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Phoebe Bridgers - I See You

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
​Nike Vendela - Pull me in

​Nike Vendela - Pull me in


Nike Vendela must be a mermaid. “Pull me in,” she begs in her impressive debut single, but her siren voice will pull you in—like a sailor to a lovely, watery death. The track dives headfirst into an underwater dreamscape, complete with warbly, atmospheric guitars. Vendela’s lyrics are ambiguous enough to leave open to interpretation, but consider she just might be assuming Madison’s perspective from the classic 80s sea creature fantasy Splash: “Can you hold me up / While I climb these city walls and concrete halls / Pull me in / Make me feel like I’m dreaming / Write me a lullaby / So I can learn how to fly again.” While the term “overnight sensation” is usually problematic, it does seem like the ethereal singer/songwriter came out of nowhere. Now based in New York, the Swedish native boasts no YouTube videos, barely any biographical information, and her Facebook page has only one post past 2015—and it’s her only announcement about the new song. Surely this intoxicating talent has been putting in some major work behind the scenes, but I prefer to believe she recently emerged from the deep beyond after shaking fins with a sea witch.

Karyna Micaela on June 1, 2020
Kevin Herig - Honey Jar

Kevin Herig - Honey Jar


"Honey Jar" by Kevin Herig is a mellow funk existential crisis. Well, perhaps not a crisis as much as an inner meditation on who you are and where you’re putting your energy. Bass and guitar lines gently sway through slides and circular melodies that conjure the feeling of floating in an ocean wave. Herig’s voice floats above it all, ebbing and flowing between anxiety and serenity. The lyrics wrestle with uncertainty centered around a single focal question that gives the track its name; “We conquer and divide, and when the honey jar is dry, what’s left to taste?" Like any good line, it could mean a number of things. To me, a chronically ambitious person with many eggs in many baskets at any given time, it’s a call to think about where you’re investing your energy. It cuts to the core of an internal discussion that’s healthy, albeit painful, to initiate sometimes. Are you where you want to be? Is your destination on the same path you’re on now, or is it a different one? No one can answer that for you, but maybe listening to "Honey Jar" on repeat will help you think about it.

Allison Hill on June 1, 2020
Baybs - These Things In My Head

Baybs - These Things In My Head


"These Things In My Head" by Baybs proves from the first note to adhere to a so-called "tried and true," radio-friendly formula, and this is absolutely not a bad thing! The bouncy tune immediately conjures reminders of an early 2010's radio staple, like a track from Bastille, or then-college radio darlings Dawes and their early tune "Someone Will." Baybs vocalist Craig Jacobs' voice completes the nostalgic radio trifecta, with a hint of Marcus Mumford-esce vocal stylings thrown in for good measure.

Some could consider the duo's mastering of subconsciously knowing what type of sound works for radio, a victory so early in their career. "These Things In My Head", from Text Me Records,  is only the fourth release from the twosome, and it perfectly does what its title seems to loosely promise; it will become one of the 'things' slowly revolving in your head by the third or fourth listen. Jacobs and his partner Melissa Russi's harmonic vocals blend together nicely under a danceable drum beat. What's better than a catchy tune with a groove?

Taylor Hodgkins on June 1, 2020
 Becca Mancari - First Time

Becca Mancari - First Time


Growing up with ardent Catholicism as an integral part of my identity meant repressing my bisexuality any way that I could. How does it feel to admit that you are the contradiction of what you were taught to believe? It's a question Becca Mancari asks on "First Time," her coming out story. Mancari comes from a fundamentalist Christian household, her father a pastor. It's a heavy hit from the get-go, Mancari singing, "I remember the first time my dad didn't hug me back." Unraveling the bandages from her emotional wounds to write the track wasn't easy, but she notes, "as soon as the first line of the song came out of me, I knew there was no going back." The wistful song is one that I wish I'd had at fifteen when I struggled to lend myself an ounce of kindness, unable to live my truth. "Hey, did you find your way out?" Mancari asks over a homespun country folk-style plucking that harkens back to her Nashville roots. For me, the song reads like a love letter to my younger self from someone who found happiness on the other side. On the track, Mancari says, "My hope is that when you hear this song you feel less alone, and that you do indeed find your way out." "First Time" is the second single from The Greatest Part, her sophomore record coming June 26 via Captured Tracks. We're hopeful Mancari will be able to tour with her Bermuda Triangle bandmate Brittany Howard this fall.

Ysabella Monton on May 29, 2020
Olivia Reid - Take in the View

Olivia Reid - Take in the View


21-year-old Olivia Reid’s latest single “Take in the View” is composed with atmospheric brilliance, offering a lush soundscape that is sonically reminiscent of one’s breath. Acoustic melodies, lo-fi rhythms, and synth inspired accents melt together seamlessly to create a piece that is deeply moving and perfectly fit for daydream-like introspection. While Reid’s vocals are beautifully airy and understated, her lyrics soar with eloquent conviction and soft passion. Like many of the most successful ambient artists, Reid makes the intricate subtleties of her composition appear effortless and natural, as if “Take in the View” was something she discovered, rather than created. Her work, while staunchly original is mildly similar to that of Geowulf, S. Carey, and Axel Flovent, given its thoughtful authenticity and appreciation for the natural world.

Lilly Rothman on May 29, 2020
Chloe Berry - Bitter Melon

Chloe Berry - Bitter Melon


“I promise that somehow things will be okay” Chloe Berry offers, cutting through calamity with her new single “Bitter Melon.” This Brooklyn-based artist is stepping onto the music scene with a vengeance, especially with her background in writing music since the age of seven. When asked about the intentionality of the track, Chloe expressed that it was written with the sentiment in mind that “everything passes eventually." This high energy assemblage of sound is filled with the whimsical nostalgia of a coming-of-age film end-credit montage. Easing into the track, Chloe sings softly over a zig-zag of electric guitar until the percussion comes in and the track erupts into a vibrant invitation into her own escape from hopelessness. “Bitter Melon” is a precursor to promising future work to come from Chloe Berry, so get comfy and stick around.

Laney Esper on May 29, 2020
Japan, Man - I Like To Wait

Japan, Man - I Like To Wait


It goes without saying that not everything is always as it seems. For instance, musical artist Japan, Man is neither Japanese nor a man. Instead, she is a Beirut, Lebanon-based teenager named Laeticia Acra. The laid-back title track from her new EP, I Like To Wait, introduces her as a creative songwriter and sharp lyricist. In the song’s first moments, springy synths and deep bass make you feel like you’re landing on the moon. And as it turns out, it’s very nice to land on the moon. But this instrumental intro is quickly intercepted by Acra’s forthright first line, "Are you afraid to die, like there’s no afterlife?” I would have never imagined this line could be sung in such a comforting way, and yet, here we are: her unassuming alto somehow communicates to me that it’s all going to be fine. That’s the beautiful paradox of Japan, Man’s inspired vibe: on paper, this song is about existential dread, but Acra manages to choose just the right intergalactic colors as the foil for her simple but heady lyrics. The takeaway is a balanced, engaging listen that bears repetition. When an artist’s first release is this inventive, you can’t help but wonder where she will go next. Luckily, after listening to this song over and over, waiting in general sounds surprisingly nice.

Karl Snyder on May 28, 2020
 Nick Hakim - ALL THESE CHANGES

Nick Hakim - ALL THESE CHANGES


"ALL THESE CHANGES" is the spectacular opening statement for Nick Hakim’s exquisite, sensitive new album. At first we hear tentative sounds—a cry, a few notes plucked on a guitar, an electronic snare, a flute tuning in and out—coming together into a single undulating unit with the deep boom of a synthesized timpani-esque drum. Delicate, stacked vocals envelop us from within the groovy synth-drenched ambiance as Hakim sings an ode to Mother Earth, calling on humanity to change our ways before it’s too late. “Cities burning, tides that rise / She's in pain, she's been hurting / Can you feel our mother raging? / She'll flood us out, her heart is flaming / Pretty soon we'll be underwater.” The song grows in complexity and power before glitching to a stop; Hakim introduces a de-tuned piano and a wide vocal that sounds like a phantom prophet warning us of the danger of our ways, whispering “She will drown us” and “Hope is fading.” We’d do well to heed Hakim’s words even as we lose ourselves in his sublime soundscape.

Mikhal Weiner on May 28, 2020
Satellite Mode - Kill the Choreography

Satellite Mode - Kill the Choreography


Sleek, polished, poised to be bumped in your headphones while you strut down the street on the first day of summer, Satellite Mode’s latest single “Kill the Choreography” goes down like a Pacifico and a lime. Jessica Carvo’s devil-may-care lead vocals croon singalong, standout lyrics like “Tear me off this leash, I wanna kill the choreography to feel the beat” and “Four, five, six, and seven, countin’ social proof, we are shameless”—one can almost see a vibrant retro talking head video before their eyes. Fleshed out with production tweaks like the oh-so-crisp layering of her expressive voice, swinging compressed drums, and the track’s shimmery synths and delays, the result is a festival-ready romp in the grass. By the time she’s yelling, “Dance the pressure OFF!” towards the end of the song, you’re ready to kill that choreo, too, and make up your own dance to this single’s slick beat. At the very least, it’ll definitely shake off the sheltering blues.

Stephanie Lamond on May 28, 2020
Flyte - Easy Tiger

Flyte - Easy Tiger


WHEW I love Flyte. They're a three-piece British band with my heart in their hands. Their debut record The Loved Ones felt like a secret I kept between me and the band, an Easter egg in an 8-bit video game I revisited again and again, continually charmed and surprised. It's a gorgeous, passionate, musically beautiful album, which rounds out with an acapella cover of "Archie, Marry Me" by Alvvays. I think about it all the time. It's desperate and haunting. It's one of those covers that hops in your bones. But enough about their LP (but for real, open your window and listen to it), I'm here to tell you about "Easy Tiger." 

"Easy Tiger" is a break-up track. It's a predator with a thorn in its paw. It's brought low, it's humble, it's sad. It's brilliant for all of that. Will Taylor has a giant vocal register, but he is so subdued on this track, the emotionalism is totally carried by the instrumentation. The music is anxious in "Easy Tiger," while the melody is steady, rhythmic and calm. It's the embodiment of trying to keep your cool while you see an ex at a party: on the surface, you're collected, inside you are an ocean. 

Give Flyte the love they deserve today. I reckon a new record will be dropping soon from them, so listen to The Loved Ones and their 2019 EP White Roses after you give "Easy Tiger" a spin.

Hannah Lupas on May 28, 2020
​Kllo - Insomnia

​Kllo - Insomnia


Kllo’s "Insomnia" is a deep dive into a stream of consciousness, the meandering thoughts that arise in those late night moments right before falling asleep. We’ve all been there—unable to stop thinking of someone even as the clock ticks its way into tomorrow—and lead vocalist Chloe Kaul’s voice draws the picture with crystal clarity. The sound palette is spacey, leaving room for our thoughts to meander as well. A trip-hop beat and expansive bass contrast perfectly with Kaul’s breathy vocals, leading us into a chorus we can’t sit still to. This is the ideal song to lose yourself to in the dark hours.

Mikhal Weiner on May 27, 2020
Girlhood - The Love I Need

Girlhood - The Love I Need


Some songs are impossible to listen to without dancing and singing along, and Girlhood’s latest single release, “The Love I Need,” is at once one of them. If you don’t know the words, you soon will—just press play. The London-based duo exemplifies their synergy in this remarkably upbeat and genre-bending single, as Christian Pinchbeck and Tessa Cavanna join forces to create the perfect balance of rhythmic energy and inspiring melody. The track is a blissful mix of nostalgic and contemporary, relaxing and invigorating. There is an undeniable nod to gospel music in the choir of voices heard in the chorus, and the percussion builds before dropping off as Cavanna’s bright soulful voice drips like honey over the track. It should come as no surprise that Girlhood has cited Fugees, The Avalanches, and late-80s hip-hop as influences. Legend has it they write, record and produce their music from a narrowboat docked on a London canal. Beyond the music, embedded in the single’s cover art, done by intersex artist Rae Smith, is the message that the term “girlhood” encompasses all who identify with it, including, in the words of the artist, “the messy, complicated beauty of non-binary non-standardized human bodies in all their hairy complex shapes, sizes, forms and beings.” The colorful cover art and the buoyant sound together evoke an overwhelming sense of joy and solidarity, making this single from Girlhood a timely release.

Maya Bouvier-Lyons on May 27, 2020
Emmett Kai - Super Tangerine

Emmett Kai - Super Tangerine


“Freak Pop Novelty” Emmett Kai is creating transcendent bedroom pop. His 2017 song “Midnight” (complete with cover art that is both reminiscent of a late 80s prom picture and George Harrison’s solo shot on Cloud Nine) was included in the Broad City soundtrack—a nice ode to New York City for the Brooklyn-based artist, producer, and label owner.

The title track off of his new EP Super Tangerine snaps us out of reality for a short—but fulfilling—four and a half minutes. “Super Tangerine” opens with a static buzz and ends with the lingering repetition of a statement driven by insecurity: “I think that it’s alright if we could maybe try again.”

Allowing us to depart from our realities through a hopeful daydream, “Super Tangerine” reminds us that we cannot rush through uncertainty, even if we are indefinitely stuck in our homes. To “go slow” and introspectively “get lost in glow” with Emmett’s synth covered recollections is a relief from mundane routine.    

Elizabeth Shaffer on May 27, 2020
Exnations - Love in the Time of Quarantine

Exnations - Love in the Time of Quarantine


Spoiler alert: we’re living in a pandemic. It’s weird. It’s raw. It’s denial with existential dread bubbling underneath, and beyond even that, it's moments of joy that feel absolutely wild in their daring and stolen existence against their reality's backdrop. Brooklyn/Jersey City-based Exnations’s single “Love in the Time of Quarantine” is the glossy, gorgeously produced, retro-pop anthem that this moment in time has birthed. 

It kicks off pulsing, with some expansive reverb-y electric guitar reminiscent of The Cure, opening up to its rousing cinema-ready chorus (Jack Antanoff is, I expect, clapping somewhere in NYC, wishing he’d been able to be part of this one). Its lyrics are simple and honest, surprisingly poignant. “We get high, we get low, we got nowhere else to go / When this is all over, I’ll be lyin’ in the grass with you." As someone now gearing up for a shotgun-style elopement rather than a ‘real’ September wedding, “Love in the Time of Quarantine” might as well have been playing behind every one of my partner’s and my hard conversations and glorious nights spent butchering Salsa Dancing 101 on Youtube, terrified, but together. It’ll be hard to find anyone who doesn’t see themselves in this song’s message of hope and shared resiliency, especially in their native New York.

Follow Exnations, put “Love in the Time of Quarantine” on, stare out a window, and let that pocket of joy take you. Well done, Exnations; you've captured a slice of history in song.

Stephanie Lamond on May 27, 2020

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