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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:

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:

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.

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.  

New Artist Roundup: Aug. 2021

13 Sep

This month’s New Artist Roundup includes everything from indie rock to psychedelic, through submissions from all over the world. With the transition from summer to fall (or fall to summer) for much of the world, it’s a very fruitful period for songwriting in general, and this month’s submissions proved that to the tee. Read on for our top five picks from new artists this month!

Interested in getting featured in our next New Artist Roundup? Don’t forget to email us your music at artists.tfr@gmail.com!

“Place I Stay” by Funeral Lakes

Funeral Lakes is a two-piece outfit based out of Kingston, Ontario – “a small city where the St. Lawrence and Cataraqui rivers meet”, in their own words. Their background in a mid-tier town in the Great White North seems to seep into their folksy, jangly tunes. On August 20th, the duo (consisting of Chris Hemer and Sam Mishos) released their third album Redeemer – which “explores the meanings of faith and justice, interrogating the tension between them”, according to the artists. Our pick from the album is “Place I Stay”, which creates a quirky folk / rock vibe by mixing driving drums and guitars against gentle, echoing vocals. Lyrically, the song features themes of divine retribution “Descend, Holy Father / Cut them down like flowers” but there seems to be multiple parties at play. Interesting track and an interesting sound from the Ontario band.

Website

“Cosmic Saturation” by The Velveteins

The Velveteins describe their sound as a bridge between the bright psychedelia of the 1960’s and the indie rock explosion of the new millennium – and we must say, the first song of theirs that we heard fits that description to a tee. “Cosmic Saturation” features surf-rock guitars, relaxed vocals and a harmonized chorus that instantly elicit a throwback to the Beatles and such. But also, as the band themselves point out, the song’s guitar solo melodies and soft drums are definitely pulled from the catalogs of the Strokes, the Vines or any number of early aughts indie rock bands. This is definitely a band to watch, folks – don’t sleep on the Velveteins!

Website | Press

“Busy Body” by Cassie Marin

Cassie Marin is a young vocalist, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Los Angeles. She spent much of her childhood training for Olympic-level gymnastics until an injury cut short her aspirations at 13. Since then, Marin has found solace in her music, and says that she carries the same grit and self-discipline that inspired her Olympic dreams into her new chosen field. On “Busy Body”, you can start to see what she’s talking about. The song is meticulously produced, with woozy synths that somehow add melody and layers at the same time. Her dusky vocals – think Awkwafina’s speaking voice – give the track an air of unruliness. Lyrically, “‘Busy Body’ is about being a loner in a world where cliques never cease to exist,” says the young singer.

Website | Press

“Bubblegum” by Tommy Newport

Tommy Newport is a young Kansas-based musician with a surprisingly long list of commercial mentions under his belt. Last year, his song “Future Man” was featured in an ad for Apple’s iPad. Some of his other tracks have even been reportedly been used in TV shows such as What/If and Ballers. The sound behind his success seems to be a mix of groovy basslines, sharp drums and occasionally a hazy, Glass Animals-esque vibe. His latest track, “Bubblegum”, is a great example of that specific sonic profile. “Bubblegum is a love song about wanting to be wrapped up together like a piece of candy and keep all the sweetness inside…The message on this one is simple: Love is sweet,” said Newport. “Bubblegum” is a chill, sweet song that perfectly encapsulates an end-of-summer vibe.

Website | Press

“Moonbeams” by Fulton Lee

Fulton Lee seems like what one would call an old soul. The Nashville, Tennessee-based musician bills himself as a retro soul / pop artist, and seems to dress exclusively in ‘50s rock and roll outfits and associated hairstyles. But don’t let looks deceive you – his music has a very modern take on an old classic sound. The vocals on “Moonbeams”, his latest track, wouldn’t be out of place in a Buddy Holly tribute band’s repertoire, but the crisp production and multi-instrumental pop hook are definitely sounds of today. Fulton Lee is the freshest of fresh finds with the voice, production and aesthetic vision to make it big; and we recommend you take a spin through this song immediately. If you liked this track, be sure to check out the John Mayer-esque “The Wire”, which already has almost 2 million (!) streams on Spotify.

Website

Interested in getting featured in our next New Artist Roundup? Don’t forget to email us your music at artists.tfr@gmail.com!

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