill Callahan - Let's Move to the Country
A true romantic, Bill Callahan sings from the heart of a wayward troubadour in "Let's Move to the Country," a track off his most recent album, Gold Record. An exhibition of his love and reverence for the old west, Callahan dons a figurative cowboy hat in his discography as he talk-sings his way through loafing country western lullabies and ballads. "Let's Move to the Country" is a sweet, simple love song. It feels like Callahan is pleading, holding his hat against his chest. He paints the vision of what their lives would look like now that he's put his roving days behind him. Callahan previously included this track on his album Knock Knock, under the moniker Smog. Callahan performed as Smog until 2007, when he stylistically shifted from underground rock to more Americana style sounds. Gold Record was released on September 4. Give it a listen wherever you stream.— Hannah Lupas on September 21, 2020
Abe Parker Feat. Paul Russell - Somebody New
Singer-songwriter Abe Parker and rapper Paul Russell’s new single “Somebody New” is a perfectly sweet love song about how “this could never be a song for somebody new.” The two met via Reach Records' Christmas album The Gift when Parker took notice of Russell’s verse on the track “We Three Kings.” Russell’s laid back flow is perfectly accented by reverb-heavy guitar and minimalistic beats that make it feel like the perfect low-key summer track as he takes the lead on the first half. He tells the story of a relationship starting with “you know we met back then / acting like we understand art” before mentioning the passage of time and leaning into the chorus. It’s sweet and romantic while being grounded in reality and small details. Parker takes over after the first chorus and tells a story of his own, singing, “played for keeps and girl you got my life / didn’t even have to try.” The sweet and smooth collab is a perfect way to end the summer.— Corey Bates on September 21, 2020
Izzy Heltai - Songbird
Izzy Heltai has a talent for demonstrating nostalgia and incentivizing reflection. "Songbird" is an early glance at Father, a nine-track exploration on matters past and present that is bound for stores and streaming platforms on October 9. Here, surf-rock meets folk to underscore a light case of introspective questioning. Though romantically afflicted, Heltai keeps a playful posture that rings out like a daydream. The speaker is refreshingly bashful and dodges direct discourse with the subject of his affection. Instead, he seeks the advice of his friends in the audience. His under-confident message meets a generous, full-bodied sound to convey the reality of passion — a conflicting force of total presence and inner retreat, all at once.— Daphne Ellis on September 21, 2020
Bill Callahan - Pigeons
Bill Callahan continues to set the standard for storytelling with these new songs. My goodness. Just listen to the opening passage. If that doesn't set fire to your soul then I'd wager you and I ain't wading in the same bayou. Tune in. — Alex Cameron
In his latest EP of demos, Alex Cameron rehashes some of his songs from his 2019 album Miami Memory, but this time, we hear them under a slightly different light. Instead of the brass, bright, strobe light of a strip club, his new EP Miami Memories takes us back to the VIP private room. Photo by Hanly Banks.— Alejandro Veciana on September 18, 2020
Sylvan Esso - Frequency
Mellow, gleaming electronic pop duo Sylvan Esso is committed to their signature elegance and free-forming sound with their new track, “Frequency.” Aligning with its lyrical themes, the song has a magnetic force, melting down within the listener and creating space for a pulling movement inside the body — which can be seen in the video for the song, brought to life by Moses Sumney’s creative direction. The absence of percussion in the track is a clean, soft representation of the girl Amelia Meath is singing about, a woman with alluring energy that cannot be fabricated. This girl is enchantment in human form: “She's the one, I swear to God / A frequency, she's got a frequency / and I caught it all over me.”
On September 25, Sylvan Esso, a.k.a. Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn, will release their third album, Free Love, featuring the tenderness of folky sound as well as the rhythmic tug of war that they have become known for.— Laney Esper on September 18, 2020
Scarypoolparty - Return2Sender
The new EP from LA-based Scarypoolparty (solo project of Alejandro Aranda), Doom Hologram, opens with “Return2Sender”—the first of an eight-track story, meant to be played in order. Lingering just under five minutes, “Return2Sender” encapsulates the feeling of watching raindrops roll down the window, as golden candlelight flickers and once-fresh flowers on the table slowly wither away. Throughout the ethereal track, the scent of broken promises is as fragrant as wilting roses, leaving the listener to once again taste the words they wish they’d said to someone (“You take my words and break me down / I wrote you letters just to say ‘I love you’ / And now I know that you would tear them all apart”). The track allows Aranda, an American Idol alum, to flex his pop sensibilities and brings to mind the exact inspirations referenced in the release’s press statement—that he “channels the prodigious dexterity of John Mayer overlaid with the ethereal pop of The 1975.” Aranda’s hurt is undeniably palpable, and this candor is the heartbeat that drives the song through its melodic turns and an aching acoustic interlude. But, as great art is so often made, Aranda turned heartache into a glowing and visceral connection with his listeners — and one they won’t soon forget. Photo by Nicole Busch.— Heddy Edwards on September 18, 2020
rincs - Or Is It Just You
rincs are the L.A.-based duo of Rebecca Ramirez and Bjorn Winberg. Their music is incisive and eccentric, with the occasional punkiness of Ramirez’s vocals casting a moody shadow over their poetic lyrics. rincs value brevity and melody. As with “Or Is It Just You,” their songs tend to burn fast and bright before fizzling out at just the right moment. They’ve said all they need to and delivered their message with singable indie-pop sentiment. “Or Is It Just You,” their most recent single, conveys the jarring realization that everyone lives within their own distinct reality — what looks upside down to one person may look completely normal to another. Sometimes it’s a realization full of possibility, and sometimes it’s a terrifying one. This song mostly deals with that second feeling, creating a slow buildup of disorientation enhanced by cyclical guitar riffs. There’s also some quirky instrumentation — the thumb-piano solo that drives this track towards the final chorus is one of several reasons it's well worth a listen.— Siena Ballotta Garman on September 18, 2020
See Thru Hands - Hot City
Oddly prescient lyrics and red hot vibe as well. An apocalyptic déjà vu in the club. Punk-funk from Manchester grafters See Thru Hands. It's catchy as hell, so danceable and alludes to the end times we're living in with an accuracy you'd call "on the nose" if it hadn't come out [last year]. — Alex Cameron
Alex Cameron is a gifted storyteller; he crafts colorful cinematic narratives that explore themes like masculinity, sex, guilt and failure, while mixing Springsteen-like nostalgia with self-aware kitsch.— Alejandro Veciana on September 17, 2020
GRAE - Permanent Maniac
One of the most delightful parts of music is how easily it facilitates connections between people. Striking up a conversation with someone else at a show, swapping CDs with friends, even tuning into a livestream with a thousand strangers — music has a talent for bringing people together. That’s before even getting into the songs that make you feel seen. Understood. Even loved. "Permanent Maniac" is a dreamy exploration of that infatuation with the first artist that made you really feel. The lyrics flow like a diary entry, full of affection that is simultaneously naïve, intense and genuine: “I have him close to me, since I met him on the radio.” The thing is, it’s not quite a fantasy. Sharing music, even between artist and fan, is an emotionally intimate experience. As someone who’s been on both sides, it’s kind of beautiful the way that another person can let a piece of art so close to your heart burrow so deep and close to their own. The fact that people you don’t know will let your songs slip into their ears, take up space and coil itself around memories that you barely had a hand in creating? It’s beautiful. It’s a sense of sharing so intimate and organic, it almost makes boundaries feel blurry. GRAE’s track pirouettes on that boundary, floating above bouncing bass, buoyed by innocent harmonies. “And he’ll never, never know." It’s not a bitter declaration. It's respecting the relationship for what it is — a message in a bottle tossed out to sea. If it suffers abuse in its journey, it’s a bitter feeling when it shatters. But when that mutual connection is respected as the delicate, transient offering it is? It sparkles. Photo by Lizzie O'Donnell.— Allison Hill on September 17, 2020