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August Roundup

Yet another month down in the boiling cauldron that is 2020! How did we get here? I honestly haven’t the slightest clue, and I don’t know about you, but August really tested my patience and well-being. Now, that’s enough negativity for today– let’s get to the goods. As per the norm here at The Greater Good, I’ll be guiding your tour today through Bop City, rounding up this month’s picks. Please keep your extremities to yourself at all times.
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What Could Possibly Go Wrong – Dominic Fike

Dominic Fike’s debut album, What Could Possibly Go Wrong, was on regular rotation for me this month. Fike put himself on many people’s radars (including producer Kenny Beats) with 2017’s Don’t Forget About Me, Demos, which the artist recorded during house arrest and originally released while serving jail time. What Could Possibly Go Wrong is a body of work that mirrors Fike as an artist himself– unpredictable. As one of my good friends so accurately described the project: “He went from MGMT to Frank Ocean.” Favorite tracks: “What’s For Dinner?,” “Cancel Me,” “Good Game” and “Superstar Sh*t”

SuperGood – Duckwrth

“It’s classic, in essence — the shit that people fell in love with in the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s,” says Duckwrth of his major label debut, SuperGood. A romantic oeuvre, similar to Mac Miller’s The Divine Feminine, SuperGood seems like it was created for the ladies and those who love them. The album is a perfect summer send-off, with equal parts sonic nostalgia, sensual charisma and good, old-fashioned boppage. Favorite tracks: “Kiss U Right Now,” “Did U Notice?” “Tuesday” and “Super Good”

“Brown Skin” – Cam the Artisan

Atlanta rapper, Cam the Artisan made TGG’s playlist last month with smooth-as-butter and lionhearted “WYA?!” from his debut album, Hues. Cam’s latest single, “Brown Skin,” produced by Ashton McCreight, is just as addictive, to say the least. Another certified banger for the list, this record will provide nothing less than the best vibes for your summer function– money back guaranteed (by me).


“Something Good” – Harley Sulé

It wasn’t until after the 8th rotation of Harley Sulé’s “Something Good” that I came to the realization that I had been held hostage by a song. Please tell my mother I love her. The record is Sulé’s debut single under his own moniker; previously “anonymous” under soulful alias Jimi Charles Moody, the artist is nowhere near new to the game. The versatile artist also makes up one half of the UK hip-hop duo, Rizzle Kicks.
Surgeon General’s Warning: If consuming “Something Good,” be weary of your surroundings as it may take you the way it took me.

“Without Your Love” – APRE

APRE released “Without Your Love,” the second single from their forthcoming project, Always In Your Head, last week. The UK-based alt-pop duo consists of members Charlie Brown and Jules Konieczny. The artists summarized the single as being “about the idea that you shouldn’t force yourself to make the relationship work – appreciate what it’s done for you, and keep moving forward in your life.” The single is one of my favorite breeds of song– upbeat, hopeful production with contrasting somewhat somber lyrics. Always In Your Head is set to be released in November.

“Comfortable With Myself” – Blaine Legendary

Self-described as having a “demeanor like Clark Kent but a stage presence that’s Superman,” Blaine Legendary is comfortable with himself. So much so, he wrote a song about it and we’re that much better because of it. The single’s music video is a reminder that although this year is a dumpster fire, we’re all burning together, so why not make the best of it and enjoy ourselves in whatever way we can?

“WIYULD” – Evann McIntosh

Continuing the theme of self-love and self-acceptance, we have 16-year old Evann McIntosh entering the ring with leviathan-level confidence with her latest single, “WIYULD.” This alt-bedroom-pop anthem is a record for those who need reminding that they are indeed a force with which to be reckoned. I’m talking to you. Yeah, you.

rest up – boy pablo

Following recent singles “hey girl” and “honey,” Norwegian artist Boy Pablo recently released two-track single pack, rest up, in anticipation of his debut album, Watchito Rico. The DIY artist has fine-tuned his sound since the 2017 viral success of his single, “Everytime,” leaning into his specific brand of sleepy, romantic bedroom pop. Perfect for those nights in, “rest up” is an exemplary addition to your self-care playlist. Watchito Rico is set to release October 23rd. Watch the absurdly charming video for “hey girl”:

“SULA (Paperback)” – Jamila Woods

If you don’t know, I am a certified Jamila Woods stan. There’s simply no other way to put it, and I have no qualms about being labeled as such. The artist’s debut album, 2017’s HEAVN personally helped me through some tumultuous times. Her latest album, a conceptual project of sorts, last year’s LEGACY! LEGACY! highlighted influential Black figures throughout modern history, further solidifying her position as an icon herself. Her latest single, “SULA (Paperback)” pays delicate homage to the Toni Morrison novel. “Sula was the first Toni Morrison novel I ever read and it inspired the first chapbook of poems I ever wrote,” the artist said in a press release. After revisiting the novel years later, the artist said, “It reminded me to embrace my tenderness, my sensitivities, my ways of being in my body. This song is a mantra to allow myself space to experience my gender, love, intimacy, and sexuality on my own terms.”

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Charlotte Day Wilson’s Sad Girl Summer

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.

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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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Interviews Reviews

Finding Paradise with Whesli

“‘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.

“I write about experiences that are very personal and real to me, mostly as a therapeutic way of dealing with my emotions, but also on the off chance that someone might be able to relate to what I’m saying and not feel so alone with their emotions.”

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.

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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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Astral Projection with Ellie Dixon

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!

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The Nostalgia Tapes

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.

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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.

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Elah Hale – Room 206 EP

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

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UMI – Introspection

Seattle-born UMI released her second EP, Introspection, at midnight last night with J.J. Abrams’s independent-focused record label, Loud Robot. The 6-track EP comes after her 2019 project, Love Language. Like its predecessor, a visual EP dropped concurrently with the project, which the artist teased on Twitter, three days prior to the EP’s release.

The project was written in the times of isolation, during which the artist also began documenting her journey through “quarantine” in the form of vlogs on her YouTube channel.

Introspection begins with the title track, which was released as the EP’s first single in May. UMI’s hazy vocals over a languid beat prepares us for her insights throughout the EP: “Why I’m so afraid to fight back, I got a lot of shit to unpack,” reminding us that now is a great time to look within. The artist was quoted by Broadway World Music, saying the project is “…a look into my mind, how my brain sounds,” the artist continued, “I created this project with the intention to evoke Introspection, both in myself and in the listener. Introspection is a reflection of my inner journey over the past year, embodying my growth.”

The project continues with the EP’s remorseful second single, “Open Up.” On this track, the artist continues her inward-seeking journey of self-analysis, addressing her own emotional detachment in relationships and the guilt that comes along with prematurely closing a chapter due to fear.

Continuing the theme of mental health, UMI advises overcoming emotional barricades to allow for healthy vulnerability in “Where I Wander.” The artist croons, “No more time to loosen up yourself / No need to keep fighting what you’re dealt / You must take precaution in this Hell.” The track accentuates the importance of facing your fears head on. The following tracks, “Bet” and “Broken Bottles” seem to touch on the detriment of toxic egoism in relationships, romantic and familial.

The 21-year old artist has said she’s drawn heavy inspiration for her music from artists like SZA and Lauryn Hill. Although the derivative is evident, the young artist has managed to hone her own Neo-Soul sound while still paying homage to those who came before her. 8/10

Watch UMI’s Introspection (The Film):