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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.

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Interviews Look & Listen

It’s K.ZIA’s World, We’re Just Living In It

“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.‘”

When asked who in the game she garners the most inspiration from, K.ZIA said, “Right now, as a woman, artist, wife and mother, I am a fan (and I don’t say I am a fan very often) of Teyana Taylor. She seems like an amazing, strong human and I’m very inspired by her.”

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.”

Both tracks were produced by T-NO and K.ZIA.

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.

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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:

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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

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.