London-based 20-year old songwriter, Sarah Meth, released her debut EP, Dead End World, last week. Consisting of just four songs, the EP was written over three years ago. “Dead End World is an EP I wrote during my teenage years, so naturally the lyrics are more centered around trying to make sense of the near-adult world around me, as well as who I was at that age,” the artist said of the project. Dead End World is a showcase of Sarah Meth’s confounding songwriting abilities accompanied by exquisitely assembled instrumentals.
Similar to the illusory experience of waking several hours before the sun on an early Sunday morning, the EP’s intro, “If Only You Knew,” leaves you in a fog, feeling somewhat isolated yet hopeful for the day’s potential. The song’s hazy layers of brass and strings interwoven with Meth’s lush vocals will find you wandering through daydreams without haste or any desire for grounding.
The EP’s title track comes next, guiding us through our continued delirium. “Dead End World” is the disembodied hand poking through the fog, and because we’ve just been left in a daze, we blindly reach out to follow suit. Despite being written 3 years prior to the EP’s release, the song eerily and aptly portrays today’s societal climate: “I see hospitals surrender to people sickly thin / but those first in line don’t seem to bat an eye / because they have the money rolling in / and our friends, our friends are dying / because of the color of their skin / so we cry because the system just ain’t right / but the sirens aren’t sleeping tonight.”
“Tangled,” the artist’s latest single follows the title track. The song is a stripped, raw reminder that as easy as it is to give all of ourselves to another, self-love should always hold precedence. In a press release, Meth said the song is “really a ‘note to self’ about how easy it is to get knotted up in the way you feel. It’s meaning to me continues to change over time, but it’s a song that always seems to make sense when I come back to it.” Watch the artist’s intimate live performance of the song:
“What Does It Mean” is our reflective and groggy end to the lucid dream that is Dead End World. Written when Meth was just 15, the song examines community standards of womanhood. Throughout the brief, 3-verse song, we hear Meth navigating the familiar– sadly, often sordid– path from adolescence to adulthood in the position of a young woman: “What does it mean if everything I stand for / is betrayed by my greed to give myself away? / and so, I lose all of my dignity / have I failed to be / everything a woman should be?”
“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:
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!“