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.— Eric Weiner 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.— Eric Weiner 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
The Replacements - Bastards of Young
Phoebe Bridgers second solo album Punisher is about camaraderie, delusions, and dreams. It’s also about jokes and ghosts and the sky.— Eric Weiner on July 1, 2020
Toro y Moi feat. The Mattson 2 - Ordinary Guy
Finding comfort in your own skin is a kind of peace that is hard to describe. Toro y Moi’s cover of fellow Afro-Filipino Joe Bataan’s 60s groove “Ordinary Guy” seems to fully embody that acceptance of the self. Twin jazz duo The Mattson 2 help to bring the live-band feel that pays homage to the original sound. Stacked vocal harmonies bring a fullness to the track and emphasize the short and sweet message that being who you are is always enough. The crooning of, “I don't drive a beautiful car / I don't own an elegant home / I don't have thousands to spend / Or a seaside cottage for the weekend” serves as a palpable reminder that material things don't bring happiness. A modern take on the classic has allowed for a whole new audience and generation to discover Latin soul.— Megan Beck on July 1, 2020
SG Goodman - Old Time Feeling
SG Goodman’s new single “Old Time Feeling” is a roots-tinged indie rock ode to her homeland: the South. Goodman says she chose to record her upcoming album (of the same name) at Jim James’s La La Land Studios in Louisville, KY because it possessed three of her favorite things, “a creek, a big porch, and a kitchen,” probably the second most Southern thing I’ve ever heard—right below Beyoncé’s “I got hot sauce in my bag.” The guitar effects on this track are totally stellar and bear the clear watermark of Jim James’s sound circa My Morning Jacket: thick like Kentucky air, tones melting together like Blue Bell ice cream on a cake cone—and just as delicious. In the chorus, Goodman sets forth the track’s important central message: despite stereotypes, the South is “not living in that old time feeling” anymore; instead, it is on the crux of change, and change always comes out of healing old wounds. As André 3000 famously said at the 1995 Source Awards, “the South got something to say.” Twenty-five years later, SG Goodman is one of a diverse cast of talented independent artists continuing to prove him right.— Karl Snyder on July 1, 2020
Future Generations - Stay
“Stay, stay / It’s what I came to say / But I need a little time / Made, made / Swear we were made the same / I need to show you how I’m feeling.” Future Generations' latest single is the quintessential plea of modern romance, neatly boxing up the perplexing challenge of millennial love: how easy it is to express emotion through carefully penned messages from behind glowing screens at the rosy bud of a relationship before it blossoms, and we struggle to tangibly convey who we are, what we want, and how we’re feeling.
The band pulls out some of the same shimmering stops recognizable from their 2018 album Landscape, but employ some new tricks on their third-ever independent release. Plunging synth bass and driving kick drum are sweetly sewn together by a soaring guitar riff, but the song’s hallmark feature is the band’s newfound lo-fi rock edge; this is what wraps the song in a similar haze as a Julian Casablancas croon (The Strokes) while maintaining the melodic sensibilities of beloved indie-pop acts like Smallpools, COIN, or Yoke Lore. The song is filled with delicate touches, like the clicking of a newly flipped cassette tape, that inspire self-reflection and creative energy.
The same day I first heard “Stay,” I immediately thought the track would have been at home on the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack, and I ran to my notebook to jot down the rom-com monologue-style poem it inspired in my head:
i know what it is like to
love and lose, because i have loved
myself, lost myself, and learned this love
all over again—atom by atom. the highs
burn-in aching august red but the fall wreaks
the loudest silence; spinning wild symphonies
from time’s uncompromising grip.
can’t you give me a chance to show you
these constellations, penned here on my palms?
maybe you could stay, and save us both
the effort of learning
the art of letting go
Photo: Britnee Meiser— Jessie Nicole on July 1, 2020
Jorja Smith - Rose Rouge
Rarely does a new music release come as loaded with historical context as Jorja Smith’s “Rose Rouge.” The track is part of the Blue Note Re:imagined project, a collection of songs previously released on the renowned Blue Note jazz label, reworked by different artists. Released in 2000, the original recording by French jazz musician St. Germain featured drum and bass samples from the iconic “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck, incorporated into a loop. In spirit, the new version harkens to ambient electronica and acid jazz styles of the early 2000s, particularly with its intricate drum patterns. However, the production seems to feature all analog instruments played by high caliber musicians. While the performances are pristine and clearly studio-recorded, the track has a decidedly live jazz club feel. Smith vocalizes throughout the track, singing variations of the same line, a nod to Marlena Shaw’s vocal sample in the original version, derived from a performance of "Woman of the Ghetto" from the album, Live at Montreux. Somehow, Smith manages to spotlight her vocal agility while simultaneously showing impressive restraint, demonstrating a true understanding of the jazz genre. Smith has already paved an impressive career in the industry, having garnered a GRAMMY nomination, the opening slot on Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic World Tour, and collaborated with the likes of Drake and Kendrick Lamar. Now, she proves her prowess in a genre that’s tough to crack as a pop/R&B artist, earning a seat at the table with the most prestigious jazz label there is.— Karyna Micaela on June 30, 2020