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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.
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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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Reviews

Astral Projection with Ellie Dixon

UK artist Ellie Dixon routes our journey to infinity and beyond with the her newest single, “Space Out.” This alt-pop certified banger hones in on the fine line between reality and fantasy. In addition to lyrical witticism, the DIY artist takes quirky craftsmanship to the next level, planting “sample easter eggs” throughout her production, collecting sounds from glass jars and microwave doors, among other things. If Marina and Still Woozy were to unite in creative collaboration, that brainchild would look a lot like Ellie Dixon’s “Space Out.”

In an email to The Greater Good, the artist recounted her experience with writing the song, which is jam-packed with interstellar wordplay: “It was an unusual writing process for me because I don’t tend to write in stages, but this song was born out of a verse I wrote for a music challenge at the start of lockdown.”

“I had a really good response to the lyrics and the flow of it and lots of people asked for me to release it, so I got to work on producing a backing and writing the rest of the song.”

It’s important to have an active imagination and to connect with your inner child as often as the opportunity presents itself, as without imagination, we would have no innovation. Dixon clarifies, “The term ‘spaced out’ can mean a lot of things for different people but for me it was more about when I get lost in my music-making and retreat into my own galaxy,” Dixon says, “This state of two halves where you feel detached but also find great creativity and fun can be born out of it.”

The artist continues, touching on the hidden blessing of being a creative with nothing but time on her hands, “In lockdown, I’ve been making music 24/7 as I’ve had no other commitments, so it’s been an excuse to constantly make content. It has been amazing because it’s a free pass to do what I love, but it can become all-consuming and I forget to ‘come back down to Earth’ which can result in burnout.”

The 21-year old self-managed artist isn’t in any rush to put out a full-length at the moment; she’s planning to utilize this time to craft her individual sound, saying, “I would love to release a full album but I’m currently playing with where my sound is taking me. I’m going to be working on lots of new material and I’m working on more collaborations with other artists, so if things start shaping up into cohesive projects then album ahoy!”

For now, you can unleash your inner child and tap into your own imagination with “Space Out!

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Reviews

Lighter – Donna Missal

For Donna Missal, music was a generational inheritance; her father was a songwriter and musician who owned Shelter Studios in the 80s, her grandmother was also a songwriter. Missal released her second album, Lighter with Harvest Records, owned by Capitol Music Group, at midnight last night. Lighter follows the artist’s 2018 album, This Time. With Lighter, Missal walks us through her journey with a traumatic breakup. In an interview with Shania Twain (!) for Interview Magazine, Missal spoke about the album, saying, “I was concerned when I was writing the record, getting towards the end of the process thinking, ‘Is this what people need right now? Am I serving a purpose that I can stand behind?’ I realized that by being as vulnerable and honest as possible and putting my shit out there—that would probably be what someone needs more than anything else that I could offer as a person or as an artist.”

As we jump into Lighter, we’re met with the project’s first two singles, “How Does It Feel,” and “Hurt By You.” Both tracks give you a feel for what you’re to expect as the album continues: impassioned realizations of newfound independence and loss combined with vengeful lyricism and themes.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with just how ugly breakups can be; it can be hard to maintain humility or dignity after ending things, as jealousy, unaddressed trauma, and feelings of abandonment or guilt rise to the surface. On the booming ballad, “Carefully,” Missal makes an emotional plea for respect post-breakup. The artist belts with an overwhelming amount of fervor on the bridge, “The risk you convinced me to take / Gave you everything that I had / Now what’d you expect me to say? / When you let me slip from your hands,” bearing her bleeding heart for all to see. All I can really say about this song is “whew.”

On Lighter, we’re really being taken through the different stages of grief with tracks fueled by denial like “Best Friend,” and bargaining with “Who Loves You,” intertwined with tracks of acceptance, like heart-rending “Slow Motion.” The artist, with her heart on her sleeve, proves there’s beauty in vulnerability and the acknowledgement of human flaw.

Another stage of grief is anger, and let me tell you, there is plenty to spare on this record. The introspective and painfully cognizant “Let You Let Me Down” and the intrepid sleeper hit “Just Like You,” are jaded displays of the bitter aftertaste a traumatic breakup can leave behind.

The project ends on a “to be continued,” as Missal’s grief persists with an admission of fear of moving on with the final track, “I’m Not Ready.”

To be quite honest, you don’t feel much lighter after listening to Lighter, so I would recommend checking your own emotional stability before jumping in the passenger seat of Donna Missal’s wild ride. Lighter is an exhibition of raw vulnerability while mourning a loss, and ultimately highlights the ways in which music can ease the healing process. 7/10

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Reviews

The Bad Days – Japan, Man

Public pools may be closed, but we’re diving right into Sad Girl Summer with today’s review– The Bad Days, an EP by 15-year old Beirut artist Japan, Man. With The Bad Days, the young artist gives new meaning to the phrase “off the beaten path,” delightfully offbeat, in fact. Released with the help of Honeymoon Records, this EP is a charming look into the mind of a young artist in her formative years.

The project fires off with the title track, which the artist described to Read Dork as being about “how people tend to try to forget about traumatic memories through different ways; for instance, living in their imagination or even distracting themselves with other intense feelings.” The track can be compared to that little voice in the back of your head, this time crooning in your ear with a ((gentle echo)) over a heart-thumping bass drum on the second verse, “Let’s pretend to fall asleep/ So we can live in eternal fantasy/ Have we drowned yet?/ ‘Cause I can barely breathe/ Is it possible to suffocate on dreams?

With the second track, the artist flexes her metaphorical muscles– with lots of actual metaphors. Corresponding with the face of a clock, “Stop Staring” addresses the passing of time and how time doesn’t stop even if you do. As a society that often values productivity over quality of life, the passing of time can indeed be quite anxiety-inducing– “I’m stuck in the moment, and suddenly I’m frozen/ What am I to do?/ If I tell you that’s the motion, but I smell the scent of roses / But that’s who?” The track should remind us that it’s perfectly acceptable– and encouraged– to take a break when needed.

It’s evident the concept of time and the anxiety it can bring are recurring themes throughout this project as we transition into the third track on the EP, “I Like To Wait.” This track will put you in front of a bay window on a rainy day, ready to embrace the angst with the artist as she sings, “Too scared of surprise/ Won’t dare to roll the dice/ Stay still and pay the price/ Won’t die in paradise.” Impatience can be detrimental to relationships and overall well-being– if we’re constantly thinking about the future, are we ever present?

On the project’s latest single, “Cautious,” the artist makes a plea for emotional intelligence in interpersonal relationships. Whether it be in adolescence or adulthood, we all so desperately want to not only be heard but understood. The track is the embodiment of bedroom pop as a genre– slight dissonance over particularly spunky instrumentals.

Japan, Man tackles “pack mentality” on the next track, “Easy Target,” where she sings in the pre-chorus, “Make sure to keep your mouth shut, it’ll pacify you/ You’re so melodramatic, but there’s nothing I can do.” There’s really no better way to describe this track than a girl coming into her own, sussing out whose friendship and loyalty is circumstantial versus genuine connection.

Perhaps the most poignant song on the EP, the closing track and the project’s first single, “The Law,” gently broaches the battle of maintaining a sense of self when you’re not sure just who that is yet.

The Bad Days is a project that I’d like to imagine Heather Matarazzo’s character in Welcome to the Dollhouse would release if she was in fact not a fictional character of the 90s, but instead an artist in 2020 on a steady incline who was raised by the internet. 7/10

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Look & Listen

Celebrating Black Artists

The Greater Good has decided to take several moments to highlight the talent and creativity of Black artists in the music community. The list could go on for years, so I’ve made a playlist. Enjoy the good and fight for what’s greater– equality and justice.

Here is a good resource for those struggling to understand what the #blacklivesmatter movement means. Here is an article explaining why you should consider donating to funds for POC-run nonprofits so they may have the same opportunities as their White counterparts. Here is a good resource for when to take action in the ballot booth. Here and here are reading lists of published literature on anti-racism, so you may use it to educate yourself and those around you. Here is a resourceful list of documentaries about police brutality throughout history. Here is some excellent research explaining the psychological effects of gendered racism towards Black women, who are historically and disproportionately marginalized in society. Here is a great resource highlighting the importance of intersectional feminism.

Do your part, do your research, and stay informed.