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Listen: “Lullaby” – Grace Ives

A beautiful thing to think about is that stars on earth look like blobs, but in space, really defined structures.

Grace Ives, on her upcoming album, Janky Star

Brooklyn-based DIY artist, Grace Ives announced the release of her upcoming sophomore album, Janky Star in the beginning of April with “Lullaby.” The second single from the forthcoming album is my favorite breed of melancholy music; cleverly disguised with upbeat instrumentals, Ives sings of an introvert’s amplified anxiety on “Lullaby.” “What a mess, what a lovely mess,” she croons on the chorus. Whether she’s describing life, the spectrum of emotion, or the room in which a potentially agoraphobic individual might find comfort while watching the same movie over and over, she’s right. It’s all a lovely mess, isn’t it?

Ives described the song as the “homebody’s anthem” in a press release for the single, saying, “This song is about the comfort and anxiety that comes with isolating yourself.” The track is Ives’s groundhog day song, as it describes her experience of “living the same day over and over again.” A fitting theme for the cultural atmosphere of the times, “Lullaby” was brought to fruition with the help of producer Justin Raisen, who has worked with other avant-garde pop artists, such as Yves Tumor.

Ives’s discography, which consists of her experimental first album, 2nd, and her 2016 EP titled Really Hot, sees the artist on an expedition of musical exploration. Artists tend to explore different sounds with the hope of expansion. For Ives, it seems less about broadening her audience and more about broadening her perspective. In an interview with The FADER, Ives shared the confusing process of using “music as therapy,” saying, “On some of my songs, I don’t even know if I’m expressing something — but I can hear myself really wanting to say something, like there’s this unsettling feeling inside me.”

Janky Star is slated to be released on June 10th via True Panther Records.

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Listen: “For a Moment You’re Mine” – Little Monarch

It satisfied something in me for the moment, and personally, it felt important to put out there and just not care how much attention it got. I can picture a flock of monarchs fluttering around in the bright morning sun. Birds chirping in the distance. I am dreaming and white sun peers through blinds, wasting […]

Listen: Does It Make You Happy? – Rowan

We wanted to create an arc of joy and sadness. Rowan, on the sequencing of Does It Make You Happy? Irish alt-rock band, Rowan, released their debut album, Does It Make You Happy? at the top of the month. The album, with a sound akin to The Strokes, inventories the pain, anger and confusion that […]

Listen: “hate to be lame” – Lizzy McApline ft. FINNEAS

This song is the musicification of walking on thin ice. Lizzy McAlpine is the queen of the soft pop ballad. That’s a bold statement, I’m aware, but her voice has just the right amount of soul and desperation for me to feel everything she sings.  I don’t particularly know much about falling in love. I […]

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Listen: “Please” – Sali

I like working with the idea that songs don’t need to take a normal, organizational path

Sali

When I listen to this song, I picture an early spring sunset, blue and pink and yellow form a tie-dye sky. I’m on the train watching the sun slide beneath the city, the world passes by quickly but the song plays at regular speed. I am young and I am managing a difficult love. The song is “Please,” the most recent release by independent, Brooklyn-based artist, Sali. 

This single, released today, April 22, follows her debut EP Charming, released March 2021. Graduating from Boston University in 2018, Sali developed her love of music and music production from her time in the BU Acapella community. This experience comes across in her music as angelic harmonies. She’s spent all her life in music, taking jazz and opera lessons as a child. 

“Please” is more alternative than the previous tracks she’s released, as Sali wanted to bring in a bit more of a surf-rock vibe and branch out from the accessibility of hip-hop and pop production that she’s used to. As the first song she’s produced by herself, the shift is inspired by “living in Brooklyn and being more social.” Reggae with the bass, hip-hop on the drums, and a slow build to the ambient chorus are all components of the track that build this unique sound. “I like working with the idea that songs don’t need to take a normal, organizational path,” Sali explains. “I had this in mind with the cool outro that’s not exactly a bridge or an outro.” 

 Sali started writing this song based on some advice that her mother had given her about people who are withholding love or affection, the kind of people that want you to prove yourself to gain their attention. She explains that isn’t inherently romantic or based on a specific romance; she built it around this idea of having a relationship with a withholding person and the frustrating feeling that develops from managing it. “When you see the opposite of the withholding type of love, it’s so much more beautiful, even if you’re hurt or guarded,” Sali says.  

For Sali, producing her own songs has been a liberating learning experience. She’s no longer working solo, but incorporating talented people from her community and from internet friends she made during the pandemic. “There’s a lot of collaging in songwriting and producing,” she states. “As a black woman in music, it can feel like you’re losing control.” Sali notes that she has to always think about who she’s involving in the process to make sure they respect her wishes and artistic vision. She’s grateful that everyone she’s worked with thus far is incredible, respectful, and supportive. “Please” is mixed by Daniel Chironno, mastered by Joshua Pleeter, recorded musician on bass is Jonathan Kim, and the lyrics and production are, of course, done by Sali. Her friends teach her a lot about production, and she relies on her influences and surroundings to inspire her creatively. 

Her next EP called Other People, which includes “Please,” is set to be released this summer, with a scheduled release party to go with it. She’s just recently begun to perform her tracks live, singing and playing with a band this past Monday, April 18th at the East Berlin in NYC. Of the future, Sali laughs as she says, “Production will always be a process because I want to be really, really good.” Listening to “Please,” you can hear the simplistic yet pleading tone she presents, not only through her poetic lyricism but through her production as well. This is a track for young people in the city, created by one and the same. 

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Listen: “Somebody’s Watching You” – The Jack Moves

People have to feel you through the record. If it doesn’t have feeling, it’s just pointless.

Zee Desmondes, for Passion of the Weiss

Creating what The Jack Moves describe as “sweet soul,” the duo released smooth-as-butter single, “Somebody’s Watching You” last week. The single is a flirtatious, modern funk dance ballad, that generates a whole lot of shoulder swaying and head nodding. The Jack Moves consistently provided sultry, funky throwback-style jams throughout their 2018 album, Free Money, and this single is no different. With nods to the greats like Curtis Mayfield and Bobby Caldwell, The Jack Moves rejuvenate a once-dying genre.

Consisting of Zee Desmondes (vocalist, guitarist, producer) and Teddy Powell (vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, producer) the Newark, NJ duo seem to simultaneously reject and embrace modernity with their music. The two first met at a skatepark in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, quickly bonding over their mutual love for 70s, 80s and 90s R&B, soul, hip-hop, and funk. You might be surprised to learn The Jack Moves gained their start, individually and as a duo, without any sort of musical training, just a love for a good groove. The two decided to join forces in an attempt to recreate and build upon the classic sounds they loved, acquiring their first workspace in a rundown building in downtown Newark.

In a 2015 interview with Passion of the Weiss, Desmondes shared, “We just started working on stuff. But we were hitting a brick wall because all of the stuff we were into—like, The Delfonics, Stylistics, all that stuff is kind of a mystery…how they did all that. How they did the strings and horns. The way they would layer the background harmonies—all that stuff. It’s like it was a lost recipe, as far as I was concerned.”

As a prime example of the value of knowing one’s own weaknesses and then taking action to improve, the duo’s frustration resulted in the two seeking mentorship from R&B/soul aficionados George Kerr and Paul Kyser. “We were learning with them for a while, working on some of their songs. Going to master class with the real veterans,” Desmondes said.

The learning process wasn’t always easy– the two described the experience as being somewhat strenuous at times. Desmondes chronicled the countless vocal takes Kerr would insist upon, saying, “The takes weren’t bad, I just think he wanted to drill it into me that it’s so important to put every little ounce of emotion into your singing, and to really push. People have to feel you through the record. If it doesn’t have feeling, it’s just pointless.”

With the help and golden touches of their mentors, The Jack Moves have utilized their learned insight to enlighten, and to pass along The Recipe to another generation of music. Close to a decade after working with Kerr and Kyser, The Jack Moves have– with respect to the classics– successfully replicated The Recipe.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

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Listen: “Hell of a Woman” – Papooz

As musicians, we needed to be way more demanding of ourselves.

Ulysse Cottin, on limiting distractions while writing and recording None of This Matters Now

Armand Penicaut and Ulysse Cottin, the key players in French indie-pop duo, Papooz, have been best friends since meeting at a Patti Smith show in 2008. “We would just be kids, smoke joints, talk shit, play guitar, and make up songs,” Penicaut says of the early years of their friendship. The carefree comradery and fellowship of the two overflows into their creations, resulting in three very different albums.

Papooz released their third album, None of This Matters Now just this month. The band’s funk-driven Green Juice (2019) precedes their recent release and differs greatly from folk-infused None of This Matters Now. The former is high energy, filled with songs meant for nights spent dancing, while the latter seems destined to be played on a weekend trip away with friends among the trees.

The entirety of None of This Matters Now was recorded in an all-wood studio, built by the band’s drummer, Pierre-Marie Dornan. “For a couple of weeks we would rehearse the songs during the day, and then record at night while drinking red wine,” Cottin shared in a press release for the album. The ease of the album’s flow is a testament to the band’s natural chemistry and desire for authenticity.

“As musicians, we needed to be way more demanding of ourselves,” Cottin shared, “We couldn’t just rely on fixing mistakes later. No one could get distracted by their phone or smoking a cigarette. It’s about focus.” The focus was due in part by being surrounded by likeminded and comfortable collaborators: “Plus it’s way easier to be focused in the room when it’s just your best mates, friends coming to visit late at night,” Cottin says.

Armand studied literature, and I’ve always loved poetry, so I think the best songs in life are the more intimate ones.

Ulysses Cottin on co-collaborator, Armand Penicaut’s talent for songwriting

The second single from the album, “Hell of a Woman” channels that revered 70s-inspired psych-rock sound that resembles a ray of sunshine, but be warned: the track is misleadingly melancholy. “Hell of a Woman” mourns the loss of light in a relationship that’s lived past its expiration, and accepting that loss with grace. The pre-chorus is especially bleak: “We’ve been together for so long it’s a crime / I’m stealing thunder from the rims of your eyes / You heard the words right / What in the world went wrong?”

With dreamy instrumentation, it’s incredibly easy to get lost while listening to None of This Matters Now, despite its candid lyricism. “Armand studied literature, and I’ve always loved poetry, so I think the best songs in life are the more intimate ones,” Cottin shared. With themes of global-warming-induced anxiety on the title track, of remorse and reflection on “I’d Rather Be the Moon,” Papooz creates a tenderly raw listening experience.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

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Listen: “Palm Sunday” – Papercuts

It’s about lost love and unfulfilled potential.

Quever, on “Palm Sunday”

The man behind the curtain of Papercuts, Jason Quever, is a lifetime student of the philosophy of music. Gaining and imparting his wisdom throughout his musical career, his talent for arrangement has graced tracks belonging to Beach House, Sugar Candy Mountain, and more.

Papercuts’ latest single, “Palm Sunday,” was released ahead of the band’s forthcoming album, Past Life Regression, which is set to release April 1. The single is an apt representation of where psych-pop-turned-folk Papercuts excels: lofty instrumentals weighted with wistful lyricism. Quever describes the single as being about “lost love and unfulfilled potential.” In a press release for the single, Quever shared, “It’s about someone you never quite forgot about, but left you feeling epically let down and full of longing.”

The single is paired with a music video depicting phone calls back and forth between lovers. Beautifully capturing the melancholy of “maybes” and “what ifs,” “Palm Sunday” evokes one of the most dreaded human emotions: regret.

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

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Listen: Hana Vu’s “Keeper”

Ahead of her forthcoming album, Public Storage, bedroom-pop artist Hana Vu releases latest single, “Keeper.”

What goes up, must come down– as with summer loving comes autumn heartbreak. Luckily, bedroom-pop artist, Hana Vu has provided us with the perfect bed to cry on with her latest single, “Keeper.” Encompassed by a haze of synths, “Keeper” emphasizes that we all have a choice; how we choose to view situations can differ greatly from how those situations may actually be. From wearing rose-colored glasses (“Are you a dreamer? / Oh, I dream in gold / Are you my keeper?”) to adopting a villainous narrative (“Oh, I’m fake, unreal / and all other evil things you think that I could be.”), Vu traverses different lenses and masks of the truth with the track.

Hana Vu photographed by Jing Feng

The single was released in conjunction with a music video featuring Vu performing emotive choreography by Jas Lin. After hearing the single, the video’s director, Maegan Houang, wanted to create a visual that would stress how isolating it can be to feel invisible or misunderstood: “By shooting the video in a single take we never let the audience off the hook. Just like Hana, we’re trapped in a cycle of being constantly ignored. I set the film in a family environment because as viewers we usually associate families with a sense of security and safety. The family environment created a contrast to Hana’s bursting performance and underscored the pain of not being visible, even sometimes by your own relatives.”

these public expressions of thoughts, feelings, baggage, experiences that accumulate every year and fill little units such as ‘albums.’”

Hana Vu

“Keeper” is a satiating appe-teaser from Vu’s forthcoming album, Public Storage, set to be released via Ghostly Nov. 5. Having moved around a lot as a child, Vu and her family made good use of storage units, hence the album’s title. Vu takes a similar approach to writing, producing and curating her chronicles as one does to moving house. A press release for the album describes Public Storage as Vu excavating an internal universe: “loading and unpacking memories, moods, and imagined scenes with brooding introspection, agency, charisma, and conviction.” Written from her bedroom, Vu describes the collection as “these public expressions of thoughts, feelings, baggage, experiences that accumulate every year and fill little units such as ‘albums.’” For most of us, our baggage tends to remain hidden and tucked away, but the courageous 21-year-old is proudly displaying her skeletons.

Hana Vu photographed by Jing Feng

The album’s lead single, “Maker,” is very sonically different from synth-heavy, booming “Keeper.” The track is a gentle, banjo-driven cry to the universe: “Save me, oh, my angel /Are you angry? / ‘Cause I’m not strongеr and I crumble / Oh, that’s my nature / Just like you.” Vu explained her thought process behind writing the song: “I am not religious but I imagined a sort of desolate character crying out to an ultimately punitive force for something more.”

We are still allowed to feel lost and search for meaning in everything we encounter, that the journey may be long and scary but we will all end up back in the fold of safety eventually or just where we’re meant to be.

“Maker” music video director, Lucy Sandler, via press release

The video for the single, directed by Lucy Sandler, provides a stunning visual representation of desperately seeking refuge, peace and guidance during times of feeling lost. Sandler stated: “I want the little girl to speak to everyone’s inner child, and remind us that nothing has really changed. We are still allowed to feel lost and search for meaning in everything we encounter, that the journey may be long and scary but we will all end up back in the fold of safety eventually or just where we’re meant to be.”

Jessica K
Jessica K

Jessica is a writer in her late twenties and is casually withering away in the Midwestern Wasteland of Central Indiana.

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AZEB is Mereba’s Golden Hour

Imagine hovering just a few inches above the ground, donning a pearly-white smile with a far-off look in your eye, a gentle hum of strings following you wherever you find yourself. This is how I envision neo-soul songstress, Mereba, drifting through her day-to-day life. The Philadelphia native released an equally ethereal EP last month. 7 tracks of musings tinted in beguiling shades of hazel and cinnamon, AZEB follows Mereba’s 2018 album, The Jungle is the Only Way Out.

There are three common themes spread throughout the EP: war, peace and gold. “Aye, aye, it’s a war like every day / Keep my gold up in my safe / They won’t bring me to my knees,” Mereba croons on the project’s intro, “Aye.”
On the track, the artist navigates combat while clinging to pacifism: “I’m tryna master peace / Please don’t you disturb me / Your weapons can’t hurt me / My essence is shot-proof.

AZEB‘s minimalist approach to production leaves plenty of space for Mereba to do what she does best: flex her songwriting talent. AZEB is laden with social commentary cloaked in and intertwined with poetry, a skill that Mereba executes better than many songwriters today. The artist’s folkloric songwriting ability is the brush she uses to paint dark realities a golden hue. This has been proven true with previous tracks like TJITOWO’s “Heatwave” and “Black Truck.”

The music video for the EP’s first single, “Rider,” sees Mereba and company in the middle of a barren desert landscape. The scene is almost dystopian, like a crew of drifters seeking refuge in a post-apocalyptic era. The song itself is a declaration of commitment to a deserving lover: “I needed a real one/ Call me if you’re on the run / You knew just what it was / I knew just what it was / We knew that it was love.”

References of gold are generously sprinkled throughout AZEB. Similar to Mick Jenkins’s proclivity for drinking more water, gold to Mereba is representative of pure, all-encompassing love. “I want to remind people of love, too. The very thing we deserve the right to do, and to be,” the artist has stated. On “Go(l)d,” Mereba solidifies this deduction by equating it to being “like a lighthouse in a blackout,” even as “the world we know, it went up in smoke.”

“I want to remind people of love, too. The very thing we deserve the right to do, and to be.” 

Mereba

“Beretta,” my personal favorite track on the project, is a song gilded in optimism and commitment: “If this ink could seep into your cerebellum / I would so eloquently scribe my feelings unto thee / So that you would never not remember / But lemme see, if the way I feel for you is reciprocated too.


“Another Kin,” the project’s only interlude, highlights the mental and emotional fatigue of seeing death day in and day out. Clocking in at just one minute and eighteen seconds, “Another Kin” is a gentle proclamation of how grief has become a daily occurrence for people of color. “News Come” is a more in-depth plea, rather– demand, for social and racial justice, equality and a call for reparations: “I’m done being nervous / When they see us switch lanes and swerve it / Ah, we’re diamonds under the dirt here / System don’t deserve us.”

The title of the project, AZEB, is Mereba’s middle name. The word is an Amharic term for the very point in which the sun rises. With this project, one can assume Mereba hopes to not only shed light on systems that directly affect her and many others but to also bring light and precious gold to those who may be stuck in the dark.


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Eaglin: A Truly Dynamic Duo

Hailing from Denton, TX, sister duo, Eaglin, released their latest single, “Maybe (We’ll Get Better Soon)” last month. The single is a goosebumps-inducing, blues-infused ballad that somehow sounds the way that homesickness feels, with an incredibly captivating bridge that will, without a shadow of a doubt, have you singing, “Thinkin! About you! Brings a smile to my face, even now.” The track was blessed by the hands of Grammy award winner McKenzie Smith and lauded guitarist Joey McClellan. When the single popped up in my inbox, I decided I would be remiss if I didn’t try to make contact.

“Maybe (We’ll Get Better Soon)” is an ode to the pandemic in a way. Societal anxiety of the unknown became the cultural norm during the early days of the pandemic, which in turn, became a breeding ground for creativity for many artists. We have a cocktail of isolated free time and spiraling thoughts to thank for a good portion of the creativity that has been displayed in the last 15ish months. Eaglin is no exception to that.

Kenzie and Bailee Eaglin
Kenzie, 17 (left) and Bailee Eaglin, 24 (courtesy of FRNDLY media)

“I was laying outside at my family’s home in Texas, with the sun shining down, after being cold in New York for the past 6 months,” Bailee said, painting the picture of how the track was written. “There was a moment where I felt so hopeful for the future and what the next year might bring following the grim, sad reality the pandemic was sure to bring. I also remember feeling so unbelievably grateful to be at home with my parents and sister,” she continued, “I was missing friends who were far away but I knew there’d be a day when we could reconnect and thought about how sweet it would be.”

Kenzie offers a more melancholy and less optimistic perspective to the track. “When I wrote the second verse,” Kenzie stated, “I was feeling some emotions that were dark and confusing, and I feel as though this song paraphrased those feelings, which resulted in a beautiful body of work.”

The duo announced the upcoming release of their 5-track EP on social media shortly after the release of “Maybe (We’ll Get Better Soon).”

We wanted to make a sunny, fun body of work that also showcases our different writing and music styles.

Bailee Eaglin, on what to expect from the duo’s upcoming EP

Eaglin released “Maybe” as a follow-up to “Vanilla,” which was released back in February. The tracks differ vastly in sound and subject matter, as “Vanilla” is a sweeter-than-candy pop-rock track. Eaglin’s self-titled debut EP, set to release later this month, will be an exhibition of their sweeping wingspan of talent. When asked what to expect of the debut, Bailee stated, “A range of different sounds with one common thread: summer! We wanted to make a sunny, fun body of work that also showcases our different writing and music styles. We have a lot of influences, Kenzie has a lot of vocal range, so we didn’t hold back. We really think there’s something for everyone, here.”

Those influences that Bailee mentioned include practically their entire family. I’m talking the whole roost. “We have a large family and are blessed to have known our grandparents and even our great-grandparents,” Bailee said, “We are multiracial and ethnically diverse as a family, so we really had access to so many different cultural norms and traditions.”

Eaglin’s multicultural rearing heavily impacted their musical preferences, which vary in genre. “Being biracial in the 2000s really effected my music taste,” Kenzie said, “I grew up listening to what our parents grew up listening to, as well as new artists they were into. Our dad played gospel and R&B, while our mom was super into Aerosmith, Journey, and Celine Dion. This introduced me to different worlds of music at a very young age, and I’m forever grateful.”

Bailee and Kenzie were blessed from both sides of their family with the musical gene; the duo’s aunt is a respected gospel singer in Houston and their father grew up singing in church choirs, but no one has inspired these sisters like their mother. “Our mother is an incredible singer as well,” Bailee said, “She’s my biggest inspiration without a doubt.”

Courtesy of FRNDLY media

The familial inspiration doesn’t stop there, though. Bailee, 24, is a self-taught guitarist who picked up the instrument thanks to her aunt. “My moms sister, my aunt Amanda, if I really take a second to think about it, might’ve been one of my largest musical influences,” Bailee said, “She was always listening to the coolest albums and going to live shows. She’d take me to live rock concerts on week nights when no 6/7 year old on earth was probably out, and it absolutely shaped my perception of musicians and performance.” She continued, “She bought me my first guitar when I was six years old or something like that and signed me up for lessons.”

Despite taking lessons, Bailee struggled to hone her attention, saying, “I couldn’t sit still or focus on anything the instructor was trying to teach me, so I quit very soon after and would only pick up the guitar to pretend to play or try strumming along to something but I couldn’t read music, and I didn’t know any chords so I’d mainly pluck along with single notes. At ten, my uncle bought me a new guitar, and showed me a g chord. The rest was history! I played so much and began to write nearly every day.”

I asked the sisters what the next year has in store for them, as a duo and individually, and the two agreed on one thing: more music. “A year from now, I think we can count on several Eaglin projects that we are super proud of,” Bailee said. “We have plans for later this year that I can’t even believe we’re getting to share. Individually, I see myself someplace sunny, chugging along and continuing to expand the role of music in my life.” Kenzie plans to attend college in the fall, but says music will remain a high priority for her.

Listen to “Maybe (We’ll Get Better Soon)”: