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
L.A. Chaí - Burn For You
From Kansas City, Missouri comes the graceful work of L.A. Chaí through his debut single, “Burn for You.” Gentle is the voice of frontman, Andrew Bergthold, who penned and produced the piece while cultivating what is now a commendable solo act. Conceptualized during a playful conversation about the immeasurable genius of angel-city-lattes, L.A. Chaí promises to satiate with easy listening, compassionate meditations and loving serenades.
I blasted “Burn for You” while driving by a violet winter sunset and all I could think about was the striking congruence between song and scene. Bergthold “sends all of [his] love” via sparkling bells and atmospheric guitar as he charms his listeners with evidence that this vast galaxy is home to twin flames. It sounds like the magic hour that love so resembles. Photo by Levi Dalton.— Daphne Ellis on February 26, 2021
Francesca Blanchard - new year's in paris
Whirling with echoes of crowded celebrations of yore, Francesca Blanchard’s “new year’s in paris” emits the essence of a glass sphere; it includes this sense of wholeness, as well as transience in the spirit of self-restoration. Coming from a space of hibernation, Blanchard’s voice rings out with a clearness that pierces through all of the delicacies of loneliness and leads into a full sound of crowds cheering, synths roving and strings billowing. This track is one of yearning and the acceptance of loss. With lyrics like “I had a dream, our kids on the lawn and your mother loving me like her own," this song touches on the deep cut of desiring so badly for someone to come for you, to share the intimate details of life with someone who may never show up. Blanchard shared: “It goes out to anyone who’s gone through heartbreak this past year, in a time where human contact was out of reach. Here’s to healing late, but right on time." Photo by Maví Lou.— Laney Esper on February 25, 2021
Stray Fossa - Orange Days
The latest single from Charlottesville, VA trio Stray Fossa lays the drums and effects on heavy for an atmospheric and propulsive track from their forthcoming debut album With You For Ever. "Orange Days" bends genres as it goes; one can hear dashes of new wave and psychedelic amidst its dream pop landscape. Fans of Tame Impala will appreciate the phaser-laden guitars and ample reverb that recalls Tame’s beloved Lonerism. Over the booming and uptempo drum beat, singer Will Evans anxiously ponders the future. “My sun'll rise, and I know it's not much longer now,” he sings. “Somewhere begins a future, a stranger to ourselves.” The uncertainty of the lyrics, often delivered in spectral layers, mixes with a soundscape that likewise expresses a sense of unease as guitar and bass lines take unexpected turns. The end result is a song that successfully merges genres and sounds to a haunting and head-banging effect. Photo by Anita Richardson.— Pablo Nukaya-Petralia on February 25, 2021
Portair - Paper in the Sky
On "Paper in the Sky," Australian singer-songwriter Portair challenges convention in the details: a pattering hollow drum, strings suspended in water, full piano chords that draw contrast against his delicate vocals. While these sounds are unique and lush, Portair balances more inquisitive elements with a foot-stomping folk backbone that gives the track its homey, comforting sensibility. Laced with childhood nostalgia, "Paper in the Sky" calls to mind the adventures on which our youthful imaginations used to take us. Concrete images of raindrop races on car windows and model trains evoke visceral memories of a time when things were much simpler, when it didn't seem so difficult to find simple joy or excitement in the world. But instead of dwelling on innocence lost, Portair seeks to reclaim it; sending off all the most structured, restrictive and harrowing parts of the reality we know into a symbolic paper plane, there's nothing left but to "watch the paper in the sky float." Photo by Ashley Osborn.— Ysabella Monton on February 25, 2021
Kylie V - Natural
Kylie V’s "Natural" twirls and dances around intimacy in a way so earnest and honest, it almost breaks your heart. Their voice drops words like pebbles in a pond, rippling out before sinking in deep and out of sight. “I’m not a provider, I just wanna feed you,” they sing. The hook delicately touches on one of the most beautiful and intangible parts of love. It’s so enigmatic. Love never demands you to be anything but what you are; however, it often asks you, politely but insistently, to keep growing. It doesn’t shrink behind insecurity, even though you might. Love delights in vulnerability, taking in as eagerly as it gives. It’s strong and intimidating, and it takes time to learn how to conduct it. "Natural" sits right at the heart of that feeling, overwhelmed by the impulse to keep one hand held tight, and the other grounded on a door handle. Rhythm guitar lines ebb and flow as the lyrics tug between the fear of feeding someone else until you’re empty and the fear of letting them feed you back. The fear that you’ll take too long to get it right tends to linger at the back of your throat like something sweet and burnt. But you love them so much that of course you would try to figure out how to love them best. It’s almost too much to consider how you would begin to trust them to do the same for you, though. It feels safer to let yourself get wrapped up in the tide of feelings you’re experiencing, ready to climb out of the river when the current pushes you back to the banks. It’s a heart-wrenching feeling, but a delightful taste of what’s to come with Kylie V’s debut album, Big Blue, due February 28th. Photo by Lauren Ray.— Allison Hill on February 24, 2021
The Heatlamps - Find You
A soft strummed acoustic guitar introduces “Find You," the beautiful brand new single from The Heatlamps. Released on Valentine’s Day, this tender song serves as a meditation on the hope of finding and finally being with an ever-elusive love.
The verses build slowly as arpeggiated guitars and solemn-sounding piano chords express a feeling of longing. However, this is beautifully juxtaposed with a sense of trusting that things will eventually fall into place, even if a little patience is required. The L.A. duo, consisting of Bo Jacobson and Louis Weeks, capture these conflicting emotions in a captivating manner as they sing “Maybe someday we won’t be waiting for another tomorrow / It’ll be our time," followed by “Show me the way / All I wanna do is find you." The song ends with an angelic swirl of noise made by guitars, pianos, synths and ghostly vocals, bringing it all to a reassuring conclusion.
Whether you are alone and looking for someone, you’ve found the one or aren’t really interested, this song will definitely get you in your feelings.— James Ramos on February 24, 2021
Jovan Perez - feel again (huck rework)
Jovan Perez’s buttery vocals are accentuated within the freshly-released adapted version of his late-2020 release, titled "feel again (huck rework)." The track is one of four versions released this month that contrast the energy of the original. While dynamic sonic changes suggest the idea of alternate perspectives, the impassioned lyrics stay consistent across each version. While the original was a soft, melancholic exploration of lost love, this rework has gained a few additional captivating melodies that bring a brighter movement to the emotionally engaging track. Perez’s lyrics examine how it feels to reminisce on a former connection; when presented in conjunction with the catchy and soulful elements reworked by NYC native Huck, the song offers a depth and groove that juxtaposes the relatively pensive original. Delicate components such as jazzy guitar melodies, shimmery synth layers and added percussion emphasize Perez’s already eloquent vocal delivery. A powerful guitar solo added at the end brings the once somber tune to an entirely different energetic level. The track truly captures the emotions that are brought up when going through heartbreak, and contemplates what it means to work towards being able to, as Perez puts it, "feel again." Photo by Ragan Henderson.— Jenna Andreozzi on February 23, 2021
Andris Mattson - Summer
Andris Mattson debuts a brand new side of his musical style with the release of “Summer,” an acoustic singer/songwriter track that fits the seasonal theme of his upcoming EP, North, set for release next month, available for pre-order on Bandcamp. Mattson is known for his Neo-soul production with the band Moonchild, especially his groovy beats, attention-grabbing synth bass lines and horn solos. His new release, “Summer,” is full of surprise textures and new sounds that we have never heard before from Mattson, especially his voice! He reveals delicate sides of himself as he sings about the beginnings of falling in love; late-night drives, phone calls and a feeling of blissful endlessness. Mattson reaches safety amidst the excitement, singing, “when I’m with you winter won’t come.” This heartfelt honesty sits atop dreamy guitar picking patterns and twinkly production elements. Mattson’s signature harmonized trumpet and flugelhorn solo feels brand new in this context—acoustic and bright. Everything about the track feels like a revived solo expression, and as a listener, you feel as if you have been granted special access to a charming secret. As a whole, it feels like holding hands in the car. It feels like infinity. It feels like summer. This song, along with the upcoming EP, was produced by Mattson himself. Additionally, he played every instrument. It is a labor of love, and truly a heartfelt masterpiece.— Elizabeth Woolf on February 23, 2021
Rostam - These Kids We Knew
"These Kids We Knew," the latest single from ROSTAM, addresses climate change with an assertive, but hopeful hand. Lushly produced simple strums are a warm background for the contrastingly harrowing subject matter. Written while Rostam was recovering from Covid-19 last March, the song chronicles Gen-Z putting an older generation on metaphorical trial in "sidewalk courts" for the state in which they've left the Earth's climate. We see the lasting effects already with what's going on in Texas as we speak, unprepared for the temperatures they are now withstanding. It's not a far-off future that Rostam conceptualizes in this track, so with young activists like Greta Thunberg and Leah Thomas as key leaders in the climate revolution, change may still be on the horizon. Rostam's hopeful outlook might inspire that generation to believe that it's not too late to hold these harbingers of destruction accountable for their part in causing this crisis. You'd just have to wait for them to get back from Cancún first. Photo by Olivia Bee.— Ysabella Monton on February 19, 2021
Claud - Pepsi
Claud’s Super Monster is their debut album and the first release on Phoebe Bridgers’ Saddest Factory Records. And while must both of those statements must come with immense pressure and vulnerability, it certainly isn’t felt on "Pepsi." A deeply personal and delightfully bold opening lyric, somber as the line might be, wipes away any notion that Claud can’t handle this moment. Instead, Claud brings us along as they come to terms with what a specific relationship is, and painfully, what it isn’t. A crack of the can sends us dancing into the chorus, playful pop sounds rounded out with a fun bass line. Layered with subtle harmonies, Claud considers all the ways they could’ve changed themselves to fit this relationship better. A dangerous line of thinking, one so easy to slip into—just like this song, light and fun with heartbreak underneath it all. The bridge feels intimate and personal, even with added vocal layers begging you to sing along. Claud manages to pack a lot of power into this song, finding distinct and loving ways to share through the tough times. By the end, after dancing our way through it, we can all sit back, crack another "Pepsi," and feel a little more at ease. Chock full of beautiful moments, Super Monster is a cohesive debut worth your time. Photo by Daria Kobayashi Ritch.— Max Himelhoch on February 19, 2021