Every Friday, Atwood Magazine’s staff share what they’ve been listening to that week – a song, an album, an artist – whatever’s been having an impact on them, in the moment.
This week’s weekly roundup features music by Stephen Sanchez & Em Beihold, Kalinders, Black Sands, Jak Lizard, Elise Hayes, Freddy Madson & Lleoh!
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:: “Until I Found You” – Stephen Sanchez & Em Beihold ::
Mitch Mosk, New York
Like so many of his contemporaries currently on the rise, 18-year-old Stephen Sanchez can thank TikTok for lighting the spark on his now-burgeoning career. The singer/songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee caught his first stroke of luck after posting a cover of Cage The Elephant’s “Cigarette Daydreams” to the video sharing platform. He struck real gold soon after when multiplatinum artist Jeremy Zucker heard one of his original snippets, and reached out with an offer to produce the full song. As far as beginnings are concerned, this one is a real life fairytale.
Two years later, Stephen Sanchez finds himself signed to Republic Records, with his 2021 six-track debut EP What Was, Not Now continuing to make waves. The record’s undeniable breakout single is the romantic confessional “Until I Found You,” a heartfelt outpouring that can’t help but bring us back to the 1950s and ‘60s – which, as it happens, is where Sanchez gets much of his inspiration.
Georgia, wrap me up in all your-
I want you, in my arms
Oh, let me hold you
Never let you again, like I did
Oh, I used to say,
“I would never fall in love again, until I found her”
I said, “I would never fall, unless it’s you I fall into”
I was lost within the darkness, but then I found her
I found you
“When I wrote ‘Until I Found You’ I was in the worst place ever,” Sanchez tells Atwood Magazine. “Then I met someone who was so loving and great to me though. I didn’t feel good enough for this person, so I pushed them away. We spent some time apart and when we re-connected it was like no time had passed. I wrote ‘Until I Found You’ to let them know how important they were to me and to let them know how much of an idiot I was when I pushed them away the first time.”
“Until I Found You” is sweet, heart-on-sleeve surrender in song. In an effort to keep things fresh and resonant, Sanchez teamed up with fellow Republic Records signed singer/songwriter Em Beihold, and together both artists have made “Until I Found You” the duet it was long meant to be.
“To me, songwriting is like taking a memory and putting it in a projector for everyone to see,” Sanchez says. With this perspective in mind, we can all appreciate how “Until I Found You” puts one of life’s most intimate moments on the big screen. It’s an effortlessly relatable story diving heart-first into that deep, passionate connection with someone special: Someone who gets us like so few people get us; someone who gets under our skin, and lets us get under theirs as well.
As Em Beihold sings in her verse, “Heaven when I held you again. How could we ever just be friends?”
TikTok may have granted Sanchez a platform to grow and share his art, but “Until I Found You” leaves little doubt that he’s earned his golden ticket.
:: “Deserve” – Black Sands ::
Joe Beer, Surrey, UK
Black Sands collaborates with Isadora for new single “Deserve” and it’s a combination we never knew we needed until now. Black Sands is the moniker of American producer Andrew Balfour, who brings on international vocalists to add their own flair to his records. For his latest track “Deserve,” Balfour brought in Australian R&B artist Isadora to help bring life to the song, through her impressive and soulful vocals.
Inspired by the ocean, the new track mirrors the motion of the tides, as synths oscillate back and forth, and punchy drum beats act as crashing waves. Shedding further light on the track, Balfour reveals, “There’s something beautiful yet dark about it. Deserve hits on the theme of loyalty and gratitude. Staying loyal and true to friends and relationships even when people are at their worst to help them persevere. The song comes from the perspective of being grateful for the people who stay by your side through thick and thin.”
Described as The Weeknd meets The 1975, Black Sands has established a unique sound, which encompasses a multitude of genres and styles. With every song, comes a different singer, giving listeners an element of surprise with each new release. So stay tuned for what he has planned next, as it’s certain to take you off guard.
:: “Convenient Hell” – Kalinders ::
Mitch Mosk, New York
There’s an irresistible allure about Kalinders’ debut single that keeps pulling me back to it: Dark and dreamy, impassioned and unrestrained, “Convenient Hell” has its own charismatic, intimate glow. Not only is it a tender and raw eruption from the heart, but it’s also a powerful introduction to Bay area artist Holly Tzeigon-Whitaker’s lyrical and literal voice: A force filled with captivating passion, raw vulnerability, and intense emotion. Electric guitars echo and reverberate in the distance as she boldly steps into a smokey spotlight:
saw your face in the liquor store
reflective case but I didn’t
recognize you then, as foe or friend
rang me up for a 20-pack
of 7-up, thought the carbonation
do me well, convenient hell
all I want is to wake up and know myself
through the blur of the smoke and mascara
no paint could make me anyone else
sometimes I get lost in the feeling
the taste, the smell
I’ll stand on the edge here forever
one block from a convenient hell
“‘Convenient Hell’ is one of those upbeat songs with a kind of darker undertone – it’s a song about vices, escapism, how easy it is (by design) to find ourselves seduced by substances that ultimately lead us away from ourselves,” Tzeigon-Whitaker explains. “I wrote it during a really trying time in my life, in an effort to better understand and empathize with a lover who was coming to terms with an addiction to pot. They once described the drive to my house as a ‘convenient hell,’ with the numerous dispensaries along the way. I thought of convenience stores, social media, all the other places designed to tempt, distract and lure.”
“Ultimately, the song aims to turn our attention back to what it is we’re really looking for in those moments, which for me at least, is feeling connected to and at home in myself.”
That push and pull between external pleasures and our longing for a deeper inner stasis is intoxicating in its own right, and proves quite the powerful subject matter for the music at hand. “Convenient Hell” is lush, lilting, and layered in both emotional complexity and musical nuance. It’s a pool of inner turmoil set to a sweetly driving soundtrack, all but ensuring we remember the name Kalinders from this point forward.
:: Human Heart – Elise Hayes ::
Chloe Robinson, California
Humans are complex beings. We struggle with a wide range of emotions from experiencing extreme anxiety to being so happy and content in the present moment. Elise Hayes beautifully narrates a roller-coaster of ups and downs in her EP, Human Heart. The cathartic five-track body of work touches on stress, joy and everything in between.
Beginning with the title track, the delicate piece depicts a deep sensitivity that can come with navigating our feelings. She sings, “me and my thoughts are in a bitter war, replaying it all from the night before.” Often we are battling with our inner-self and those emotions get the best of us. Then there is the stunning ballad “I believe in magic”. The gentle piano keys paired with her silky tone tell a captivating story of a skeptic softened by love. The EP concludes with “Little Hotel,” an effervescent, airy track that details the intense power others can have over us, sometimes for the worse. The atmospheric soundscape sends us to another world.
A Nashville based artist and producer, Hayes makes soulful music that seamlessly fuses pop and R&B. Her insightful, earnest subject matters resonate with listeners. This EP possesses those same profound messages as she reflects on life’s twists and turns.
:: Young Americana – Jak Lizard ::
Joe Beer, Surrey, UK
New York’s soul pop sensation Jak Lizard has blessed us with a six-track EP, bursting with his sweet, honey-toned sounds and funk-fueled melodies. Young Americana is a compilation of vibrant tunes dedicated to Hudson Valley, New York, a place where the artist seeks much of his musical inspiration. The dynamic region is prevalent for its love of Americana music, which Jak has infused into his own sound, along with bold brass instrumentation, hip-hop elements, move-inducing rhythms and his signature velvet vocals.
Written over the pandemic, the EP acts as a form of therapy for the artist, where he spent much of his time soaking up his surroundings and re-discovering the place that has shaped him as an individual and as an artist. He explains, “In the news we hear a lot about people’s idea of America and what it means to them and it never sat right with me. While there is so much to feel anxious and down about within the world, it’s been my true experience with all shapes, sizes, colors, and cultures of people that there is something of true happiness and worth to how we’re all living. I spent a year and half listening, learning, and falling in love with life and everyone involved in it. It’s that pure freeing feeling that helped shape Young Americana.”
From the energetic and totally addictive “Ride Home,” to the sweet and sugar-coated “Callin’ Me,” Jak Lizard knows how to lift the mood, having perfected the recipe for ultimate feel-good, sunshine music.
:: “Feels Right” – Freddy Madson ft. Lleoh ::
Mitch Mosk, New York
How do I put this? True to its name, “Feels Right” feels… right. Released in late April, the duet from Copenhagen-based indie pop artists Freddy Madson and Lleoh is a smoldering indulgence replete with warm, enchanting vocals, pulsing beats, and soaring melodies that leave us breathless and charmed.
While the song’s strong bass can’t help but remind us of certain 1980s bangers, “Feels Right” resonates with its own refreshingly invigorating weight.
Guys like you
Can’t feel the rhythm
So I try to tell myself
It’s a pretty bad show
Off the beat
It’s my kinda jiggle
You see me getting down low, you know
I can do it real slow
For Madson, “Feels Right” is a song celebrating the outsider in all of us. “Imagine a club with an irresistible dancefloor full of seemingly amazing people you wish you were partying amongst,” he says. “But you don’t dance like them or fit their dress code and the music is anything but your taste. Anyway, here you are, considering to compromise with oneself to be part of the crowd. ‘Feels Right’ is about being true to who you are. It celebrates the outsider in every single one of us – all the flaws and peculiarities that make you and me unique and beautiful in our very own way.”
Dance, dance, take a chance, do what you feel like
Let me lead your hand, you know it feels right
Boy becomes a man under the moonlight
You know it feels right
Together through strong instrumentals and their own passionate voices, Madson and Lleoh ensure that their audience feels right after hearing, or rather experiencing, their duet. “Feels Right” is an immersive, intoxicating blanket: A hot, spirited indie pop song ready to soundtrack romantic evenings in and out of the house.
Consider me won over.
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