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Zack Gray – Imperfect Love

I’m picky when it comes to vocalists and what’s become an oversaturated market, but I’ll be damned if Zack Gray isn’t one of the best talents I’ve heard in a long time. His new single “Imperfect Love” is a massive cut with perfect atmospheric production that sets the stage for his show stopping performance. His verses are fittingly understated and only make the hook even sweeter as he belts insanely soulful lines that stretch his range up toward the skies. After hearing “Imperfect Love” I had to look into Gray’s other music and found out he also sings on electronic songs which is so fitting for someone who obviously has the chops to carry his voice between genres and keep listeners from all corners of the music scene happy.

We’ve all dealt with imperfect love whether it’s in relationships or friendships or familial relationships or anything in between. We’re all imperfect humans so it’s only natural that our flaws carry over into how we interact with one another. We do have free will to take care of those flaws, though, so there’s always potential to minimize the negatives and foster a relationship based around positive tenets like honesty, communication, and the like. On the flipside, people can get saddled down by their flaws and fuse them into a relationship until it breeds distrust and despair – time and time again, we’ve seen the good in the other person’s eyes though and we desperately want to stay. Don’t let that imperfect love blind you from the truth of a brighter future with genuine happiness.

KREAM – Decisions (feat. Maia Wright)

KREAM’s newest goes deep down low with a bass-driven house groove that’s up there with the best of them for 2018. Good luck not wanting to move with this one as the groove hits, the low-end driving with gravitational force while the hi-hats conjure up immediate images of serious hand-bobbing on the dance floor. Maia Wright’s vocals are icing on the cake as she delivers fittingly smooth, soulful vocals with the perfect amount of dramatics for a massive song that simply can’t be contained by a set of headphones or small speakers.

“Decisions” reminds me of one of the most fun hours I had in my life. On my birthday in 2017, I started the night at Emo Night which felt like a no brainer. I was a scene kid who spent years listening to all the quintessential Warped Tour bands, so reliving those songs was appealing. Once I got there, I was immediately uncomfortable and off-put by a vibe that I couldn’t quite place. I knew myself well enough to make moves while the night was young, though, and quickly headed to an electronic club to see if I could recover the birthday spirit. Low and behold, I stumbled into a tech-house night that had my awkward, tall-and-lanky self dancing without a shred of restraint. I look back on that moment fondly and will continue to do so as life moves up and onward.

Twin Caverns – Regret

I feel like a broken record when it comes to getting excited about hearing a new band for the first time but let’s be real that feeling never goes away. It’s childlike excitement, like opening up a present on Christmas morning and being greeted by something totally unexpected yet amazing. I get that feeling from this new Twin Caverns single called “Regret”. It gives me serious Twin Peaks vibes – I could see this being performed on The Roadhouse stage along with bands like Au Revoir Simone and Chromatics while the small town’s crowd nods along in unison. The echoing guitars set the mood while a woodwind instrument drives home an otherworldly vibe, somewhere between our plane of existence and a state of consciousness that transcends imagination. The vocals feel like the connection between those two states and are impossible to not get totally lost within as Twin Caverns’ frontwoman is pitch perfect, stretching each note to its maximum potential.

Let’s talk about regret. It’s a natural process, to replay moments in our head over and over again, wondering what could have been. If we want to reach our highest potential and become our best self, we have to work on leaving that state of tripping over the past behind. Every action leads to where you are in this very moment and this moment is all we have. Learn to appreciate the moments that left you with regret – they shaped you into who you are, the good and the bad. We’re imperfect beings and our positive attributes along with what some would call flaws make us human, beings blessed with consciousness in a vast universe.

ford. – Craving/Dusk

I thought about only including one of the songs from this ford. release, but it proved to be impossible very quickly. For two tracks that take totally different approaches on the surface, they exist within the same sonic universe where the sun is perpetually setting and a sense of peaceful beauty stretches as far as the eye can see. The first song “Craving” is a super sweet and stunning production with picture perfect vocals from Sarah Kinsley that set a really dreamy mood. Kinsley lays down what’s possibly my favorite electronic vocals of the year, so her performance combined with the atmospheric vibes of ford. has kept me hitting repeat over and over. The flipside of the release is called “Dusk” which sounds like Tycho inhaled some hip-hop influence and exhaled a whole universe to explore. I’m honestly so smitten by both of these songs and feel nothing but pure joy every time I listen.

The artwork for this release reminds me of a very specific moment in college. I was on the top floor of our history department’s building with a few brand new friends exploring everywhere we could. One of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen slowly draped over the trees…waves of orange and pink stretched as far as the eyes could see and in that moment I knew I was exactly where I supposed to be. Those friends are long gone from my life, but the awe I experienced will stick with me for a lifetime and that’s something that money simply can’t buy. I think back on that memory fondly and still appreciate every sunset I see.

Honors – Feel Better

I’ve written about Honors at length because they never fail to impress me. The group returns with a new one called “Feel Better” that’s easily my favorite song they’ve released. The production is so slick and the vocals have such a melodic quality to them that they’re almost an instrument of their own. Lyrically the song is a really honest and authentic approach to the comfort and reliability of not feeling okay which I love. If you’re someone who’s flirted with depression or general melancholy at length, then your brain’s neural pathways are always going to route themselves toward the most beaten path. That means returning to the depths will feel the most natural even if it doesn’t actually mean feeling well.

Another way to look at the song’s lyrics is that there’s an intangible quality to barren minimalism that resonates. Feelings like lethargy and sadness can be cathartic because you’re having the human experience of truly feeling something. It’s weird and counterintuitive but it’s also totally real. The phrase “having a good cry” isn’t just sarcasm, it’s a dopamine packed experience that rushes throughout your body from head to toe. Honors definitely have a listener in me who appreciates where they’re coming from and I have a feeling that I won’t be the only one once this song starts to make the rounds online and beyond.

Julia Knight – Like I Used To

Julia Knight has made quite the impression as she comes across my radar for the first time on “Like I Used To”. The track is a subtle, stunning exercise in pop and r&b that’s underscored by a wonderful, head-nodding groove. Knight’s performance elevates its excellent instrumental as she delivers sleek, pitch-perfect vocals that are impossible to shake upon first listen. I’ve been writing about music for a decade now, but there’s still an unquantifiable “it” factor that certain efforts have that I simply can’t put into words. “Like I Used To” undoubtedly fits in that category as it quickly asserts itself as one of my favorite tracks of the year.

That being said, I can quantify that “Like I Used To” feels like a hazy daydream. The sounds of the world blend into a comforting white noise, slivers of light shine through the eyelids, and consciousness fades back and forth with the imaginary. It’s a sense of pure, unadulterated comfort that sits somewhere between nostalgia for the past, anticipation for the future, and partial awareness of the present moment. I’ve spent countless hours of my life with hands under my head on desks, airplane trays, and everywhere in between, fading into a state that never fails to enamor me. With all this writing, I could go for a daydream right about now.

KIDDO – Drunk And I Miss You

This is the first time I’ve encountered KIDDO but it surely won’t be the last! The Scandinavian vocalist’s new single is an exercise in the best modern pop music has to offer. The beat is super vibey while laced with guitars to give it some extra oomph, all of which is perfect for KIDDO to lay down some of my favorite verses and hook of the year. She has an effortlessly cool style that’s soaked in swagger – it makes her feel less like an unattainable pop star and more like a relatable figure who would be the coolest person in your friend group, running down neon lit streets with laughter in the air or cruising down the street with the top down, your favorite music pumping out of the radio and the sun shining down.

It’s especially impressive that KIDDO makes you feel all of this with cartoon rendered visuals instead of live press shots. Strangely enough this approach is part of what makes her so relatable – we’ve all spent large chunks of our lives engaging with animation across tv, movies, books, and the like, so it’s totally natural to feel camaraderie with her color soaked rendering. Between this super unique style and her insanely dope music, I can’t get enough of KIDDO and seriously need more of her in my life as soon as possible! Until then, “Drunk And I Miss You” will be on repeat for the upcoming weekend festivities and beyond.

Snugs – Never Needed You (feat. Keiynan Lonsdale)

If you didn’t gather from the stunning album artwork, Snugs specializes in electronic music that channels pure, childlike wonderment. The cartoonish duo’s newest, “Never Needed You”, reaches utterly blissful heights as a comfortable groove transitions into swelling synths worthy of a festival main stage. They masterfully walk the line between subtle, personal qualities and transcendent vibes; much like their amorphous character, Snugs are able to comfortably strike a diverse amount of poses. Their masterful production is aided by the soarings vocals of Keiynan Lonsdale, a multifaceted artist whose impassioned performance is at times chills inducing.

I’ve been living out “Never Needed You” recently. In pursuit of others’ validation to a crippling extent, I’ve had to take a step back and engage in self love that doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s a process, but as a close friend put it, I need to find an endless, internal source of affection that will stand by me regardless of external circumstances. My response to that was shutting down and oversleeping for a few days in a row because I preferred to go unconscious for a bit rather than exert the energy it takes to find that internal source of affection, but I’ve finally begun the pursuit. I don’t need anyone except myself.

Sharky – Bold As Brass

As soon as this track came across my metaphorical desk, I was enamored and immediately knew I had to write about it. I’d never heard of Sharky before, but I’m so deeply impacted by this powerful new voice in pop music that I need everyone to know about as soon as possible. Her new single “Bold As Brass” is an insanely immaculate, ultra nuanced piece of art that feels so layered that you could dig into it for weeks, months, years, and still find something new every time. It feels more like a short film than a song with the amount of details strung throughout. The percussion feels like it’s straight out of a smokey 1950s jazz club and provides a beautiful undercurrent for her quirky vocals that have an otherworldly quality to them as she stretches out notes into sonically pleasing bliss.

In a world drowning with lookalike playlist oriented music, true pieces of art still stand tall and make a statement. “Bold As Brass” brings the full package, not just sonically but even with its eye popping artwork. Those layers of eyes staring back at you in the midst of saturated reds and teals feels like pop art hypnosis. Much like the music, I wouldn’t be surprised to find this in a modern record store’s rack or a mid 20th century crate. Sharky’s sound and her aesthetics have me smitten so please join me without further ado, press play below, and prepare for hours of repeating again, again, and again. It’s a ride you don’t want to miss.

Danelle Sandoval – Hands (ft. French Braids)

I wrote up the first track from Danelle Sandoval’s forthcoming EP and am pleased to report that she continues her hot streak on “Hands”. Featuring dynamic modern production from French Braids, it’s a wonderful blend of pop, electronic, and r&b sensibilities that has wide appeal while still feeling super intimate. Her vocals are tailor-made for affectionate storytelling as she says “don’t talk to me, no we don’t need to speak, our words don’t mean a thing.” Every line sparks immediate imagination as it’s impossible to not find yourself ruminating on past love, idealizing future romance, or getting lost in the present moment.

Compelling to speak with hands rather than words reminds me of the love language test that’s been popular among my friends and taken by myself. The five love language categories are touch, compliments, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. My main love language is touch – I express affection for the person I romantically care about with close contact like holding hands or hugs. It’s a fascinating topic that explores how each human has a unique way of showing their passion for another and in this moment I find myself totally relating to Sandoval’s lyrical focus – words are important, but sometimes you can convey your love with uttering a single thing. It’s a beautiful topic that dives into an essential part of our humanity and I can’t get enough of it.