Atwood Magazine’s Weekly Roundup: March 22, 2024

Atwood Magazine's Weekly Roundup | March 22, 2024
Atwood Magazine's Weekly Roundup | March 22, 2024
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 Adrianne Lenker, Medium Build, Hozier, Beyoncé, Natalie Shay, Night Tapes, Sly Jr., Julia Holter, Silent Mass, Eric Dash, Steinza, Luna Shadows, Hannah Stone, Rosalie James, Arabella, KIA, Pleaser, Benny Atlas, & Michele Ducci!
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Atwood Magazine's Weekly Roundup

:: Bright Future – Adrianne Lenker ::

Madeleine Eggen, Washington, D.C.

Adrianne Lenker of the band “Big Thief” is known for quiet destruction. In lilting vocals accompanied by bird song and wind chimes, she weaves poetic lyrics in a way that both devastate and empower the listener. Her last album, songs, used ambient nature sounds and deft guitar plucking to create what felt like a singular poem.

With Bright Future, Lenker’s first solo album since songs, she deviates from this concept. The album begins with the gut punch that is “Real House,” when Lenker brings us back in time to when she was “a child humming,” asking “Mama, what happened?” However, Lenker slowly builds energy and mood in the following tracks. A true shift is “Vampire Empire,” a song she also released with her band Big Thief in July. The guitar is warm and peppy with slappy instrumentals that are uncommon for a solo album from Lenker, but a welcome deviation. In this version of the song, Lenker includes the lyrics, “I’m the fish and she’s my gills,” which were part of the original song played before release. This folksy track is much more playful than the raw, angry Big Thief version, and the two exist in perfect harmony and opposition.

Lenker is known for her clever and complex lyrics, a strength she demonstrates in “Evol.” She uses uncommon palindromes to craft a sprawling narrative from just a few words. “Time says emit, who can see it? / Feel says leaf, tips ease is sea spit” she declares, allowing us a glimpse into her bizarre yet endearing psyche. Bright Future is a powerhouse of an album, with waves of energy and dips of sorrow. Lenker does not shy away from confounding poetry and quirky instrumentals, drawing on her experiences with Big Thief to flesh out her already well-established solo work. The album is springtime, with blossoming buds and fleeting freezes. Lenker is embarking on a number of shows across the United States, starting with an intimate show on March 18 in Brooklyn.

:: “Cutting Thru the Country” – Medium Build ::

Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York

I go into every new year excited – not because I know what’s to come, but rather, exactly the opposite: Because I have no clue what’s in store for me. New songs, new albums, new favorite artists – they all reveal themselves in their own time, and I’m happy to share that I’ve found my “new favorite artist,” and he goes by the name Medium Build.

Active for the past nine years (hey, better late than never, right?), singer/songwriter Nick Carpenter’s artist project has long been a vessel of raw connection and uncompromising self-expression – wrapped, of course, in some insanely catchy melodies and cathartic performances. Through four-plus records and tours with Lewis Capaldi, FINNEAS, and most recently Holly Humberstone, Medium Build has brought his unfiltered heart and soul to the masses – and while statements like this always sound unnecessarily hyperbolic, his latest music really is some of his best.

Having released his first major label EP last year (the six-track Health is a tender, brooding, sun-kissed daydream worth everybody’s time), Medium Build is now on track to release his first major label album: Country is set to release April 5 via slowplay / Island Records, and will feature the stunning singles “In My Room,” “Crying Over U,” “Cutting Thru the Country,” and “Knowing U Exist.” Technically his fifth studio album, Country is filled with Carpenter’s “goddamn DNA” – he explains, “I wanted Country to have a human touch. I want Country to be something you love with and dance with and cry with and sleep with and lean into.”

In all honesty, I’d love to spend some time unpacking each and every one of Country’s songs at some point – and I very well might! – but for my first time writing about Medium Build, I want to dive into “Cutting Thru the Country,” the album’s emotionally-charged third single, released back in February.

Cutting through the country, on my way to you
Runnin’ out of Reds, comin’ up with truths
I’m cutting through a cornfield, talkin’ to myself
Hookin’ up with strangers, askin’ them for help
Waitin’ for forever, waitin’ for your call
I know it sounds crazy, we could have it all
If you needed someone, if you needed proof
I’m cutting through the country, I’m on my way to you

A dramatic and heated folk rock fever dream, “Cutting Thru the Country” is a spirited, sweltering release of pent-up energy, inner tension, and fiery emotion: Carpenter churns and charges his way through three intense minutes of chorus-less reckoning, singing about cross-country drives (several of which he took during the making of this album) and all the heavy, inescapable thoughts and feelings that cloud the mind on those trips. Passion and urgency combine into a furious, visceral eruption as Medium Build goes big:

I’m cutting through the country, listenin’ for you
Someone I could trust, wishin’ it was us
Yeah, nothin’ lasts forever and everybody dies
I don’t wanna leave, unless it’s here with you tonight
And I’m pullin’ from a bottle, flippin’ on my phone
Lookin’ for a life, lookin’ for a home
Cutting through the country, call me when you’re up
Nothin’ lasts forever, but I’m not in a rush

“In August, while I was driving from Alaska to Nashville, I started a little poem,” Carpenter says of this song. “I wanted it to feel like an Earl Sweatshirt song. Just bars, no chorus, no melody. We found an old keyboard and plugged it in. Found some wild tones and I did like 6 takes of the vocal. Probably the easiest tune we made on the album.”

That ease translates into an all-consuming experience as Medium Build dwells unapologetically in his depths, coming to an impassioned climax as he sings, “Nothin’ is forever and I don’t even know, that’s just how it goes, that’s just how it goes, people get sick, yeah, everybody knows, everybody knows, that’s just how it goes…” – a line that, without fail, always sends shivers down my spine.

Every day’s a movie and I’ve already seen
I’m cutting through the country, I might fall asleep
Wake up in a cartoon, fallin’ through the earth
Give me somethin’ real, babe, and nobody gets hurt
Ain’t nobody tells you how it’s gonna feel
You just get to get it, disappointment’s real
Slappin’ some piano, feelin’ like a chump
Cutting all the corners, you can’t skip lunch
Nothin’ is forever and I don’t even know
That’s just how it goes, that’s just how it goes
People get sick, yeah, everybody knows
Everybody knows, that’s just how it goes

The fun thing about discovering an artist a decade into his career is that there’s several hours’ worth of Medium Build music for me to dive into, and I’m still catching up. Nevertheless, there’s not a shred of doubt in my bones that “Cutting Thru the Country” is a very special song: An unrelenting explosion of angst, roaring vocals, and turbulent energy – with plenty of cinematic guitars and propulsive drums, to boot – that comes to life as a three-and-a-half minute cleanse; a freeing, white-hot release of all our stress, all that weight we’ve been carrying inside, and all those heavy emotions that don’t have an easy way out.

Sing this song at the top of your lungs, and I promise you’ll feel better. Medium Build can’t solve all your problems, but he can give you the cathartic release you so desperately need.

And everybody loves you, yeah, you’re the f*in’ boy
Get bent down, never hit the ground
Nothin’ is forever, nothin’ is for sure
And everybody loves you, loves to see you go
Oh, loves to see you go, loves to see you run
Loves to see if you, if you are enough, yeah
I’m cutting through the country, on my way to you
Nothin’ lasts forever, but you already knew
I’m cutting through the country, on my way to you…
I’m cutting through the country, on my wait to you…
Thinkin’ ’bout dyin’, thinkin’ ’bout us
Lookin’ for someone, somethin’ I can trust
Tryna find freedom, tryna find real
That ain’t how it goes, that ain’t how it feels
I’m cutting through the country

:: “Too Sweet” – Hozier ::

Dimitra Gurduiala, Italy

Just when I thought Hozier couldn’t top himself after the Dante’s Inferno-inspired record Unreal Unearth, he decides to make a comeback by releasing an EP with the songs that couldn’t make it to the album, Unheard. Among them, the mesmerizing “Too Sweet” immediately stands out. Inspired by the 3rd Circle of Hell, Gluttony, it is a refreshing, playful song about a relationship between two opposites who attract each other, despite the fact that one is too sweet for the other. It is an ongoing contrast between desire and restraint, attraction and self-control. A song that takes very little time to get into your head, thanks to an addictive bass line and subtle details that you can’t help but appreciate, like the background bells in the chorus. At this point, if we can be sure of one thing, it is that Hozier doesn’t miss. He never does.

You know you’re bright as the morning
As soft as the rain
Pretty as a vine
As sweet as a grape
If you can sit in a barrel
Maybe I’ll wait
Until that day
I’d rather take my whiskey neat
My coffee black and my bed at three
You’re too sweet for me
You’re too sweet for me

:: “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” & “16 CARRIAGES” – Beyoncé ::

Blake McMillan, Jersey City, NJ

With visuals for her previous album still unreleased and no less than a month after pulling RENAISSANCE: A FILM BY BEYONCÉ from theaters, Mrs. Knowles-Carter waited no time to team up with Verizon for an advertisement during the Super Bowl. This being the woman who can even leave Oprah in awe of that kind of synergy, Beyoncé’s final line was, “OK, they ready! Drop the new music.” Shortly thereafter, Queen Bey posted a teaser for her new album, act ii, the follow up to 2022’s RENAISSANCE. Featuring radio static and the artist driving past a billboard in a small western town, it was clear this was yet another genre-shift for the artist who has already done rap, pop, house, techno, dance; now, country is back.

No two songs could be more fitting to be on a list with the word “Roundup” in it considering they have everything but a lasso. The announcement was accompanied by two singles, out now, from the upcoming project, out March 29. The tracks are both in the vein of country but feel distinctly different. “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” is distinctly hoedown,  country-pop material; not in a Nashvillian visit sort of way, but more “Houston, Texas baby!”. Many are quick to note the Black legend formally reclaiming country music, after taking back Black house music on RENAISSANCE. “HOLD ‘EM” bounces from coos to shouts, with lines like “It’s a real-life boogie and a real-life hoedown / Don’t be a bitch, come take it to the floor now!” On less earnest moments, Yoncé evokes a gentle, “Shoot! Spurs! Boots!” as if she’s been asked what her wardrobe will be for the next year and a half.

“16 CARRIAGES” is country with a shot of folksy soul. If the first track feels like spurs and boots, this one is reflective on a trip down memory lane. The title includes the number 16, the age she signed to Destiny’s Child, before she was an icon and now yearns for a moment of stillness during a life on the open road: “It’s been 38 summers, and I’m not in my bed / On the back of the bus, in a bunk with my band.” Both differ in subject matter so greatly that, just as fans discovered at the end of the Super Bowl, it’s hard to infer what her next move might be.

:: “Like You Boy” – Natalie Shay ::

Joe Beer, Surrey, UK

British indie-pop artist Natalie Shay has just released her new single “Like You Boy” providing the ultimate breakup anthem. As she opens up about the sad ending of a relationship, the tear-jerking track is certain to tug at your heartstrings. Through honest and raw lyrics, Shay chants, “End before start, still broken my heart, self preserved in the truth with too much to lose, knew you’d get sick of me soon, could never love me at all.” Her warm, soulful vocals glide over a glowing, organic guitar line, accompanied by spine-tingling harmonies.

Speaking from experience and not afraid to tell her truth, Shay always provides relatable songs, almost like a soundtrack for your twenties. Shay shares, “The song is about the moment after you get dumped or a relationship ends. When you’re curled up in bed accepting that the relationship has ended and learning to let go of that hope of potential. You start thinking things over and trying to figure out where it went wrong, in this case blaming myself, for always screwing things up. And also blaming yourself for opening up in the first place.”

“Like You Boy” is off of her upcoming EP, entitled Champagne. So let’s raise a glass, because we’re in for a treat.

:: “Every Day Is a Game” – Night Tapes ::

Josh Weiner, Washington DC

Every day is a game… that’s a fair point to make now that March Madness is upon us and every day has games aplenty (including a wild upset last night with Oakland against Kentucky. Wow!). But let’s set the NCAA aside for a moment (so hard, I know, but don’t worry– you’ll be back real soon!) and focus for a bit on musical trio Night Tapes and their latest single.

This British dream-pop group consists of Iiris Vesik, Max Doohan, and Sam Richards. They’ve been drifting singles and EPs along since 2019 and are preparing another release, assisted memories, this June. “Every Day Is a Game” marks the third preview from that upcoming EP, following “Loner” and “Drifting.” It’s further proof that these Londoners have a solid template down, in between Vesik’s delicate vocals and Doohan and Richards’ gentle, mind-soothing production.

The song serves as an ode to the happiness of romantic fulfillment, with lyrics like “lately I’ve been dreaming that the world is good– life is just so good with you.” According to Vesnik, the track is meant to evoke how “we are individually responsible for our own happiness – taking care of our own world and leaving space for the other to take care of theirs.” It’s a slam dunk of a concept, indeed– assisted memories is shaping up to be a really strong EP, at this rate!

:: “rolling” – Sly Jr. ::

Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York

If we’re lucky, we’ll fall in love in this lifetime. If we’re even luckier, that person will love us back – and if we’re luckiest, the person we fall in love with will also be our soulmate. The stars were aligned for Sarah Grace McLaughlin (aka Bishop Briggs) and Landon Jacobs, who, by all accounts, hit the jackpot and are living their happily ever after. Jacobs (of Sir Sly fame) has found himself anew in their love story, and on his second solo single as Sly Jr., he enshrines that love in song: “Wherever I’m with you is my new home,” he sings on “rolling,” reveling in a fresh sense of purpose, place, and inner peace. “Me and you are like two stones, we keep rolling, rolling.” He knows exactly where he’s supposed to be: By her side, forever and always.

As Jacobs explains, “rolling” is an ode to this new journey he’s now on. “On our way home from Joshua Tree my wife and I had to pull over onto the side of the road so she could feed our then 10 month old baby,” he shared upon his song’s release in early March. “I recorded voice memos of what would become “rolling” while I was wandering around in the sand. There’s been something about raising a kid together that has made me love Sarah and lean on her in a way I didn’t have to before. This song is about belonging with someone and being along for whatever adventure they are on.”

97’s in the past
it’s like a dream in color photographs

All the faces that I love
Every mountain, every river bathed in sun
I hear the chorus on repeat
It’s never saccharine, it’s only bittersweet
Then I’m back inside the car
Well we made it this far
‘Cause we keep rolling, rolling, rolling
Rolling, rolling, rolling
Whenever I’m with you is my new home
Me and you are like two stones
We keep rolling, rolling, rolling

Sly Jr. wears his exposed and achy heart unapologetically on his sleeve. Putting his past in the past and grounding himself in the here and now, he lets loose and basks in the warmth and wonder that’s come with being in love, and having, in a sense, rediscovered himself through that special connection.

They say love changes you, but no one ever talks in specifics. “rolling” is a tribute to the power of love: Jacobs expresses just how much falling in love has changed him for the better, giving him a new lease on life as he dives headfirst into showing up and being active and present for his wife and child.

And oh, the places we’ll go
We’ll roam free, we’ll move to and fro
Oh, I’m never alone
And oh, the places we’ll go
We’ll roam free, we’ll move to and fro
Oh, I’m never alone
‘Cause me and you are like two stones
We keep rolling, rolling, rolling…

:: “Sun Girl” – Julia Holler ::

Connor Muldowney, Washington, D.C.

Sun Girl” off of Julia Holter’s latest album Something in the Room She Moves achieves a calming yet compelling atmosphere rare in art pop, I love the use of acoustic bass that provides a surreal, almost tropical vibe, as well as the strange whistles that start off the track and the mischievous flutes, and the vocals that prance from one side of my headphones to the next in the second half of the track.

Holter in an interview with ToneGlow that she wanted “Sun Girl” to feel “like a painting.” That’s hard to pull off, because music has so much to do with timing. Every song, at least in theory, has a time signature, a number of beats per measure, and a rhythm. Painting as a process does not require strict division of time, and once a painting is “finished,” it’s difficult to parse the “timing” of the piece’s creation as it stands as a static image.

I feel she pulled off the painting effect with “Sun Girl” through creative use of overlapping. Of course, the song has beats, a time signature, and all other traditional components of music, but the instruments and vocals overlap in dreamy, blasé strokes that make it easy to imagine the “pace” at which one would paint while listening to such a song. It’s so soothing, in a way only great music can achieve for me. I feel myself drift away as Holter repeats:

My dreams as I dream in golden yellow (sun girl)
My dreams as I dream in golden yellow (sun girl)
My dreams as I dream in golden yellow (sun girl)
My dreams as I dream in golden yellow (sun girl)

:: “Land of Heart’s Desire” – Silent Mass ::

Chloe Robinson, California

Many of us have goals and dreams we have yet to see to fruition. Some of these deep aspirations have been years in the making. The dream-pop meets shoegaze group Silent Mass looks inward to examine the self-destructive behaviors that keep us from our purpose in “Land of Heart’s Desire.” The intense, moody vocals over a dark, melancholic atmosphere create the ultimate landscape of wistful reflection. The bold piece was inspired by the W.B. Yeats play entitled The Land of Heart’s Desire. The single of the same name speaks to a concept we can all connect to, making the offering so powerful.

Silent Mass have crafted a unique concoction of sound fusing post-punk, ethereal wave, and shoegaze. Influenced by musical greats such as The Cranberries and Dead Can Dance, their music takes on that same pensive, emotive quality. Listeners are drawn into releases that ooze with eerie tones and lush backdrops. “Land of Heart’s Desire” is just as enticing.

:: “Learn From Last Time”- Eric Dash ::

Julius Robinson, California

Eric Dash’s “Learn From Last Time” is an earthy rock track that bleeds with emotional grit. His passionate alt-rock style draws the listener into his organic vulnerability. The piercing piece focuses on caring deeply for a person that is used to being mistreated. They have become so accustomed to that type of relationship they only want to be broken down. Dash begs the question, “Why won’t you learn from last time?

Eric “Dash” Friedman is a music artist and producer hailing from New Jersey. Dash is making waves in the music scene working with famed produced by Jack Joseph Puig (John Mayer/No Doubt) as well as having toured with Heffron Drive, fronted by Kendall Schmidt from Big Time Rush. With a John Mayer-esque vibe, “Learn From Last Time” is the ideal stirring singer-songwriter serenade.

:: “Visions of You” – Steinza ::

Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York

Some people have a way with words; steinza has a way with emotions (and words, too). Zachary Stein has, for a long time now, captured all those things we don’t say aloud through his reflective, expressive music. The singer/songwriter from Virginia Beach may have toyed with a variety of styles and sounds over the past six years, but the constant in all his art has been the raw vulnerability he injects into every line; every sung note; every moment of every song.

His latest single, “Visions of You,” is a gentle giant of candid, heart-on-sleeve introspection: An empathetic, achingly intimate folk rock reverie that finds him dwelling on images he can’t seem to shake from his mind, and deeper down, exploring the ways in which we hold back, conceal our truths, and avoid saying how we truly feel:

Picking you up on a Sunday morning, service starts at noon
Long red hair and a long red white dress with a long list of things to do
You were on the phone with Dawn, talking about the afternoon
I drove us to the steeple, and we left at half past two
We spent that day diving inside one another’s minds
Talked politics and dogs and kids and spending down our lives
But I looked you in your eyes, and I knew something bad was wrong
But you didn’t have the time, oh, no, you didn’t wanna talk

“Visions of You” is a painful, poignant song at its core, and yet it comes to life with such vibrant melodies and an irresistibly catchy chorus, that it feels like a campfire singalong: A soul-stirring anthem for all the times we’ve avoided someone’s gaze, or had someone avoid ours; for all those times we’ve buried our emotions within, and every moment we’ve felt a loved one do the same. steinza aches with the weight of the world as he exhales in a cathartic, impassioned, and emotionally-charged chorus:

Now every night I paint the back of my
Closed up eyelids and see the past
I get visions of you that I can’t unsee
I’m all black and blue, but I’ll make believe
That I’m fine, okay
That I’m doing great

Writing on his social media upon the track’s release, steinza says that this track came together quite quickly and spur-of-the-moment. “I was at my best friend and cousin’s (verse 2 cameo) baby shower a few months back and went down to the basement (day drunk) with my tiny pawn shop guitar and walked away with this song,” he writes. “Felt iffy about it and my friends were there to make me believe in it.”

Picking you up on a Friday evening, I was so in love
In Kentucky for the night and somehow we finally showed up
Saw my best friend and my cousin and my niece that was eighteen months
Everything was perfect, all of it was just enough
Then the moon fell down, and the five of us just laughed the time away
But the clock struck twelve and you had work so we just could not stay
Then I looked you in your eyes, and I saw sadness in your face
But you didn’t wanna talk, oh no, you only wanted space
Now every night I paint the back of my
Closed up eyelids and see the past
I get visions of you that I can’t unsee
I’m all black and blue, but I’ll make believe
That I’m fine, okay
That I’m doing great

An acoustic enchantment reminiscent of The Lumineers and Noah Kahan, “Visions of You” is steinza’s first single of the year, arriving on the heels of a very prolific and exciting 2023 that saw the release of not one, but two EPs – July’s The Former, which spawned the runaway hit single of the same name, and November’s Radio Silence, which features the dreamy, dramatic, and utterly spellbinding power ballad “I Know You,” a cinematic duet with fellow Virginia Beach native Matt Maeson.

2024 promises to be another blockbuster year for the fast-rising artist, and if “Visions of You” is any indication of where steinza’s headed, then we’ll be right alongside him – ready to go wherever he takes us next.

:: “stay mad” – Luna Shadows ::

Josh Weiner, Washington DC

Kids get into fights all the time. We know this. Some of them never reconcile. Others manage to kiss and make up. Others still (check this out!) manage to kiss and make up, and then write songs about it!

One such individual is Luna Shadows, whose new single “stay mad,” details the variety of intricate relationships she’s had with other females over the years, going back to early childhood, when “I was in first grade [and] my best friend (who I adored) dragged me across her front lawn by the hair – just for fun.” It was tough to experience this treatment from a friend, but– and this turned out to be good practice for comparable predicaments later in life – Luna ultimately learned to “forgive & forget.” In the end, as she sings, “I am not the enemy– you cannot stay mad at me.”

This altruistic theme does “stay mad” well, as does the recruitment of Luna’s sister for some guest vocals, Joey Howard (who has toured with Paramore) for the bass-playing, and Minnesota musician Bradley Hale for some long-distance songwriting and production contributions. With her upcoming sophomore album, Bathwater, due on the first day of summer, Luna Shadows fans will be far more likely to “stay happy” than “stay mad.”

:: “Bad News Bears” – Hannah Stone ::

Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York

It’s one thing to know you need to make a change, and another one to actually do it – but there’s nothing like the freedom and fresh energy we feel back at that starting line. Hannah Stone is shedding her old skin and stepping into a better space, and she’s documented that evolution in “Bad News Bears,” her spirited first single of the year. While its story of junky melodrama and escape may be exaggerated (if not entirely fabricated), there’s no faking the energy and emotion Stone packs into this song: Her voice quivers and quakes as jangly guitars churn and synths swell with charming color, everything working in tandem to create an undeniable, percussive forward momentum.

I had a toothache for my breakfast
Just as soon as I woke up
Sun was beating like a kick drum
Felt a desert on my tongue
I stumbled to the bathroom
Shook my heavy head awake
Looking round at my place
thinking what a filthy mess we made

Creating this song was one of those long journeys that started with a jam session between my friend and I — he on drums, me on guitar,” Stone tells Atwood Magazine. “I was singing random words while blasting out chords through my new fuzz pedal. We were so hyped up that I actually damaged my vintage guitar that day, which was a bummer. (It’s okay though, I got it fixed). I kept a recording of that jam on my phone and later felt the melody was good enough to give a little more life.”

“So I wrote the lyrics, gradually building a story to the song. I was in my alt-garage rock phase of songwriting, listening to lots of ’90s girl-grunge like Elastica, The Breeders, and Veruca Salt. I didn’t finish writing it until the initial live recordings, and even then the song didn’t feel complete until my producer—Tyler Chester, added the wicked synth line that gives the song its zany character. The lyrics depict a sort of love triangle between two people and a drug addiction. You know when it’s time to go, you know?”

“This song is about caring for someone dealing with addiction, and acknowledging that you can’t save them. It’s a hard lesson I’ve had to learn more than once –giving someone up so you don’t give up on yourself.”

I slipped into your apartment
You were watching Bad News Bears
Saw the needle on the table
And all I could do was stare
Looking backwards at that moment 
I never knew you at all 
Ever look down from a high place
knowing that you’re gonna fall?

Stone hits her high (ha) in an infectious and unapologetic breakdown, holding true to her convictions and steady in her decision to leave the theoretical “stoner ex” in search of a better life. Her stunning voice carries that weight; a lightning rod of emotion, it expresses what all words in the world could never say, evoking confidence, catharsis, excitement, wistfulness, and a readiness to begin again, all at once. We can feel Stone’s past catch up with her, and we hear her rise above.

I blame you, your junky moods
And your sh*y attitude 
Such a waste of a handsome face
It’s gonna fall right off of you 
It’s your skin to bruise 
I can’t tell you what to do 
Now I’m the bearer of bad news 

Bad News Bears was a cute movie – there’s no doubting that. The song, however, is a beast – a fiery anthem of hope and redemption, self-empowerment and self-care, and one I’ll be undoubtedly playing on repeat for months to come. Hannah Stone is unleashed in this song, and I’d like to think the world’s a better place for it.

:: “Girl I Was” Rosalie James ::

Chloe Robinson, California

It can be hard to reflect back on a negative relationship and the true destruction it caused in your life. Rosalie’s “Girl I Was” beautifully depicts the tale of a toxic romance and the ability to reclaim your power. Her delicate vocals dance over light percussion as she sings powerful lines like “you said you loved me, now you hate me, I still wish you were my drug.” A lot of us resonate with the idea of knowing someone is wrong for you yet still missing what you had. The graceful, indie-pop track will swirl around you in a weave of endless emotion. We are riveted by that raw vulnerability.

The Cornwall, UK native possesses vast musical talents. She is a multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter who grew up learning piano and guitar. James also has fond memories jamming out to The Bangles and The Beatles and that’s inspired her to become the bold, expressive artist she is today. She has obtained much success being featured on BBC’s rotation. It is easy to see why with a track this intoxicating.

:: “August” – Arabella ::

Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York

Pop/rock’s return is in full swing, and I’m slowly starting to get the sense that guitars are also (gasp!) in vogue again. Sorry, synths.

I can’t credit this realization to any one song, but even a cursory listen to Arabella’s “August” is enough to capture the irresistible oomph and raw energy that comes with rock-solid guitar playing. A song about unapologetic infatuation, “August” comes to life with dynamic, bouncy licks in the verses and roaring, electrifying full-bodied chords in the chorus. The 18-year-old Londoner throws caution to the wind as she commits to stop playing games and give her tryst the proper try it deserves, pairing her stunning, powerful vocals with dramatic overdrive in such a way that recalls everyone from Olivia Rodrigo and Paramore to The Killers.

Oh August, I wanna taste your breath
Oh August, all that can do us part is death
Oh August, I miss the way you stain your name on my brain
August, don′t kiss my lips in vain

Naming herself the “Armenian Rockstar Princess,” Arabella is worth paying special attention to over the coming months. Her social media pages are filled with her scorched-earth guitar solos, wielding her trusty Gibson SG or a spunky black/grey PRS, to everything from Fontaines D.C. and Arctic Monkeys to Silk Sonic and Steely Dan. She’s a prodigy with heaps of talent to spare, and she’s channeling that passion into charged, high-octane singalongs. Her future is bright, and one can only hope that with more songs come even more guitars.

If you could tell me you don’t love me
Crazy as it would be
I would let you walk right out
But you crave me on the daily
You know you deserve me
Miss me when I′m not around
August, I’m done trying to pretend
We’ve gotta have it out
You′ll see, nothing good is easy
Let me tear your heart right out

:: “Okay, Alright” – KIA ::

Joe Beer, Surrey, UK

KIA is an R&B, neo-soul artist based in Los Angeles, whose new single “Okay, Alright” is providing all the feels. The vibey track begins with recordings of the rain to set a sombre mood, before KIA picks things up with a move-inducing beat and catchy lyrical lines. Off of her upcoming EP, Retrospect, KIA unveils stories from her life, delving into relationships and the rollercoaster of emotions you experience alongside. The artist shares, “The concept of the EP is in retrospect going back to the end of a previous relationship that wasn’t kind to me, going through loss, anger, confusion, sadness, into accepting and allowing yourself into being open and vulnerable again in meeting other people.”

“Okay, Alright” specifically details the moment where KIA realized things weren’t so rosy and started questioning everything. Her powerful vocals cut through the layered textures and instruments, as the track builds and builds to represent the tension and breaking point of the relationship. We can’t wait to hear the rest of the EP, as KIA provides a safe space for our introspective moments.

:: “Always Looking In” – Pleaser ::

Julius Robinson, California

Indie rock project Pleaser crafts soft jams with a dreamy vibe. “Always Looking In” is another single with the same wistful style that their fans love. The laid-back piece is about being okay with being an outsider. We are not always going to be in with the in-crowd, but sometimes that’s all right. This track is an emotive ode to anyone who struggles to fit in. His bold lyrics state, “I won’t ever be a part of this crowd, everybody wants to hear the same sound. If nothing that I do ever goes right, I’m fine with being on the outside.” Those lines remind us to maintain our individuality and sense of self.

The band consists of Collin Bennett (vocals/rhythm guitar) Graham Dickson (lead guitar and vocals) and Christian Olds (drums). Pleaser is inspired by indie acts such as The Strokes and Gorillas. It is funny that the name rhymes with Weezer as there are some sonic similarities there as well. Through masterful harmonies and radiant riffs their rock solid sound resonates. This track is definitely worth the listen.

:: “How to Be a Man” – Benny Atlas ::

Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York

I’m so good at excuses but apologies, no… I could never find,” a tender-hearted Benny Atlas sings, his passionate voice a beacon of raw, shiver-inducing emotion. “Tried to wade my way through this, the search, it goes on and on, wasted all this time.” The West Midlands artist unpacks his own manhood in his soul-stirring new single “How to Be a Man,” a breathtakingly intimate deep dive into identity and desire – asking himself point-blank questions about who he is, how he spends his time, and what he wants out of life – and love.

“‘How to Be a Man’ is a song about navigating the minefield of modern relationships, and complicity in male toxicity,” Atlas tells Atwood Magazine. “Accepting involvement and regret at the same time. Shame and confusion are woven together and leave no answers.”

I could fake it ‘til I make it
But where do I start?
Everything I held is breaking
Like the last time I held someone’s heart
Guess I got this all wrong
Losing myself to these one night stands
Bottle in my hand
Now I’m drunk and alone
Tried and I’ve tried but don’t understand
How to be a man
Be a man

Over moody pianos and jazzy guitars, Benny Atlas unleashes his smoothest, sultriest croons. He holds nothing back as he vocalizes tender, vulnerable lyrics exposing his heavy heart: “I could fake it ‘til I make it, but where do I start? Everything I held is breaking, like the last time I held someone’s heart,” he admits, adding later on, “Found out I just can’t face it, built walls up so high, maybe I just can’t change it, even if I tried…” Concerns around nature vs. nurture – if he’s defined by his “manhood,” or if he defines his manhood – come to the surface in a spellbinding, falsetto-filled soul song that aches from the inside out.

What if I can’t forgive
Myself for things I can’t fix
Is the blame all mine
Tried so hard to resist
But felt my hands turned to fists
clenching them so tight
Found out I just can’t face it
built walls up so high
so high
Maybe I just can’t change it
Even if I tried

“How to Be a Man” is a brutal, beautiful confessional; a cathartic release that sees Atlas reintroducing himself to the world, while also setting the stage for his forthcoming debut mixtape: Better Now You Know, a record described as “an introspective exploration of various romantic relationships, earnestly detailing each wrong turn and misstep made along the way,” is set to release April 12, and promises to include more soulful singing, together with audio vignettes and skits named after London postcodes.

In other words, it’s going to be a banger, so now’s the time to hop on the Benny Atlas train.

Guess I got this all wrong
Losing myself to these one night stands
Bottle in my hand
Now I’m drunk and alone
Tried and I’ve tried but don’t understand
How to be a man
Be a man

:: “River” – Michele Ducci ::

Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York

Michele Ducci’s voice is a haunting vessel of passion and pain in “River”: “All the magic, all the sadic, all the tragic, all my f** it, please call all this my song,” he sings hot on the mic, spilling his soul in an intimate, increasingly visceral eruption of raw, unfiltered reckoning. “All my bad habits, all my ‘head is heavy,’ this audio life, this audio file, yes, is all I got.” A gentle piano ballad full of aching, “River” is a spellbinding seduction – and a breathtaking introduction (or reintroduction) to the Italian multi-hyphenate, whose previous musical endeavors include electro-pop duo M+A and Santii.

For all the funny days ghosts
Solitude in a gloss
I was in New York
They call my name
But I’m a river
But I’m a river

“River” is the singer/songwriter’s first-ever solo release, and the lead single off Ducci’s forthcoming debut album SIVE, out June 7th via Monotreme Records. But perhaps most importantly, it’s a broken-off piece of his soul, as is evident from the moment the music starts: Slow and heavy, “River” flows naturally – poignantly – with a bittersweetness in every beat as Ducci, charmingly, dwells in a dark headspace. “All you creepy, all you happy, all you music, all you living beings, I will call you a song,” he declares, weighed down by intangible anvils only he can fully comprehend.

“I was in New York for musical reasons in a situation of psychic and metropolitan traffic, in which every mention of my name in relation to the artistic career and the pressures of that world had nothing to do with music,” Ducci says, recalling this song’s origins. “I was so saturated that I could feel myself only in the moving waves of the Hudson River. ‘You and I,’ I said to myself, ‘are from the same origin. We are like a song with its melody.’”

There’s a waywardness to this music, and yet one gets the sense that Ducci knows exactly where he’s meant to be. That push-and-pull between uncertainty and self-assuredness forms the foundation for a powerful song that hits hard and leaves a lasting mark, cutting to the core of who and what Ducci is – as well as where he wants to go. This song is his anchor; his guide home. It aches, because it hurts to lose your way; but it also aches, because knowing yourself is one of the most precious things we can have in this hectic world.

For all the funny days ghosts
Solitude in my gloss
I was in New York
They call my name
But I’m a river
But I’m a river

— — — —

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