Thanya Iyer - Please Don't Hold Me Hostage for Who I Am, Who I Was
Refreshing and whimsical, “Please Don’t Hold Me Hostage for Who I Am, Who I Was” opens a festival of worldly sounds, complete with folksy flutes and acoustic percussion. Thanya Iyer’s voice sounds at once youthful and wise as she cheerfully delivers a straightforward message: You control your own life, you can choose to heal. She repeats the message, this time making it personal: “I take it in my own time / I make the choice to get better / Please don’t hold me hostage for who I am, for who I was.” She goes on to say “I could be a dancer,” a suggestion that it’s never too late to pursue a dream, regardless of the past. The bridge section introduces a musical departure, in which Iyer repeatedly declares, “I know in life there are highs and lows,” the bassline closely following her vocal melody, a stark contrast to the airy counterpoint of the verses. A breakdown follows, the music growing darker as the meter slows. Edgy synth and almost robotic rhythmic vocalizations grow in intensity until the tension releases and light breaks through, ushering a return to the original groove. Iyer repeats her original message: a reminder that we all have the power to guide ourselves out of darkness.— Karyna Micaela on July 27, 2020
Noname - Yesterday
A crush put this on a playlist for me a couple years ago. It throws me into a very specific time and place. I love the lyrics and the tape warble. Put this on, walk down a rainy street, and try not to feel like the main character. — Phoebe Bridgers
Although Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher is a solo album, it contains contributions from many other well-established artists, including but not limited to Christian Lee Hutson, Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, Blake Mills, and all three permanent members of Bright Eyes.— Karl Snyder on July 3, 2020
Khamari - Jealous
Khamari sings "Jealous" from a place of happy-go-lucky pining for better days. "Jealous," written by Diederik Van Elsas, Khamari, and Parrish Washington is one of those sun-soaked, slower pop numbers that won't have trouble finding a home on a beach or anywhere warm. The song gives a voice to the one friend in the friend group who always feels a little guilty about having a good old fashioned good time... and that's ok.
you just missed the heart.
he just missed the heart.
she just missed the heart.
that’s all.— Mustafa Abubaker on July 3, 2020
Los Retros - New Humanity
Just shy of twenty, Oxnard-based musician Mauri Tapia is crafting a new kind of meditative indie experience. “New Humanity,” the lead single from Everlasting, the latest LP by Los Retros, is a heavily synth-based tune that sounds a lot like falling asleep in the sun. With lyrics reminiscent of George Harrison in All Things Must Pass, Tapia seems much wiser than his chronological age. But it’s not just Tapia’s words—by mixing Latin American soft-rock inspiration and jazz notes with the intimate feel of a bedroom pop record, Tapia creates a unique sound that exemplifies his search for a higher truth. His voice bleeds into the synths as he sings, “Reach out to find / Seek to unwind / The answer itself is life.” Photo: Ross Harris— Elizabeth Shaffer on July 3, 2020
Japan, Man - The Bad Days
14-year-old Laeticia Acra goes by musical moniker Japan, Man. Based in Beirut, Japan, Man combines ethereal bedroom pop with trippy distortions that make for a distinct and delicate sound. Her dreamy musicality is cut by her curt but gentle vocalizations. The indie music newcomer just released her first EP on May 20, which features five tracks of similar, lo-fi laidback instrumentation. "The Bad Days" juxtaposes the light, cloudy musicality with its more melodramatic lyricism— immersing you in a dream state of sorts. It's an airy and fresh sound that's only punctuated by the poetry of the lyricism, which all at once feels fractured and driven by stream-of-consciousness. It's a song denoting a pinnacle point in her life, where her self-consciousness is so overwhelming, the pain can only be drowned out by other emotions or just going to sleep. It's an interesting track that holds a distinct fantastical, jaunty element while also balancing depressive themes. Listen to Japan, Man's "The Bad Days" below and check out her EP I Like to Wait wherever you stream.— Hannah Lupas on July 3, 2020
IAN SWEET - Sword
"Sword," IAN SWEET's newest release, doesn’t waste any time diving into a groovy, feel-good tune full of easy power. Everything about this song is refreshing, like diving into a pool on a sweltering summer day. Or waking up to the power you have within you, throwing on your sunglasses and taking on the world. That’s what IAN SWEET is doing here, and we’re along for the ride. Slightly grungy guitar and honey-dipped vocal samples with a straight-ahead rock-n-roll groove on an electronic drum set create a sound at once nostalgic and new. “My body is a sword, it gets sharper when it gets ignored,” croons frontwoman Jillian Medford in a voice that recalls both Adrianne Lenker and Feist. The LA native has created a vibe so perfect that it makes us all want to join her wherever she’s going.— Mikhal Weiner on July 3, 2020
Bill Frisell - Thankful
This song makes me happy and sad at the same time. I love how immediately it changes my mood when it comes on. Honestly, the best way to describe the feeling it gives me is thankful. — Phoebe Bridgers
Phoebe Bridgers’ sophomore solo album Punisher makes us feel sleepy, focused, and alive. It was released on June 19.— Karl Snyder on July 2, 2020
Amber Mark - My People
With “My People,” R&B singer-songwriter Amber Mark delivers a song of revolution at its simplest form. Originally a song by Eddie Kendricks released in 1972, the track originally presented a more complex structure, in that it had more than one verse. Following laid back drums and hazy keys, Mark recites, “My people, hold on” as if praying to the heavens. From the marching, looped instrumental to the repetitive nature of her lyrics, the track, which is part of a series of covers titled Covered-19, begins to imitate that of the cries and chants of protesters around the world. Not only does the track sonically seem to take inspiration from those marching, but ideologically as well. As Mark calls for acts of love and unity, she is reminding the world of the determination and tenacity and fervor of her people. In a post, Mark explained the track as “all the people speaking out on behalf of purely loving one another no matter the minuscule .1% differences in our DNA.” All of this comes to a head as the once tranquil beat evolves into a bouncy, trap-inspired instrumental. Still, Mark continues to meditate, “Hold on to love, just show me love / Hold on to love, hold on to love / Hold on to love, we've had enough.” All of the revenue made from “My People” will go to organizations dedicated to developing black agricultural land ownership.— Jonah Minnihan on July 2, 2020
Sports Team - Here’s the Thing
London-based rock band Sports Team are best known for their unwavering assessment of British society, but their lyrical insights apply far and wide. “Here’s the Thing” is a cathartic explosion of disillusionment, complete with wailing horns and guitars. It tackles the competitive mindset of capitalism (“If you’re in bed then someone else is catching worms”) and unrealistic fad dieting (“If you just change the way you eat you’ll never die.”) Listening to it briefly punctures the low hum of existential stress that has settled in my brain. These are, as I hate to remind you, unprecedented times, and the dissonance between the more mundane aspects of life and the overarching issues we are facing can be dramatic. In a moment of quarantined panic sometime last week, I found myself glued to the music video for this song, in which the band performs in a school gymnasium for an audience of young kids. In this context, the bitterness borders on comic as Alex Rice sings to their sullen faces, “It’s all just lies!” But the concerns he articulates are real and seem to pulsate beneath our everyday motions. “The world will be ok if we stop taking flights,” he mocks, knowing it will take so much more. The song doesn’t offer solutions, but hearing these lies unmasked is freeing in its own way. At the very least, it’s nice to know that this band doesn’t believe them either. Listen to “Here’s the Thing” on Sports Team’s debut album, Deep Down Happy. Photo by Louisa Zimmer.— Siena Ballotta Garman on July 2, 2020
EMMA KUPA - NOTHING AT ALL
Emma Kupa’s “Nothing At All” is a moment of solitude—resting at the kitchen table and looking out into the entryway to the living room, beams of light carrying particles of dust directly at eye-level. It's a sigh-filled breath and the feeling of coming home to yourself again. This track is a full-on catharsis, a solitary vigil in a moment of recognition that often in the face of irrevocable circumstance we can do “absolutely nothing, nothing at all." Instrumentally, this arrangement feels like a triumphant release from the pressure and discomfort of feeling cornered in an environment that cultivates a pining for freedom. Her voice is like an old friend returning, dressed up in a new outfit of folky instrumental accompaniment and idyllic warmth, dispensing the familiar feeling of coming to terms with surrender.— Laney Esper on July 2, 2020
girlhouse- mt. shasta dr
Listening to girlhouse's "mt. shasta dr" feels like driving around your old neighborhood while the sun ducks below a distant ridge. A simple drum beat and the strum of an electric guitar are constant throughout the song, which allows the listener to be fully hypnotized by the gorgeous lyrics and vocal delivery. The verses take place in the present or very recent past; they describe interactions with a former friend or lover, and walks down familiar streets. When the chorus kicks in, the protagonist is, “feeling sixteen lost in a circle of thought,” highlighting the emotional overlap between their current situation and the powerfully complex feelings of adolescence. The song closes out with interjections from a more distorted electric guitar. This guitar, contrasted against the measured and clear vocal of the song, beautifully illustrates the volatile nature of the youthful emotions being reflected upon. girlhouse is comprised of two-thirds of the band WILD, and "mt. shasta drive" is the first single from their debut project. Photo: Anna Lee— Emerson Obus on July 2, 2020