School of X - Away
“Away,” the newest single by School of X, is a sonic journey. From prominent bass lines in the early verses of the song to alluring saxophone solos, mixed with his unique confident vocals, “Away” provides listeners with a nostalgic pop anthem. Based in Copenhagen, School of X’s moniker comes from Eksskole, an anti-establishment art school from the 1960s. Like the school after which the act is named, School of X provides space for Littauer to create outside of labels. On “Away," Rasmus Littauer, the man behind it all, channels that energy for a rich and progressive landscape with no boundaries. As Littauer recounts the immediate feeling of loss one faces after a break-up, we admire the beauty of the melancholy atmosphere, laced with perfectly hidden synths and dreamy electric licks within “Away.” Littauer’s instant regret is captured as he sings, “I know I told you to be gone / But I think it’s too hard / So don’t ever go away again.” It’s not only missing a lover, but your best friend, and going from having everything to nothing. Photo by Jonas Bang.— Keely Caulder on May 12, 2021
Margo Ross - Fan the Flame
Break-ups may just look like the dissolution of a relationship to an outsider. When it comes to those involved, they’re often going through the motions of experiencing a split on the outside, and it may appear to look like nothing on the surface. On the inside, however, there is hardly a bigger storm brewing than that of an inner monologue of the broken-hearted.
New York musician Margo Ross warns the recipient of that inner monologue not to “stand next to [her] fire,” or “Fan the Flame” of her already-burning list of thoughts on handling her split on her newest single. Musically, the track starts out with Ross strumming the guitar almost cautiously, as she begins singing, “Forgive me, I know not what I’ve done.” Describing the feelings the split has inspired, Ross leaves hardly anything to the visual imagination as she goes on to sing, “A tree falls, a noose tightens, but you’ve already won.”
Or have they?
As the song progresses, Ross’s vocals become stronger as the song continues flowing. Just like the universal idea of becoming comfortable with the idea of a break-up and the slow-but-sure progression of healing a broken heart, “Fan the Flame” gradually sprawls with violins and Ross’ doo-wop style backing vocals. Most importantly, Ross visibly grows more confident to the point where it sounds like she's throwing gasoline on her previously timid approach to sorting out her post-split feelings.
The Margo Ross at the beginning of the track may feel surprised to learn how “Fan the Flame” could serve as the latest helpful anthem for getting through a break-up; it’s all found in her obvious from-the-heart vocal delivery wherein the listener can follow along in real-time as Ross’ healing journey unfolds in 3 minutes and 40 seconds. Sometimes it may be better just to listen closely instead of seeking advice. Photo by Kirra Cheers.
Moorea Masa & the Mood - Butterfly
Moorea Masa has the vocal presence of a best friend who welcomes you with open arms no matter the mood or circumstance. “Butterfly” is no exception, especially as one of Masa’s most personal depictions of her own journey. This is a voice that lends a hand, reaches through headphones and speakers with wisdom, comfort, and love, which is what makes “Butterfly” all the more unique. Knowing that Masa is reaching out with visibility and grace toward her own self-journey, gives this chapter of her music more depth than ever before as she sings, “Butterfly, trying to keep it light, but you’re addicted to the sweet of the night, won’t you come up for air every once in a while?” The steady pulsing baseline at the beginning of the song represents Masa’s internal dissonance with anchorage to her own roots. By the time she breaks out into the chorus, we feel liberation paired with the bittersweet freedom that comes from gaining independence from the ones that raised you.
This is the final song of Moorea’s latest album, Heart In The Wild: Side A, an exquisite and heart-wrenching journey through Masa’s relationship with her estranged mother, a queer Black woman suffering from debilitating mental illness. Written and produced against a backdrop of global anguish and civil unrest in 2020, this record captures an unflinching intimacy that feels like sharing sacred moments with a lifelong friend. Masa delivers exquisitely emotional vocal performances, directly addressing her mother in warm, velvety tones accompanied by lush beds of harmonies and dreamlike textures. Photo by Ashley Walters.
Bantug - Every Sunday
The plea is immediate—a curious narrator, a curious band. It sounds like Bantug is coming to us live from the image on the cover; it's a bit constrained, a bit uncomfortable, embodying that Sunday feeling—dreading the potential of what’s to come. As the first verse begins to loosen up, Bantug admits that much of this familiar pain is internal. Keeping it hidden from those around her out of fear of “being misunderstood or given / A pity that [she’s] never wanted." It's such a beautiful lyric with genuine vulnerability, and in this moment, the song feels all the more generous. It’s so hard for many of us to share these intimate fears and pains, as doing so can leave so much room for judgment. It takes trust in those we share with, something we might not have earned here, but Bantug is willing to offer it to us anyways. And how lucky we are. Just opening up ever so slightly here feels like a huge weight off the track’s spirit, propelling us into this gorgeous guitar-driven chorus. The drums offer an undeniable groove and Bantug steps into the spotlight, reaching up for a stunning melody. We settle back into a second verse, frustration building as every attempt to break from these fears leads us right back to them. The chorus explodes again, just as powerful and magnetic. Adding in a xylophone and strings gives the bridge a brand new texture, layers of vocals capturing the tension. The pre-chorus comes back, now just Bantug and some gentle keys, upping the intimacy and authenticity of these emotions. Starting with the bass, we feel the momentum building again. The driving force gives it a sense of optimism and assuredness we didn’t have before. Dancing our way out even if the feelings stay, or return, we know we’re in control now. It’s a beautiful single following two other terrific and dynamic releases in 2021 for Bantug, and we're excited to see what the Nashville artist has in store next. Photo by Kirt Barnett.— Max Himelhoch on May 4, 2021
chickpee - Would You Like Some Tea?
Imagine entering a room and immediately being showered with rainbow glitter and rose-scented mist. That’s exactly how “Would You Like Some Tea?” by chickpee feels. From the moment you hit play, the track greets you will a thick groovy drum vibe and warm dream pop guitar lines. As soon as the lead vocal comes on, the mood is complete. Here is the perfect example of less is more: simple lyrics provide honest, playful intentions in this beautiful musical inquiry. Listeners would be silly to reject a cup of tea from such a sweet, sincere voice and warm head bop groove. Don’t be surprised if your body feels like rainbow glitter by the end of this song, as the relaxed pop beat takes over your senses. This is a must-add for your party playlists, road trip tapes and secret crush dream songs. Photo by .— Elizabeth Woolf on May 4, 2021
William Maxwell - Dead Plants
Though also a member of the Austin-based project The Oysters, William Maxwell’s solo act allows for a deeper, more vulnerable connection to the artist. Maxwell’s latest album, It’s Been Here Changing for a Long Time, is no exception. Released with a 24-page art booklet, in all,the album is a multi-media exploration of self-expression.
“Dead Plants” is a perfect example of his talent and candor. Drawn in by the lively guitar, you quickly find yourself wrapped up in the story of the lyrics. You find regrets lingering like a bicycle still tied to a tree, apologies spilling out like water in a cab. “I guess when you’ve done so much crying,” he sings as a buoyant guitar carries through, sometimes all you can do is “sit back and laugh.”
There’s something just so raw and unexpected about the last lines: “I’ll do anything just to try to get you back / When you’re gone for the weekend, I’ll still water your dead plants.” It’s clever and modest, but it punches you right in the gut—a William Maxwell specialty. Photo by Mireille Blond.— Monica Hand on May 4, 2021
Lydia Luce - Dark River
Each day this week, Nashville-based folk singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lydia Luce offers insight on tracks from her sophomore album, Dark River. Follow along as she intimately details her songwriting process in her own words. Photo by Betsy Phillips.
I wrote this song with my dear friend Raven Katz. This song is about not letting people take away my energy. Raven and I lived together for a year and she knows me better than most. The song talks about habits both good and bad. Sometimes when I am depleted of energy and running myself into the ground I give more than I should. I am learning that I have to take care of myself and recharge before I can show up for others. I know that when I give myself alone time especially in nature I am able to recharge and fill up my cup. This is something that works for me because it forces me to listen to what’s really going on in myself without the external noises from around me. I value my time spent in solitude. — Lydia Luce— on April 30, 2021
Laufey - James
Laufey's debut EP Typical of Me is out today, and it's already stealing hearts left and right. Her track "James" might be especially good at that, as it tells a tale of the type of heartbreaker we've all fell for—and had a dramatic fallout with. Nothing feels quite like the realization that you were in too deep over the appearance of someone who is, in reality, too shallow. And nothing feels quite likes this track as Laufey combines her jazzy guitar style with captivating vocals and harmonies that will give the name "James" a whole new meaning for you. The Icelandic-Chinese musician writes songs the way a painter would make a self-portrait: mixing strengths and limitations to present a perspective no one else would have. The result is something deliciously charged with feelings. For more of that, make sure to check Laufey's Typical of Me. Photo by Blythe Thomas.— Giulia Santana on April 30, 2021
PRONOUN - I WANNA DIE BUT I CAN’T (CUZ I GOTTA KEEP LIVING)
In their first release since the sultry pre-pandemic single “Song Number 1.5” (Sleep Well Records, 2020) PRONOUN (formerly stylized “pronoun”) has returned in all caps, with a single to match. Tight, upbeat guitar riffs and kick drum bring a pop-punk sound to the latest from the self-proclaimed “indie-bedroom-pop-rock-whatever” musical project by Brooklyn-based artist Alyse Vellturo, whose layered reverberating vocals are the undertow of “I WANNA DIE BUT I CAN’T (CUZ I GOTTA KEEP LIVING).”
The song’s lyrics hit home right from the start: “Everybody’s moving on / Growing in their own way / No matter where I put myself / I’m always in the same place.” Even after more than a year spent primarily in quarantine and face masks, where surviving alone can be seen as an accomplishment, the pressures from society (and often from ourselves)—to do more, grow more, be more—have hardly let up. For this anxiety-prone writer, the future has been an ever-looming and ever-daunting question mark, with very few anchors around from “the before times” to keep the spiraling at bay, and not nearly enough of anything to distract from spiraling into the past. “I WANNA DIE BUT I CAN’T (CUZ I GOTTA KEEP LIVING)” is both a comforting notion that these feelings are not as unique as they can often seem and a welcome reminder that “Everything gets better, just later.” The arc of the lyrics in the song mirrors the title itself, waxing from self-deprecation to pep talk, with these especially encouraging words near the song’s end.
The release of “I WANNA DIE BUT I CAN’T (CUZ I GOTTA KEEP LIVING)” was accompanied by the announcement of PRONOUN’s forthcoming five-track EP, triumphantly titled OMG I MADE IT, out June 11th on Wax Bodega. Photo by Mitchell Wojcik.— Maya Bouvier-Lyons on April 30, 2021
Lydia Luce - Maybe in Time
Each day this week, Nashville-based folk singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lydia Luce offers insight on tracks from her sophomore album, Dark River. Follow along as she intimately details her songwriting process in her own words. Photo by Alysse Gafkjen.
The song was written with my friend and fellow singer/songwriter Raymond Joseph. Growing up in a religious family I have often questioned the existence of God. I went to a Christian school from preschool up until college. l attended Christian camps in the summer, went to church every week, and memorized Bible verses. For most of my life, I accepted the ideologies of Christianity because that was the only thing I knew. As I grew I started playing music and reading books outside of my Christian school curricula. Music led me to spaces filled with people that did not believe the same things I did. I started to question the beliefs I was raised with and become curious about other possibilities.
I feel that I am in connection with God when I am still and when I’m in nature. Writing this song forced me to have conversations about my beliefs with my family and it encouraged me to be vulnerable and honest. Even though we don't believe the same things there is still love and respect for one another. I want to remain curious and respectful because we are all just trying to work out the complexities of life. — Lydia Luce— on April 29, 2021
Richie Quake - Never See You
Occasionally, farewells can be some of the most difficult bridges to cross. Other times, well, it seems those bridges just couldn’t burn any quicker. Indie-pop gem Richie Quake tells the tale of the latter in his latest drop “Never See You."
This smooth track offers experimental synths that activate the senses, maintaining an intoxicating spontaneity in every pulse. Quake cultivates a lo-fi, retrowave audiovisual within this track that is most notably his. A stylized bassline effortlessly carries the lo-fi nature of the track before bleeding into an electronic funhouse of synths. The chorus is inexplicably tranquil, gliding listeners through the three-minute song on the back of the happily purported reassurance that he will “never see you again."
“Never See You” is the successor of “Rules," an upbeat funky track with a personality of its own that was released back in March. With more music on the way in the near distant future, anticipation cannot even begin to describe our elated disposition for all things Richie Quake. Photo by Freddy Torres.— Bianca Brown on April 29, 2021