Tora - Call Your Name
Last week, I went ambling through a local greenhouse that was filled with sprawling green life and blooming magenta—a stagnant man-made forest beneath the great gray towering storm clouds on the horizon. The electricity of the summer air gave teeth to the moment, with the downpour biting at the glass roof and the contrast of the looming darkness bringing the garden’s string lights and other orange-glowing oddities into stark view; one of them was a gleaming apartment window, with a family inside watching television. Immediately my mind wandered to curiosity about the family, and the hundreds of stories that play out every day in each apartment window, floating several floors about the earth. I was jolted back to this feeling upon hearing the first few notes from UK-based Tora’s third single, “Call Your Name.”
The track begins with blazing saxophone—notes that welcome us into a golden world of her creation, a world that transcends any one genre while asking us to question the assumptions we make about the people in it and ourselves, and to demand better than what we presently see. Tora’s Instagram bio reads “empathy with a sharp tongue,” a crucial doctrine that shines through in her sonic creation, reminding us that while we care for the world and those around us, we can still demand respect for ourselves and our place within it. The steadiness of the kick drum and her candor, matched with her crushed-velvet croon, draws us in with lines like “don’t take this worn defense of mine and call it broken” and “they don’t write stories ‘bout women like me.” A powerful reminder that no matter what stories we may think play out in those cubed dwellings suspended overhead, we have no idea—and that many of the stories that still need to be told have never seen the light of day. As citizens and neighbors in this world, and as consumers of music and art, we must be unrelenting in making sure they are heard; in carving our place together.— Heddy Edwards on June 10, 2020
Serena Isioma - Hard
I come home to the walls of my room painted in rich lavender. Like a loved lilac, I could bloom here after being watered all day. Why do I move, why do I dance when I am feeling low? I don’t know, but the colors wake me up. I’m alone in my room, let alone my house. My parents must be at work late. With life to myself, I stand on my bed and sing at the top of my lungs into a hairbrush. I watch myself go in my mirror. My hair's in my eyes, and my heart's in my throat. I wonder how much my throat would burn if it was possible to throw it up. I wonder if it was possible to grow another heart like a strand of hair, would I choose to? I wonder if I could sing along to Serena Isioma’s “Hard” and be heartless. I’m still wondering.— Mustafa Abubaker on June 9, 2020
Dana McCoy - Broken Boy
It doesn't take long to realize that Dana McCoy has her foot on the gas at the beginning of her new single “Broken Boy.” Don't let the track's midtempo melody and McCoy's luscious vocals fool you; her message is anything but subtle.
McCoy's gentle demeanor still demands both the listener's and the 'broken boy's' attention. McCoy begins letting the subject know she sees him for all he is, and she's no longer going to put up with the noise he's inflicted on her life. However, “Broken Boy” isn't your typical break-up song relying on a laundry list of the subject's faults. McCoy throws a curveball simply by practicing a little bit of empathy. She stands her ground while reassuring him "I see myself in your pain / but I won't be treated this way."
In an atypical fashion for a break-up song, McCoy prioritizes her self-importance—refusing to lose even an ounce of self-confidence in three and a half minutes. Her determination to keep herself intact (and 'whole' if you will) also allows room for McCoy's heart to come through when she acknowledges she understands this boy has been through it all. That being said, McCoy knows she has to throw on her metaphorical lifejacket first because some relationships are doomed to remain broken: no matter how far an olive branch is extended.
"Broken Boy" is now available via Liftoff Records.— Taylor Hodgkins on June 9, 2020
Kelsey Lu - Morning Dew
Kelsey Lu roots herself within the delicate tendrils of nature in her new single, “Morning Dew.” The track emerges with wistful pickings of guitar and deep, meditative saxophone tones—reminiscent of an awakening sun that gently disturbs the horizon and gradually rises over glistening meadows. The saxophone is played by Onyx Collective’s Isaiah Barr, and it re-enters with a fluttering grace midway through, further emulating the sun’s rippling rays, cradling all in its embrace.
Spurred by heartbreak, the track grieves for a home found in another, as Lu sings, “Bring me home / back to you / wash off the old / put on the new.” While Lu grapples with the notion of a home, she communes with nature as a source of renewal. In an Instagram post detailing the song’s origins, Lu writes, “I’m relieved to feel like I’ve found a Home within myself enough to connect to the universe on a deeper level than when I first wrote it, and I invite you to feel that and get lost in it as well.” “Morning Dew” is a true cleanse to the system, of which you may surely lose yourself in its tender solace. Take this offering with care, and enjoy.— Katya Myasnikova on June 9, 2020
serpentwithfeet - A Comma
"A Comma," the first single from Brooklyn-based serpentwithfeet’s three-song EP Apparition, is a flowing, triumphant rumination on the turbulence that we find ourselves living through today—and the psychological toll that comes with carrying on during these unprecedented times. Following an attention-grabbing baroque-inspired piano line, the artist born Josiah Wise begins to sing about the pain and confusion that repressing his emotions has caused him. Just when it seems as though the song is heading in a darker direction, however, Wise provides us with a glimmer of hope, stating “I’m struggling to find a way / One day soon I’ll find my place / Life’s gotta get easier.” His warm, velvety vocals come straight from the heart—when he asserts that “Life’s gotta get easier,” you can’t help but believe him.
As an outspoken advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement who regularly condemns police brutality and racism via Instagram, Wise is an artist who recognizes the duty that he has to use his platform for good. His music enriches and inspires. The title of the song, “A Comma,” is taken directly from the first line of the second verse: “I pray for punctuation / Lord, be a comma / Or better karma / Or a sweeter situation.” He seems to be saying that though the world seems to be in constant turmoil right now, these times are not the period concluding the sentence of our nation. They are a comma—we will educate ourselves, learn, and improve—and life will get easier. Listen to “A Comma” wherever you stream.— Paige Shannon on June 8, 2020
Spencer. - Hold It Down
Spencer.’s newest release “Hold It down,” tastes like a whiskey sour on a cool summer night: soft and fruity on the first sip, with a tinge of heat at the bottom of the glass, and, of course, a few bitters sprinkled in between. On a first listen, it’s easy for the track’s trap-inspired beats and lo-fi harmonies to convince you of the singer’s romantic ambivalence. However, buried within Spencer.’s exaggerated vocals and tender lyrics are feelings of intense longing and desire. “Hold It down” is a slow burn in more ways than one. It’s old school hip-hop qualities gently pull listeners into their own hazy reveries, while it’s laid-back ambiance encourages one to cast their worries aside—for one more night—and have another drink.— Lilly Rothman on June 8, 2020
Babeheaven - Human Nature
London duo Babeheaven knows how to cultivate a mood. On “Human Nature,” synths ease into a downtempo guitar beat reminiscent of a 90s grunge track you’d (re)discover on an old mixtape. It feels like the kind of song you’d queue up at the end of a long shift, or subway ride while walking through dimly-lit city streets: maneuvering your course while observing the people you pass by. Sparse instrumentation allows lead singer Nancy Anderson’s vocals to shine. Lyrics like “Your mask is stuck in your hollow insides” and “And although I’m there, I’m not quite here” demonstrate a conflict between public and private selves. In the band’s own words, “Human Nature” is about “the performance we do online, where everything exists in a sort of grey area. We thought that social media would lead to individualism but a new human nature is exciting in an otherworldly state. It’s about losing touch with yourself and not transmitting emotions." “Human Nature” plays at the chasm between the faces we show the world and the voices narrating from within.— Corinne Osnos on June 8, 2020
Orion Sun - mama's baby
“i want to share this song with you today in hopes that you can find some peace during this time. even when people can look at the world burning and feel nothing because the fire hasn't touched their skin, there are people feeling deeply and fighting in their own important way for the change that is inevitable. keep your head up and breathe and know that evil will never prevail long enough to be forever.” Orion Sun, a.k.a., Philly maker of melodic reimaginings of her discontent, Tiffany Majette shared today on Bandcamp to accompany her gorgeous song, “mama’s baby." She wrote this song after her own experience with police brutality while protesting on the streets of Philadelphia. Twice within the track, she asks the burning question so many of us are asking for the black community here in the states “who gon’ protect me?”. Through the sharing of this song, Orion Sun has opened up space for more engaging in the experience of police brutality and existing in a world where respect and freedom have been sought after for far too long. With every purchase of this song on Bandcamp today, all proceeds will go toward Breonna Taylor’s GoFundMe page.— Laney Esper on June 5, 2020
Princess Nokia - Green Eggs & Ham
Princess Nokia raps about a lot of different things, because like anyone living a full and beautiful life, she has always been complex and proud of it. She recently said on Instagram that she has always been clear on the fact that she was going to “live unapologetically whether people liked me, or not.” In her music and everything she creates, she represents the relentless work it takes to actually, truly keep it real. And part of that work will always be reminding yourself and others that you contain multitudes. “Green Eggs & Ham” is about your inner child: celebrating that it’s still there, and speaking truth about where you came from. In every way, Nokia powerfully captures the carefree spirit of childhood on this track. She begins and ends the track with playful Dr. Seuss-style raps about breakfast, and the bright guitar, rhythmic piano chords, and gospel clap make you want to dance around your 1990’s living room while your mom tapes the whole thing. But the sunshine doesn’t mean as much without the full story, and for Nokia, the full picture of her childhood includes the ominous cloud of police presence surveying and dispersing her hangouts with her friends. So, like anyone who believes that children should be able to be children, she says, “Fuck these cops” not once, but three times, between breakfasts.Karl Snyder on June 5, 2020
Afro Comb - Faith?
Afro Comb is an alternative hip-hop duo from North London. Motivated by their drive to represent their stories, Afro Comb unabashedly addresses social and societal strife within their music. Ciara Naomi and Denzel Nonso are friends turned soulmates that use their platform to generate music that propels and supports each other's styles and vocalizations, along with expressing genuine representations of their hopes and fears in navigating the music industry.
In a period of deep political unrest and injustice, there might not be a more appropriate time than now to listen to "Faith?". In an interview with Tapped Brooklyn, Nonso described his personal inspiration this way: "At the root of every sound, is a black musician. The soul and power from our ancestors are what drives me. I would advise people to start reading and actively seeking knowledge to empower themselves."
Afro Comb combines soulful artistry with razor-sharp political commentary. "Faith?" in particular holds an urgency that's worthy of everyone's attention. "Oppression leads to anger, that's a fact" is a poignant pull-quote from "Faith? In the Tapped Brooklyn interview, Nonso later went on to say, "When it comes to music, we want our words to be relevant in 20 years and for it to still resonate with future generations." Afro Comb is an emerging London band to watch. Their influence certainly won't go unnoticed. Listen to "Faith?" wherever you stream.— Hannah Lupas on June 4, 2020
Phoebe Bridgers - I See You
To find solace in a song is a gift, and when that song is by Phoebe Bridgers, it hits differently. Bridgers’s new song off of her highly anticipated second solo album, Punisher, encapsulates the intensity of a relationship and the magnitude of what it means to be human.
“I See You” is the breakup ballad that chronicles more than just feelings, but a learned appreciation for a relationship, even though it has come to an end. Chaotic, almost stress-inducing instrumentation leads to a pleasant, quaint release once Bridgers sings the words, “But I feel something / When I see you now.” The song pauses just as time seems to pause when a certain person is around.
“I See You” is Bridgers doing what she does best—describing experiences that we, as sentient beings, often cannot find the words for. “‘Cause I don’t know what I want / Until I fuck it up” is her being transparent and raw, and “If you’re a work of art / I’m standing too close / I can see the brush strokes” magnifies an admiration that goes beyond a casual fling. Her ability to produce lyrics that pinpoint unspoken, yet relatable truths about life as we know it make “I See You” more of a sanctuary than an audible experience.— Elizabeth Shaffer on June 1, 2020