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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:

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Look & Listen

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.