Archive by Author

Monthly Playlist – Apr. 2022

15 May

After a short break, we are back with our Monthly Playlist series! This month, we saw the releases of much-anticipated albums from Wet Leg, Fontaines DC and more – not to mention news of perhaps the year’s most anticipated release, Kendrick Lamar’s new album. Read on to find out our picks from the month of April 2022, and let us know if you agree or disagree!

“Down” by Hot Chip

English synthpop band Hot Chip have been around for quite a while now – almost two decades, in fact – and they’ve got quite a few notable albums under their belts. Their second and third albums were particularly successful, with sophomore album The Warning (2006) fetching a Mercury Prize nom and third album Made in the Dark (2008) spawning the massive hit “Ready for the Floor”. Now, a few so-so albums later, the band is back with new single “Down” as the lead single for their eighth album Freakout/Release, set to come out in August 2022. “Down” is a jagged, off-kilter party romp that’s up there with the band’s best works. It’s just a fun dance music with a strong bassline, infectious breakdowns, and an insanely catchy phrase (“Girl, know how to break it on down!”) running through the background – definitely check this one out. 

“About Damn Time” by Lizzo

(Note: This song was actually released in March 2022, but since we missed a Monthly Playlist in that month, we just had to include it in this one. Trust us, you’ll see why when you listen to the track!)

Speaking of irresistible dance music, there are few active artists today who can keep churning out the hits quite like Lizzo. In the latter part of 2021, she released the catchy “Rumors” with fellow artist du jour Cardi B – a track we liked so much that we put it on our year-end list. At the time, she mentioned that “Rumors” marked the start of a new era for her, possibly ahead of her planned 2022 album. Now she’s added another milestone to that new era with “About Damn Time” – a song seemingly about Lizzo re-discovering her confidence after a rocky few months. The world’s foremost flutist / funk-pop star describes how she’s finally in a mood to celebrate and get back out there. “Oh, I’ve been so down and under pressure, I’m way too fine to be this stressed, yeah / Oh, I’m not the girl I was or used to be, Uh, bitch, I might be better,” she says in her classic confidence, all set to a riff that would make Nile Rogers proud. The best thing is that this track also serves as a post-COVID anthem for those that are ready to get back out there after a couple of difficult years; when she says “Is everybody back up in the buildin’? It’s been a minute, tell me how you’re healin’”, we felt that.

“Barely on My Mind” by The Regrettes

The Regrettes are a punk rock band with a couple of albums to their names. But they seem to have taken a bit of a left turn with the dance-pop track “Barely on My Mind”. There are almost Phoenix-like turns of melody on the track, mixed with the magnetism of lead singer Lydia Night’s vocals. The track is part of their third album Future Joy, which was released in April 2022. We’ll surely be checking out the rest of the album with an introduction like this!

“Autopilot” by Dev Lemons

If you’re a TikTok regular, you are probably familiar with the work of Dev Lemons – not as a musician, but as the creator of the popular @songpsych page which boasts almost a million followers and 26 million (!) likes. On the page, Dev Lemons (real name Devon Schmalz) breaks down popular songs into the byte-sized format that suits the preferences of her Gen Z audience. However, not content with just being a music critic of sorts, Dev Lemons has now taken her insights into what makes songs popular (e.g., this video about the new Lizzo song that we also loved above) and has begun releasing original music too. Vaguely reminiscent of acts like Lily Allen, “Autopilot” amps up the synths on the chorus for a fun, catchy romp. Definitely check out Dev Lemons’ music – and of course her @songpsych channel if you’re on TikTok!

“Oh Algoritmo” by Jorge Drexler feat. Noga Erez

Jorge Drexler, the artist behind our final pick “Oh Algoritmo”, is one of the most interesting people you’ve never heard about. First and foremost, he’s a medical doctor – an otorhinolaryngologist (ENT) to be exact. Secondly, as if excellence in one specific skillset wasn’t enough, the Uruguayan won an Academy Award in 2004 for composing “Al Otro Lado del Rio” from the Motorcycle Diaries. This is not counting the numerous Latin Grammy Awards he’s racked up, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year. Suffice it to say, you owe it to yourself to at least give a listen to “Oh Algoritmo”, in which Drexler has paired up with Israeli singer-songwriter Noga Erez. The song immediately draws you in with a funky bassline and Drexler’s vocals set against a lively background of shakes, bops and beeps. By the time Erez’s confident English-language vocals come in, we’d bet that you’re hooked on to the angular, groovy vibes on this track. 

Charli XCX – Crash

6 Apr

Words by Raksha Thakur

Charli XCX knows that pop music isn’t about reinventing the wheel. In the age of social media ubiquity and its accompanying cult of authenticity, she doesn’t just play with the deja vu quality of pop music, but leans into it fully— a master of the art of making chart-friendly bops. In Charli’s hands, veering into radio-friendly territory is anything but conventional.

Charli is no stranger to pop music. She is a vocal fan of Britney Spears and the Spice Girls, and her smash hits “Boom Clap”, “I Love It” with Icona Pop, and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” dominated the 2010s. As a bankable songwriter, she has also penned some of the most indelible earworms sung by other singers like Selena Gomez, Camilla Cabello, and Blondie among others. Pushing against the constraints of being a Hyperpop singer – a genre she pioneered – Crash sees her return to form in a slick pop music vein.

Playing with the decidedly mass market image of the pop diva, Charli revitalizes mainstream pop through Crash. Anointed the queen of “the future of pop,” Charli slyly challenges this legacy with references to older pop music and audaciously sampling some of the most recognizable hits of the past twenty years. The album is informed by the illusion of the singularity of the major label pop star, all by herself at the very top. Charli hurtles into self-aware pop, with a sonic palette ranging from the ’80s, 2000s and 2010s. The result is an instant classic pop album.

Crash is bangers from the outset, clocking in at a little over half an hour, and opens with the slow, rhythmic adrenaline injection of the title track. The warm, synthy, and ‘80s inspired “New Shapes” featuring Christine and the Queens, and Caroline Polachek (formerly of Chairlift fame) may as well be a tongue-in-cheek kiss off to Hyperpop, if only for the time being. “Constant Repeat” is an arena-sized dance floor scorcher. Its title alludes to the behavior of someone obsessed with a person the way one would be with a song. “You could have had a bad girl by your side,” sings the iconoclast who has proven that she can play the pop game with finesse. “Good Ones” has an intro resembling Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and embodies a catchy ’80s revival sound of the 2000s that Charli grew up on.

Thematically, Crash spans a broad swathe, ranging from aesthetic odes to the witchy, from the occult to David Cronenberg’s risqué, critically-acclaimed movie of the same name. There is also a full circle aspect to Crash having an association with cars: many of her past songs have been about cars, such as “Vroom Vroom”, “White Mercedes” and the unreleased fan favorite “Taxi”.

Charli’s songwriting presents the pop staple of love and romance in all their different dimensions. Through the tracklist, she regularly interplays between provocative songs and softer, more ballad-like tunes. “Move Me” is a ballad with the tempo of a Justin Timberlake & Timba joint with some delicious R&B “oohs”. It is followed by the effortlessly sultry “Baby”, designed to make one do something between dancing and stripping. An unexpected guitar makes a startling appearance and contrasts beautifully with the melodious staccato of Charli’s occasionally manipulated voice at the end of the Kate Bush-by-way-of-New Order anthem “Lightning”.

Charli’s gift of using decade-defining sounds from synths to the scant use of autotuned vocal creates a sound all her own and totally new in the XCX world. For example, the posturing of a pop star in all its manufactured mass appeal goes one step further when Charli sings the chorus of “Beg For You” in a manner that’s a perfect mondegreen of the song she’s sampling from (“Cry For Me” by September). This track in particular (featuring our favorite Rina Sawayama) has all the best elements of Britpop aided by Charli’s touch: a nostalgic disc scratch, Jamie XX-like bass, the sampled breakbeat and melody of Milk Inc.’s “Don’t Cry”, and a duet about heartache that is irresistible to avoid dancing to. “Used To Know Me” takes the recognizably ‘90s club sound of “Show Me Love” and transforms it into a Britney-esque danceable bubble-gum pop bop.

In 2020, Charli released the raw, vulnerable how i’m feeling now – an album that closely involved Charli’s fans (or Angels, as they’re known across the internet), including features in in her music videos. In comparison, the contrast to her new era as a main pop girl baddie couldn’t be more extreme. With its carefully manufactured mystery and allure, this album is nothing short of an enormous pivot.

Pop stars are part of a larger commercial music machinery: cogs in collaborative efforts from record labels to songwriters, singers, and producers. In contrast, Charli is known for her collaborations with other musicians and producers as much as for her signature glitchy sound. Long resistant to the singularity of the pop star, Charli’s new album dives headlong into the illusory concept of the lone pop star while serving the very finest pop music out there. Crash shows a departure for a musician who refuses to be boxed into a genre at the top of her game making timeless catchy pop.

Monthly Playlist – Feb 2022

7 Mar

The second month of 2022 saw the release of quite a few good albums. There was Laurel Hell, the much-anticipated follow-up from indie-folk singer Mitski, as well as new records from stalwarts such as Animal Collective and Spoon. There were also new tracks from artists such as Fontaines DC, Caroline Polachek and more. Read on for our top five picks from February 2022!

“The Loop” by Toro y Moi

We covered the delectable “Postman” with its fun Pharrell-esque vibe, in last month’s Monthly Playlist – and this month, Toro y Moi has treated us once again to a great track. Unlike the upbeat vibes of “Postman”, “The Loop” is much more laidback, and much more jazzy almost. Subtle basslines mesh with Chaz Bear’s playful vocals, leading to a track that’s perfect for spring days that almost, almost feel like summer. Both “Postman” and “The Loop” are precursors to Toro y Moi’s upcoming album Mahal, out on April 29th.

“Held” by Spoon

Technically, “Held” is a cover of a track by eclectic singer-songwriter Bill Callahan under his Smog avatar. We definitely don’t blame you for never having heard of Callahan, Smog or the original “Held”, but do yourself a favor and check out the cover by Spoon on their latest album Lucifer on the Sofa (released Feb. 11th). Spoon’s cover of “Held” is raw, bluesy, and full of the kind of modern-day cowboy vibes that seep through a lot of Lucifer, for which this track serves as a worthy album opener. “For the first time in my life / I let myself be held like a big old baby / And I surrender to your charity,” ruminates lead singer Britt Daniel, and the way he drawls and draws out his thoughts make you ruminate along with him. “Held” was apparently battle-tested by the band in live shows for many years, and it shows – Spoon truly owns this track.

“Crip Ya Enthusiasm” by Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg had a fantastic February. On February 10th, he made the surprise announcement that he is now the new owner of the acclaimed Death Row Records, the label which famously launched his very career. A day later, on February 11th, Snoop announced “Crip Ya Enthusiasm”, the first track from his new album (also released on the same day) quite suitably titled Bacc on Death Row. If “Crip Ya Enthusiasm” sounds to you like a reference to Curb Your Enthusiasm, then you’re exactly right. The track starts off with a sample of the meme-worthy theme song from Curb that is then masterfully spun into the song’s catchy backbone. The rest is standard Snoop flow – as cool as a cucumber, but don’t underestimate the verbal gymnastics of the West Coast OG. Also of particular note is the verse break (“These are words coming from the Dogg / And everything I do is lit / Hoppin’ right along, tryna get my party on / Call my n*, let’s go bust a bitch”) that Snoop actually sings along to the Curb song.

Oh, and on February 13th, he performed at the highly-lauded Half-Time Show at Super Bowl LVI. Not a bad February!

“Kissing Lessons” by Lucy Dacus

Lucy Dacus is a young singer-songwriter with a couple of well-received albums under her belt: her debut No Burden (2016) and two follow-ups Historian (2018) and Home Video (2021). Apart from her own music, she’s also well-known for being one-third of the group boygenius, formed with fellow indie rocker girls Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers. Lyrically, “Kissing Lessons” is a short-and-sweet song about a childhood queer romance – an older girl in elementary school called Rachel that gives Lucy the titular lessons. While Rachel moves away by the end of this sub-2 minute track, Lucy still keeps a memento of her childhood more-than-a-friend. We also liked the wall-of-sound guitarwork that almost competes with Dacus’ vocals for the listener’s attention. A true indie rock song, albeit with a sweet edge.

“Angelica” by Wet Leg

Wet Leg’s debut album was one of the five albums that we were anticipating the most out of 2022 at the start of the year, and the Isle of Wight band has just released one more proof point for our case. “Angelica”, released on the last day of February, is in line with the indie rock sensibilities on their runaway hit “Chaise Lounge” and strong follow-up “Wet Dream”. The track is about a cool it-girl called, well, Angelica, who’s observed by the narrator at a party that they’re both attending. Angelica arrives (with lasagna, to boot) and quickly dominates the room, making the narrator wonder why she’s still hanging around with a person like Angelica in the mix. It’s all very young-person ennui, and Wet Leg’s characteristically catchy, upbeat guitars and drums pair well with the subject matter. The two-piece have a big month coming up, headlining as one of the notable acts at SXSW 2022 and performing in about half a dozen venues in the city of Austin during the 10-day festival. All of this buzz is in preparation for their release of their debut album on April 8th – as we’ve said before, we’re looking forward to this one.

Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa

2 Mar

There are few artists that have maintained a certain level of quality over several decades – Bob Dylan or Red Hot Chili Peppers, for example – but perhaps the most underrated of these unerringly consistent artists is Austin, Texas-based Spoon.

Founded by singer and guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno in 1993, the band has remained a force in their hometown, with notable presence at SXSW, ACL and other cultural touchpoints that the city has to offer. The other members of the band have gone through several rotations, but the current roster includes Ben Trokan (bass / keyboards), Alex Fischel (keyboards / guitar) and Gerardo Larios (guitar).

Since their inception almost 30 years ago, the band has released a steady stream of great albums, notable of which include 2001’s Girls Can Tell, 2005’s Gimme Fiction, and many more. (In fact, ask a group of Spoon fans what their favorite album is from the band’s discography and you’ll likely get different answers from each – that’s how consistently good Spoon is.)

Now, the band is back with their 10th studio album, Lucifer on the Sofa, which, we are happy to announce, continues the band’s lifetime streak of catchy and highly-listenable albums.

Although we loved the band’s previous album – 2017’s Hot Thoughts – it was one of the more divisive albums in their discography; with old-time fans discouraged by the decidedly electro-pop edge that the album took. Lucifer on the Sofa is a back-to-basics rock album, almost as a direct rebound from Hot Thoughts. While both auras of Spoon have their musical highlights, the band definitely sounds more at ease on Lucifer.

The album starts off with “Held”, a cover of a 1998 track by Bill Callahan in his Smog avatar. “Held” serves as a perfect starting point to Lucifer, with a bluesy live-recording vibe that permeates the rest of the track-list. In fact, so good is their cover that you would not be remiss in thinking that it’s a Spoon original. “Held” melds coolly into “The Hardest Cut”, the best track on the album (and lead single) that easily made our end-of-year list upon its release in 2021. Here, Spoon take on the rock-and-roll mantle further than almost any other active band today – close your eyes and you can see this track in a Cadillac commercial in place of Led Zep’s “Rock and Roll”.

There are a few others here that come close to the vitality on “The Hardest Cut” – for example, the devilishly-good blues-rock track “The Devil & Mister Jones”. Another great track is “Feels Alright” with its melodious hooks and warm guitars, where we find Daniel’s charisma at a maximum. Jangly second single “Wild” is an homage to wanting to break free, which Britt Daniel expresses through some well-wrought lyrics. “I got on fine with modern living, but must I be such a citizen?” he asks, before confessing on the chorus: “And the world, still so wild, called to me.”

In fact, many of Spoon’s songs have to do with this feeling of restlessness – wanting to leave, skip town, run away and so on. Some others deal with his general sense of nostalgia and introspection – for example, the keyboards-driven classic indie rock track “On the Radio” – while still others are (surprisingly enough for a slick rock band) sweet love songs. The vaguely 1960s-tinged “Satellite” is one such song, with Daniel calling himself the namesake satellite to his lover.

Lyrically, though, the soul of the album lies in the title track and album closer, “Lucifer on the Sofa” – which is essentially a stream-of-consciousness poem of what it was like to wander through mid-pandemic empty streets. “Looking through the windows as you’re passing by / And I’m chasing every thought / And I’m walking over water / Thinking about what I lost,” he croons – and who can’t relate to their own experiences in 2020. Also, the song is very much set in Austin with references to Lavaca Street, West Avenue and others. “Lucifer on the Sofa” also clarifies the meaning of the namesake devil: a manifestation of the negativity in our own minds, freezing you into a disheveled state to the extent that it literally feels like an unwelcome guest crashing on your sofa.

With few drawbacks throughout the track-list – the weakest being perhaps “Astral Light” and “My Babe” – Lucifer on the Sofa is a thoroughly entertaining rock record.

Rating: 8.5/10

Best tracks: “The Hardest Cut”, “Wild”, “Held”

Monthly Playlist: Jan. 2022

7 Feb

2022 is well underway with new albums from The Weeknd, FKA twigs, Mitski and more. We’ve already covered our picks for the most anticipated albums (that we know of) in 2022. Below, we take a closer look at the top five songs of January. Read on and let us know your thoughts!

“Strung with Everything” by Animal Collective

Animal Collective released their new album Time Skiffs in the early days of February. Prior to the album release, the experimental pop group released three singles: “Walker” and “Prester John” earlier in 2021, and the new track “Strung with Everything” in January. The song begins with a slow build-up that introduces key motifs – randomized percussion, the meandering keyboard melody, and the echoing guitar notes. Suddenly, amidst the meditative elements, the song bursts into full focus, complete with surf-rock style drums, guitars and vocals. Although “Strung with Everything” could have used tighter editing (meandering at almost 7 minutes long), the track highlights Animal Collective’s career-long skills at walking the line between commercial and experimental.

“papi bones” by FKA twigs feat. Shygirl

“papi bones” is an energetic Afro pop-tinged track from FKA twigs’ January mixtape entitled CAPRISONGS (full review here). The track highlights the British pop star’s sensibilities at arranging a song for maximum impact: hype-men introducing a club-friendly beat, a sparse dancehall-esque couple of verses from FKA twigs, and finally a joint verse between her and the excellent Shygirl. Readers will recall that we loved British artist Shygirl’s collaboration with another nouveau British export – slowthai – last year, and her energy is just as plucky and vivacious here. All in all, “papi bones” is a fun and infectious track that’s a perfect starting point for FKA twigs’ new mixtape.

“Jackie Down the Line” by Fontaines DC

We talked about this new track from Irish post-punk band in our recent roundup of 2022’s most anticipated albums, and for good reason – “Jackie Down the Line” is a great track that heralds the beginning of the band’s Skinty Fia era. Fontaines DC has proven that they’re an act that keeps busy, quickly following up their 2019 debut Dogrel with the well-received A Hero’s Death in 2020. But don’t think they’re just churning out run-of-the-mill tracks: the band has used both albums to build up a definitive Fontaines DC sound. What does this sound consist of? Well, there’s the fulsome drum beats, rumbling basslines, and (more than anything), lead singer Grian Chatten’s unapologetically Irish vocals – lyricism, accent, idioms and all. “Jackie Down the Line” is a continuation of this same style. In typically Chatten style, the lyrics are poetic, somber and rather difficult to decipher; but we gather that it’s a meditation of the loss of Irish culture (a common theme in the band’s lyrics) as represented by “Jackie” or Jackeens – Irish fans of the Union Jack.

“Sacrifice” by The Weeknd

Although The Weeknd’s new album Dawn FM failed to blow us away (full review here), there were certainly a couple of bright spots on the track-list. One, of course, is the masterpiece that is “Take My Breath” (even better on the album’s extended version), but we already knew that. Of the new songs that were introduced on the album this month, “Sacrifice” really stands out. Here, Abel utilizes a chunky, disco bassline and funky modulations on his vocals, all resulting in a catchy addition to the megastar’s dance-pop repertoire. You’ll be humming this song in no time.

“Postman” by Toro y Moi

“Postman” is a funky, fun track that was released alongside the announcement of Mahal, the seventh album from American lo-fi dance-rock proponent Toro y Moi. Musically, “Postman” is almost like a stripped-down Pharrell song, pairing a bouncy bass and catchy drums with semi-sung vocals – think something along the lines of a very chillwave “Blurred Lines”. The music video is equally fun and plays homage to Toro y Moi’s Filipino heritage – definitely check it out.

Top Five Most Anticipated Albums of 2022

30 Jan

As we near the end of the first month in this new year, it’s as good a time as any to flashforward to the rest of the year. What will 2022 bring? Will we see the end of the pandemic? Will life start returning to the old normal from late 2019, or is that gone forever? Whatever the answers may be for these deep questions lurking around, one thing we know for sure: 2022 is already shaping up to bring a ton of great music.

We skipped ahead to the rest of the calendar to see what’s on the radar. Below are our top five picks for the most anticipated albums of 2022 in chronological order; plus a few rumored releases with no dates just yet (doesn’t hurt to dream!).

Agree? Disagree? Missed something? Be sure to let us know in the comments.

Animal Collective – Time Skiffs

Release date: February 4

Time Skiffs, the 11th full-length album from the experimental pop group Animal Collective, is set to come out in just a few days. The album has been heralded through a couple of great singles already: the almost 60s-inspired “Prester John” and the sparkly “Walker” and in 2021, followed by the energetic “Strung With Everything” earlier this month. According to their label Domino Records, Time Skiffs is expected to be similar in sound to the well-received Strawberry Jam almost 20 years ago, which started off the band on their rise to fame. Here’s hoping that’s the case!

Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa

Release date: February 11

Austin-based rock band Spoon is set to release their tenth studio album Lucifer on the Sofa on February 11th. So far, two songs have been released from the album: the jangly “Wild” from earlier this month, and last year’s hard-hitting “Hardest Cut” – which was also one of our favorite songs of the year. The album was recorded in Austin – in drummer Jim Eno’s own studio Public Hi-Fi, no less – and the band has indicated that the city will feature in spirit. “We just wanted to do a different thing this time, and experience the vibe of a city,” said singer Britt Daniel in a recent interview with the magazine Texas Monthly. If the first two tracks and this backstory are anything to go by, Lucifer on the Sofa should be a fantastic addition to Spoon’s already legendary repertoire.

Charli XCX – Crash

Release date: March 18

English pop star Charli XCX is set to release her fifth album Crash on March 18th. Charli’s been teasing the album for the past four months, starting with the synth-heavy “Good Ones” back in September 2021. That dancefloor-ready track was followed in November by “New Shapes”, a stop-start song that featured fellow female pop singers Christine and The Queens and Caroline Polachek. If these two tracks are anything to go by, Crash is going to be impactful as the name suggests.

Wet Leg – Wet Leg

Release date: April 8

Despite having barely four songs to their name, British two-piece Wet Leg have built up a level of hype that you don’t see very often. Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers – ex-college mates and decade-long friends – released their first track, the post-punk track “Chaise Lounge”, in June 2021, and haven’t looked back since. The disaffected, slackerish track became somewhat of a viral hit last year, and the band followed it up with the equally good “Wet Dream” in September. Wet Leg released the last two of their four songs so far in November 2021, the same day that they announced the release of their debut album Wet Leg on April 8, 2022. So far, the band has set the hype bar high; let’s hope the debut album lives up to it.

Fontaines DC – Skinty FIa

Release date: April 22

Fontaines DC, the Irish post-punk band, has announced the release of their new album Skinty Fia on April 22, following the Grammy-nominated sophomore album A Hero’s Death and incredible debut album Dogrel. Along with the album announcement, the band released the first single “Jackie Down the Line” – a heady track that juxtaposes lead singer Grian Chatten’s hypnotic vocals against jangly instrumentals. Both albums from Fontaines DC so far have been meditative yet catchy works that pay homage the band’s Irish heritage – we hope Skinty Fia is cut from the same mould.

Expected 2022 Releases

Arctic Monkeys

Matt Helders, the drummer for Sheffield-based indie rock mainstays Arctic Monkeys, made news in November last year with the admission that the band’s new album is “pretty much” ready for a 2022 release. They’ve also released a tranche of tour dates, including the first-ever Los Angeles version of Barcelona’s storied Primavera Sound festival. A new album does seem imminent – personally, we hope that it’s of a different flavor than 2016’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.

Rina Sawayama

After a fantastic debut album that blew us away in 2020, Japanese-British pop star Rina Sawayama is expected to release a sophomore album later this year. Ms. Sawayama has kept busy since her debut through joint tracks with the likes of Elton John and Charli XCX. In a Tweet last year, she seemed to indicate that a new album will drop in “late summer” 2022 – no word since, though.

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick fans have been waiting a long time since 2017’s DAMN. (which, fun fact, is the only non-jazz or classical album to ever win the Pulitzer Prize for Music). There hasn’t been a confirmation that a new album is set to drop in 2022, but Kendrick is set to perform at the Super Bowl LVI half-time show in a few weeks – that’s got to be a sign, right?

Cardi B

Shockingly, for all the time that she regularly spends in the public discourse, Cardi B only has one album to her name – her fantastic debut album Invasion of Privacy (2018). Of course, in the intervening three years, she’s had world-dominating hits like “WAP”, “Up”, and the recent collab with Lizzo called “Rumors”. There’s no indication yet that a new album is set to drop, but surely she has enough material to release one soon?

Lizzo

On a similar note and for similar reasons, Lizzo is also due for a follow-up album, especially after her chart-busting track “Rumors”. 2019’s Cuz I Love You gave her a much-deserved public spotlight – here’s hoping she takes advantage of the attention with a new album soon.

Top Five Songs of 2021

1 Jan

If you’ve been following our Monthly Playlist series throughout the year, then you’re probably familiar with most of the songs on this list. The songs below cover the gamut across rock, pop, blues and more– take a spin below and let us know what you think!

5. “Boilermaker” by Royal Blood

Clocking in at #5 is the hard-hitting collaboration between British two-piece Royal Blood and desert rock veteran Josh Homme. Royal Blood’s 2021 album Typhoons was somewhat of a hit-or-miss effort (read our full review here), but the best part of the album is undeniably this high-wire track. “Boilermaker” is heavy, energetic, and comes with a fun music video – one of the best rock tracks of the year.  

Read more in our Monthly Playlist.

4. “The Hardest Cut” by Spoon

Speaking of great rock tracks – in our opinion, the best one of the year is “The Hardest Cut”, the first single from Austin, Texas band Spoon’s upcoming Lucifer on the Sofa album. With its thick bass lines, rangy vocals and dance-rock beats, this is by far one of the catchiest songs we’ve heard all year. If this is an indication of what the rest of the new album is going to sound like, then we sure are in for a treat.

Read more in our Monthly Playlist.

3. “Oxytocin” by Billie Eilish

It’s funny – Billie has been releasing singles for her sophomore album Happier Than Ever for a full year before the album released in July 2021, but the best song on the album (and one of the best songs of the year) is the electro-pop non-single banger “Oxytocin”. The song brings together all the best parts about the Billie Eilish act – breathy vocals, out-of-this-world production from her brother Finneas, and a general feeling of devilish provocation.

Read more in our Monthly Playlist.

2. “Take My Breath” by the Weeknd

At this point, the Weeknd probably does the 80s better than musicians in the actual 80s. “Take My Breath” is another synth-disco killer track that sits right at the junction between the classic 80s sound and a transition into the Britney-inspired 90s era. This is the first song from what is ostensibly the “Dawn era” (naturally coming after his After Hours era), perhaps signifying a new album from the Canadian singer in 2022. Here’s hoping!

Read more in our Monthly Playlist.

1. “INDUSTRY BABY” by Lil Nas X feat. Jack Harlow

The best song of the year comes from the debut album of Lil Nas X, but he’s far from a debut artist. The man has been racking up great tracks nonstop since his worldwide hit “Old Town Road” but “INDUSTRY BABY” is potentially his best track yet. The fanfare horns throughout the track signify a self-coronation for one of the biggest hitmakers of our time, who’s especially unique in the sense that he’s truly a self-made man.

Read more in our Monthly Playlist.

Looking for more great tracks? Here are our runners-up for the top songs of the year, in alphabetical order:

Listen on Spotify:

Top Five Albums of 2021 – Neeharika’s List

31 Dec

With the global pandemic wreaking havoc on live music, gatherings, and most social interaction in 2020, the musical output in 2021 was understandably a little understated. Still, we managed to get great follow-up albums from the likes of Billie Eilish, as well as much-heralded debut albums from Lil Nas X, Olivia Rodrigo and more. Stalwarts like the Foo Fighters, Coldplay and the Killers released new albums, and 2022 is expected to bring albums from other big names like the Arctic Monkeys. Below are my top picks for the year that was. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

5. Delta Kream by the Black Keys

The Black Keys: Delta Kream Album Review | Pitchfork

Technically, Delta Kream is not original music from the Black Keys; the album is a collection of blues standards as performed by the Black Keys. However, in a world where very few people had access to live music, Delta Kream was the closest thing to attending a spectacular concert – having been recorded live and as-is by the blues duo – and for that I am eternally grateful. Highlights from the album include the rollicking first single “Crawling Kingsnake”, the yearnful “Stay All Night” and the bouncy “Do the Romp”. Check out Delta Kream if you need a new Black Keys fix, or if you want a primer into classic blues standards, or, simply, if you want a good time.

Read our full review here.

4. Sour by Olivia Rodrigo

As far as debuts go, few in history have achieved the mindboggling success of Olivia Rodrigo – the closest equivalents being perhaps Billie Eilish or the Strokes. The late-teenager forged her career in the star-making fires of Disney Channel, a la Selena Gomez or Hillary Duff. However, what sets Rodrigo’s album apart and makes it a true pop classic is the subject matter. Rather than watered-down mainstream pop topics like those regularly found on other such post-Disney albums, Sour is a highly-relatable slice-of-life look into what it’s like to be 17: the angst, the heartbreak, the confusion of being not quite a child but not quite an adult. Plus, the album is buoyed by several of the biggest hits of 2021, including the chart-busting heartbreaker “drivers license” or the surprisingly punky “good 4 u”. Even if pop’s not your thing, don’t miss out on Olivia Rodrigo – she’s got a few tricks up her sleeve.

Read our full review here.

3. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert by Little Simz

Little Simz has been on the radar for quite a few years, but the past year-and-a-half has shed a particularly strong limelight on the young British-Nigerian rapper. The five-track Drop 6 EP (2020) was very well-received (including by us), and she also broadened her mainstream recognition by cannily remixing her existing track “Venom” for, well, the Venom movie this year. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is the perfect follow-up for her widening fame – in fact, it may be the best thing she’s made in her entire career. Tracks like “Speed” and “Standing Ovation” show off her fantastic rapping skills, whereas songs like “Point and Kill” and “Protect My Energy” highlight her ability to bring in lots of different genres into her music.

Read our full review here.

2. MONTERO by Lil Nas X

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, you have heard of the rapper-provocateur known as Lil Nas X. Born Montero Lamar Hill (from which this album gets its name), Lil Nas X pushed his way into international stardom through “Old Town Road”, most notably the remix featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. As time went on, it became clear that the man is a marketing genius, cunningly building off of a genuinely great song through innumerable remixes that extended the attention-grab for many months post the release of the original track. Although he had a similarly huge hit with “HOLIDAY” (not so much with “PANINI”), there was always the question: was Lil Nas X a one-hit (or two-hit) wonder? With the debut album MONTERO, he has given us the answer: absolutely not. The album is of course carried by the three chart-topper singles: the title track “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)”, “INDUSTRY BABY” featuring Jack Harlow, and “THAT’S WHAT I WANT” – but there’s definitely more here than just those, for example the slow-burning “DEAD RIGHT NOW” that is kind enough to provide the story of Lil Nas X’s rise from obscurity into superstardom. Apart from the aforementioned Jack Harlow feature, other features on MONTERO result in some of the album’s other best tracks: including the bouncy, funky “SCOOP” featuring Doja Cat and the iconic “ONE OF ME” featuring Elton John. Overall, MONTERO proves that Lil Nas X and his pop / rap / trap / everything sound is here to stay – don’t miss out.

1. Happier Than Ever by Billie Eilish

The much-awaited sophomore album from the biggest pop star in the world did not disappoint. Turns out, Happier Than Ever had been rolling out in public for exactly a year before its release on July 30, starting with “my future” way back in July 2020. Almost all of the other singles – “Therefore I Am”, “Your Power”, “NDA”, “Lost Cause” – struck gold too. Happily, the rest of the album also holds up, with non-single stand-outs like the sultry “Billie Bossa Nova” and the electropop gem “Oxytocin”. Happier Than Ever is chockful of great moments, and constructively adds to the artist’s debut sound – as any good sophomore album should.

Read our full review here.

Special Mention: Is It Time to Eat the Rich Yet? by the F16s

At five songs long, 2021’s Is It Time to Eat the Rich Yet? from Chennai-based indie stars the F16s couldn’t quite make our full list above. But I would be remiss to not highlight the sparkly, synth-heavy album as one of the best things I’ve heard all year. We’ve already talked about “Trouble with Paradise”, with its jazzy horns and lovely staccato beats, in October’s Monthly Playlist – but in all honesty, it’s tough to pick the best song from the five on this EP. The catchy “Sucks to Be Human” rests on the keys-driven rhythm and the ever-present nonchalance of lead singer Josh Fernandes’ vocals, but the most surprising aspect is that it’s actually about humanity’s stupidity w.r.t. climate change (“How did we end up with a planet left in ruin / we’re fighting battles that we only keep on losing / Apologies but it sucks to be human”). The muted intro on “Easy Bake Easy Wake” opens up nicely into the main synth line peppered with horns, as Fernandes describes a manipulative girl that he can’t help but be in love with. “She fucked me like the government and played me like a violin, violence,” goes his iconic description, but he’s still ready to be locked up and have her throw away the key. “I’m on Holiday” is the soundtrack to that palm tree-patterned vacation that you wish you took in these pandemic years, so at the very least, feel free to pop  on this song and sip an orange cocktail or something. If these four songs are tied for first, the smile-through-the-panic vibes on “The Apocalypse” are perhaps half a step behind – but overall, the song rounds out this great EP quite well. Is It Time to Eat the Rich Yet? clocks in at less than 20 minutes so you really have no excuse to not give this one a spin. Go for it!

Listen on Spotify:

New Artist Roundup: Oct. 2021

11 Nov

Thank you to everyone who submitted great music to us over the past few weeks! Below are our picks for music from fresh new artists in the month of October 2021.

Interested in submitting music to us? Shoot us an email at artists.tfr@gmail.com!

“Tanto” by Cassie Marin

A few months ago, we covered Cassie Marin’s track “Busy Body”, and the young LA-based singer-songwriter is on a roll. Her new track, “Tanto”, speaks to her childhood growing up in Miami and her heritage as a Cuban-American. The fun, Latin-inspired track builds on her signature indie-electronica sound, and Marin takes it a step further by actually singing in Spanish. Don’t let the sound fool you, though: lyrically, the track is apparently about her struggles with an auto-immune disease. Speaking about how she deals with her disease, Marin states, “I’ve bloomed so much from this experience and I’m still learning how to approach every obstacle with a sense of excitement and curiosity, but most importantly, I’ve grown to have so much gratitude for my body and all that she does for me.” Be sure to check out the latest track from this up-and-coming musician!

Website | Press

“It’s Depression” by Anna Shoemaker feat. Middle Part

Anna Shoemaker and Middle Part are a pair of Brooklyn-based musicians. They’ve teamed up together on Anna’s new track “It’s Depression”, an ode to the daily anxieties of the young and restless. “Middle Part and I similarly overthink a lot of things and, to me, that’s kind of what this is about,” she says. “It’s an anxiety attack in a song.” Musically, the track is sparkly, catchy indie-pop with bouncy drums and strong riffs. Shoemaker has apparently been described as Brooklyn’s answer to Olivia Rodrigo, and it’s not difficult to see the sonic comparison. If you liked this track, be sure to check out Shoemaker’s original claim to fame: a viral mashup of Kendrick Lamar’s “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” and Chance the Rapper’s “Cocoa Butter Kisses”. Anna Shoemaker already has two Eps under her belt, and plans to release her debut album in early 2022 – so keep your eyes out for that!

Website | Press

“LOVESICK” by Kami Kehoe

Kami Kehoe, an 18-year-old Las Vegas-based artist, describes her music as “alt R&B”. Her track “LOVESICK” is actually a great example of that description. Staccato “ooh”s and “ahh”s, as well as some funky percussion choices, form the backdrop to the track that is built around Kehoe’s soulful and fluid vocals. The song is surprisingly well-produced, and perhaps that relates to Kehoe’s background – she started drumming at the age of 3 (!) and has been in bands with her siblings in her early teens. Kami Kehoe is an exciting new voice – don’t miss out on “LOVESICK”!

Instagram| Press

“Bounty Hunter” by Shreyas and the Skinners

Shreyas and the Skinners is a band based “around the world” that just released their debut album Flux. Their style is characterized by “the music of the USA between 1960s and 1990s” – a fairly wide brush – and ranges across genres from blues to folk-pop and even a brief dip into rap-rock. “Bounty Hunter” is a rollicking, bluesy track about a tale as old as time (or at least the 1800s) – the fearsome bounty hunter, dusty salons, and all the other typical trappings of the wild, wild West. “Bounty Hunter” is foot-tappingly catchy and would probably sound fantastic live – be sure to check it out.

YouTube

“Breathe Smoke” by Fire Whale

Fire Whale is the moniker used by Oakland, CA-based musician James Utterback. The sounds of Fire Whale can roughly be described as psychedelic surf-rock, born out of Utterback’s influences that range from Queens of the Stone Age to Pink Floyd. “Breathe Smoke” features classic guitar melodies that are supported by steady drums and Utterback’s fuzzy vocals. The song was apparently inspired by Moby Dick, with its lyrics and emotions meant to convey “a clear picture of madness and longing in the high seas”. And it’s not just this track – Fire Whale has expanded his Moby Dick inspiration to an entire concept album that he plans to release soon.

Website

Bonus: “Time of Our Lives” by Johnny Ashby

If you like the indie folk stylings of bands such as Of Monsters and Men or The Lumineers, then you might fancy the music of London-born LA-based musician Johnny Ashby. The singer has previously made a splash with the jangly “SOS” and the more meandering “Wild”, and now he’s released his full length album entitled Time of Our Lives. The title track from the album, which Ashby describes as his favorite from the entire listing, brings drama with deliberate drums that underscore Ashby’s vocals. It’s quite an anthemic track, and we’re looking forward to seeing more from this young musician.

Website | Press

Monthly Playlist: Oct. 2021

2 Nov

Well, we’re just a couple of months out from the end of the year, and there’s quite a few albums in the news these days. Adele heralded her big return with a new song this month, and Coldplay has announced a worldwide tour. Speaking of tours, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are embarking on a global tour in 2022, and proved their legendary status by pulling the Strokes as a co-tourer and opener. Meanwhile, the lockdown era continues to deliver collaborations from artists that were creatively cooped up for months at a time, with new collab albums from Elton John and Kylie Minogue announced & planned. With all of that happening, be sure to check out our monthly playlist for October 2021.

“What a Life” by Big Sean and Hit-Boy

American musicians Big Sean and Hit-Boy just released a six-song EP called What You Expect, from which the first single was “What a Life”. The song features a smooth, tight beat that provides the background to an autobiographical monologue of sorts from Big Sean. The rapper reflects on where he is in life (“I’m at the point where a nigga finally famous / Give a fuck about no fame”) and his choice to more or less perform on his own two feet (“And I’m on stage by myself, ain’t with the hype man”). He doesn’t lose sight of what he’s achieved so far, though, leading to the titular statement: “Only get one life, swear I almost died twice / I went triple platinum more than three times, what a life, man.” Overall, it’s a nice, catchy song from the duo and a good impetus to check out the rest of the album.

“The Hardest Cut” by Spoon

Austin rockers Spoon are wading into the limelight once again, with a New Years’ show announced in their hometown and a new single, “The Hardest Cut”, out earlier this month. They are leading up to their tenth (!) studio album Lucifer on the Sofa, set to release on Feb. 11th in the new year. “The Hardest Cut” is a rollicking good time, built on Spoon’s typical driving beats and Britt Daniel’s cool-guy vocals. Here’s hoping Lucifer on the Sofa is a worthy follow-up to 2017’s lovely Hot Thoughts.

“Kiss of Life” by Kylie Minogue feat. Jessie Ware

“Kiss of Life” is the lead single from Kylie Minogue’s Disco: Guest List Edition, an extended play version of 2020’s Disco with tons of goodies – such as collabs with other artists that fit well with her current disco-glam sound. Among other pop stars of the day, foremost in that sonic space are of course Dua Lipa and Jessie Ware. Kylie and Dua have already collaborated on a remix version of “Real Groove”, which is duly included on the Disco: Guest List Edition album. Now it’s Jessie’s turn – and what a turn it is. “Kiss of Life” is a boisterous track straight out of a disco dancefloor, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a banger for today’s tastes. Jazzy horns and a relentless beat provide the perfect foil for the sultry murmurings of Jessie and Kylie, and it’s simply impossible to keep your feet still when the ladies get into the chorus. Disco: Guest List Edition is due to release on November 12th.

“Trouble in Paradise” by The F16s

Indian indie rock band the F16s are back with a new album entitled Is It Time to Eat the Rich Yet? The five-track album features the band’s trademark mix of chilled-out guitars, synths and lead singer Joshua Fernandez’s pop-rock vocals. “Trouble in Paradise” opens with an interplay between jazzy horns and staccato keys, and the band keeps it peppy throughout the track. The F16s have been big in India for years now, with a sizeable cult following throughout the rest of the world, but global recognition is long overdue. Hopefully this is the album that gets them there.

“Secrets (Your Fire)” by Magdalena Bay

Magdalena Bay, consisting of singer-songwriter Mica Tenenbaum and producer Matthew Levin, is one of the most prolific young bands out there. The LA-based duo started steadily putting out singles from 2016, and most of those tracks ended up across two mixtapes and three extended plays between 2019 and 2020. Now the band is out with their debut album Mercurial World – a slinky, synth-heavy album that plays to the 80s vibes in many of today’s top pop stars (see: Kylie / Jessie above). “Secrets (Your Fire)” is like a musical version of the chillwave meme that you may have seen around online – capturing the essence and nostalgia of the synth-pop 80s and technologically nascent 90s, but upgraded for modern times. It’s a blissfully fun track that serves as a great introduction to the young duo, and we can’t wait to hear more. As a bonus: check out their website, made to look pretty much like any poorly designed website from the late 90s. These folks should be friends with Glass Animals.  

%d bloggers like this: