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Reviews Roundups

2021 Roundup

Dear friends,

If 2020 was purgatory, 2021 was hellfire. Both personally and universally, 2021 was an absolute mess. Throughout the year, I felt as though I was missing something from music. I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I used to enjoy it. One could call it depression, some may call it “being in a funk.” However you spin it, I was frustrated with myself. Here, with the world at my fingertips, with the help of the supercomputers we’re all so dearly attached to– and yet, no interest in what once was my refuge. So imagine my annoyance when I sat down to write the annual roundup for TGG. No, really, just imagine it. Me, staring at a blank white page on my computer screen, sifting through my library, in an attempt to scrounge for enough to create a list worth writing about. “Impossible,” I thought to myself with Imposter Syndrome pumping through my veins, “Nobody cares and nobody wants to read old news.” 

Upon further reflection of the previous year, I’d realized that I had actually enjoyed quite a lot of music this year. Then– faint, like a whisper in a long hallway, a different thought came to me. What if you just wrote about what you want to write about, how you want to write about it? The little devil on my shoulder taunted me. I couldn’t do that, could I?

I could, and I did. Enjoy. 

XOXO, Jessica

Heaux Tales – Jazmine Sullivan (2021)

At the top of a somewhat chronological list, we have Jazmine Sullivan’s EP, Heaux Tales. Although 2021 ultimately felt like scraping the barrel for music, there were a few exceptional releases. Sullivan’s January release of Heaux Tales presented me with hope for the year to come. As a single woman in her late 20s, it felt like Jazmine was singing directly to me. With anecdotal interludes about relationships and sex, Sullivan and company created an experience similar to a night in with the girls, sipping wine and talking shit.
Favorite tracks & interludes: “Put It Down,” “On It” (with the ever-lovely, ever-real Ari Lennox), “Donna’s Tale”

Come Over – Kowloon (2021)

Up next, we have Los Angeles musician and filmmaker, Kowloon’s Come Over. In addition to the ladies of R&B, Kowloon’s debut album restored my faith in music in 2021. Written, recorded and mixed entirely in Kowloon’s apartment, Come Over is, essentially, a post-apocalyptic love story with hefty amounts of tragedy weaved throughout. Kowloon’s voice– reminiscent of Matt Berninger of The National– exudes a natural melancholy that bodes incredibly well in contrast to the somewhat upbeat, 80s-inspired instrumentation.
Favorite tracks: “Life In Japan,” “Wake Up,” “Paradise”

Skin – Joy Crookes (2021)

British singer-songwriter and TGG favorite, Joy Crookes, released her debut album, Skin, in October. A soul album with jazzy instrumentals (think: brass, wind, bass– all of our favorites, and lots of it), Skin was a breath of fresh air among some questionable releases this year. Crookes’s raspy vocals paired perfectly with timeless lyrics and violins on “To Lose Someone” should be enough for you to consider giving the rest of the album a spin.
Favorite Tracks: “Skin,” “To Lose Someone,” “When You Were Mine”

Vince Staples – Vince Staples (2021)

July was, by far, the best month for music in 2021. With artists like Charlotte Day Wilson, Snoh Aalegra, Isaiah Rashad and many others releasing full length albums, I was almost overwhelmed. Joining my July playlist of “to-listen-tos” was Vince Staples, who released a self-titled EP, produced by Kenny Beats. Clocking in at just over 22 minutes, Vince Staples was easily one of my favorite releases this year. A more mature project, Vince Staples highlights Staples’s best attribute: his ability to interweave humor with somewhat grim lyrical content. Vince Staples is an artist with an abundance of personality; with this EP, we’re privy to just one evolution (of, hopefully, many more) of the spectrum of his character.
Favorite tracks: “The Shining,” “Take Me Home,” “Law of Averages”

Inside Out – Nilüfer Yanya (2021)

London-born singer-songwriter, Nilüfer Yanya, released 7-track EP, Inside Out ahead of her upcoming sophomore album, PAINLESS, in October. Yanya’s unique voice maneuvers itself over airy melodies and ear-catching chord progressions so well that you almost forget about the somber lyrical content. A collection of previously released and unreleased tracks, Inside Out‘s sequencing is what left a lasting impression on me. The steady transition from anger and confusion on “The Florist” to dismal melancholy and fear on “Sliding Doors” presents a full range of emotion to sift through, both sonically and lyrically.
Favorite tracks: “Sliding Doors,” “Thanks 4 Nothing,” “Small Crimes”

Limbo Cherry – LAUREL (2021)

“I was expecting a lot of people who did listen to my old music to maybe say they weren’t liking the new music,” LAUREL shared with Pile Rats earlier this year. “Sometimes people want us to just stay the same, and not change anything.” As a continuation of her 2020 pop rebrand, UK’s LAUREL released her EP, Limbo Cherry in June. The artist made last year’s roundup with the first ideation of her newfound sound, Petrol Bloom. With the four-track collection, Limbo Cherry seems an apt sequel of exploration of sound and artist persona for LAUREL. 
Favorite tracks: “You’re the One,” “Wild Side”

The House is Burning – Isaiah Rashad (2021)

The long awaited third studio album from TDE’s Isaiah Rashad presented another glimmer of hope for music in the previous year. This one, I couldn’t wait to spin. With a five-year gap in his discography, it’s guaranteed that Rashad felt the pressure of millions to conceive a project that would be as indelible as 2016’s The Sun’s Tirade. I’d wager he succeeded in those endeavors with The House Is Burning. Rashad enlisted the talents of several others on THIB, including the talented Amindi. 
Favorite tracks: “Darkseid,” “HB2U,” “Lay Wit Ya”

A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun – Aly & AJ (2021)

Keeping up with the alt-pop rebrand trend, up next we have Aly & AJ‘s Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun. The duo’s fourth studio album follows 2020’s We Don’t Stop, a project that I also thoroughly enjoyed (“Take Me” was at the top of my “Dance Alone and Drink Wine” playlist– don’t judge me). A Touch of the Beat is a 47-minute drive along the coast, with the wind and groovy basslines intertwining your fingers and tangling your hair. Forgive me, but listening to it makes me wanna leave it all behind.
Favorite tracks: “Slow Dancing,” “Lost Cause”

soft thing – LOONY (2021)

Neo-soul songstress, LOONY released soft thing, an 8-track EP in June. LOONY wears her heart on her sleeve with soft thing. Beautifully narrating the charms of unabashed vulnerability and trust in love with tracks like “raw” and “mine,” soft thing ended up being one of my favorite releases this year.
Favorite tracks: “beg,” “ours”

A Good Night in the Ghetto – Kamaiyah (2016)

This one is just for fun. Although fashionably late to the kickback, coming across Kamaiyah‘s 2016 mixtape was the most enjoyable musical experience I had this summer. When personal problems felt overwhelming, I called on Kamaiyah to remind me to, despite everything, “live every damn day like it’s Friday.” With bangers like “Ain’t Goin Home,” A Good Night in the Ghetto transports us back to a simpler time, when going out was more socially acceptable.
Favorite tracks: “Freaky Freaks,” “Mo Money Mo Problems”

Honorable Mentions:

Elephant in the Room – Mick Jenkins
Home Video – Lucy Dacus
the melodic blue – Baby Keem
Not Your Muse – Celeste
Both All the Time – Faye Webster
USEE4YOURSELF – IDK
Alpha – Charlotte Day Wilson
Lionel Boy – Lionel Boy
Lyrics To Go Vol. 2 – Kota The Friend

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Interviews Reviews

Can You Always Go Home? Canadian Folk Singer-Songwriter Cassidy Waring Debuts Lonesome Reunion

An album that feels like an unchaperoned walk through dark and empty streets on a holiday back home– Lonesome Reunion is Cassidy Waring’s tormented debut.

Picture: families cozied up in warm houses, with bellies full and throats sore from a healthy balance of laughter and bickering as you carry on with your solitary stroll. Canadian folk singer-songwriter, Cassidy Waring‘s Lonesome Reunion is comparable to holding a snow globe. As an omnipotent outsider, you peer into a world so perfect, it’s almost fictitious. Knowing that life imitates art somehow makes beholding this tiny treasure more isolating– to know there are little towns with little houses and little families as happy as the replica you hold in your hands and yet, still so far removed from you.

Cassidy Waring photographed by Emile Benjamin

Everything you lose, needs to lose you.

Waring, “Everything You Lose”

A poignant, personal display of loss of innocence, Lonesome Reunion is somewhat of a study on the complexities of family and grief. Recorded and mastered by producer Jonathon Anderson, Lonesome Reunion features deep, folk-rooted instrumentals and sweeping, catchy melodies. Waring’s debut came to fruition after she sat for hours on end watching old VHS tapes of her family. The album’s intro, “Everybody’s Good,” features audio from one of these tapes. In the intro, we hear intimate, playful banter between Waring’s grandfather– to whom she affectionately refers as “Grandug”– and then-3-year-old Waring. “The tapes have become fascinating to watch because they are such a contrast to my painful memories as a teenager,” Waring stated in an email to The Greater Good.

The tapes, to Waring, are an ode to the glory of innocence and blissful ignorance only possessed in early childhood. “Part of me is comforted by them, they have served as proof that I have never been wrong about the amount of love and warmth that surrounded me as a kid and that we really were as happy and healthy as everyone remembers. It’s also confusing and devastating to watch these videos knowing what will happen for us in the future,” Waring stated. “When I was seventeen my mom died and her cause of death was chronic ethanol abuse,” the artist shared with me. “She and I were still very close when she passed. The main statement from anyone in and around my family is usually ‘But they were so happy, what happened?'”

Lonesome Reunion cover photo by Emile Benjamin

On the outside, Waring’s family could have lived in that aforementioned snow globe: “We were one of those families that went on bike rides together every week and talked about our feelings at the dinner table. It’s something I am still trying to understand, what pulled both my parents into addiction when I was about twelve. Very quickly, our house became a dangerous place to be, physically and mentally. I’ve just been trying to understand both of my parents and their relationship in a deeper way, after the fact.”

Waring released a music video for the fourth track on the album in September. In it, we see the songwriter through several days of sitting in front of an old CRT TV, captivated by family pictures in motion. “Leaving” is a wistful track about managing grief, with guitars sounding similar to what you may find yourself doing after listening this song (crying). I’d wager it nearly impossible not to feel a catch in your throat as Waring sings, “If I believed in ghosts, would you haunt me just to talk?”

Led by melancholy piano keys, “Everything You Lose” is another painfully intimate look into the stages of grief. The song was written after Waring experienced a series of losses including the ending of a romantic relationship and the break-up of her last band, all while still grappling with the loss of family years later. “I lost the sympathy cards from my mother’s funeral,” Waring sings.

When asked about this line, Waring said she was with her boyfriend at the time when she lost them: “Someone broke into his car in the mall parking lot and stole everything, including my big stack of unopened sympathy cards everyone gave me– I wasn’t ready to open them yet. What are the chances! After that verse poured out, so did the rest of the song.” Waring sings, “Everything you lose, needs to lose you.” Perhaps that sentiment works in reverse and everything that finds you, needs to find you.

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Reviews

Fana Hues: “Hues” EP Review

Although Hues was released in December of 2020, it was a project I recently revisited with fresh ears. Subsequently, I felt called to write about it. I felt “called,” in part, as an act of defiance against the collective obsession with “newness,” and partly out of sheer guilt and shame for not having written about it in the first place.

Hues’s music is similar to that of Solange– amorphous by genre and nature, and equally captivating. Though not technically an album but rather an assemblage of previously released and unreleased tracks, Hues contains all the necessary qualities to be considered a concise body of work. My only complaint being that it seems each bite-sized interlude only leaves me wanting more of the story. A combination of next-to-perfect sequencing and, at times, jarring instrumentals, Hues carries us down a mystical path on the outskirts of society, with various obstacles and challenges along the way.

The intro, “Slippin,” serves as our call to adventure– a haunting, bluesy warning sign, begging us to turn back while simultaneously luring us further into the river. Wasting no time, we transition into “Notice Me,” the EP’s siren song and the true genesis of our expedition. Like the solace of sunlight peeking through the blanket of darkness and tree limbs overhead, Hues sings of perceived romance on “Lay Up.” With daintily melodic deep sighs, the tale of “Icarus” reminds us who is both the hero and the villain in this story.

With perhaps the most harmonious transition on Hues, we experience the first tragedy of our journey. On “If Ever,” its hair-raising instrumentation and melancholy lyrics leave us yearning for a long lost companion on this quest. The track effortlessly seeps into its foreboding successor, “Ends.” “You know how this ends, don’t you? Just like I do,” Hues sings.

Before becoming too comfortable with our new, lonely reality down on the stream, we’re reminded of treachery that’s afoot with “snakes x elephants.” We mustn’t linger too long, as Hues sings, “Snakes and elephants they crowd the room / No room for comfort / Lost all time to stop and lick my wounds, nor would I want to.” Nearing the end of our haunt, Hues ever-so-gracefully sings of heartbreak while pondering self-worth on “Desert Flower.” Then, as though we’ve abruptly woken from a poison-induced daze, we hear the EP’s deepest cut, “Death on the Vine.”

After drifting past the last rocks of the riverbed, we find our final resting place. Hues’s final track, “Yellow” is a bright, welcoming meadow. The pleasant destination serves as a reminder that traveling off the beaten path, though sometimes unnerving or intimidating, may ultimately lead to peace and prosperity. Thus, our journey is complete as we approach the meadow, having lived to tell the tale.

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Interviews

New York-based, Independent Artist Alé Debuts “The Party”

Parties are a very public experience. You’re surrounded by people. It’s loud. You’re meant to be happy. When Alé writes about the experience of a party, it’s much more personal. 

In his upcoming EP titled The Party, the singer, songwriter, and producer takes us through a real scenario he experienced over the course of just two nights. “I ran into an ex-girlfriend at a party, and I was thrown off by the fact that I was experiencing so many emotions seeing her, but I was in public.” It’s the idea of needing to show that you’re doing well, that you’re good and happy and positive, when you really need closure from that past experience. It was a challenging experience for Alé, managing “the emotional dynamic of trying to put on a brave face in the group of people you want to impress, while running into someone who you used to know. The hardest thing to do is fake the feeling.” It’s a blur of two moments in someone’s life. “It’s not like a party, it’s the party.” 

In speaking to Alé about this experience, he summarizes by stating, “overall, it’s just about being a kid in the city and taking influences from its madness. The cultural speed of the city makes it so I’m highly stimulated all the time.” Traditionally known as a phenomenal guitar player, Alé chose to base the majority of the EP on synthesis song design, with only one track based on guitar. He sees this as his own “act of rebellion” in  his musical journey, fully producing and mixing each track. 

“I’m in a scene of people who are messing with the rules of sound within music. It’s a wave we’re all riding.” 

For Alé, he wouldn’t want to put music out any other way. Knowing that he gets to choose every song and moment related to the song makes him feel that the tracks mirror himself artistically. He says, “a lot of the lyrical content is straight out of the actual story, so it’s about me getting closure for myself. This EP is a tale of being a teenager in love in a city where everything is so mad.” 

The theme of “The Party”  matches perfectly with Alé’s sound. In establishing this, “it always comes back to playing blues guitar.” He adds components of rock and roll, r&b, and soul that stuck with him throughout his experiences at the Conservatory and Little Kids Rock program, mixed with the aesthetic influence of hyperpop. Combining the classic pop 2000s song with his musical background and sprinkling in the sound design of hyperpop has led to his unique sound in “The Party.” Ultimately, Alé has resonated with the idea of pushing the boundaries of music sonically: “I really dig that on a scene level. I’m in a scene of people who are messing with the rules of sound within music. It’s a wave we’re all riding.” 

Credit: Alexis Marshall

To promote his first EP release on November 12th, Alé performed at the Elsewhere space in New York City the day prior. Though far from his first performance, he notes that this show is special for several reasons. Alé says, “I’ve always gatekeeped my music, but this week I celebrate it.” 

Alé’s background has not only influenced his music but the way he performs live as well. As a kid, he began playing guitar at age 7. Throughout his adolescence, Alé continued to perfect his craft at the Little Kids Rock program, where he was introduced to jazz guitar. At 15, he had the opportunity to share the stage with enigmatic artists such as Green Day, Joan Jett, Alice Cooper, and Paul Shaffer. As a student at the Conservatory, “I always felt a bit nervous to share my singing and songwriting, because I’d always been the just the guitar player,” It wasn’t until he was accepted into the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU Tisch program, where he’s met artists who understand his musical persona, did he begin to feel comfortable enough to release and share his true sound. Ultimately, “this past Thursday performance was special because I celebrate the transition from being a musician for other people to an artist for myself.” 

For any artist, the goal is to keep writing new, influential music. For Alé, his goal is to write music and lyrics that wake people up to their feelings. By writing lyrics that are directed to you, the listener, he’s excited to think about where the future of his sound lies, and how he can develop a stronger sense of relatability. Alé said to me: “when you listen to music that you love, you feel like you can conquer the world.” It’s this mindset that makes me so sure of his future and so thrilled to listen to what’s to come.  

Molly MacDuff
Molly MacDuff

Molly MacDuff is a writer and editor currently attending Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing MA program.

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Reviews

DIY Band Uh Oh Releases New Single From Upcoming Album

Once it became clear that we were going to have to hibernate for awhile, we quickly decided that we wanted to keep the band afloat and stay in each others’ day-to-day lives by just writing more new music. 

Joe Champion, Uh Oh frontman

The unfolding of unfortunate events in the previous year or so created a rare vortex in which many were allotted some of life’s most precious currency: the time to create. Nebraska-based DIY band, Uh Oh made good use of their time apart and away from the stage by writing and recording their upcoming album, Good Morning. “When the world went into hibernation mode,” says the band’s frontman, Joe Champion, “we poured our hearts into writing this album remotely via demos and video chats while missing each other like crazy.”

The anticipation of an in-person meeting of the minds carried the band through their remote collaboration for months– until, post-vaccination, the four were finally able to reunite. Champion describes the homecoming as a giddy experience: “We all piled ourselves and our equipment into our bassist Erik’s house, set up the living room as our home base, gave each other a huge group hug, and then played music and goofed around and watched Space Jam and danced and sang and laughed for like 4 days.”

“There was a bunch of hard work happening too,” Champion continued, “nailing down our parts and experimenting with a bunch of new ideas and recording day and night, but it just felt so good being back together in person that every second was fun.”

There is absolutely nothing more fun and gratifying than playing music together, it’s always been therapeutic for us and we can’t wait to get back out there with these new songs in tow.

From left: Erik Trent, Mari Crisler, Joe Champion and Jay Jacobson

The band was created as the brainchild of frontman Joe Champion and bassist Erik Trent six years previous. Once drummer Jay Jacobson and frequent collaborator and co-songwriter Mari Crisler joined the group, “everything clicked into place,” says Champion. An example of the group’s effortless cohesion is “Still Life,” the first single from Good Morning, which was released last week.

Uh Oh gained local recognition by performing any and everywhere in the area, from house shows to festivals. Although the band thrives while performing, Uh Oh hasn’t seen a stage since February 2020. With plans to return to live music later this year, Champion says, “There is absolutely nothing more fun and gratifying than playing music together, it’s always been therapeutic for us and we can’t wait to get back out there with these new songs in tow.” The group will be performing at The Sydney in Omaha on December 10th to promote the release of Good Morning, due to drop December 3rd.

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Reviews

Boston-Based Indie Pop Band, Juniper Performs Post Album Release

If you’re overthinking, send a text.

Juniper the Band is breaking into the indie music scene, and they’re a must listen.

Following the June release of their debut album Distance Keeps Me Distant, Boston-based independent band, Juniper— composed of Scott Johnson, Ahren Shreeve, and Alejandro Marin—, had their first Manhattan live show at the Berlin Underground theatre this past Wednesday, October 13th. Lead vocalist Scott Johnson described the experience as “something you dream of.” Not only was it a packed crowd for a Wednesday evening, Johnson mentioned his awe at how interactive the show was: “It blew me away, not only as validation for what we’re doing, but as in, people are showing up and wanting to be a part of it.” The set consisted of the band’s new tracks, mixed with a few covers.

Juniper the Band consists of Alejandro Marin (left), Ahren Schreeve, and Scott Johnson. Photo credit: Hayley Bigness

We make what we feel in that moment.

Throughout Juniper’s five years of existence, releasing an album was always the long-term goal. Touching on themes of distance, love, and anxiety, Johnson describes this album as one based on relationships. Stemming from the idea that “the most authentic thing I can relate to that other people can share, is relationships, whether that be with a significant other, or with friends and family, with the world around you, or with yourself, and how that changes as you continue to live, especially during the pandemic.” Johnson continued to discuss how being forced into isolation changed his outlook on relationships and the everyday decisions he would make. It’s from this notion that Juniper developed the title and central theme for their album (and the title track): “Distance Keeps Me Distant.” 

When speaking on the album’s recording process, Johnson explained how the making of the album was not linear, but rather eclectic: “it’s a process of reacting and listening at the same time, and that kind of drives the creative process.”  Some of the recording was done in Maine, at drummer Alejandro Marin’s family home, and some was done in Johnson’s bedroom closet. The different locations and recording process is what gives the album such a variety of sounds and, ultimately, enables it to feel more their own. Johnson explains, “We make what we feel in that moment.”

Songs like “Angelina” and “More Than I Can Handle” have an indie-pop tone, while “Puzzle Pieces” and “Overthinking” lean more in the indie-folk direction, “Out of Nowhere” and “Fighting Wars From Every Direction” have an alternative rock vibe, and songs like “Daydream” and “Driving” maintain more of a soul and R&B sound. This wide variety of genres and influences throughout the album make the listening process fresh and avoids it from feeling oversaturated for both the band and the listener.

…your mind is like a racing highway, and each thought is like a car driving by.”

Juniper’s lead vocalist, Scott Johnson, speaks on the detriments of constant rumination.

Johnson discussed the writing and recording of the ninth song of the album, “Overthinking,” which was written during the height of the pandemic within a time-span of about 45 minutes. Describing it as a “more introspective song, that is vulnerable…I try to lead with vulnerability with my writing, and after I came up with the first progression on the guitar it felt like such an emotion.” The tone and the energy of the chords was the driving force in how the band came to the idea of overthinking: “your mind is racing like a highway, and each thought is like a car driving by.” This resonates with the band’s TikTok bio which reads: “if you’re overthinking, send a text.” Johnson felt that being really specific with the writing of feelings and emotions is what enables the listener to relate more closely to the song. So for the closing verse of the song, “we wanted it to feel like this big cataclysmic moment of realization and energy.” It’s rare to find artists that can convey raw emotion through both their lyrics and music, but this is exactly what Juniper does by being vulnerable  in “Overthinking.”

New music and more shows are in Juniper’s future, as they’ll be playing another live show in Manhattan at the Bowery Electric on November 12th, and at Pearl Street Warehouse in D.C on November 19th. Ultimately, Juniper wants “to maintain this mentality and identity of feeling and sounding like a band, but with modern production.” They want to be that next big band, and with what they’ve been able to accomplish thus far as independent artists, their goals may not be so far out of reach.

Written by: <br>Molly MacDuff
Written by:
Molly MacDuff

Molly MacDuff is a writer and editor currently attending Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing MA program.

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Reviews

Listen: Hana Vu’s “Keeper”

Ahead of her forthcoming album, Public Storage, bedroom-pop artist Hana Vu releases latest single, “Keeper.”

What goes up, must come down– as with summer loving comes autumn heartbreak. Luckily, bedroom-pop artist, Hana Vu has provided us with the perfect bed to cry on with her latest single, “Keeper.” Encompassed by a haze of synths, “Keeper” emphasizes that we all have a choice; how we choose to view situations can differ greatly from how those situations may actually be. From wearing rose-colored glasses (“Are you a dreamer? / Oh, I dream in gold / Are you my keeper?”) to adopting a villainous narrative (“Oh, I’m fake, unreal / and all other evil things you think that I could be.”), Vu traverses different lenses and masks of the truth with the track.

Hana Vu photographed by Jing Feng

The single was released in conjunction with a music video featuring Vu performing emotive choreography by Jas Lin. After hearing the single, the video’s director, Maegan Houang, wanted to create a visual that would stress how isolating it can be to feel invisible or misunderstood: “By shooting the video in a single take we never let the audience off the hook. Just like Hana, we’re trapped in a cycle of being constantly ignored. I set the film in a family environment because as viewers we usually associate families with a sense of security and safety. The family environment created a contrast to Hana’s bursting performance and underscored the pain of not being visible, even sometimes by your own relatives.”

these public expressions of thoughts, feelings, baggage, experiences that accumulate every year and fill little units such as ‘albums.’”

Hana Vu

“Keeper” is a satiating appe-teaser from Vu’s forthcoming album, Public Storage, set to be released via Ghostly Nov. 5. Having moved around a lot as a child, Vu and her family made good use of storage units, hence the album’s title. Vu takes a similar approach to writing, producing and curating her chronicles as one does to moving house. A press release for the album describes Public Storage as Vu excavating an internal universe: “loading and unpacking memories, moods, and imagined scenes with brooding introspection, agency, charisma, and conviction.” Written from her bedroom, Vu describes the collection as “these public expressions of thoughts, feelings, baggage, experiences that accumulate every year and fill little units such as ‘albums.’” For most of us, our baggage tends to remain hidden and tucked away, but the courageous 21-year-old is proudly displaying her skeletons.

Hana Vu photographed by Jing Feng

The album’s lead single, “Maker,” is very sonically different from synth-heavy, booming “Keeper.” The track is a gentle, banjo-driven cry to the universe: “Save me, oh, my angel /Are you angry? / ‘Cause I’m not strongеr and I crumble / Oh, that’s my nature / Just like you.” Vu explained her thought process behind writing the song: “I am not religious but I imagined a sort of desolate character crying out to an ultimately punitive force for something more.”

We are still allowed to feel lost and search for meaning in everything we encounter, that the journey may be long and scary but we will all end up back in the fold of safety eventually or just where we’re meant to be.

“Maker” music video director, Lucy Sandler, via press release

The video for the single, directed by Lucy Sandler, provides a stunning visual representation of desperately seeking refuge, peace and guidance during times of feeling lost. Sandler stated: “I want the little girl to speak to everyone’s inner child, and remind us that nothing has really changed. We are still allowed to feel lost and search for meaning in everything we encounter, that the journey may be long and scary but we will all end up back in the fold of safety eventually or just where we’re meant to be.”

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Look & Listen Reviews

Listen: Love Letterz – Marzz

“You don’t have to be like everybody else. This is your life. Live it and be happy with it.”

Marzz, Rated R&B

In astrology, Mars is the god of war; the planet of energy, action and desire. When we think of Mars, the first phrase that should come to mind is “do it.” A testament to the unwavering energy of the planet, Louisville R&B freshman, Marzz released her debut EP Love Letterz with Keep Cool/RCA Records last month.

Photo credit: Elizabeth “Eli” Wirija

I’ve come to a point in my life where I really don’t care what people say. I have to do this, I have to put my feelings out because if not, it’s going to eat me up alive.

Marzz, Uproxx

Written in the artist’s bevy of color-coded notebooks she keeps in her backpack to help process her synesthesia, the project is a collection of diary entries in the form of song. “I’ve come to a point in my life where I really don’t care what people say,” the artist stated in an interview with Uproxx, “I have to do this, I have to put my feelings out because if not, it’s going to eat me up alive.

Photo credit: Braylen Dion

Co-written by Timbaland, “Cleopatra” exemplifies the artist’s commitment to truth, even when it’s hard– especially the second verse: “I haven’t seen you shine in a long time, why? / Guess that means I gotta give you space, then bye / I see your true colors, please don’t make me / Feel your emptiness, you know that ain’t me / I got way too much on my mind, yeah we / Ain’t going back ’cause that shit ain’t healthy.” After stumbling upon it purely on accident, the first listen of “Cleopatra” resulted in an embarrassing amount of head nodding and shoulder shaking. In the music video for the track, you hear Marzz’s voice accurately preface what’s to come: “You are now entering a vibe.” And oh, what a vibe it is.

From childhood, the artist has used her color method to process and express her emotions as well. In an interview with Women In Pop, she dove into each color’s meaning, saying, “Blue is for when I’m excited. Purple is when I’m anxious, yellow’s when I’m sad, red is when I’m angry.” She continued, “I know for a fact that my red notebook was definitely my favorite. I used to write in that and whenever I got mad– I was never a verbal person –I’d hold my notebook up and be like, ‘No, listen, this is why I’m mad!’”

Marzz describes “Countless Times,” the latest single from the EP, as red and purple, saying, “You’re seeing a lot of anxiousness, a lot of worry. It was definitely a lot of draining emotion that definitely put a toll on me.” The track describes being on the precipice of the decision of whether to stay or walk away from an up-and-down relationship. “I know what I want now. The way that I want to be treated,” she stated, “I’m putting in the love and respect that I would want in return. I definitely believe in karma, so I feel like the good energy you put out is the good energy that you receive.”

Listen to Love Letterz here.

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Look & Listen

Listen: “Can I Leave Me Too?” / “Float Away” – The Greeting Committee

It wasn’t overthinking. It just felt like a genuine stream of consciousness and self-expression. I hope that’s what people hear.

Brandon Yangmi on “Float Away,” Rice and Spice Magazine

Here’s the thing– are these singles particularly emo? Yes. Do they still hit the spot? Absolutely. And that’s what matters. Kansas City’s The Greeting Committee has managed to pry themselves out of the box they’ve been hiding in for 2 years with “Can I Leave Me Too?” and “Float Away.” The singles follow the alt-indie band’s 2019 EP, I’m Afraid I’m Not Angry and 2018 album, This Is It, a project that held my hand and my hair back through the majority of 2020.

The Greeting Committee consists of four members: bassist Pierce Turcotte, frontwoman Addie Sartino, drummer Austin Fraser and Brandon Yangmi on guitar.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Miranda

“Can I Leave Me Too?” aligns with the band’s brand of happy-sad music, with melancholic lyricism held afloat by buoyant instrumentation: “Why does everybody drive the same car you do? / I’m scared of myself without you / I’ll change my ways for a few days if it means you’ll stay / I’m filthy, creepy, clingy for you always,” the band’s frontwoman, Addie Sartino sings in the first verse. “Can I Leave Me Too?” touts the kind of emotional codependency we’d normally rebuke, but that didn’t stop me from giving it multiple spins. It shouldn’t stop you, either.

“My girlfriend drives a Nissan Rogue, and after we broke up I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing that car,” Sartino said of the single in a press release. “I remember thinking, ‘There’s no way there are this many Nissan Rogues in Kansas City’ — but I think that’s a pretty universal thing to have happen when you’re going through a breakup.”

The latest single from the band is equally as emo, but in the best way. “Glad it’s raining, so I don’t have to go outside / And pretend I’m happy just to be alive,” Sartino sings in the first verse of “Float Away.” This record provides the kind of catharsis one can only find in music; anyone who has battled with depression and/or loneliness can identify with the single’s sentiments. When in that frame of mind, it can feel as though you’ve stepped completely outside of reality and outside of yourself; it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re walking through mud and thorns to get there.

In an interview with Rice and Spice, the band’s guitarist, Brandon Yangmi spoke on the single, saying, “This was a song that felt really genuine to all of us. It wasn’t a song that we overthought much; it was the easiest song that we wrote on the album.” He continued, saying, “We sat down, started playing the music, and it all came out. It wasn’t overthinking. It just felt like a genuine stream of consciousness and self expression. I hope that’s what people hear.”

“Float Away” was released in conjunction with the single’s music video, which features striking animation by artist Kezia Gabriella.

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Look & Listen

Listen: “Off The Drugs” – TOBi feat. Mick Jenkins

“Life, to me, is a good trip if you let it be.”

TOBi
TOBi, photo credit: Stanislaw

Today’s song is one with some of my favorite elements: horns and Mick Jenkins. The third single from TOBi this year is one that’s been in constant rotation since its release last week. When I say “constant rotation,” I mean exactly that. Forwards and backwards, up and down, side to side, this song was run into the ground and dug back up just to be run into the ground again.

Based off of title alone, you may assume this single is in favor of sobriety, but on the contrary, this song is one that is encouraged to consume while elevated. “When I smoke, I see things clearer and I’m way more aware,” TOBi disclosed in a press release for the single, “So I’m intentional about how I use it.”

He furthered his point of view by saying, “I think more money should go into researching things like cannabis and mushrooms for their healing properties. Just the way I look at it, so many things are actually drugs—alcohol, gambling, even social media cuz it affects brain chemistry, but all that shit is legal. Whereas things that can legitimately heal if properly understood and done correctly are stigmatized, it’s wild…. I just wanna live life to the fullest and enjoy this while it lasts. Life, to me, is a good trip if you let it be.”

The single features Mick Jenkins, who– to my knowledge, at least– can do next to no wrong, which he proves in his verse: “Reminiscing on them days when I would buy the pack to flip it / Couldn’t tell me I wasn’t gifted with the vegetation / Overdid it, sometimes too descriptive with my education / Edibles gon’ hit in ’bout an hour, that’s late registration / Class has been in session, we ain’t present.”

The single is the artist’s second release within a month’s time. Prior to “Off The Drugs,” TOBi released a collaborative track with one-of-a-kind Baby Rose titled “Come As You Are.”

“What does it mean to love someone as they are and not as a projection of who they portray to the world?”

TOBi
Photo credit: Patrick Duong

“I’ve been waiting to do this song for years,” TOBi stated in regards to the track, “I had the concept written but never brought it to life until the pandemic hit and I found it again. What does it mean to love someone as they are and not as a projection of who they portray to the world? Not the layers and titles that we have given to each other. To recognize the humanity in each other as a mirror of self. It’s a lesson in self-love as well.”

The record is a testament to patience and acceptance of another as a whole, regardless of status or perceived limitations. The artist continued, “We know we are both here right now but we have the potential to be greater versions of ourselves and I want to be there for your blossoming, as you’ll be there for me. Sometimes we forget how the simplest things are often the most overlooked but the most important parts of who we are.”