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Look & Listen Reviews Roundups

2020: TGG Roundup

It should be no secret that creativity kept the majority of us afloat throughout a very tumultuous and traumatic year. With unforeseen obstacles around every corner, some new beast lurking and watching nearby, waiting for the right moment to pull the foundational Jenga piece right out from under, it was difficult to remain optimistic in the face of 2020. Today’s roundup is dedicated to the artists whose music kept me company during an emotionally, financially and socially grueling year.

A brief aside: With 2021 right around the corner, I’d like to take a moment for some mild sappiness to extend a hand of gratitude to this blog’s readers. I started TGG as a distraction from a lot of things I was struggling to face, and in turn was forced to face them in roundabout ways through music, introspection and discussion with a diverse group of people. With each roundup, it’s typical of me to mention the horrors of 2020, but without the trials of this year, you wouldn’t be reading today because this blog wouldn’t exist as it does in its current form. Thank you for reading, for the support and for continuing with me on this ride through 2021. Thank you to the artists for your submissions. May we all find ourselves sailing smoothly into the new year.

Back to business. Sadly, there will be no roundup for the month of December, but the roundup playlist has been updated in accordance to the month’s listens and releases. The autumn playlist has also officially transitioned to winter vibes, and will continue to be updated almost daily throughout the remainder of the season. Now, in no particular order, let’s get to the goods.

Synthetic Soul – Chiiild

A mysterious concoction of R&B, soul and synthesized pop results in 7-track EP, Synthetic Soul, the product of Montreal-based Chiiild. Virtually genre-less, Chiiild accelerates down a lane adjacent to Blood Orange or Tame Impala, where the point of focus falls mostly on the band’s sweeping instrumentals and sonic fluidity. We’re met with a gentle daydream of strings on the EP’s intro, “Count Me Out” which carry us through to the outro, “Easy On Yourself,” transforming into a luminous awakening.
Favorite tracks: “Pirouette,” “Hands Off Me”

SuperGood – Duckwrth

As mentioned in a previous roundup, Duckwrth’s major label debut is, essentially, a 44-minute long love letter to the ladies. Bridging gaps between pop, hip-hop, funk and soul, SuperGood is a fitting soundtrack for one’s romantic reverie. Duckwrth eclectically executes the manipulation of classic sounds paired with modernity with personality and catchy craftsmanship throughout the album. The project’s undisputed standout, “Kiss U Right Now” might find some religiously moisturizing their lips out of sheer anticipation of the mere possibility of a kiss.
Favorite Tracks: “Kiss U Right Now,” “SuperBounce”

To Myself – Baby Rose

Released in August, Baby Rose’s To Myself was a fitting conclusion to 2020’s Sad Girl Summer; the artist’s debut is a tender, simultaneously thunderous arrangement of truth and vulnerability. Pouring from an overflowing cup of talent and wisdom far beyond her years, Baby Rose’s velvety, rasping vocals sing tales of heartache and healing over somber, bluesy production on To Myself.
Favorite tracks: “Borderline,” “Show You”

The Circus – Mick Jenkins

Following 2018’s masterfully executed Pieces of a Man, The Circus admittedly pales in comparison but shines in its own right. If there’s one thing Mick Jenkins isn’t gonna do, it’s waste a word. If there’s one thing Mick Jenkins is gonna do, it’s monopolize any opportunity to contort and stretch a phrase with the utmost of ease. We’re smacked in the face with a reminder of just that on the project’s intro, “Same Ol,” where the rapper’s undeniable witticism is matched evenly with a bass-heavy Hit-Boy beat. A professional in the game of double entendre, Jenkins’s wordplay leaves The Circus in rotation for more than just a couple of spins. If you’re left wanting more, allow me to direct you to the cornucopia of songs lucky enough to have been blessed by a Jenkins feature this year. From alt-indie band Vansire’s “Central Time” to Kipp Stone’s “Sprague Street,” to name a couple, no one can say Jenkins hasn’t put in the work this year.
Favorite Tracks: “Different Scales,” “The Light”

Dance Without Me – DRAMA

If there’s anything DRAMA can do, it’s provide ample content for your breakup playlist. The Chicago-based electro-pop group released Dance Without Me, a body of work composed of upbeat songs contrasted by elegies of heartbreak, on Valentine’s Day. Two parts of a whole creates DRAMA: singer-songwriter Via Rose provides the whimsical lyricism and somber subject matter buoyed by producer Na’el Shehade’s golden touch. A valentine to those without a valentine, Dance Without Me requires you do just that– dance (and probably cry).
Favorite tracks: “7:04 AM,” “Good For Nothing”

“GED” – Lute

A tale of a humble come-up and letter of encouragement for all who are down bad, Lute’s “GED” was one of my most played songs this year. The single was released in February, following Lute’s debut with Dreamville, critically underrated West1996 Pt 2 and a particularly explosive verse on 2019’s Revenge of the Dreamers III‘s intro, “Under the Sun.” With Dreamville bankrolling your promotion, your resources are virtually limitless; as yet another act of clever marketing from the label, released with the single is the GED credit card.

Petrol Bloom – LAUREL

Sneaking in just under the wire, LAUREL released 5-track EP, Petrol Bloom just this month. The EP’s first two singles, “Scream Drive Faster” and “Best I Ever Had” received a lot of love from me upon release, so it’s only fitting that the UK vocal powerhouse and creative wunderkind made it to the final roundup. Differing vastly from her debut, Petrol Bloom is a retro-pop time warp adorned with colorful synths and LAUREL’s echoing, sometimes aching vocals.
Favorite tracks: “Best I Ever Had,” “Appetite”

Lost In June – Pip Millett

April showers bring May flowers with Pip Millett’s 8-track EP, Lost In June. The British singer-songwriter has been on the radar since her melancholic 2018 single, “Make Me Cry,” which still remains in rotation almost three years later. What sets Millett apart from the sometimes all-too-saturated world of UK neo-soul is the natural humanity and grace portrayed when delivering sweet and stirring vocals swaddled in emotionally profound lyricism. Why would anyone want to make Pip Millett cry? In order to gain a deeper understanding of something or someone, you must find the root. Millett pierces the veil with Lost In June, granting us an intimate peek at how and why she came to be the young woman she is today, paying homage and due retribution to her family and upbringing.
Favorite tracks: “Heavenly Mother,” “Ava”

Alfredo – Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist

The recipe cooked up between Freddie Gibbs’ effortlessly audacious lyricism and The Alchemist’s collation of beats sprinkled with soul and jazz brings Alfredo to the table. A surprise serving of sustenance, the collaborative effort between two hip-hop heavy hitters set social media ablaze upon release. With the project’s intro, “1985,” we pull back the velvet curtain to reveal a dimly lit room in the back where Gibbs’s sustained flow permeates the air like a haze of smoke. Like flies on the wall, we watch as the sequence unfolds to reveal much more than meets the eye.
Favorite tracks: “1985,” “Something to Rap About”

New Me, Same Us – Little Dragon

Practiced and ever-evolving Little Dragon’s latest project finds the group at the intersection of funk and R&B, with Nagano crooning anecdotes of long-term growth and revelation. Formed in 1996, Little Dragon has journeyed through varying genres throughout the years, leaving some of their finest work on other artists’ projects. That isn’t the case with this album; a rose-colored bulb in the early days of the pandemic, New Me, Same Us was a soft light in the very dark room of 2020.
Favorite tracks: “Where You Belong,” “Water”

Circles – Mac Miller

Posthumous albums were, unfortunately, in high demand in 2020. Mac Miller’s Circles ultimately set the tone for the rest of the year with its January release; beginning our year in remembrance of loss, forecasting another 12 months of, well, loss. Barely a month prior to the artist’s untimely goodbye in 2018, Mac released Swimming, a project held very dearly to many. In a similar light, Circles— which was also produced in part by composer John Brion– is one to sit with and ponder a while.
Favorite tracks: “Right,” “Woods”

Spilligion – Spillage Village

The latest generation of Atlanta’s vanguard of hip-hop and neo-soul apostles ban together to bring us an offering of salvation in the form of 12-track Spilligion. The collective’s first project since 2016’s Bears Like This Too Much differs from the group’s Bears series, which can be described as chronological checkpoints for each artist; an outward display of their creative growth throughout the years. Spilligion preaches themes of family, spirituality, sex and weed and is bolstered by the project’s gather-round-the-campfire-style production.
Favorite tracks: “Oshun,” “Mecca”

BETTER – Deante’ Hitchcock

Deante’ Hitchcock’s debut album, BETTER, holds a very special position in TGG’s archives as the first published review on the blog. Read my full review and see how far (thankfully) we’ve come since then.
Favorite tracks: “Angels,” “Circles

For a more detailed overview of the year, peruse my 2020 playlist:

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Look & Listen Reviews Roundups

Who-Knew-Vember: TGG Roundup

Hopefully this month’s roundup finds you well-rested (probably not), well-nourished (maybe if you’re lucky) and in your bag (in this economy?). With 2021 and the holiday season looming like a turkey vulture on a hot day, I believe we all may need a little reprieve from 2020’s dark realities. I come to you bearing gifts and a feast of a different sort– a feast for your ears. If you’re hungry for a little appe-teaser, check out my autumn playlist, updated daily. Tuck your napkins in, say grace and prepare to eat.

“Notice Me” – Fana Hues

25-year old singer-songwriter, Fana Hues pays homage to her roots with her latest single’s music video, which stars all 8 of her siblings and both of her parents, augmenting the song’s true meaning to Hues. Drawing from an arsenal of inspiration from the likes of Beyoncé and Anita Baker, “Notice Me” serves as a profound tribute to the artist’s upbringing.

Hues reflected on the song in a press release: “…I had found a sound that truly felt like me, so I was extra hyped about everything. I was rooted and reminded that all the things I doubted myself about, all my fears were ‘just an unpleasant dream.’ Just like my mom had said. At every turn of my life that I find clarity and meaning, I go back to the truest form of faith that I know, which is my Family. So when I shot the video, I just had to have that moment with my people.” The video, directed by Amira Hadiya, closes with an aerial shot of Hues enveloped by the arms of her family.

“Be With Me” – Miki Fiki

You might listen to Miki Fiki and wonder exactly what it is that sets them apart from your typical alt-rock indie band– one of those can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it ordeals. Hint: it’s the lack of guitar. The Nashville-based quartet consists of lead singer and keyboardist Ted Hartog, Julia Meredith providing all that sweet, sweet wind and brass, Alex Clayton on percussion and Hunter Mulkey on bass. Ted describes Miki Fiki’s sound as playful, saying, “I’ve been a bit sensitive my whole life, and time always seems to reveal an element of drama in those emotionally-charged experiences. [The emotions] are valid and what you feel is what you feel. But this band is a place to look at those emotions, those real, lived-experiences, and throw a soft smile on the whole thing.”

The band’s latest single, “Be With Me” is a declaration of ultimatums and boundaries in what one might call a “situationship.” The context of the song would be painfully transparent if it wasn’t so elegantly draped in those hopeful instrumentals Miki Fiki executes so well, softening the blow. The words “I don’t need to make you love me” never sounded so sweet.

England. – Gus Harvey

UK-based alternative R&B artist Gus Harvey released her 4-track EP, England., back in May. With a sound self-described as “UK street soul with grimy basslines,” Harvey takes us on a bit of a wild ride with this 14-minute EP. The artist gets in touch with her roots, literally, on the first track, “Garden,” which is written from the perspective of the earth. The second track, “The Frangipani Fellowship” goes deeper and darker as a diss track with experimental sampling of once-romantic-turned-ominous Cambodian music. Harvey slows things down with the last two tracks on the EP, allowing a brief but plaintive peek at unabashed vulnerability, specifically with the EP’s stripped-down standout, “Albion.”

there goes the neighborhood. – grouptherapy.

Fresh-faced LA hip-hop collective groupthrapy. released their debut album, there goes the neighborhood. in late October. Consisting of Jadagrace, KOI, and TJW, grouptherapy. brings a three-course meal to the table with their latest project. The group released an EP earlier this year titled this is not the album. which prepared us for the heat to come on there goes the neighborhood. With a trio as talented and versatile as this, we’re given a different flavor with each track on the album.

In the project’s intro, “yessir,” we enter the group session with confident words of affirmation: “Look like diamonds when I glow / Turn my trauma into commas / Take my time before I go.” Further along in the project, we have Jadagrace providing untamed and well-timed idiomatic bars over a Dee Lilly beat on the project’s first single, “raise it up!” which was released with a nostalgic music video paying homage to an early 2000’s classic, Bring It On. Things slow down with the project’s latest single, “watercolor,” a melodic track clothed in R&B. The project’s striking and abstract artwork is brought to us by ASLUR, which sees the three members distortedly and pleasantly portrayed in blue, orange and purple.

Therapy Through an LP – Nocturnal

From Connecticut-based hip-hop artist Nocturnal, conceptual album Therapy Through an LP has found a home in my library, and here’s hoping this project couch-surfs its way over to yours as well. The 15-track project cleverly begins with the outro which then leads into the spoken intro– a dialogue between the artist and a therapist over distorted dial tones and rising strings, preparing us for the voyage ahead. Nocturnal lays it all to bear throughout the project, staying true to the theme. Nostalgic, hungry production is a puzzle-piece perfect fit with Nocturnal’s classic cadence and merciless lyricism; Therapy Through an LP is a bloodthirsty and poignant exposition of what it means to feel without inhibition and leave it all on the page– or the mic.

“Broke Times” – Huckleberry Funk

Bringing in some hometown pride, we have Indiana-based Huckleberry Funk entering the ring with “Broke Times,” which hits a little too close to home. The best way to describe Huckleberry Funk is as a melting pot of sound– a sprinkle of hip-hop, a pinch of R&B, dash of soul and a whole lot of funk, of course.

In an email to TGG, Huck Funk’s lead singer Dexter Clardy details his hopes for how “Broke Times” may serve those who listen, saying the track “speaks a firm message that as people listen, it more hopefully can turn into more of an affirmation for folks to no longer allow themselves to be broken. Broken whether that be financially, in spirit or in faith in oneself.” Clardy continues with a concept I’m sure we’re all very familiar with, saying, “It’s very easy in this world we live in to get caught up in the day to day rat race of life, and follow the path we’ve been told all our lives. ‘Go to school, graduate, get a good job and you’ll be happy.’ We’re always told that we should follow dreams, but oftentimes aren’t encouraged, nor do we allow ourselves to do so once the time to actually grab life for ourselves comes.” Clardy closes with some final keys of wisdom: “We all have the same 24 hours, but what we do or don’t do with that time is up to us.”

“If I Gotta Run” – Tim Chadwick

Irish pop artist, Tim Chadwick is no stranger to identity confusion; in an interview with Gay Times, the artist spoke on his struggles with coming out, saying, “…when I came out I was actually struck with a lot more anxiety than I had before, because now there was this expectation that I would be my true and authentic self – but if you’ve never been that, how do you know what that is? I came out when I was 21, and it’s taken me until now – and you can see it in the music – to own my sexuality and finally be comfortable in a setting where everyone else is so proud and just being themselves. I tried to fit in to be straight and that didn’t work, so I was like, obviously I need to come out, but then it was like, ‘I don’t know how to act now’. It wasn’t that big euphoric coming out that I thought it would be. It was very much like, ‘Oh well now I have even more soul-searching and growing up to do’.”

Since 2019’s “I Need To Know,” the artist’s career has seen a steady incline and Chadwick is leaning into his booming emo-pop sound with his latest, “If I Gotta Run.” The single’s predecessor “Only Me” personally read me for filth so you could imagine my excitement at a new release from this one-of-a-kind artist– thankfully, I was not disappointed. “If I Gotta Run” couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for my fellow singletons during the most confusing time of the year: cuffing season. Chadwick is set to release a 5-track EP in January of 2021, so for now, we’ll be dancing in our bedrooms alone, eating the crumbs he’s so graciously left for us.

“Terry Crews” – Lo Village

TGG favorite Lo Village released an open letter in the form of “Terry Crews” to the actor back in October. In case you missed it, the actor has been in the hot seat for quite some time for his controversial takes on the BLM movement via Twitter. Lo Village’s discordant single, produced by Frankie Scoca features pensive verses from group members Ama, Kane and Tyler. The track is not only a letter to Crews but is addressed to others whose perspective might have become blurred by their own celebrity and status, as the melodic phrase “the money not gon’ save you” is sprinkled throughout. With the single comes a can’t-look-away visual from 3D artist, Daun, where Crews’s warped and lifeless floating head rolls to and fro.

If after this feast, you’re still hungry, listen to the roundup playlist, updated every month:

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Roundups

It’s Oct-Over: TGG Roundup

Disoriented and emerging from a cocoon of despondency, it is I, Jessica. I have arrived to perform my civic duties of providing you, my friends and readers, with the fuel we all need to power through these dark days– those good, old fashioned bops. Join me as we traverse my library’s recent history and enjoy the roundup playlist. For extra sauce, follow my autumn playlist, updated daily to decorate the season’s memories. Now, back to our semi-regularly scheduled programming.

“The Hardest Part” – Olivia Dean

Drawing inspiration from brutally honest songwriters like Amy Winehouse, east London’s Olivia Dean has no qualms about airing out dirty laundry. With her latest single, “The Hardest Part,” Dean unleashes uncomfortable truths about the struggles of moving on with an undeniably catchy hook. “The Hardest Part” is one of those songs you wish was just a minute longer; Dean’s smooth-as-butter vocals in tandem with the chorus’s beat drop leaves you with no choice but to hit the “Repeat” button just 30 seconds in.

Home – Masukified

Chicago-based independent Masukified released 7-track EP, Home, a little later than he had originally planned. Just two days prior to the EP’s intended release, the artist announced that the EP wasn’t quite ready yet, pushing the release back 10 days. Home was worth the wait. An endearing and fervent tribute to the his roots, the project gives us an up-close-and-personal look into who Masukified, or TJ, is– not only as a creative but as a person. The EP’s first single, “Nice to Meet You,” is epitomal of this artist’s unique brand of goofy-meets-heartfelt hip-hop.

“Scream Drive Faster” – LAUREL

With LAUREL, we have another lyrical and vocal powerhouse Londoner on the list. DOGVIOLET, LAUREL’s hauntingly evocative debut album was released in August of last year but has sadly only recently been on my radar. LAUREL released her latest single, a collaborative effort with producer Chrome Sparks, almost a full year after DOGVIOLET’s release. On a road paved with electronica and spirited bass, “Scream Drive Faster” finds you running from your problems, riding passenger in Doc’s DeLorean as you travel time back to the 80’s.

Morph – Tiny Jag

Hailing from Detroit, artist Tiny Jag presents 6-track EP Morph. Garnering artistic inspiration from the likes of Santigold and MIA, Morph is a creative exploration into the slightly warped universe that is Tiny Jag’s mind. The artist flexes her versatility with unique bangers rooted in gritty Motor City hip-hop like “Gone Fishing,” “Twin Flame” and “Weapon” then later unlocking the emo-tinged “City Kids.”

The Daydream – Later.

This 16-minute EP from Parisian alt-pop band Later. is a wistful 5-song collection best described as smooth, like fresh pavement. Upon the first listen of this EP, I was immediately called to the open road, so I hopped right in my trusty chariot and took her for a quick drive. From the first zesty bass riff in “All the Time” to the final “oohs” in “Daydream,” this project embraces like a warm hug and leaves you in a daze.

Renaissance – Lola Young

Born from a union of neo-soul ethos and folk storytelling, we have the UK’s Lola Young next on the list. Renaissance, a 3-track bundle, follows the artist’s debut EP, Intro, released last November. The 19-year old BRIT school dropout grasps messy concepts of distorted love and romance with maturity and a little bit of bite on “Pick Me Up” and “Same Bed.” The trio of songs ends with the stripped and feisty diss track, “None For You.”

“Amber” – Unusual Demont

Wisconsin-based artist Unusual Demont’s forthcoming EP, Hues, is an aural memoir of the artist’s past relationships. A tasty appetizer before our presumably juicy main course, the artist’s debut single, “Amber” was released in August and has remained in rotation since.

Happiness in Liquid Form – Alfie Templeman

17-year old Alfie Templeman is just a kid who wants to make good music, unaffected by any other hullaballoo within the industry. That very same exuberance and thirst to create the wave is evident throughout Happiness in Liquid Form, the artist’s fourth EP. Templeman, who was allotted a myriad of musical opportunity in his upbringing, has made good use of his resources; the varietal and slightly experimental instrumentation throughout his catalogue is what sets him apart from others in the bedroom pop genre.

Thank God Its Monday – Malz Monday

Malz Monday’s debut album, Thank God Its Monday, is a staggering showcase of Malz’s talent with the pen and limitless sonic potential. An artist’s debut is oftentimes make or break; lucky for Malz, he possesses the raw talent, wit and hungry determination to make it. Having gained initial traction from his YouTube channel where he would post weekly freestyles, the New York rapper has come a long way, landing a spot on NBA 2K21’s soundtrack with his single “How It Is.”

“Take Me Where Your Heart Is” – Q

Rounding out the roundup is Florida native, neo-soul artist and anomaly, Q. Following his 2019 EP Forest Green, Q releases “Take Me Where Your Heart Is,” a romantic track that perfectly encapsulates the blind hope and excitement new love can bring. Q released an endearing music video for the single where he’s seen serenading the object of his affection in a bowling alley, capturing the innocence of young love.

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Look & Listen

August Roundup

Yet another month down in the boiling cauldron that is 2020! How did we get here? I honestly haven’t the slightest clue, and I don’t know about you, but August really tested my patience and well-being. Now, that’s enough negativity for today– let’s get to the goods. As per the norm here at The Greater Good, I’ll be guiding your tour today through Bop City, rounding up this month’s picks. Please keep your extremities to yourself at all times.
Follow the roundup playlist and save your favorites!

What Could Possibly Go Wrong – Dominic Fike

Dominic Fike’s debut album, What Could Possibly Go Wrong, was on regular rotation for me this month. Fike put himself on many people’s radars (including producer Kenny Beats) with 2017’s Don’t Forget About Me, Demos, which the artist recorded during house arrest and originally released while serving jail time. What Could Possibly Go Wrong is a body of work that mirrors Fike as an artist himself– unpredictable. As one of my good friends so accurately described the project: “He went from MGMT to Frank Ocean.” Favorite tracks: “What’s For Dinner?,” “Cancel Me,” “Good Game” and “Superstar Sh*t”

SuperGood – Duckwrth

“It’s classic, in essence — the shit that people fell in love with in the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s,” says Duckwrth of his major label debut, SuperGood. A romantic oeuvre, similar to Mac Miller’s The Divine Feminine, SuperGood seems like it was created for the ladies and those who love them. The album is a perfect summer send-off, with equal parts sonic nostalgia, sensual charisma and good, old-fashioned boppage. Favorite tracks: “Kiss U Right Now,” “Did U Notice?” “Tuesday” and “Super Good”

“Brown Skin” – Cam the Artisan

Atlanta rapper, Cam the Artisan made TGG’s playlist last month with smooth-as-butter and lionhearted “WYA?!” from his debut album, Hues. Cam’s latest single, “Brown Skin,” produced by Ashton McCreight, is just as addictive, to say the least. Another certified banger for the list, this record will provide nothing less than the best vibes for your summer function– money back guaranteed (by me).


“Something Good” – Harley Sulé

It wasn’t until after the 8th rotation of Harley Sulé’s “Something Good” that I came to the realization that I had been held hostage by a song. Please tell my mother I love her. The record is Sulé’s debut single under his own moniker; previously “anonymous” under soulful alias Jimi Charles Moody, the artist is nowhere near new to the game. The versatile artist also makes up one half of the UK hip-hop duo, Rizzle Kicks.
Surgeon General’s Warning: If consuming “Something Good,” be weary of your surroundings as it may take you the way it took me.

“Without Your Love” – APRE

APRE released “Without Your Love,” the second single from their forthcoming project, Always In Your Head, last week. The UK-based alt-pop duo consists of members Charlie Brown and Jules Konieczny. The artists summarized the single as being “about the idea that you shouldn’t force yourself to make the relationship work – appreciate what it’s done for you, and keep moving forward in your life.” The single is one of my favorite breeds of song– upbeat, hopeful production with contrasting somewhat somber lyrics. Always In Your Head is set to be released in November.

“Comfortable With Myself” – Blaine Legendary

Self-described as having a “demeanor like Clark Kent but a stage presence that’s Superman,” Blaine Legendary is comfortable with himself. So much so, he wrote a song about it and we’re that much better because of it. The single’s music video is a reminder that although this year is a dumpster fire, we’re all burning together, so why not make the best of it and enjoy ourselves in whatever way we can?

“WIYULD” – Evann McIntosh

Continuing the theme of self-love and self-acceptance, we have 16-year old Evann McIntosh entering the ring with leviathan-level confidence with her latest single, “WIYULD.” This alt-bedroom-pop anthem is a record for those who need reminding that they are indeed a force with which to be reckoned. I’m talking to you. Yeah, you.

rest up – boy pablo

Following recent singles “hey girl” and “honey,” Norwegian artist Boy Pablo recently released two-track single pack, rest up, in anticipation of his debut album, Watchito Rico. The DIY artist has fine-tuned his sound since the 2017 viral success of his single, “Everytime,” leaning into his specific brand of sleepy, romantic bedroom pop. Perfect for those nights in, “rest up” is an exemplary addition to your self-care playlist. Watchito Rico is set to release October 23rd. Watch the absurdly charming video for “hey girl”:

“SULA (Paperback)” – Jamila Woods

If you don’t know, I am a certified Jamila Woods stan. There’s simply no other way to put it, and I have no qualms about being labeled as such. The artist’s debut album, 2017’s HEAVN personally helped me through some tumultuous times. Her latest album, a conceptual project of sorts, last year’s LEGACY! LEGACY! highlighted influential Black figures throughout modern history, further solidifying her position as an icon herself. Her latest single, “SULA (Paperback)” pays delicate homage to the Toni Morrison novel. “Sula was the first Toni Morrison novel I ever read and it inspired the first chapbook of poems I ever wrote,” the artist said in a press release. After revisiting the novel years later, the artist said, “It reminded me to embrace my tenderness, my sensitivities, my ways of being in my body. This song is a mantra to allow myself space to experience my gender, love, intimacy, and sexuality on my own terms.”

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Interviews Reviews

Capturing Butterflies with Bea Bitter

Fluttering about anxiously with bright-eyed optimism and breathless anticipation, Bea Bitter’s latest single, “Serpent,” perfectly encapsulates the drunken euphoria of plummeting down The Rabbit Hole of Something New. Similar to those colorfully winged vibrating insects, this song can be felt in the gut. The single’s bewitching instrumentation tells a story of its own– a bass-driven expedition, gracefully catapulting our vessel into an ocean of brassy swells with beautifully assembled elemental percussion navigating the route. “Serpent” is Bea Bitter’s Siren Song.

The single follows Bitter’s first solo endeavor, “Dopamine,” a melancholy song about coming to grips with the love lost over a relationship’s lifespan and the sudden sobering realization of what the self truly needs in order to be happy.

“I think ‘Serpent’ is almost the emotional antithesis to ‘Dopamine,’ in a way,” the artist told The Greater Good. “The song is about deeply wanting to be intoxicating and entrancing to someone in the way that they are to you— it’s all about longing and desire, whereas ‘Dopamine’ is about being stuck in a relationship that feels dull, muted, and suffocating,” she continued, “I think you hit the nail on the head, the lyrics for ‘Serpent’ were definitely inspired by those butterflies you get when you are absolutely infatuated with someone, and all you want is for them to see you the same way.”

Hailing from Nashville, TN, Bea Bitter, or Brenna Kassis, gained primary traction with indie-alt band Ill Spector. Former Ill Spector band mate and life-long friend of Kassis, Max Colbert is responsible for the single’s production. Fellow Nashville artist, Noah Nockels, mastered the track.

I asked the artist about the trials and tribulations she’s experienced while being a young maverick in the industry, to which she responded, “I would say being an independent artist comes with restrictions in the way you can make your ideas become a reality when it comes to resources.” She continued, “It can feel lonely and a drudge in the worst moments, but those are the moments I try not to dwell on.” Keeping your circle full of those whose energies rejuvenate and inspire is of the utmost importance to help stave off the looming malefactor for any creative– burnout. “I’ve found that by surrounding myself with artists of all mediums that I respect and admire, we as a community can create some really beautiful stuff that we can showcase and be proud of.” She continued, “I think it’s so important to build up and support the creatives around you— I mean some of my favorite artists are also my closest friends. I look forward to watching them grow and pursue their art and hopefully grow alongside them.”

The young artist has much more in store for the future– in addition to an upcoming stand-alone single, “Pocket Knife,” Bea Bitter is currently working with Max Colbert crafting and formulating her debut EP, aptly named The Lull Before the End of the World.

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Interviews Look & Listen

It’s K.ZIA’s World, We’re Just Living In It

“When I see that I live off music, I sometimes say to myself, ‘Damn, little girl from years back, you really went on and did your shit.'”

With a sound accurately self-described as “smooth, like mango juice,” independent R&B artist K.ZIA prides herself on the ways that her Afro-European background permeates her sound. The artist traverses sonic standards and human emotion, cultivating songs like her latest, the delicate and soul-stirring “Damaged,” a track focused on one of the most difficult parts of human connection– knowing when to let go. The single follows disco-reminiscent “Goosebumps,” vastly different from the stripped, raw nature of “Damaged,” bringing to the foreground the artist’s versatility.

The uphill voyage of creating traction as an independent can sometimes feel insurmountable. K.ZIA is familiar with the amounts of work and time needed to be invested in order to feel accomplished in the music industry: “Being an independent artist is very hard. Especially when you are one that works alone,” she said, “I have to be the creator, the seller, the booker, the director, the administrator, the tour manager, the content creator, the patron… it’s a lot.”

With its own vicissitudes, the sense of accomplishment gained from having the ability to say “I did this on my own” can make certain goals seem a little more attainable and a little less intimidating. When asked about challenges she’s faced as an independent artist, K.ZIA says believing in herself and her art was a monumental step in the right direction: “I think it’s one of the hardest things in this industry. As an up and coming artist, fighting for something, and believing in your capacities and that you deserve a place somewhere is not always easy. I am grateful for my drive and determination.” She continues, “When I see that I live off music, I sometimes say to myself, ‘Damn, little girl from years back, you really went on and did your shit.‘”

When asked who in the game she garners the most inspiration from, K.ZIA said, “Right now, as a woman, artist, wife and mother, I am a fan (and I don’t say I am a fan very often) of Teyana Taylor. She seems like an amazing, strong human and I’m very inspired by her.”

K.ZIA released a visually stunning and poignant music video for “Goosebumps,” in February. Directed by Paulina Nurkowska, the video follows a tumultuous love triangle between three friends.

The artist fondly reminisces filming the video, saying, “What I particularly loved was the energy between the cast,” she continues, “So Georgette, Peer and Franz were three acquaintances (that are now friends) that I brought together and it just looked like they had been best friends for years. They directly clicked and a beautiful love story began naturally between them, without us even having to direct them or tell them about the dynamic much. Such a precious gift/shoot.”

Both tracks were produced by T-NO and K.ZIA.

When asked about the inspiration behind “Damaged,” K.ZIA said, “This song was written about 4 years ago. I was trying to get out of a very toxic relationship. There was a lot of love from the both of is, but there were also a lot of problematic things (co-dependency, lack of self confidence and projecting that on the other, lack of trust, lack of maturity, distance, expectations, language barrier etc.) Being young and with little experience, it was difficult for us to understand what was going on and especially, to let go of one another for the ‘greater good.'”

K.ZIA recently announced on Instagram that she’ll be releasing new music very soon. She told TGG, “I’ve written a few songs during quarantine,” and that a potential EP is in the works.

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Interviews Reviews

Finding Paradise with Whesli

“‘Lost In Paradise’ was a specific vibe we produced based on the song I wrote about my life and experiences recently– feeling unsure about my future and not really enjoying myself in the city I live in.”

From Tulsa, OK, Whesli was met with a cultural shift when she moved to Los Angeles to pursue music. The independent songwriter released her soulful single, “Lost In Paradise” in June. The track is a wake-up call, with somber lyrics like “Guess I’m swimming in a shallow ocean/ My comfort don’t comfort me” and upbeat production converging to create a very specific breed of song– the type of song fit for your early morning drive to a new job on a beautiful summer morning, only to be met with stop-and-go traffic. Hopeful but anxious.

“I write about experiences that are very personal and real to me, mostly as a therapeutic way of dealing with my emotions, but also on the off chance that someone might be able to relate to what I’m saying and not feel so alone with their emotions.”

Sometimes, we miss something we never really had; the record’s homesick feeling isn’t directed towards Whesli’s hometown so much as a home she’s yet to find. When asked where the longing for familiarity on “Lost In Paradise” stems from, the songwriter told The Greater Good, “I wouldn’t even say that the song is about missing my ‘home,’ because sometimes I don’t even know where that is. But it’s just feeling like where you are right now isn’t ‘it.’ Just waking up and not remembering why you’re doing what you’re doing, in a place that can feel really cold at times, just feeling unsure about everything.”

The artist announced the single’s release on Instagram, crediting the likes of audio engineer Damien Lewis and producer Daniel Perback.

The record’s production is atmospheric of Sad Girl Summer. “We wanted it to have these warm vibes that reflect a lot of Los Angeles mixed with this underlying coldness and uncertainty a lot of people have living in big cities,” Whesli explains, “You’re around a lot of people but can still feel alone. And I had this feeling and idea for the song for a while, the verse and the chorus, but the song didn’t really click and come together until a pretty dramatic event made me almost lose somebody,” she continues, “which made everything else feel pretty insignificant in comparison to having this person in my life. That’s when I finished the pre-chorus, which basically is saying, all these other things in life are great and can be fun and all, but what really matters is you.”

Growing up as a preacher’s daughter, Whesli has always found herself around music. The artist spoke of her journey to her sound, saying, “I basically just fell in love with all kinds of music and digested any and all music that spoke to me. From there, the natural step was to pick up a guitar and try to see if I could imitate what I heard. And not long after, the music became an escape and a way for me to express my emotions and what was on my mind.” The artist picked up that guitar and performed a particularly lovely rendition of The Beatles’s “Blackbird” for her Youtube channel in 2015.

Whesli describes herself as “free spirited when it comes to my art. My journey, like many others, has consisted of highs and lows– trying to figure myself and my music out, but I feel very positive about where I’m heading.” We feel very positive about where this insightful songwriter is headed, too.

Listen to “Lost In Paradise” now and keep your peepers peeled for Whesli in the future.

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Look & Listen

Why July To Me? July Roundup

Yet another month of 2020 under our belts. Should we celebrate? With July coming to a close, we’re taking a look at this month’s listening patterns with another playlist, carefully curated by your girl.

Compensating” – Aminé ft. Young Thug

From one of the most consistent hip-hop artists in the game right now, Aminé’s forthcoming album, Limbo, might be the most anticipated of the year for me. The artist released the third single from the album, “Compensating,” earlier this month with a feature from Young Thug. The track comes after the undeniable bop that is “Riri” and the ODB tip-of-the-hat “Shimmy.”

Waves” – Abigail Ory

Boston-based independent Abigail Ory released her latest single, “Waves” late last month. Ory spoke about writing the song, saying, “I wrote the first version of Waves when I was fourteen as a part of a collection of music I created for a dance production based on the book ‘Invention of Morel’ by Adolfo Bioy Casares. In the dance production, this song was meant to narrate a scene featuring a man stranded on the beach with his lover. As the sun comes up, he realizes his lover isn’t who he thought she was– in fact, she isn’t human at all. However, I drew inspiration from more real-life examples of accepting change (and loss) in our interpersonal relationships.” Ory later finished writing the song in college, with the help and credits of songwriter Donna Lewis and producer David Baron.

THE ANXIETY – THE ANXIETY

The ever-innovative Willow teams up with Tyler Cole to form THE ANXIETY. The duo released their self-titled album in March. In a performative promotion for the project (as well as social awareness for mental health and the ways in which anxiety can manifest itself), the two premiered the album at the MOCA Geffen Contemporary. The band spent 24 hours inside of a 20-square-foot box, live-streaming the entire event as a “personification of the emotional spectrum within the human mind through performance art.” Read Hyperallergic’s in-depth coverage of the event here. Favorite tracks: dystopian love story “Meet Me At Our Spot” and accurate 2020 descriptor, “Believe That.”

“Lose Control” – Elijah Waters

Hailing from Rotterdam in The Netherlands, Elijah Waters released the bass-heavy R&B track “Lose Control” at the beginning of the month. The single follows Waters’s 2019 album A Sunday Kind of Love, which I would also recommend giving a listen. In addition to his solo work, the artist is part of a collective called Green Cabin with other artists such as producer Nash Crebula and rapper Big Cam. Watch Waters perform the haunting single for Colors Studios:

Lewis Street – J. Cole

Dreamville juggernaut J. Cole is back with not one but two tracks from his forthcoming album The Fall Off. It’s been a little over a month since J. Cole released “Snow On Tha Bluff,” sparking “beef” with fellow rapper Noname. The artist announced the release of the two tracks on Twitter on Tuesday. The single pack, titled Lewis Street, consists of “The Climb Back” and “Lion King on Ice.” Self-produced and equipped with quite possibly some of the best wordplay of J. Cole’s career, “The Climb Back” is a depiction of an artist regaining his drive to create.

Introspection – Angela Muñoz & Adrian Younge

19-year old Los Angeles native, Angela Muñoz and seasoned composer and producer Adrian Younge unite to present Introspection, a collection of songs written about love, loss and gaining independence. The collection also includes instrumental versions of each song so you can really dive into every aspect of the project. Introspection is perfect for a rainy Sunday drive when you’ve got nowhere to be.

Wherever Whenever – Zac Chase

Independent Athens rapper Zac Chase released his single “Wherever Whenever” this month in conjunction with a video for the record. The artist spoke about making the video, saying, “This video was a little stressful, but I had a blast filming it. The director (Nicolas Tschirhart) and I knew that the ‘money shot’ was gonna be the one where I was rapping underwater.” The artist continued, “Exerting such energy to stay at the bottom of the pool made my whole body tighten up, which affected the duration I could hold my breath and rap underwater. So Nic had this idea that I would have a 15 pound scuba diving belt tied around my waist to keep me down there so I could focus on rapping. And I was all for it. It worked.” The fun-loving nature of this track and the visualization of the artist flailing his limbs while filming will for sure put a smile on your face.

“Issa Vibe” – The North & Wells Band

Prime time for a summer release, Chicago-based funk/soul group North & Wells dropped their nostalgic single “Issa Vibe” this week. The track is a coalescence of traditional disco-era funk, hip-hop and alternative rock. To say the least, “Issa Vibe” is indeed a vibe. The band promoted the song’s release with accompanying visuals fit for the 70s on Instagram.

“Blame” – Grace Carter & Jacob Banks

Heartache never sounded as lovely as British songwriter Grace Carter’s evocative latest single, “Blame.” With the help of vocal powerhouse Jacob Banks, the two artists’ voices fuse together in this beautiful duet to stir up nothing but the feels. Carter shared on Instagram the story behind the song in regards to her “bad luck with relationships,” saying, “I would always blame myself for things not going to plan. Throughout my life I have often found myself questioning where I went wrong. This song is about a specific situation where I realized it’s not always my fault and sometimes things just don’t work, it’s not meant to be.” (Also: If you haven’t, check out Banks’ mind-blowing rendition of Alicia Keys’s “Like You’ll Never See Me Again.”)

The Light Pack – Joey Bada$$

Closing out the list, we have The Light Pack, an illuminating 3-song bundle from Joey Bada$$. With “The Light,” we see yet another hip-hop heavy hitter (re)entering the chat with a vengeance: “This is mumble rap extermination/ This is Godly interpolation/ This is that ‘Who your top five?’ conversation/ Type of rap that fuck a Grammy nomination.” Accompanying the singles’ release is an ominous music video for “The Light,” where the rapper partakes in ritualistic spiritual voodoo practice. The video closes with an eerie shot of the artist, body subtly ablaze, entering the doors of a police department building.

If you’ve made it this far, and wanna check out this month’s playlist with many more artists to sift through:

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Look & Listen

The Nostalgia Tapes

Have you ever been driving to the store, minding your business, when you hear a song or certain formation of notes that transports you to a very specific point in your life and you’re met with a wave of memories or emotion? Always having had a fear of forgetting things, I began keeping track of these memories– curating a soundtrack for every year of my life for at least the last 10 years, and keeping journals specifically recounting the memories tied to each song. I like to call this time travel, but science likes to call it MEAM– music-evoked autobiographical memories.

Our memories have sensory triggers, and music is one of the most sensory forms of creativity– whether consuming or producing, the chances that you’re sitting still while doing so are slim. The ways in which music can engage numerous senses at a time is automatically stored in your brain at the time of its engagement. The limbic system, structures within the brain that directly correlate to emotion and memory, is activated when listening to music. There have been countless studies regarding the connection between music and autobiographical memory and why music can trigger certain emotional responses. There have also been studies which indicate mimicking your music selection with your mood– listening to melancholy music during times of turmoil– can provide comfort, which can aid in the healing process. The ways in which grief can manifest in the body are sensory effects to the cause just like the ways we engage with music are sensory effects to the cause. You see where I’m going here?

Music has healing properties, so I encourage those reading to tap into those parts that have been forgotten. Start small—no need to delve right into trauma– think about who you were a year ago, how have you grown? Sift through your library and find a song you remember enjoying this time last year. What kinds of emotions come to the surface and have those emotions evolved from their origin? I recommend sitting with it for a while and writing about what you’re experiencing. Is there a certain song or body of work that comes to mind for you while reading this? This is a call to embrace the elements of life that have brought you to this point, to gain a better understanding of the different components that create the whole.

As important as it is to reflect, it is equally important not to dwell on things that are out of our control or that we cannot change. As you dive into your library, it’s worthy of note that these are memories, and sometimes memory can be deceiving; each time you listen to a song, your neural catalog is updated, attaching a different memory to that song. Listening to Joni Mitchell won’t make your dog come back to life, but it might make you smile when you think about the times he’d stick his whole head out the window just so he could feel the sun on his face.

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June Roundup

Here we are, yet another month of 2020 under our belts and yet another month of bops added to our libraries. Let’s dive into what we’ve been listening to this month, old and new.

Jany Green

Starting off this month’s playlist, we have independent artist, Alaska-born Jany Green entering the chat with his genre-bending, brass-heavy single, “Little,” which dropped back in May. The track is a tale of puppy love backed by upbeat, fun 80s-tinged instrumentals.

FHAT

Up next, we have queer pop duo, FHAT. The duo originally formed in Los Angeles, and has spent the majority of their development as creative partners in Germany. The duo consists of members Sedric Perry and Aaron Pfeiffer. Aaron described FHAT’s sound in an interview with Pile Rats, saying, “We both come from strong jazz background but in today’s world it’s so fun to just be free when creating and take chances. If I had to classify it I would call our sound alternative electronic R&B.” FHAT released a “mood video” for their single,”Waves” during isolation in April.

blackwave.

On this episode of “Keeping Up With the Europeans,” we have Belgian hip-hop duo, blackwave. with their newly released single “Arp299.” For those of you who don’t know (I had to give it a goog myself), Arp 299 is “a pair of colliding galaxies approximately 134 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major.” The duo, comprised of rapper Jay Atohoun and producer Willem Ardui spoke of the track and its title saying, “We felt like this was the right metaphor to use in this track. In the process of writing our debut album (which is space themed all the way through) we had some thoughts of wanting to leave everything behind, to run and not look back. The pressure that comes with writing an album while also trying to figure out your own personal life was weighing hard on us. In the video we made for Arp299 we land in an otherworldly place during our journey of leaving everything behind.”

Tesia, Pretty Boy Aaron

Up next we have independent Pretty Boy Aaron and Tesia Jaramillo with 2019 collaboration, “Comb My Hair.” Tesia earned two spots on this month’s playlist with her latest single, “Come Kick It.” The 70s-inspired music video for “Comb My Hair” was released in early June.

Franc Moody

Rounding out the funk for this month’s playlist, we have London-based band Franc Moody, originally comprised of duo Ned Franc and Jon Moody, hence the moniker. The electro-pop group dropped their debut album Dream In Colour, in February. The project is loaded with funky house instrumentals and catchy lyrics, with songs like “Charge Me Up” and “Flesh and Blood” taking the lead as the best tracks. The band released a visual for the latter song labeled the “Isolation Version,” where we see each member in their respective homes, collaborating over video chat to give us the final product:

6lack

6lack released his 6pc Hot EP on June 26th, giving us plenty to mull over for the weekend. The 6 track project was named after the artist’s favorite item on his favorite Atlanta wing spot’s menu. The EP has been deemed a mere appetizer for the main course, which we can only assume to be a full-length project. The artist originally teased the release of 6pc Hot on Twitter, ominously tweeting “It’s new music season,” back in May. It recently came to light that 6lack is the second-highest streaming R&B artist behind Frank Ocean. After listening to “Know My Rights” and “Elephant In the Room,” you’re left with no lingering questions as to why he’s top of the game in terms of active artists in R&B right now.

Little Dragon

If you’re anything like me and just recently got around to listening to Little Dragon’s latest project, New Me, Same Us, you might have also had it on repeat for a solid 10 days (or more, full disclosure). The Swedish alt-pop/r&b group released their 6th studio album back in March, and the project might very well be their best yet. The project as a whole is what we like to call a full-circle event, one that begs for a loop– mostly because you might’ve missed something you didn’t catch on the first listen. The project’s standout tracks “Another Lover,” “New Fiction,” and “Water” all cater to the album’s theme and title seamlessly: New Me, Same Us. Watch the band’s front woman, Yukimi Nagano, perform “Where You Belong” for Colors Studios:

Busty and the Bass

Keeping up this month’s trend of electro-soul, we have Canadian super group Busty and the Bass coming in with their EP Out of Love, which was released earlier this month. The project’s title track has a surprising feature in conjunction with a very entertaining music video that you won’t want to miss. The project’s closer, “Summer” will have you so far deep in your feelings, you might not know how to recover– enter at your own risk.

Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist

Rapper Freddie Gibbs and producer The Alchemist dropped their surprise collaborative project, Alfredo, in early June. The project comes almost a full year after Bandana, the second collaborative album from Freddie Gibbs and producer Madlib. One-rapper, one-producer collaborations have a tendency to rile up fan excitement, which might be why the artists decided to keep this one so close to the vest. A couple of tracks from the project were leaked prior to release, and that’s when the news broke that the two were working together, igniting mayhem and fan-ticipation across all social media platforms. The project does not disappoint, with features from Rick Ross, Tyler the Creator, Benny the Butcher, and Conway the Machine. The best on this project is “God Is Perfect,” where Gibbs reflects on the differences and changes in lifestyle he’s made and endured prior to, during and since his come-up as one of the most respected hip-hop artists currently in the game.

As will be the norm for the end of the month here at The Greater Good, a carefully curated 45-song playlist featuring artists written about in this post as well as other posts from the month has been made available for your listening pleasure.