Atwood Magazine’s Weekly Roundup: April 12, 2024

Atwood Magazine's Weekly Roundup | April 12, 2024
Atwood Magazine's Weekly Roundup | April 12, 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 Chappell Roan, My Giddy Aunt, Fake Dad, LYRA, St. Lucia, total tommy, Cruza, bby, Lei Hope, Szou, pher,, The Safest Place, Slow Joy, BIZZY, Star2, Mia Wray, Eric Dash, & Beren Olivia!
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Atwood Magazine's Weekly Roundup

:: “Good Luck, Babe” – Chappell Roan ::

Madeleine Eggen, Washington, D.C.

Chappell Roan is bringing back queer pop unlike ever before. Queer music has become increasingly popular in recent decades, but Roan brings a whole new twist to the genre of pop itself. Her debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, has been climbing the charts recently despite it having been released almost seven months ago. The album was heralded as a fun yet biting look at queer sexuality and discovery. Anticipation was high for her new single, “Good Luck, Babe,” and she did not disappoint.

 The track almost feels like the album’s epilogue, as the scorned lover cries, “good luck, babe.” Roan, a lesbian artist who primarily writes about her experiences with women (or her disappointment with men), is grappling with a very real and devastating heartbreak in which the object of her affection, a woman, has chosen a man. Angrily, Roan wails “you could kiss a hundred boys in bars” but reminds us “you’d have to stop the world just to stop the feeling.” This single is a perfect example of what Roan does best — music you can dance to that also takes a hard look at queer struggles. She doesn’t sugar coat the harsher parts of queer love, but she doesn’t lean into the melancholy either. Her songs are ballads, meant to be shouted “through the car sunroof” or blasted on the dance floor. Chappell Roan has shown us that, despite crafting a debut with no skips, there is a lot more to come, so be sure to keep an eye on this rising star.

:: “Bugs” – My Giddy Aunt ::

Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York

Scary insect armies and creepy-crawly revolutions aside, listening to My Giddy Aunt’s new single “Bugs” is utterly exhilarating – a thrill ride of very tiny (and very large) magnitudes. I’ve heard a thing or two about how they “grow them big” in Australia, but the Naarm / Melbourne-based indie rock trio take things to the next level in their spirited anthem as the “worms of the world” rise and all the “bugs from the back of your garden” come together to exact revenge on humankind. It’s the stuff of nightmares – a feverish three-minute fantasy – and My Giddy Aunt couldn’t sound happier if they tried: Rory Vagg, Luke Perry, and Océane Federow-Yemm are clearly having the time of their lives in this song, and it’s that effusive, infectious, and truly charming energy that ultimately makes “Bugs” so undeniably endearing.

“Writing ‘Bugs’ taught us a powerful lesson about taking your jokes seriously,” My Giddy Aunt’s singer and songwriter Rory Vagg tells Atwood Magazine. “For the longest time, the idea of a song featuring a Les Mis-style dramatic uprising undertaken by tragically doomed garden critters was relegated to the dark annals of the mind palace. Then we happened upon a Phoebe Bridgers interview where she said, ‘Your greatest ideas are your jokes.’ And this sentiment, especially when hearing it from one of our biggest idols, was incredibly inspiring and gave us the confidence that turned ‘Bugs’ into the song we’re so proud of today! While ‘Bugs’ isn’t a comedy song per se, it has definitely been influenced by musicians like Tim Minchin, Flight of the Conchords, and Tripod, who have been pivotal in our musical journey as a band.”

Vagg continues, “If ‘Bugs’ has anything to say outside of its lyrics, it’s a message about taking back the ability to write songs about whatever you want. In our experience, there’s a stigma around making pieces of art that aren’t totally serious and then having the audacity to say that it’s still important and valid. As a band, we love telling stories and writing songs about anything that comes into our head and ‘Bugs’ is kind of the perfect mission statement for us.”

Underestimate us if you dare, but wherever you look, we will be there,” Vagg sings in the second verse; fiery drums pumping and dramatic guitars soaring around all around his emotionally charged voice. As exciting as its decidedly unique and very original subject matter is, what really makes “Bugs” so attractive is the raw passion at its core. Punchy instruments (including Vagg’s vocals) combine with a feverish beat to capture our attention and rouse our spirits; impassioned lyrics about rising up and fighting for your species after “one too many kids with magnifying glasses” is, for me at least, the cherry on top.

My Giddy Aunt go all-in for this song, and by the time they’ve sung their last “yeah, yeah, yeah,” I’m left wondering what will become of our insect warriors (here’s to hoping “Bugs” gets some kind of Pt. 2 someday – because why not). Released March 29, “Bugs” is the invigorating lead single off the Australian band’s upcoming debut album, and a strong show of talent and tenacity from the proudly all-queer and neurodivergent band. It’s certainly one of the most creative songs I’ve heard in several years – making it pretty much instantly memorable – and with its irresistibly catchy chorus, I reckon I’ll be singing about the but revolution all summer long.

:: “Crybaby” – Fake Dad ::

Chloe Robinson, California

With popular apps like TikTok and Instagram, there are a number of people shooting to stardom. These influencers make fame look so enticing and many of us crave that same lifestyle. Fake Dad’s “Crybaby” details an intense obsession with obtaining celebrity status while others treat the desire as a joke. With sassy vocals sliding atop addictive bass and driving drums, we feel that deep plea for love and attention. Lines include, “I cook real spicy, I cook really mean.” That lyric fits seamlessly as there is a spiciness oozing from the piece.

Fake Dad is a bold indie rock duo made up of couple Andrea de Varona and Josh Ford. The two met at a college party in the East Village and instantly felt connected. Now they craft quirky, vibrant releases that are pure infection. Their previous song “So Dramatic” truly possesses a thrilling, theatrical quality. This new track also emits that dramatized air. We all know we are here for a little drama.

:: LYRA – LYRA ::

Joe Beer, Surrey, UK

Irish pop sensation LYRA has just dropped her debut EP and it’s more than we could ever have imagined. The self-titled release consists of 14 bangers, sucking you into her world and holding you hostage for the entirety of the album. Perfectly encapsulating who the Cork-born artist is today, the album demonstrates her vast talent and impressive musicality, as she takes us along on her journey that has brought her to where she is today. Specifically, the album touches on her love life and past relationships, as she vulnerably opens up about heartbreak, creating an honest and relatable release that will resonate with most people.

The songwriter shares, “The first ballad I ever wrote was ‘Someone New,’ and it took me a lot of heartbreak and learning to get there. But the album also documents when I embraced my single life and went a bit carefree and wild. People will understand much more about me, because all the songs are about my life. Except for ‘Naked.’ That’s my alter ego coming out.”

Her powerhouse vocals soar over shiny synths and playful melodies, with choruses so contagious that you’ll quickly find yourself singing along. LYRA is emotional, yet also inspiring – and by the end of the 14 tracks, you’ll feel totally satisfied, uplifted and filled with warmth.

:: “Love You Better” – St. Lucia ::

Josh Weiner, Washington DC

Out in the day-to-day world, Jean-Philip Grobler of South Africa and Patti Beranek of Germany are a happily married couple living on the edge of a big lake in the Alpine city of Konstanz. Inside the studio, they’re St. Lucia, a musical project that celebrated its 10th anniversary last fall (their debut album, When the Night, hit shelves in October 2013) and now are looking to get their second decade of existence going strong with their latest release, “Love You Better.”

The well-traveled couple made their way over to Nicaragua a few years ago and spent a séjour over in the coastal village of Maderas. Getting to tour the beach and jungle each day, and also fall asleep to the sound of crickets and howler monkeys, proved to be an indelible experience, and one that provided strong lyrical inspiration to Jean-Philip. “One morning I woke up with the chorus of ‘Love You Better’ in my head,” he says. “It came to me in a dream, and we spent the day finishing the rest of the song.”

Once back from Nicaragua, the duo teamed back up with their bandmates — guitarist Ross Clark, keyboardist Nick Paul, and drummer Dustin Kaufman — and gave this ode to that special someone who can get you through all types of weather a soaring and colorful live treatment.

“I feel like the energy really comes across in the recording and I can’t help but smile every time I hear it,” Grobler says. I am happy to give that description a ringing endorsement.

:: “Losing Out” – total tommy ::

Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York

total tommy’s inner turmoil is unleashed in her sophomore single: “I’m burning up with anger ‘cause I’m sick of being sad,” she rages. Heated, impassioned, and emotionally charged, “Losing Out” is a dreamy, dramatic alt-rock upheaval of intimate and epic proportions. It’s a much-needed confrontation and cathartic release all at once; in calling out someone who wronged her so deeply, Jess Holt seems cleansed – if not wholly self-empowered and energized. Rather than keeping all those volatile emotions bottled up deep within her, “Losing Out” turns on the metaphorical hose and lets it all come pouring out. This is her vulnerable, visceral eruption – a whisper and a shout all at once, unpacking the dark clouds and heavy weights hanging over the artist’s head in three feverish, therapeutic minutes.

That Holt maintains a semblance of composure while still letting all hell break loose is just the cherry on top – a quality that underscores the intimacy and intensity of “who” total tommy is and “what” her artistry is all about.

And in this particular instance, she’s all about wearing her heart on her sleeve in a churning, achingly raw reckoning.

“Someone I respected completely broke my trust and left me paralysed for a little while,” Holt tells Atwood Magazine. “I spent a lot of time going through the motions and feeling really thrashed about. I’d delayed writing about this time for a few months, but as soon as I started everything was super visceral and the lyrics formed in about fifteen minutes.”

“The first day demo we had was really special because it was so raw,” she explains. “I didn’t want to touch it because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to replicate what we captured on that day. But then I got my friend to play live drums on the track and it lifted it to a whole other dimension. It’s my favourite song to play live, because I can rage about on the guitar and get out a lot of energy. I’m not angry anymore, but f*** that guy.”

total tommy debuted her project this past February via debut single “microdose,” a hazy, hypnotic, multi-layered reverie that hits hard through emotional vocals, intense Strokes-y drums, and urgent, aching guitars. It’s an intoxicating three-minute head-spin in its own right, and one that leaves its audience in a euphoric haze.

As Jess Holt explains, these songs – and indeed, this entire musical endeavor – are the product of unbridled, unfiltered, and uncompromising self-discovery.

“total tommy started when I moved cities, came out, and spent time properly getting to know myself,” she shares. “Parts of my brain got unlocked that I’d never been able to tap into before, and with that I quickly got to learn a lot about who I was. I partied so much with new queer friends, fell in love, made mistakes, and wrote music to make sense of it all.”

A stunningly cinematic outpouring, “Losing Out” is certainly less the result of partying hard and more so a fractured soul just trying to make sense of it all. Like the letter you supposedly write to your ex (but you’re not supposed to send), “Losing Out” calls out poor form and shitty behavior while working through the wreckage left in their wake. It’s a breathtaking song in its own right – truly beautiful in a dark, twisted way – and another fantastic show of force from Jess Holt’s total tommy.

:: “Supa Anxious” – Cruza ::

Dimitra Gurduiala, Italy

Ooh la la, is that Bad Bunny’s “Booker T” what I’m hearing? It’s always lovely to hear a good sample when it’s used wisely – and well, the one in Cruza’s latest single, “Supa Anxious,” certainly is! A few tricks here and there, a mellifluous voice, and from a powerful hit “Booker T” deliciously flows into something else, becoming a psychedelic, soft yet trippy track. Cruza is an Orlando-based band formed by four people, it’s been in the music industry since 2018 and has two albums come out already. Could it be that they’re getting ready to release a new record this year? Given how pretty intriguing Dog Daze turned out to be with tracks like “Groove Therapy,” we sincerely hope so.

:: “Breathe” – bby ::

Emma Rayder, New York

London-based, indie rock five-piece band bby are cultivating an underground vibe that is similar to the one that dominated New York City’s Lower East Side in the early 2000s (see: Meet Me In The Bathroom), yet entirely their own. Their latest single, “Breathe,” and the music video that accompanies it – bby used the Ring camera at their infamous London “hang out” to film the video – are the latest stunts in an effort to build a DIY empire. “Breathe,” equally as provocative as the band’s first single, “hotline,” begins with what sounds like a panic attack. Heavy breathing resounds over murky guitars, as lead singer Benjy gears up for equally murky vocals:

Shakin’ the case of your heart
Washin’ your face of the blood
I didn’t know you act tough

In the music video (out this Sunday), a disgruntled neighbor shakes her fist at the door of bby’s “HQ” as she phones the police to make a noise complaint. A young woman stares at the camera, confused, as Benjy shouts to the beat, “You’re a freak!” Drunk twenty-somethings bare their teeth and flash their IDs to the jagged chant of the chorus:

Breathe, breathe, breathe, just
Breathe, breathe, breathe, just
Brеathe, breathe, brеathe, just

bby is bringing back the days of sweaty house parties and punk shows in basements. “Breathe” invites the listener to join the hang, so long as they’re ready to get dirty.

:: “Sinner” – Lei Hope ::

Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York

Achingly intimate and yet so full of warmth and light, Lei Hope’s “Sinner” shines from the inside out with a heavy, heartfelt glow. Sweet acoustic vibrations shimmer through the air as the Manchester-based artist (born Hope Chiguvo) unpacks conflicted feelings around family and faith, his voice a tender, fragile vessel of raw emotion in a sea of sweet sonic wonder. This is Hope’s confessional; a vulnerable, strained moment of truth wrought from his innermost depths and put into song, so that he doesn’t have to bear the weight alone any longer; so that he can working through all that he’s been going through; so that he can have some kind of catharsis or closure on thoughts that have been tearing him up inside, consuming him for far too long.

Is there something in my hometown water
That makes me not wanna go anymore?
And is there someone who lives by the border
That makes me feel oh so insecure?
Is it the songs that I sing on my guitar?
Is it the way that I strum my broken heart?
Or am I damned to a life so far apart?
Just a sinner that roams in the dark

“‘Sinner’ is probably my most personal and honest song on this project,” Hope tells Atwood Magazine. “I kind of struggled with both family and faith post-pandemic and living alone in Manchester, but I’d never explicitly written about it until now. To be honest, I never thought that I could be this honest in songs until I heard Stranger In The Alps by Phoebe Bridgers. I’m questioning transformations in my life, faith and family whilst not being 100% sure that the change is positive.”

Released April 3 via Heist or Hit, “Sinner” is the third single taken off Lei Hope’s forthcoming sophomore EP, Matrices (out May 10, 2024). Following recent tracks “Boyfriend” and “21,” the heart-on-sleeve “Sinner” sees the artist at his most gentle, his most visceral, his most delicate, and his most emotive. The song is also the source of the EP’s title, with the final, repeated lyrics, “Now, am I changing? Heaven’s waiting. There’s a matrix in my heart,” capturing a spirit of inner transformation that defines so much of this record.

“The title of the EP ‘Matrices’ came around as the plural of ‘matrix,’” Hope explains. “It’s a bit of a nerdy explanation but in Maths, a matrix is used to communicate transformation, movement, or change (similar to coordinates). Throughout the making of this project, I underwent multiple layers of change, and this track is a focal point within that theme, too.”

We don’t have to be roaming in the dark to fully appreciate the depth of this beautiful, heartrending song. Despite the darkness and turbulence he’s been going through – that brought these words to the page – Lei Hope lets his inner light shine, and the result is an intimate, soul-stirring melancholy enchantment.

He’s got the message of a Sunday preacher
And the feeling we shouldn’t grow so apart
Oh why must I feel like I’m either
Just a freight train that’s travelling north
Is it the songs that I sing on my guitar?
Is it the way that I strum my broken heart?
Or am I damned to a life so far apart?
Just a sinner that roams in the dark
I’ll roam in the dark

:: “Up to No Good!” – Szou ::

Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York

We’ve all gotten up to no good from time to time, and those moments deserve a soundtrack that’s equally fun and frisky. Enter London’s Szou, whose latest single sees them shining unapologetically from the ear to ear even as they stare down their own bad decisions. You can’t always sense a smile in song, but you can in “Up to No Good!” – a spirited, uplifting, and energetic anthem of “hangxiety” and unapologetic zeal.

Pounding head
Full of regret
Last night I was in the deep end
Thought everyone was my friend
Never again
I am the worst human
I kissed a thousand strangers
But I knew none of their names
I never change

“Our new single ‘Up To No Good!’ was born from a night of heavy drinking and a jam session of Abba’s ‘Mamma Mia,’” Szou’s Zoe Kent and David Simpson tell Atwood Magazine. “Battling crippling hangovers, we wanted to write a song that captured the high energy of classic anthems such as ‘Come On Eileen’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ tinged with feelings of hangxiety. The track was entirely produced by us in our home studio in North London and takes influence from the production style of Bleachers. We aim to create stadium anthems on little to no budget.”

I spend all my money
Then I wonder where it’s all gone
Maybe I should be worried
Coz it feels right when it’s all wrong
I might fall apart
Coz I want danger in the dark
I’m up to no good, I’m up to no good
Will I ever learn?
This is gonna hurt
I’m up to no good, I’m up to no good

And in that last goal, the pair have without a doubt succeeded mightily. “Up to No Good!” is infectious – a charming, smile-inducing revelry that invites us all to bask in the moment, live as carefree as we’d like to be, and worry about the consequences later.

:: “moon” – pher, ::

Joe Beer, Surrey, UK

London alternative hip-hop artist pher, recently released his latest single “moon” and despite it being only one minute and 25 seconds, it’s potent enough to worm its way deep into your brain. The vibey, sun-soaked song emits a laid back, easy breezy tone and is the perfect track to have on in the background for any occasion, whether it’s whilst you’re doing chores, on a long drive, sunbathing or living the work from home lifestyle.

pher,’s deep, soulful vocals glide over a plodding beat, creating a relaxing atmosphere for the listener. However, despite its chilled-out sound, lyrically the songwriter touches on a thought-provoking theme, as he delves into his experiences of working in the music industry. As he navigates the tumultuous landscape, he speaks about how the sometimes toxic nature of the industry can deeply affect your emotions. pher, shares, “My music is deeply introspective and almost always showcases some sort of messaging that I want people to think about.”

:: “Days Are Numbered” – The Safest Place ::

Christine Buckley, Connecticut

Further than saying they hail from Newcastle, have been friends forever and play rock music, The Safest Place at first listen defies description. With a sound that combines Louis Adams’ mesmerizing, Bowie-like vocals and Johnny Bond’s grungy, virtuosic guitar skills, they cultivate a sense of enticing dread that somehow manages to feel uplifting by the track’s end. Catfish and the Bottlemen fans will be elated to hear Bondy so very, very back on his epic guitar-solo bullshit – but he sounds even better now, infused with more soul and variety, and more intrigue when played softly under Adams’ impressively wide vocal range.

Released this week, their new track “Days Are Numbered” holds the eponymous lyric, “The safest place is a box inside a box,” a shudderingly apt metaphor for the clangs and metallic percussion in the track’s opening, reminiscent of a mine or a prison. A hip-hop-influenced beat eventually enters, giving the track a springiness at perfect odds with its gloomy lyrics. Adams’ voice ranges in color and tone throughout, from low and slow, resigned almost, in the verses to his breathed mantra “surviving, surviving,” to manic and fed up in the bridge, when it screeches up (in a good way) to a peak: “I’m tearing up my love letters / I’m leaving all the dishes in the sink!

The pair have a show tonight at Cullercoats Crescent Club in North Shields – if you’re in the area get down there, especially because apparently there will be a backing choir, the idea of which sounds just wild enough to be right up this duo’s street. And look out for their debut album later this year.

:: “Pulling Teeth” – Slow Joy ::

Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York

It’s all too easy to hear the aching in Esteban Flores’ voice as he sings the latest Slow Joy song. “I bet you’re sick of pulling teeth but hold me down until I believe that I’m ok,” he asks softly, dwelling in a moment of calm before the oncoming (inevitable) storm. From this quiet, brooding entrance emerges a roaring onslaught; a heavy, heated, and all-consuming eruption. Inner turbulence comes to life via sonic friction and fervor in “Pulling Teeth” as the Dallas, Texas-based artist lets loose. Who ever said vulnerability had to be gentle?

I paint the world like a cynic lately
I wear you down by the minute
Tell me if I go too far
You’ll still be here
When my head gets dark

“‘Pulling Teeth’ is an apology and thank you to the people who stick with you through trying times,” Flores tells Atwood Magazine. “[It’s] basically an apology to my wife for me not being the easiest person to deal with all the time… It isn’t always easy to be a rock for the ones we love, but it’s always worth it. Some days we need a hand – others we need to be the hand. This song is a snapshot of a time I needed a hand.”

“It’s one of those songs where it’s like, ‘Please don’t give up on me; I know I’m taking a little bit.’”

I bet you’re sick of pulling teeth
But hold me down until I believe
That I’m ok
Lock me up and toss the key
Do what you need to stay with me
Until I’m ok

Released March 15 via Mick Music, “Pulling Teeth” is the sonically and emotionally charged lead single off Slow Joy’s upcoming EP Mi Amigo Slow Joy, out June 7th. A visceral, feverish alt-rock reverie a la Foo Fighters and Incubus, the track hits hard and leaves a lasting mark thanks to the sheer passion and raw emotion Flores brings to the table. He channels a heavy weight – a tumultuous mélange of love, heartache, regret, shame, appreciation, and more – into three and a half minutes of fiery sound. Drums pound and guitars rage around his searing, smoldering voice as he delivers a breathtaking, shiver-inducing performance – the kind that leaves us shaken to the core, stunned to silence in the best way possible.

:: “When It Ends” – BIZZY ::

Josh Weiner, Washington DC

As a Washington, DC native, I always lend an enthusiastic ear to musicians from my hometown, and BIZZY, having been born in the District, fits that billing well. No matter her geographic origins, though, I’m sure I’d appreciate her vocal and lyrical talents, which have been steadily building ever since she put out her first official single, “Anybody,” on TikTok two years ago this month.

Currently residing in Nashville, BIZZY has just put out her first new song of the year, “When It Ends.” “It,” in this context, refers to childhood/adolescence which, now that she’s in her mid-20s, is something that she’s got to formally say goodbye to. That doesn’t mean it’s an easy process, though– especially while trying to build her profile as a musician. She documents the difficulties of having one foot in her youth (“I’m just a kid, so please treat me like it”) and the other in the door of adulthood (“I’m trying my best, do you see it? Just tryna stay alive, feels like do or die”).

The ethereal beat by BIZZY’s frequent collaborator Brandon Meagher reinforces this theme well, as does the music video, which shows BIZZY tiptoeing on the wooden boards of the boundaries of the playground, as if yearning to return to her youth and play on the swings one last time. No can do, though– BIZZY’s got to make it as an adult now, and hopefully her musical endeavors will help to make that process enjoyable and exciting for her.

:: Shooting Stars – Star2 ::

Grace Holtzclaw, Los Angeles

Star2 is an Asian-American rapper and pop artist who advocates for refugees across the globe. His latest album Shooting Stars is a pop-tinged saga noting on thematics of love, fame, and deception. Star2 steps forward as a visceral vocalist who fearlessly navigates the dark waters of betrayal while not failing to capture the magic and bliss of pure relationships.

Shooting Stars will hypnotize you with addictive pop hooks, heavy-handed beats, and a suave vocal from Star2 who reflects on his multi-dimensional rise to fame. Opening track “Shooting Stars” sweeps you off your feet with ruminative electronics that compliment Star2’s devoted musings. Written about falling in love from a distance, “Shooting Stars” wishes for a once in a lifetime romance. Followed by “Outta My Head” which takes a darker turn with brooding electric riffs, Star2 sings of a tumultuous connection that he cuts out of his life. “She Thinks She’s A Player” draws in slithering electronics to pair with Star2’s snake-like anthem that reflects on a relationship that ends with a backstab. Star2’s fourth track “Get Low For Me (feat. Belle Aire)” is a sensually sublime track that chronicles a connection built on undeniable chemistry. Featuring pop vocalist Belle Aire, the dynamic between the two artists is electric. “Bottle Service” is a heartfelt journey that reflects on Star2’s powerful relationship with his childhood crush that lasts through the ages.

“Just Like Them Waterfalls” is an island-inspired reverie on a fated connection. Over tropical sonics and ear-catching beats, Star2 descends deeper under her spell. “Clout Chaser” is a stark transition out of Star2’s daydreams and into the dark side of fame. “Clout Chaser” is written about how people have taken advantage of Star2’s success. Followed with his poignant ballad “Lies”, the track rummages through a heartbreaking relationship that ends with being blindsided. “Superstar” entices the ear with smooth beats and infectious flow as Star2 reignites his inner-fire. “All Alone” is Star2’s moment to take on the world by himself as he reflects on carving his path independently. Closing track “Whatcha Want From Me” ponders on how life has changed for Star2 as he’s gotten older. Ending on a note of personal clarity and poise, Shooting Stars is a circular journey of self-discovery with all roads leading back to Star2.

:: “What If” – Mia Wray ::

Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York

Dramatic, cinematic alt-pop eruptions look good on Mia Wray – as does throwing caution to the wind and taking bold leaps of faith. The Australian artist employs all of the above in “What If,” an inspiring anthem of angst, uncertainty, and facing our fears head-on. Released April 3rd via Ivy League Records, Wray’s first single of the year is brutally honest, achingly intimate, and utterly galvanizing – a powerful combination that sends shockwaves through our system as the artist captures her very own “sliding doors” moment – a pivotal scene in her own life story where everything she knows could change, forever.

But first, she has to act on her emotions – and that’s far easier said than done.

What if it’s all I ever wanted?
What if that house back home
Yeah we bought it
I read her energy
When she’s in front of me
Even when I’m asleep
She’s what I need
When she’s not there
I would rather be lonely

“I had really big feelings for someone, and I couldn’t stop worrying about what would happen if I told them how I felt,” Wray (born Mia Isobel Wray-McCann) tells Atwood Magazine. “‘What If’ is almost like a pros and cons list, but in song form. In the end, the positives ended up outweighing the negatives and I went for it.”

It’s never easy to put yourself on the line like that, but through her words and actions, Wray gives us the strength and the confidence we need to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done. “I’m not at liberty to be that free,” she sings in the verse, reflecting a hangup we’ve all felt before; and yet, she is that free, and we all can be. She hits her high in the song’s spectacular chorus:

What if it’s all I ever wanted
What if that house back home
Yeah we bought it
What if you were stood right there
With my t-shirt on
You parked your car out front
Played my favourite song
What if it’s all I ever wanted

Pulsing beats, soaring melodies, and catchy, emotionally charged vocal lines  make “What If” as irresistible as it is intense. And while Wray invites us along to her inner reckoning, the ultimate takeaway from this song is not a sense of trepidation or fear, but rather, one of hope and life’s limitless potential.

:: “The Light Show” – Eric Dash ::

Chloe Robinson, California

It can be hard to find hope when all sense of security seems lost. You try to remain thankful for all you have, while also struggling just to get by. Eric Dash reminds us that whether we are in deep despair or happy to be alive, there is a constant light shining down on us. “The Light Show” is a powerful piece depicting God’s presence in all we do and how important it is to keep the faith. With warm, high-pitched vocals over light, relaxing arrangements the piece evokes feelings of artists such as Jason Mraz. You are drawn in by Dash’s cozy quality.

The single is off of his album Bystandard. The singer reveals, “I’ve had an interesting relationship with God. It goes between being extremely grateful to being so confused and disoriented that I find myself screaming at the sky. It’s one hell of a dynamic. I wanted to write about that relationship. I wrote about it all over this album.”

The New Jersey native grew up performing all around the Philadelphia area. At 23 he found some success working with famed producer Jack Joseph Puig (John Mayer/No Doubt). That resulted in a tour with Heffron Drive, fronted by Kendall Schmidt from Big Time Rush. “The Light Show” is the ideal display of just how far he’s come, demonstrating, like the song expresses, there is a greater force guiding us on our path.

:: “She’ll Be Dancing” – Beren Olivia ::

Mitch Mosk, Beacon, New York

I‘m a sucker for big dramatic entrances, and “She’ll Be Dancing” is as big and dramatic as they get. Released April 4th via Downtown Music, Beren Olivia’s third single of the year is a cathartic, all-consuming reverie. The British-American alt-pop artist comes to life in an intimate, intense rush of raw passion and stunning sound, capturing not just the strength of the human spirit, but our resilience and fortitude in the face of life’s hardship. “Dancing ‘round my room like nobody ever hurt you,” she sings – at once an observation and an invitation. “Abandon all the pieces of you for a minute or two.” There’s something to be said for our ability to soldier on, no matter what life throws our way – and one of those tried and true methods is, quite simply, dancing the night away:

Dancing round my room like nobody ever hurt you
Abandon all the pieces of you for a minute or two
Laughing like you do like the day was lying to you
Running out of feelings to feel tonight
With tears in her eyes
But oh you know she’ll be dancing

“We all face so many struggles, but no matter how tough it gets, we always find a way to power through and keep moving forward,” Olivia tells Atwood Magazine. “This song is everything I want to be as an artist. I want to create an atmosphere where strangers can come together, forget everything that’s going on in their lives for a couple of hours and just sing and dance. It’s those tears streaming down your face but you’re still smiling kind of thing.”

Crimson red wine clouds the white of her eyes
She says she’s alright but she’s not
Her mascara starts to bleed blurring out the memory
She says that she is fine but she’s not
But I know you’re dancing round my room
like nobody ever hurt you

Abandon all the pieces of you for a minute or two
Laughing like you do like the day was lying to you
Running out of feelings to feel tonight
With tears in her eyes
and oh you know she’ll be dancing
Oh you know she’ll be dancing

The fourth single taken off Beren Olivia’s forthcoming EP If We’re Being Honest (out May 17, 2024), “She’ll Be Dancing” is passionate, percussive, and utterly exhilarating: An insatiable outpouring of the artist’s deepest, innermost depths that does exactly what it sets out to do, in getting us up and on our feet, moving and grooving and letting it all out.

Hailing from Hertfordshire, UK (just outside of London), Olivia first proved her prowess via 2021’s debut EP Early Hours of the AM; three years later, she’s never sounded more confident and self-assured. Like music, dancing is a universal language, and on “She’ll Be Dancing,” Olivia taps a key aspect of the human experience to which all can relate, because we’ve all been there: Brought past our limits, driven to the edge, drained and fractured, hurt within… And all you can do is keep dancing, with tears in your eyes and a fire inside.

Color me uplifted, enchanted, and forever inspired: This song is a true gift to all who listen, because now whenever we need something to cling to, we can come back and listen to Beren Olivia’s invigorating anthem of inner strength, and feel that searing, cinematic energy flow through our veins once more.

She’s falling so light like a snowflake in the sky
And lands in a Mosaic of broken pieces
She’s Weightless in her mind crying fractured lullaby’s
She melts into the cracks and all the creases
So we twist and turn
Oh yeah we let it burn
Until it’s over now
Running out of feelings to feel tonight
With tears in her eyes
Oh and now you’re dancing round my room
like nobody ever hurt you

Abandon all the pieces of you for a minute or two
Laughing like you do like the day was lying to you
Running out of feelings to feel tonight
With tears in her eyes
and oh you know she’ll be dancing

— — — —

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