Victoria Reed - Same Way
"Do you think I’m strange? I don’t blame you,” Victoria Reed’s voice spills like liquid silk across “Same Way," the opening track off her second album Aquamadre. “I’m still learning what to do / when you learn the whole world / wasn’t made for you” she croons, expressing a feeling of disillusionment we know all too well by now. What do we do when our perception of reality changes? The only thing we can, which is to adapt and grow into the new version of ourselves we need to be. “Same Way” describes the place between stagnancy and momentum; the growth of a person as they watch themselves through the eyes of another, a mirror into the future. Four years after her tarot-inspired 2016 debut Chariot, Reed stays true to her celebration of the mystical by drawing heavily on the visionary and healing aspects of Aquarius, the water bearer. Often mistaken for a sign of that element, Aquarius is actually an air sign, one that brings forth a new age of enlightenment. If water is emotion, then air is the sign’s ability to carry it without becoming overwhelmed. Aquarius diverts the flow of emotion by way of language to reach an understanding of the truth, which is clearly what Reed has set out to do with her album.
The song “Same Way” shows her beginning to see an admission of love as strength, not weakness. In a lustrous voice akin to Lana Del Rey, she sings “Or maybe it’s that I’m not strange enough / Cause I’ve never been brave enough / to simply be myself," a concession towards self-acceptance. Like anyone, she wonders if her affection is reciprocated, but chooses to repeat, “I think of you every day," because the only thing that matters is being true to how she feels. “Same Way” encourages us to push aside any internalized shame and embrace our own vulnerabilities, because self-acceptance is the only way to make space for compassion and healing in our lives. Both magical and haunting, Reed’s Aquamadre weaves dreamy synths with gauzy production in order to create the much-needed restorative atmosphere for staying at home and focusing on our more-than-skin-deep self-care.
Empress Of - Hold Me Like Water
Slowing down from the gorgeous dance tracks on Empress Of's newest album I Am Your Empress Of, Lorely Rodriguez brings us back to center with her track “Hold Me Like Water.” Lyrically, it’s stunning. Rodriguez is a poetic force of nature, showing out and turning words into visions with “We’re two figures rearranging / Nondescript inside a painting,” perfectly setting up her question: “How can I know, know you better?” Her desire to understand this person is actively changing her, making her question things about herself. There’s something in the act of being vulnerable with this person that makes her want to be held “like water.” The production feels calm and emotionally driven, letting Rodriguez’s voice take center stage even when the synths and drums build to a moving crescendo. “Hold Me Like Water” is confessional and exposing, leaving both Rodriguez and her listeners in a state of contemplation.— Julie Gentile on April 16, 2020
Charlotte Dos Santos - Josef
"Josef," the final track on Charlotte Dos Santos’s latest project, is an exercise in the power of restraint. This mesmerizing, sparsely arranged track leans heavily on Dos Santos’s unique vocal colors and skill. "Josef" tells the story of a man departing bravely (or perhaps foolishly?) on a journey to realize his greatest dreams although this means leaving behind his family and all he knows. Dos Santos is asking what courage truly is—staying and being reliable for others (“He was the man that always fed the hands of his village”) or being true to himself (“Until then he must, for him, fulfill his calling.") Nearly the whole song exists within the careful, measured choice to leave—just lead vocals over an ostinato bass that reminds you of an ancient peasant song. Every once in a while a few background vocals join, like a chorus of sirens whispering in Josef’s ear. Eventually, a powerful beat enters for the last few seconds of the track, evoking Josef’s own heart pounding in his chest as he walks away. The sirens have won this one.— Mikhal Weiner on April 16, 2020
Diet Cig - Thriving
"Do you wonder about me?" asks Diet Cig on "Thriving," a break-up reflection that's as self-aware as it is optimistic. Alex Luciano's bubbly vocals float over the sunny chord progression and Noah Bowman's pattering drums drive the track, deftly toeing the line between pop-punk and indie-pop as they do so well. "I'm thriving, thanks for asking," Luciano addresses her ex in a performative manner, as if the more she repeats it, the more she'll believe it. We've all been guilty of trying to show an ex how much better we are without them, a feeling echoed as Luciano sheepishly admits, "I hope my hair looks cute / When I run into you." On the track, the duo states, "We wanted the song to bounce back and forth between a lavish personal anthem and the anguish of feeling forever beholden to others' opinions.” Though their upcoming tour has been postponed until fall, Do You Wonder About Me? is still set to release on May 1 via Frenchkiss.— Ysabella Monton on April 16, 2020
Empress Of - What's the Point
In "What’s the Point" Empress Of has crafted a song that perfectly embodies the adrenaline rush of experiencing a conflicting romance. By opening with the contrast of a driving beat in its relatively high register with a languid mid-range synth and sweet vocals, you are immediately thrown into a state of confusion. The boundaries are muddied. This matches the energy of the lyrics perfectly: “I don’t know where the time has gone / I love you, I know it’s wrong.” After a quick break like a gasp, the bridge brings home the feeling of confusion. The arc of the song then swells gorgeously, breaking off suddenly and leaving you breathless.— Mikhal Weiner on April 15, 2020
Knowlton Bourne - The Chunk
Hailing from Mississippi and currently residing in Brooklyn, NY, Knowlton Bourne’s punk twang modulates both sonically and geographically between The Strokes and Rascal Flatts. "The Chunk" a song off his recently released third album, Songs from the Chunk, is a soulfully gritty anthem meditating on anxiety through catchy, grainy vocals and a lush guitar arrangement. Grasping for a feeling beyond apathy, Bourne sings out, “You said I should be fine / But I’m not all right," a sentiment which evolves throughout the song. At once enraged and unpretentiously cool, "The Chunk" reveals itself to be more than an upbeat indie darling, but instead a moment for pure chaotic good amidst the banality of life.— Samantha Weisenthal on April 15, 2020
Bright Eyes - Persona Non Grata
To build mysterious, silent anticipation as a band for 9 years and then suddenly release a song that means “unwelcome person” in Latin is the exact kind of ironic move Bright Eyes fans have come to expect from Conor Oberst and company. Despite Bright Eyes' long sabbatical as a group, Oberst was quite active in the 2010s, releasing four solo albums as well as a project with Desaparecidos, and all culminating in last year’s brilliant collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers as Better Oblivion Community Center. The longer the silence, the more expectations you build from your most loyal audience; and when you’re Bright Eyes, that audience is looking for lyrics that not only activate their tear ducts but also exercise their literary and cultural knowledge. In this way, the somber march of “Persona Non Grata” arguably marks a victorious return to lyrical form, as Oberst reflects his own inner world in every handpicked clothing item, Biblical image and historical reference. His aftershave is “blue” as he puts on “combat boots” for a date; he tells us that the kilt he puts on is to hide the weight he feels, and the moment we have finally stopped thinking about how weird that line is, a mournful bagpipe solo appears like a wry musical smile. One of Oberst’s strengths as a songwriter is that he is always planting a seed for something later on. And now that we know there’s something in the soil, we can't help but imagine the beauty of what might flower in the coming months.— Karl Snyder on April 15, 2020
Empress Of - Void
More (!) tropical (!!) drums (!!!) on “Void.” When I reviewed “Give Me Another Chance,” the lead single off I’m Your Empress Of, I was struck by the levity they lend to the song. They call upon one of my all-time favorite songs, Solange’s “Losing You.” Both artists are represented by Terrible Records. The Brooklyn-based label elevates genre-fluid, avant-garde electropop from some of the best artists making music today (IMHO), including Moses Sumney, Miya Folick and of course, Empress Of. I’m Your Empress Of is a strong album. It feels like an extended narrative out of a chapter of LA-based artist Lorely Rodriguez’s life, and I’m grateful to live inside her brain for 33 minutes. Back to “Void,” AKA where we’ve all been living lately. Dancing in the space between self-despair and self-empowerment, where we’re particularly vulnerable to our insecurities. Empress Of jumps into that space headfirst. As “Thinking about you” repeats in the post-chorus, it sounds like it’s timed to the tick of a clock: a reminder of how slowly time moves when you’re stuck in your own head. “You never listen when I said, ‘It hurts’ / I talk big, but don’t know my worth.” It stings so good.— Corinne Osnos on April 14, 2020
Heather Rivas - 'Bout Us
LA-based artist Heather Rivas's stand out track “'Bout Us" from her latest EP is a basket full of honest breakup sentiments wrapped in an indie-pop groove. The song starts off with a a gusty guitar strum and a simple melody line, “No, I don’t think about us. No, I can’t think about us.” Rivas empathetically takes us through the emotional turbulence of a relationship gone south—all the while juxtaposed with light, up-beat musical lines and perfect background harmonies reminiscent of dream-pop duo The xx. That combination of deep emotion and lighthearted jams makes Rivas's music ideal for the most vibrantly crowded house party, or just a solo car-cry. Few artists can strike that balance, but Heather Rivas has proven that she's an anomaly, and an artist to keep your eye on.— Elizabeth Woolf on April 14, 2020
Lonr. - Make the Most Feat. H.E.R.
Longtime writing duo, H.E.R. and Lonr. aren't foreigners to generating well-curated alt hip-hop—with H.E.R. walking away with two Grammy wins for best R&B performance and best R&B album in 2019, and Lonr. earning 2 Grammy nominations for his contribution to the same album. Lonr. (which stands for Land of Nothing Real), has been cutting his teeth writing smart, honest and cut-to-the-heart hip-hop tracks professionally for over 3 years now. So it shouldn't surprise an anticipatory fanbase that "Make the Most" is a listenable and heart-felt R&B love song. Lo-fi beats and laid-back instrumentation make this track an easy listen. There's an earnestness in Lonr.'s lyrics and affectation that make him a natural pairing with H.E.R. Their harmonies feel organic, and for a dyad that writes together as often as these two (Lonr. is credited for co-writing "Feel a Way" and "As I Am" among other H.E.R. songs), perhaps that should be expected. Listen to Lonr.'s single "Make the Most" wherever you stream today!— Hannah Lupas on April 14, 2020
Empress Of - Bit of Rain
“Bit of Rain” is an avant-pop, synth haven off of Lorely Rodriguez’s third studio album, I'm Your Empress of. 80’s tones combined with natural sounds meld together on this track, making for an upbeat sonic experience as the dull roar of a storm gently reverberates under contrasting electronic elements. Layers and layers of vocals, harmonies and ad-libs pepper the song with a high-energy feel and capture the excitement and emotional give-and-take of a new relationship. Nothing quite captures the feeling of certainty in the face of newness like the lines, “I’m leaning against you / Like I’m leaning on a wall that’s never gonna fall down,” and still, Empress Of revels in the heightened sense of self-awareness of wanting to know their every thought as she sings, “I caught you looking at me / Taking note of everything. / You closed your eyes, heavy blinds to a house / I want everything inside to spill out." Nowhere near her only relatable track, Empress Of’s new album is, quite honestly, hit-after-hit, and surely a knockout for this member of art-pop royalty.— Jazzmyne Pearson on April 13, 2020