The Brillboard is a curated list of fresh, new tracks by independent and up-and-coming artists. Tracks on the Brillboard fit a mood – sometimes broad, sometimes very specific, always useful to you. Follow for the soundtrack to your life, by artists you wish you knew.
This week’s Brillboard focuses on Raw.
“Nothing Remains” – Saro
Saro, a queer electropop artist from Los Angeles, has been relentlessly releasing singles these past few months. The latest of these tracks is “Nothing Remains”, the vulnerable telling of a breakup and the foreseeable yet unimaginable heartbreak that follows it. The lyrics enumerate all of the ways that this heartbreak manifests itself, as well as all of the ways Saro tries to cope. A frequent refrain in the song is “I just want to scream”, and scream he does. Showing off his vocal range over subdued electronic beats, Saro stretches the word scream over and over again, transforming it into a cry of anguish, of loneliness, of regret and intangible desire. If it wasn’t clear from the words alone, Saro’s voice makes sure that this song is a sad one. That sadness is further compounded by the album cover. If you look at the photo, most of the frame is taken up by a tree that endured 2018’s fires which raged through Southern California. The tree is scarred and scorched; it’s alive but visibly afflicted with the scars of the fire that burned it. Holding onto this tree, or perhaps even acting as an offshoot branch of this tree, is Saro himself. Saro and the tree are the same. They both faced devastation, they both got burned (Saro writes “I never learn how to light without the burn”) and they both show their scars to the world. At least in Saro’s case, I’m grateful for bearing witness.
“Saying a Lot” – Jean Castel
Let’s talk about Jean Castel. Ever since the French artist cannonballed into the pool of indie music, he’s been on the up and up. Nearly a year has passed since his first single (“What Happened To Us”) dropped, and even though many still play it on the regular, Castel now has a whole EP of other tracks to stream, too. “Saying a Lot” is one of these tracks, and when compared to the rest of the Wish You Well EP, it stands out as being forthright and raw. Its anger and anguish is an earnest expression of the pain Castel’s relationship is causing him. Suffocating and “lost in [a girl’s] thunder”, Castel wonders if he should scream to get his message across. It doesn’t take long for us to find out the answer to that question. By the time the chorus rolls around, Castel’s vocals are maxed out – unrestrained and nearly strained. He turns the volume up to 11 and delivers a chorus so syncopated that its lyrics feel like punches. The beats of strong kickback that accompany Castel throughout the song double down on this sensation. Castel doesn’t just bring us a song, he brings us a plea, a romantic manifesto. My beef might be with the way that Castel pronounces the word ‘meander’, but the real beef is the romantic drama between Castel and his girl. All things considered, I’ll take my blessings.
“Moral of the Story” – Ashe
Ashe, the moniker of California native Ashlyn Willson, is a name you’ve probably seen, even if you’re not immediately aware of it. Having lent her voice to acts like Louis the Child, Shaun Frank and Whethan, she’s been featured on a large portfolio of electronic tracks. But that’s Ashe, the featured artist. Then, there’s her own stuff. While still falling under the wide-brimmed umbrella of “electronic/pop”, Ashe’s work as singer-songwriter is distinguishably different. An admirer of Carole King and an aficianado of classical music, Ashe uniquely positions herself to cross musical genres, be them old, new, or something altogether different . One of my favorite examples of this is “Moral of the Story”, the lead single off her latest EP of the same name. The track is about yet another painful relationship and its painful ending. At times choral hymn, at times plainly delivered conversation, this song is a raw, cynical, and cinematic account of a marriage’s collapse. It’s Ashe like you’ve never seen her. As for the EP it comes from, “Moral of the Story: Chapter 1” is as it says it is. It’s the first chapter, a standalone yet simultaneously incomplete work. The rest is still unwritten, and I for one can’t wait to hear it.