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.”
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.
Charlotte Day Wilson has somehow managed to acquire the coveted recipe for sonic success, consisting of the following compounded elements: the emotive prose of a celebrated folk songwriter, unique vocal capabilities– unobtainable by us mere peasants– and equal parts both heart and soul. Whether the artist made a deal with the devil in exchange for her creative gifts is yet to be determined; Wilson steers her metaphorical wagon down her own musical lane, taking alternative routes to the final destination: The Feels. In this week’s continuation of Sad Girl Summer, we’re covering Wilson’s most recent release, a transcendental single two-pack: “Take Care Of You” and “Summertime.”
Produced by Wilson and Jack Ro, the singles are an auditory expedition, with whispering acoustic instrumentation progressing into layered and augmented swells. On “Take Care Of You,” Wilson is joined by Syd, best known as the front-person for R&B collective, The Internet. The song is a sobering plea for vulnerability and trust, a delicate topic to broach with any relationship flight risk.
Wilson balances coping with the detachment from a romantic partner and welcoming the almighty villains of interpersonal relationships: time and distance with “Summertime.” The track gives us a sample tasting of the specific breed of confusion often only found in love, leaving us in a mental fog long after the song’s breathy outro. The track is short, coming in at two minutes and thirty-two seconds, and begs to be repeated.
With a catalog chalked full of collaborative efforts with the likes of Daniel Caesar, BADBADNOTGOOD, and KAYTRANADA, the vocalist surpasses others in the game with a trained yet subdued passion and funereal gloominess. The singles come almost a full year after Wilson’s 2019 single, soulful and somber “Mountains,” which continues to be in TGG’s regular rotation. The artist has yet to release a full-length, so here’s hoping this dual drop is foreshadowing the artist’s album debut.
“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.‘”
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.”
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.
“‘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.
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.
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:
Newcastle-based alt-rock group, Cat Ryan released their single “Blessed Through the TV” last month. The track is an anomaly– a wonder-cluster of insightful lyricism in marriage with contemporary grittiness and Japanese orchestration.
The track’s lyrics focus on a one-foot-in, one-foot-out mentality. The group’s front-woman, Mary-Anne Murphy, spoke about the inspiration for the track– an angel figurine sent to her by her aunt– saying, “The Pope had done a mass blessing through the television, telling people to hold items up to the TV to be blessed. It didn’t quite make sense to me; it was almost a half-hearted blessing, and this sparked the ideas behind the song.”
Cat Ryan can be best described as neo-90s alternative rock. “Alternative” is somewhat of a broad term that often refers to music created outside of industry norms. Cat Ryan is alternative in the way that they’re able to capture and utilize experimental aspects of sound and fuse those findings together to create something out of the ordinary. This, in conjunction with well-rounded yet complex lyrical themes, is what sets this group apart. While sustaining independent ingenuity, the group draws inspiration from the likes of Wolf Alice and Vampire Weekend.
The creative brainchild of members Simon Tarbox, Lucas Rothwell, and Mary-Anne Murphy, Cat Ryan originated at Newcastle University. The group’s inception, as described by Murphy in an email to The Greater Good, was kismet: “Simon and I are studying the same course and were talking about music. He said he played guitar, but Lucas had already joined as lead guitarist – turned out that Simon also plays drums, so he became the drummer of Cat Ryan.”
According to the band’s manager, Jay Landman, “There are plans to compile both an EP and an album, but these are both in the development stages currently, so another single is most likely to be the next step.” For now, you can bless your ears with “Blessed Through the TV.”
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.
Elah Hale, 20-year old New York native released her debut EP, Room 206, with Interscope in April. “Room 206 was my sophomore dorm room in college,” the artist said in an interview with DJ Booth, “There were so many moments in that room… I decided to sign my publishing deal; I agreed to work with my management. All the big milestones happened in that room, I wanted to honor that time.”
The project begins on a swell, with “Saab,” which is exactly the kind of song you’re likely to find yourself walking down the street to, with your headphones on and the sun on your face, just to have you reminiscing an experience you might have never even had. The intro is brief– less than two minutes long– but foreshadows the roller coaster ahead of us.
The EP continues the trend on an emotional upswing with the lightest track on the project, “My House.” The artist has said of the track, “It’s the true ‘fun’ song, and I feel like I haven’t done a fun song ever.” Keeping up the fun, the artist released a particularly amusing music video for the track, where she’s seen flirting with a mannequin on a tennis court, clumsily waxing her legs and drinking wine in a bathtub with not a jewel out of place.
The cornerstone to any good project with purpose is its variety and flow, its peaks and valleys; with every optimistic incline, a soul-stirring decline inevitably follows. With Room 206, our decline begins with the poignant “Impatient,” a synth-heavy and somber track on which the artist contemplates clinging to a love with which she’s quickly losing her grip. The misleading sanguine beat in conjunction with impassioned lyrics like, “I’m on my knees, I swear that it’s the right time,” will indeed have you coming back for a second helping of agony.
Room 206 makes the transition from decline to a slow and smooth incline with ease, flowing into the next track, “Posters.” This bedroom-pop track addresses a common practice among daters: ghosting.
The artist’s lane of R&B is that of a melancholy tone; on particularly somber tracks like “one star rating,” “Way Down,” and “Holding You Close,” the artist ruminates on teetering the line between being all in or nothing at all with a diminishing love. On the latter track, over a slow but stimulating beat, the artist solemnly comes to terms with a love lost, manifesting her own healing and declaring her own downfalls. With stunningly interwoven harmonies, she croons, “I think it’s time that I just let you go,” the heavy track ignites a slow burn that lingers long after the song ends. Watch the artist perform the song in an intimate live studio session:
Room 206 ends like it begins–a full circle event– on a sonic incline. Self-reflective “ITPA” drifts into a slow plateau with bittersweet “Gentle,” closing out this project with charm and polish, wrapped in a neat bow. 8/10