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Monthly Playlist: Aug. 2022

6 Sep

Our playlist for August 2022 is an eclectic mix of artists you definitely know about and those that you probably should know about. Come along with us for a spin of the top five tracks last month – read on below!

“STEPMOM” by DACEY

DACEY is a Canadian duo consisting of the eponymous lead singer Dacey Andrada and instrumentalist Justin Tecson. The duo has had a few minor hits in the flavor of indie / R&B, including “Sidewalks” (2019) and the mellower “Broccoli’s Keeper” (2020), culminating in a short album including those two songs in 2021 called Satin’s Keeper. They’ve had a few tracks since then, but “STEPMOM” immediately stands out with its Hot Chip-esque opening beats and frantic pace. The tempo hardly slows down for the rest of the fun three-minute track, showcasing Dacey’s expressive vocals and the drum machine-like beats in particular.

“strawberry chainsaw” by JAWNY

Indie pop singer-songwriter JAWNY first gained prominence with 2019’s “Honeypie” – one of those inherently catchy pop songs that you’ve likely heard on one of countless Spotify-created playlists. He parlayed that track into a signing with Interscope Records and a major label debut (2020’s mixtape For Abby) which saw moderate success as well. Now he’s back with “strawberry chainsaw”, a jangly, feel-good pop track that immediately evokes summery nostalgia. Imagine this song on the soundtrack for the Gen Z coming-of-age teenage movie like Juno, and you’ll have a good idea of the vibes on these two-and-a-half minutes. 

“New Gold” by Gorillaz feat. Tame Impala and Bootie Brown

We already loved the first new Gorillaz track “Cracker Island” back when it came out in June. Last month, Gorillaz announced that the song was actually the starting point for an entire album (also called Cracker Island) which is expected to be released in Feb. 2023. As part of the announcement, the virtual band released “New Gold” featuring psychedelic rock act Tame Impala and longtime Gorillaz collaborator, American rapper Bootie Brown. “New Gold” is an old-school Gorillaz song with equal measures of deft beats, peppy rap verses, and an air of psychedelia – naturally helped along by the masterful Kevin Parker. We’ll see whether Cracker Island matches the brilliance of 2020’s Song Machine – but with a track like this, signs sure are positive.

“SEX APPEAL” by BLACKSTARKIDS

BLACKSTARKIDS are an alternative hip-hop trio from Kansas City consisting of TheBabeGabe, TyFaizon, and Deiondre. They gained some prominence with the more pop-rock track “FRANKIE MUNIZ” on their third mixtape Whatever, Man (2020), but the sounds on their new “SEX APPEAL” blow that previous song out of the water. The track starts off with a bouncy, fun intro that’s almost reminiscent of Black Eyed Peas, and the siren-based beats and jagged rap verses remind the listener of The Neptunes – in a great way. Take it from us: BLACKSTARKIDS are about to make it big.

“Sweet Tooth” by Maya Hawke

Actor Maya Hawke is not just your favorite member of the older kid crew on Stranger Things. She’s also a singer-songwriter with decent indie pop credentials to her name – and she showcases that beautifully on the lilting, gentle “Sweet Tooth”. Maya’s vocals may be radio-ready, but the lyrics on closer inspection are wackier than your typical pop song. They center around teeth, as the title suggests, but there are plastic teeth, cherries replacing the gap where her molar used to be, and all sorts of other stream-of-consciousness thoughts. The fact that all this weirdness seems endearing is a testament to the sweetness of her voice and jangly guitars. 

Monthly Playlist: Jul. 2022

8 Aug

We are back with our best tracks from the month that was. Read on to hear some great tracks from Billie Eilish, Beyonce and more. And let us know your thoughts in the comments!

“TV” by Billie Eilish

After her sophomore album in 2021, Billie Eilish is back with her first pair of new tracks from a short EP entitled Guitar Songs. “TV”, one of these two tracks, is a haunting ode to Billie’s disappointment and depression about the current state of political reality, particularly in the US. She doesn’t want to much beyond watching TV (which no doubt exacerbates the problem), and bemoans how the American people around her are focusing on the Depp-Heard trial and other trivial things rather than on fundamental rights being revoked. The depressive, guitar-driven “TV” continues the tonal shift transition away from the electro-pop of her debut album and further into the more introspective journey that she’s been on since Happier than Ever.

“Free Yourself” by Jessie Ware

Modern-day British disco queen Jessie Ware is back with another banger after 2020’s excellent What’s Your Pleasure? “Free Yourself” – the lead single from her upcoming fifth album – is a funky, synth-driven modern disco track, complete with dramatic violin-note accentuations. Jessie’s vocals are as powerful as ever, ranging from soul on the chorus bits to sweet and sultry on the verses. Catchy as ever from the London-based singer-songwriter.

“Bitch I’m Nice” by Doechii

July presented a double-whammy from the up-and-coming Florida rapper Doechii (real name Jaylah Hickmon) whose rap style runs somewhere between Nicki’s loudmouthed arrogance, Little Simz’s beat-heavy flow and Doja Cat’s ability to turn a melody anywhere. “Bitch I’m Nice” starts strong and doesn’t let down anywhere on its short one-and-a-half runtime. Doechii’s monotone chorus is vaguely menacing, especially when paired against the oscillating synth staccatos in the background. Then in the same month, there was also “Persuasive”, a track featuring none other than SZA. That track showcased her sweeter R&B style vibe interspersed with the rap chops displayed on “Bitch I’m Nice”. Overall, July 2022 proved that Doechii is one to keep an eye on for sure.

“2 Be Loved” by Lizzo

In July 2022, Lizzo released her fourth studio album Special to moderate fanfare. The lion’s share of attention from the album has of course been on the mega-hit “About Damn Time” (we challenge you to turn on a popular radio station without the song coming up within the hour), but second and final single “2 Be Loved” is another notable track from the new album. “2 Be Loved” is a fun, synth-pop track that belies a darker undertone – lyrically, it’s about Lizzo’s journey of self-love that runs through embarrassment, low self-worth, shyness and more. Interesting track and probably the second highlight from the largely mediocre Special.

“Hold the Girl” by Rina Sawayama

“Hold the Girl” is the third single from Rina Sawayama’s sophomore album, entitled Hold the Girl, set to release in September 2022. The track is trademark-Rina – a mix of 90s and 00s music trends paired with Rina’s powerful vocals. This song in particular pays homage to early 00s pop with recognizable elements like dramatic violin-and-piano interludes and a dance-pop break-down in the chorus. Rina sounds more confident in her own skin on this track, and even more skilled at melding her own style with the early aughts vibes that she seeks to emulate. Good signs for the upcoming album! 

Monthly Playlist: Jun. 2022

11 Jul

Hello, and welcome to the Monthly Playlist for June 2022! We are halfway through the year and have had some big album releases already. Kendrick Lamar dropped his much-awaited new album, as did Bad Bunny. There were big albums from Radiohead-side project The Smile, superstar The Weeknd and hyped newcomers Wet Leg. For now, read on for our top picks for the sixth month of the year – and look for a mid-year list soon!

“BRAND NEW BITCH” by COBRAH

COBRAH is a Swedish musician specializing in the genre of hyperpop. If that makes you think of Charli XCX (side note: check out our album review of Charli’s latest!), you’re spot-on – COBRAH’s music falls in the same vein of pulsing, club-ready bangers that blur the line between pop and EDM. “BRAND NEW BITCH” is a party track about COBRAH’s ability to switch between fashionable looks – whether it’s Mugler or Versace – but always looking new, shiny, polished and (use your imagination) slimy. Of course the lyrics don’t really matter because ultimately this song is about the beat and how COBRAH’s vocal-fry pronouncements add a layer of freneticism that perfectly suits the post-COVID club scene. 

“<maybe> it’s my fault” by WILLOW

We’ll be honest – we haven’t been giving WILLOW her musical due. The singer-songwriter (and daughter of a famous and dare we say infamous couple) has been steadily coming into her own, especially over the past year or so. She had a feature from resurgent pop-princess Avril Lavigne on last year’s Lately I Feel Everything, and also put together a great track (“psychofreak”) with Camila Cabello earlier this year. With “<maybe> it’s my fault”, WILLOW has expertly combined a few of those elements, and the result is a pop-punk track about the confusion and angst of early-adulthood relationships. “It’s all in my mind, it’s all in my mind, I try to rewind and all of the while / I’m hurtin’ inside, it’s your fault, Maybe it’s my fault,” she sings, in between surprisingly heavy guitar riffs. Definitely a track that will put WILLOW on your radar if she isn’t there already.

“BREAK MY SOUL” by Beyonce

From the first 10 seconds of “BREAK MY SOUL”, you can instantly tell that this isn’t your father’s (or mother’s) Beyonce track. Afropop house music segues smoothly into Queen Bey intoning the title phrase a few times – apparently with the intention of soundtracking the Great Resignation. “Now, I just fell in love and I just quit my job / I’m gonna find new drive, Damn, they work me so damn hard,” she says and honestly – same. It’s a surprising, new sound for Beyonce, and one that makes us excited for the July 29th release of her new album Renaissance.

“Cracker Island” by Gorillaz feat. Thundercat

After a fantastic album in 2020, Gorillaz are back with another track, just in time for the summer / fall leg of their worldwide tour (and hopefully the release of Song Machine Vol. 2). “Cracker Island” features the jazzy bassist Thundercat on a track seemingly about a cult that sets up shop on their own island (?). In true Gorillaz fashion, the famously multimedia band announced “Cracker Island” in a press release where they have also encouraged fans to join “The Last Cult” – whatever that may be. Mysterious lyrics aside, the song itself is pitch-perfect Gorillaz, with catchy synths, Damon Albarn’s filtered vocals, and beautifully crisp production – with the added bonus of Thundercat’s irresistibly funky bass. Here’s hoping for a lot more soon from everyone’s favorite virtual band.

“Betty (Get Money)” by Yung Gravy

Who knew that the old Internet meme-slash-80s-hit “Never Gonna Give You Up” would work so well as a rap track sample? Not us, but apparently Yung Gravy did. “Betty (Get Money)” is a ridiculously catchy track that starts off with the chorus and unmistakable synth-violins of Rick Astley’s iconic hit, and it only gets better from there. Yung Gravy shines throughout the whole fun track with cool verses and clever flipped lines (try it yourself: sing “Never take a L no more, never take a damn thing slow / All I know is chase this dough And get money” to the original chorus). We hadn’t heard of Yung Gravy until this track, but he’s certainly on our radar now!

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. 

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.

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:

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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:

Top Five Albums of 2021 – Nikhil’s List

31 Dec

Above all else in 2021, there are two disappointments that naturally loom heavy. I can’t say that they don’t put a damper on wrap-up lists like this or that I don’t personally wish they were better, but to focus on them is to lose sight of a year that has had some particularly bright moments for music. We had a stellar debut album, some top-notch jazz and the consolidation of a rapper who has unquestionably found himself.

5. Tyler, The Creator – CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST

It’s still a little novel to see a mature Tyler. There was never any question when he started out that he was not only immensely talented but also a very intelligent and very sensitive young man, but did need to squint to see it through all the antics. Now, you would have to be blind to miss it.

Pairing with DJ Drama was a good start. The two feed off each other, each bringing out more fun, chaotic energy from the other and the occasional guest spot builds further upon that. It’s when he gets to telling stories though that the album is at its best though. His narrative of his friend’s girlfriend in “WILSHIRE” is one of the strongest stories that rap has ever dropped and the kind of thing that only Tyler could make. If you only listen to a single song from 2021, make it this one.

Read our full review here.

4. Low – HEY WHAT

I tend to see slowcore as soundscapes. They feel like murals, not miniatures. It’s music that you can see with unfocused eyes. HEY WHAT is music of that scale and yet intricate in its detail. There are thousands of thoughts, each expressed in tiny spaces. It’s very clever and very understated and somehow willing to reward you no matter how you approach it.

Read our full review here.

3. Olivia Rodrigo – SOUR

I’m not young anymore. I haven’t even felt young in a long time. SOUR wears its youth on its sleeve. This is about coming of age, of throwing yourself at a boy who doesn’t treat you right and of feeling your feelings. Olivia Rodrigo goes from heartbroken to honest to gloriously petty with the speed and the intensity that only teenagers can bring to bear and she does it all with startlingly clever lyrics and undeniable music. SOUR is nothing short of a phenomenon.

Read our full review here.

2. Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh, Tyshawn Sorey- Uneasy

You just can never really get a handle on Uneasy. This is an album that always stays just a little out of reach, that always keeps you just enough off balance that you cannot quite find your feet. It’s exhilarating in the way of an off-kilter roundabout and just as quick to leave you dizzy.

Jazz is at its best when it holds to its political roots and Uneasy does just that. It takes all of the disorientation that it builds with such intelligence and skill and uses that to remind you how unsettling the present day is and that icy water to the face is what makes this album truly excellent.

Read our full reveiw here.

1. Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, London Symphony Orchestra – Promises

I’m honestly still a little surprised that this collaboration happened, but it’s not at all surprising that the pieces all fit together so well. This style of nature-infused, spiritual music has offshoots in all of the styles of music represented here. However, it’s still magical to see it all come together.

It’s evocative and yet fully detailed. You can feel the forest and every living being all at once and yet the austerity of nature gets tempered by a wonderfully human saxophone and so the whole lifts you further and further to the point where even the silence after the album finishes is suffused with its glow.

Read our full review here.

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