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
Baby Boys - Desperado
Crafting insane, bizarre, abundantly creative tunes is second nature to Baby Boys. The production/ multi-instrumentalist team is made up of well-versed music industry wunderkinds, including the likes of two Hippo Campus alumni: Jake Luppen and Nathan Stocker. Joining friend Caleb Hinz, the St. Paul trio seem adept at crafting their own chaotic sound, even though they've only been releasing music together for a few years.
Hyperactive, bouncy, fun and surprising, "Desperado" joins Baby Boys' handful of singles that continue to jostle and excite the scene. It's a wildly intelligent listen, and an effortlessly engaging alt-pop song. But unlike a lot of experimental pop, this track still manages to be accessible for unrefined ears. Baby Boys have carved out a niche in the rising indie scene that's all their own. In spite of the kaleidoscope nature of their soundscape, there's obviously a clear creative direction this band is following. Whatever it is, it's working. They manage to create cohesion out of gritty vocal distortion, gentle acoustics and dance beats. I can't explain why it works, it just does. Baby Boys has the talent, originality and acumen to succeed in anything they try. Whenever live shows come back, I plan to be front row at theirs. Photo by Muriel Margaret.
Check out "Desperado," and be on the look-out for Baby Boys' upcoming LP Threesome, dropping March 12 via Grand Jury Music.— Hannah Lupas on March 4, 2021
Pell - Technicolor
Pell's "Technicolor" may be more of a personal examination of his inner-self at first listen than we may think.
The fifth track on glbl wrmng, vol. 1 is a sample of the collaborative effort between Pell and multiple artists from his hometown of New Orleans, in this track, LeTrainiump and Dominic Scott. The record features multiple nods to Pell's home, thus providing the rapper with many opportunities to go back to basics. "Technicolor" goes back to square one and the most valuable asset of them all: Pell, himself.
A reoccurring theme in "Technicolor" explores the concept of the narrator going within in order to figure out his path in life. The journey of self-growth is not intimidating or heavy; the chorus of "Technicolor" celebrates the triumph in realizing the writer has moved through different thoughts and perceptions of himself, as illustrated through comparisons of viewing the world through a black and white lens. He finally discovers the value of his views, thus having the clarity to view thoughts and feelings through the bright technicolor lens; the self-assurance in understanding his worth allows for the exploration of the goals Pell later lays out.
glbl wrmng, vol. 1's ode to self-discovery and going back to one's roots was released on February 19. Photo by glbl wrmng.— Taylor Hodgkins on March 4, 2021
dad sports - nrvs again
dad sports’ latest single “nrvs again” falls somewhere between a Dayglow track and a more modern, synth-pop version of a Smiths song, topped with lo-fi lead vocals akin to Day Wave; the result is like a dance-ridden sugar pill for anxiety. In a rush of synths and sunny guitar riffs over fast-paced programmed drums, dad sports impressively bottles the odd sensation of discerning our own COVID-era emotions. In a glittering four minutes, they walk us through how difficult it can be to identify either rose-colored butterflies or adulthood anxiety when you’re already living in a constant state of quarantine unease: “feels like I’m nervous again / though it doesn’t take much these days…you’re the reason I can’t sleep tonight." But the good news is, by the end of listening to this indie pop gem, you will have forgotten your worries altogether. Photo by Lucas Kuhl.
“nrvs again” will appear on dad sports' debut EP, I AM JUST A BOY LEAVE ME ALONE !!!, releasing through Grand Jury Music on March 19.
serpentwithfeet - Same Size Shoe
Love is creation—collective cultivation producing an exclusive sense of joy that often becomes a cynosure to the world outside. Love is bare feet slapping against cold wooden floors on a particularly warm day—invigorating, assuaging, empathetic. Love is a shared experience, and the Baltimore-hailing artist serpentwithfeet explicates this to be in more ways than one in his latest release, “Same Size Shoe."
The release is a charming and emotionally profound breath of fresh air to carry us into the new season. Bearing the signature celestial vocals and distinctive serpentwithfeet style, the enlivening track is a personal attestation to being in love with someone who has undergone similar walks of life. It is a declaration of loving loudly and freely as a Black, gay individual with an impassioned dedication to do so. It is an attestation to the experience of love, resting not only in the fact that the couple can probably double the size of their shoe collection, but that they’re able to understand one another due to their shared experiences of living as Black men. As the adroit artist shared in a statement once, “I prefer to date and love on Black men. I don’t want to be with anyone who can’t go to my barber or walk a mile in my shoes.”
“Same Size Shoe” is a wondrous expedition of the artist's forthcoming album DEACON, which is set to debut on the 26th of March. DEACON stands as the third full-length project serpentwithfeet has released since his 2018 LP soil and 2016 release blisters. The much-anticipated album flaunts an attractive introduction with this track and music video combination, and we’re more than excited for its official release. Photo by Braylen Dion.— Bianca Brown on March 3, 2021
Blast From The Past Daft Punk - Derezzed
Of all the songs in the Daft Punk catalogue, I know it definitely seems odd that I'd choose to talk about "Derezzed," the hyper-energetic electronica hit from their acclaimed score for Tron: Legacy. Daft Punk is known for their pop anthem stand-outs like "Get Lucky" and "Starboy," and these songs continue to thrill music enthusiasts and jazzercise moms alike. The quality of their music is exhibited in their longevity. And if evergreen beats were ever a thing, I'd say they're best represented in Daft Punk's Tron album.
"Derezzed" is obviously cinematic, punchy and fun. It perfectly encapsulates the sci-fi, action thriller nature of the film while being an absolute banger on its own. What I love about this song, and their decision to make a children's movie score in the height of their musical popularity, is the pure counterculture of it. The decision to continually choose projects that excited them instead of projects they "ought to pursue" made them a more groundbreaking and "rock-n-roll" band than most of their peers. It's for this reason that you can't help but respect Daft Punk's decision to step away from the industry. They pursued their craft and their genre when electronica and house music were mostly considered taboo and inaccessible. They brought house beats to the radio and made the world fall in love with them, all while being true to their original vision. They've proven they're a band worth watching, even though they've been mostly dormant for the last 8 years.
Seeing Daft Punk hang their helmets for good is a hard loss, but they've left us an incredible body of work that'll be worth returning to again and again. I recommend listening to all of Daft Punk's Tron: Legacy album on a night drive. "Derezzed" arrives about halfway through the album, and it's completely immersive and an absolute blast. Photo by Chad Batka.— Hannah Lupas on March 3, 2021
Jordana - Doubt of Revival feat. Ryan Woods
In the prime of their youth, Gen Z resembles the effortless cool over which their Gen X parents once reigned supreme, while also managing to update it for a new age. Jordana’s “Doubt of Revival” featuring Ryan Woods brilliantly encapsulates this idea: musically, lyrically and in the very culture that surrounds its release. The bedroom pop artist’s airy vocals and sleepy delivery float above a grungy eighth-note bass line, in a way that would make the Empire Records soundtrack’s music supervisors proud. At first blush, the lyrics seem almost random, as though born through a stream-of-consciousness journaling exercise. Listen again. And again. These are the words of a generation coming into their own in an entirely different world than their millennial predecessors; they weren’t force-fed a fake idea of “how to be” that would eventually bite the latter group in the collective ass. They witnessed the backfire, and they're incredibly perceptive. This track proves just how closely they’ve been paying attention. They know the doubtful messages ingrained in them are not of them; it's as distinct as Jordana’s backing vocals float above Woods’ lead when he sings, “Got permission from a cynic he said live your life / Don't you listen to the critic that’s inside your mind.” Jordana and Woods represent a renaissance of capable DIY artists who are not only busting any doubt older generations may have fostered—they’re reviving the best of what was left for them. Photo by Felix Walworth.
Jordana's newest single was released today via Grand Jury Music. Listen on Bandcamp or wherever you stream.
Sarah Cicero - Letter to the Editor
Sarah Cicero’s "Letter to the Editor" is the perfect backing track to a post-breakup cleaning spree. The lyrics read like a letter you’ll never send, a composed list of grievances and calculated insults. Cicero’s sweet vocal harmonies undercut the bitterness of the lyrics though, like cream in coffee. The heartbeat-like bass makes itself known from the beginning, occasionally skipping up and sinking back down before settling into a fast steady drive. It sounds just like when you’re trying to think about anything else but the person getting under your skin. You try to redirect your thoughts, but instead, you just find yourself jumping to a fresh thing to be angry about; some of them are petty, some aren’t, and it’s hard to let go of either. You compromise by deciding to be the bigger person—or at least, the better person, which isn’t that hard, really, because they were a jerk who didn’t deserve your time. After all, isn’t the best revenge on someone who consistently makes you feel small to continue to grow in their absence? Photo by Sara Laufer.— Allison Hill on March 2, 2021
Richie Quake - Sensitive
From Brooklyn singer-songwriter Richie Quake comes "Sensitive," a dreamy, retro pop tune that addresses a core human need: to be understood. "I don't wanna be doomed / Drifting through time and space forever," Quake sings on the track, wondering if and when his lover will be able to offer the compassion he craves. It's almost hesitant, the way he makes his request through a coy, yet breezy delivery over velvety guitars and a slow heartbeat. It feels unfair to have to ask for empathy; I've spent so much of my adult life unlearning the need to apologize for my feelings. And while it often seems like the emotional labor is too much to ask of someone, sometimes all that means is a moment to "be alone together." "Sensitive" is Richie Quake's effortlessly tender reminder that you deserve a partner who will try. Photo by Mark Shami.— Ysabella Monton on February 26, 2021
RGB - Losing Patience
“Losing Patience” is the second single of 2021 from Tel-Aviv-based RGB. In it, we hear lead singer Noi Agam lament to a lover about how quick-tempered she has been with them. For an apologetic track, it is deceptively danceable; starting with claps and quiet beats, the song explodes into a shining array of electric tones, glitch-pop samples and a groovy disco bassline. The lyrics’ subtle play on words mimics the narrator stumbling over her apology, forming a catchy sugar-coated hook: “Sorry ‘bout me losing my patience / Now I know something went so wrong with me / Sorry ‘bout me losing—am I losing you?” The latter half of the song finds her realizing that feeling comfortable and empowered in a relationship doesn’t mean we should lose civil composure or abuse that power (“No I’ve never been the fool / Yet I’ve never been so cruel”). It brings to mind an important question: when we find ourselves in this situation, does our ability to be cruel to someone we claim to love mean we should stay and improve ourselves, or does it mean it’s time to walk away? If ever you’re not sure, you can always spend some time dancing to “Losing Patience.” Photo by Eden Amit.— Heddy Edwards on February 26, 2021
Ted Taforo - Island (feat. Lenka Shockley)
Simply beautiful. Two words that describe Ted Taforo’s track “Island.” From the captivating lyrics to the electro-R&B vibe brought by the percussion, “Island” feels like silk through which one entangles their fingers. The addition of Lenka Shockley’s vocal makes it even more whimsical, almost as though one is traveling on a cloud, or in this case, a boat. “Island” serves as a metaphor for love and how it makes us feel stranded in our decisions. “Out in the sea/ searching for guidance,” Shockley sings with soft harmonies to add cadence. It reflects the ways in which our heart turns in different directions, overthinking the little things and failing to consider the big things. Known for fusing jazz elements into his compositions, Taforo's saxophone blares near the end of the track, allowing a feeling of comfort to run through. Taforo’s debut album, entitled Outside, will be released later this year under Future Gods. Photo by Ted Taforo.— Bianca Brutus on February 26, 2021