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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

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: