Slow is the second single to come from Stockholm based musician Soma. Whilst this is actually a break-up song, it positively bursts with an infectious form of excitement. If this is a break-up song then it surely depicts the kind of break-up where you still can’t help but feel head-over-heels with the person you are having to face moving on without.
Soma and her collaborators wanted to try and keep the feeling of their original demo and so managed to avoid polishing it too much, and the result is a track that reeks of Prince, in a rather wonderful way. It boasts bold melodies, some lovely analogue sounding 80s bass and the kind of snappy, treble-heavy pop sensibilities you just don’t get these days. There is also a wonderful gospel moment towards the end, a bridge that sees the majority of the instrumentation drop away so the vocals can really shine. In addition to Prince, this reminds me of Nenah Cherry... The same energy that makes Buffalo Stance one of my all-time favourites is audible here.
Slow is one of those songs that I just can't stop listening to - a pleasure to receive and one of those tracks I just can’t help but want to share. Check it out below:
Having found some fame in TV commercials and appearances in the soundtrack to Riverdale and American Horror Story, Hunter As A Horse are back after a two year hiatus with a new EP, their third, in the form of Walk With Me.
New Light is a softly played melodic ballad that worms it’s way into your ear through gracefully free falling synths, muted guitars and soft drums. Hushed vocals deliver a deadpan performance that capture a feeling of a disillusionment, and it’s all very reminiscent of Au Revoir Simone.
Hunter As A Horse describe New Light as “dreamy 80s tinged nostalgia portraying friendship, sharing experiences and living in the moment”. Vocalist Mia says:
“New Light is a nostalgic song about my childhood friends and how quickly it all passed while we believed we were immune to growing up. It’s about how we lived so much in the moment and full out as kids that we didn’t even notice time passing. And how just the way the sun shines can be powerful enough to bring you back to a time when things felt alive and wondrous.”
Having already been tipped by the likes of Zane Loew, Isaac Dunbar’s latest single Cologne comes to us pre-packaged with a fair amount of hype, and a collection of press photos that look like they were made by someone that specialises in helping others become ‘Instagram famous’.
Thankfully the music here lives up to it’s window dressing - it’s a shade throwing break-up anthem for the rejected. Cologne feels like the kind of bitter and narcissistic WhatsApp ramblings we can all find ourselves jotting out after a few craft beers on an empty stomach. The production swirls around Dunbar’s sense of disappointment with the air of self-delusion... He notes the that the subject of his record isn’t likely to change, yet finds himself unable to move on all the same. Jealous and dejected, Dunbar seems unable to know what to do other than rely on his cologne and Gucci.
My advice? Buy new cologne and find someone else... But in the meantime, I’m going to have another drink and stick this on one last time...
California slips its way into the space between your ears and the gap in your chest in a disconcerting way - before you know it, you’re following it down dusty alleys and through abandoned parks, unsure quite what’s in store or how you got there. The new song from Drinker is deceptive, slowly lulling you in, pulling you closer without you ever noticing, hand clasped around your neck, pulling you in close enough to feel it’s breath.
Drinker started life in NY as a vehicle for duo Aaron Mendelsohn and Ariel Loh. The pair shared a love of Fever Ray, Bon Iver and James Blake, but to me this sounds more like (Norwegian musician) Magnet fronting Beach House. Following Mendelsohn’s move to LA, the duo started collaborating remotely. The resulting album, appropriately named Fragments, will be released this spring through B3SCI Records.
Creeping in with a gentle guitar melody and hushed vocal harmonies, it isn’t until the chorus fell into my lap that I realised I was a little bit in love with this one. That opening verse, slightly uncertain and cautious, giving way to that beautiful male-female duet and a gentle beat and bass melody. Mendelsohn’s vocals pick there way amongst the instrument like a child gingerly clambering across rock pools - both excited and a little scared by what they might find beneath the surface.
California was written following Mendelsohn’s move to LA, a depiction of his experience of leaving somewhere he knew in exchange for something he likens “to a mirage, in California”. Describing his experience, the artist says:
“The California dream, which I think is a certain specific version of the American Dream based in entertainment...was all around me. The way the people try to climb the ladder, with no shame in their methods, made me wonder if I could keep climbing in my tactful way... Over time I have come to embrace the culture of LA that embraces the chase and the display of the hustle, but I wrote this in the early days when what was supposed to be a dream was seeming all too real.”
There is a haunting, organic feeling here - chillwave played on real instruments - and the result is a little bit staggering.
Sabotage is the new track from SoCal native Emma Kern.
With a focus on making knowing pop music for a the millennial generation, the track features production work from Charlie Bryce Wallace. Wallace creates a feel that feels polished, whilst also maintaining a little of a bit of a raw edge.
The main draw in Sabotage for me is that killer chorus... As Kern belts out the lines “I always sabotage myself”, you know just how true that can feel. She creates the feeling of dancing through your problems with a sense of determination... A realisation what her problem is, and half-celebrating it before (hopefully) moving on.
Swimming in baggy and loose sun kissed chords and rhythms, Feels is the latest track from Cologne-based musician Marvin Mauelshagen. Working as LUNAS, Marvin has found his groove making electronic music with a touch of garage and house blended to create a sense of urban movement.
Following on from 2017’s breakout single Night Out, Feels is LUNAS’ debut single for Berlin label Guesstimate and the first track to be taken from a forthcoming EP, due to be released later this year.
For a song that carries the central line, “If you wanna feel, do it”, Feels actually exhibits a surprising dose of melancholy... Rather than celebrating a feeling, the song leaves me wondering if that feeling comes at some sort of a cost, or whether it is simply about the desire to feel something when faced with a sense of withdrawal or apathy. Regardless, the song captures the feeling of seeking out pleasure within European cities in the summer - beats echoing amongst narrow alleyways, the cooling feeling of falling through pools of shade that collect between pockets of hot midday sun. Yet it also feels a little like the pleasure we seek comes with its own cost.
Coming from LA-based R&B artist Zachariah, Thinking About You is the kind of song that bristles with emotional gravity... The sort of record that sounds like someone lost in the throws of what they feel.
With hushed, whispered vocals, loose elastic bass and a stop-start-will-they-won’t-they rhythm, everything about this record feels like it’s about bubble over. It’s the overwhelming uncertainty that comes with a really intense form of love - that constant feeling of “If I feel this strongly about you, how can you possibly feel anything comparable about me”. In some ways, this is the feeling of becoming incredibly close to someone... And yet as Zachariah pleads, “Can’t you stop thinking about me too?”, you sense the loneliness, the seeming impossibility of fulfilment and release.
Describing the track, Zachariah says:
“Thinking About You is about the beginning of a relationship - and the uncertainty of it all. It's the possibility of someone thinking of you and just that being the most exciting thing. Early parts of love are the best-- you're kind of in a fever dream of sorts. It feels like everything- the night, seasons, music, exist only for the two of you. I wanted to capture that feeling in this song.”
Ayelle is a Swedish-Iranian musician and songwriter who grew up in Sweden and Spain before moving to London. Having received a PRS Women Make Music grant, Ayelle has focused on creating music the explores power dynamics in relationships, self-referection and challenging the status quo.
Regrets captures a sense of a desire to move forwards and be more accepting of what we are now. The tension we feel when we lack security - the need to project a sense of normality and confidence, when inside what we feel is often very different. Describing the motivation behind the record, and her collaboration with Akacia, Ayelle says:
“Regrets is about the anxiety involved in keeping up appearances and longing for something more. Akacia and I started working on the track remotely last year and brought it to BB who's production really brought it to life.”
The result is a track that feels raw and emotional, yet brims with a growing sense of self-confidence and vulnerability. Synths gently pan and bass rumbles as Ayelle’s cut-up vocals perform a form of melodic gymnastics between a series of verses that feel soothing in the simplicity. Regrets is both minimal, and also sophisticated in its application of detail.
Sometimes a track has the ability to capture a feeling through the subtlest of details. Taught Abroad is the musical creation of Chicago multi-instrumentalist Chris Sadek, who plays and performs every instrument, vocal and sound in his music.
You need to keep listening. Because Lovely starts with a relatively minimal aesthetic - a slightly bruised sounding vocal, an almost-too-simply four-four beat, a touch of organ, some synths, but then something happens. The first couple of minutes feel loving, but not transcendent. And then, at two-minutes-and-twenty-seconds, it all changes. A touch of echo consumes the vocal, the instrumentation takes on a sense of weightlessness, and in doing so Lovely suddenly begins to feel less like a moment and a little more like forever. It’s a moment that reminds me of the similarly beautiful takeoff that gradually unfolds on Junior Boys’ Banana Ripple, one of my all time favourite songs.
That transcendent moment somehow creates a whole new feeling. In one moment, Sadek seemingly goes from being there, with us, to existing on a different plane. His love is no longer momentary and tied to a point in time - it’s scope feels expanded, omnipresent, endless and timeless. It’s the sound of a person telling you they will always love you, and you really believing it, of deriving security from that endless feeling. Chris goes from being a musician in a room to a feeling in the atmosphere. It’s impressive and touching and I can’t help but feel a little bit more love in the world when this sound exists... And whilst I wish the final two minutes of this record went on for longer, the beauty of music is that once it exists, it is almost impossible to lose. Just like the feeling Lovely evokes, the love captured by Taught Abroad here is now caught in amber, and it won’t ever leave us. Take some security from that.
Brunette are a Brooklyn based duo (that’s New York City, fact fans!), comprised of Sho and Adrien Epsy. Apparently they also need to drink more water, and call their moms (that’s mums, English people and anglophiles)! Brunette also make music inspired by the likes of D’Angelo, Jai Paul and Kaytranada, which puts them firmly in my wheelhouse.
Their song Wash Out is an exploration of the uncertain yet thrilling experience that comes from existing in a ‘vaguely defined’ romantic relationship... Living with the pressure of something that could either be a brief fling, or a life-defining experience.
What struck me about Wash Out is the way it takes a really stripped back musical production and layers it with a vocal performance that feels both effortless yet impassioned. It is yearning and yet somehow carries it with swagger. Snatched vocals combine to create brief harmonies that give this a real feeling of power, the stripped back electronic bass lines and sharp drum hits only emphasising that.