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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.

Laarsen – Lavafields

I’ve written at length at Laarsen and I see no end in sight as the producer is one of the best new voices in the scene. He fuses classic sentiments of genres like garage with swelling modern synths that makes for an endlessly unforgettable catalogue. Off his new Lavafields EP, the title track is undoubtedly my favorite cut as the groove and percussive hits feel like they’re straight out of a sweaty, three hour Boiler Room set, while the vocals and synths blend into a wide appealing sound that feels almost Anjunabeats esque. His music is almost like a modern day trojan horse that’s insanely catchy for all audiences on the surface but sneaks in so many underground nods for longtime listeners of electronic music and those just discovering how deep the overarching genre goes alike.

And that’s just one track from his EP! Laarsen also dives into trip-hop, breakbeats, and house, sounding like a master of each genre. There’s a unifying thread that runs through each release and makes them uniquely his which is also prevalent in the artwork. I love the glitchy, DNA-like signifier that immediately lets you know you’re in for a sonic treat. I can’t even get myself to dive into a personal anecdote like I usually do because my mind is so hyper-focused on the music coursing through my speakers. This is truly a beautiful way to start my Friday morning and I can’t wait for other listeners to discover that same feeling over the coming days, weeks, months, and hopefully years.

mona on the radio – Dinner For 2

mona on the radio comes through with the cutest track and visuals I’ve seen in 2018. It’s such a breath of fresh air with how open and honest it is both in its lyrics and super catchy sound. mona is an open book about lost love and knows how to write a beautiful melody to convey his feelings in the purest form (it reminds me of an early 2000’s pop punk song that’s on the tip of my tongue and I wish I could remember it for the life of me!). “Dinner For 2” of those songs that’s best heard while laying down, headphones on, and slipping into a comforting daydream as all the worries of the world slip away and you’re left to experience a stress free world.

And let’s talk about the visuals on display here. It’s like vaporwave meets Andy Warhol and I could get lost for days starting at the artwork. I went back through mona’s tracks and this appears to be a trend which I just love. It’s so dope when you can glance at a piece of art and automatically know which musician it belongs to. The music scene is so oversaturated that you need to be a multimedia artist these days who doesn’t just make sounds but an entire conceptual world for listeners and critics to get lost in. mona obviously understands that so I can’t wait to keep diving into this little universe he’s slowly but surely creating.

Carter Reeves – Bittersweet

Carter Reeves is one of my favorite bubbling voices in pop right now. I was a massive fan of “Fly High” and “Pay Day” because they showed his versatility, but “Bittersweet” takes his sound to a whole other level that’s straight up ear candy. His melodies are so damn infectious (seriously, good luck keeping that hook out of your head), his voice on the verses sounds more assured than ever, and his lyrics show a knack for relatable storytelling that really elevates his game. It’s such a treat to be immediately ecstatic about a song and “Bittersweet” does just that. On top of all that, the production is without a doubt the best he’s worked with yet and really lays out a beautiful array of sounds for Reeves to work his increasingly established magic. I really can’t give enough praise here.

Life is full of bittersweet moments and to have the fullest experience on this earth you’re best off by embracing each and every one. There’s beauty in the grey areas that show how our lives ebb and flow through the universe’s constantly shifting existence. Going through a break up? You can feel sadness while also appreciating the wealth of good times you had. Going through a generally rough patch? Think of all the things you can be grateful for, whether they’re emotional or material. Consider that while you listen to “Bittersweet” on repeat!

ayokay – Sleepless Nights (feat. Nightly)

ayokay’s music is buzzing with life and electricity similar to the neon lights across all of artwork. His music feels like a hazy, humid summer night spent traversing the city with friends and a significant other attached to your arm the entire time. It sounds so fresh and so new, yet the vibe is timeless. The production is insanely top notch with every second is detailed while Nightly delivers silky smooth vocals that help bring the vibe I mentioned to life. I’d love to hear this while actually making my around or on a movie’s soundtrack – either way would be totally fitting!

In the past I spent a lot of sleepless nights stressing over the past, future, and present. It was so easy to get caught up in all the bullshit and spend hours laying in bed thinking about what could’ve been and what will be. These days I avoid the unnecessary stress of over complementing my life through outlets like meditation (40 minutes a day!), journaling, and talking with friends about my thoughts and feelings rather than internalizing them. Once you bring healthy coping mechanisms into your life, there’s no need to experience those nights that feel like they’re never going to end.

Viceroy – 1999 (ft. Brandyn Burnette)

Viceroy used to be the king of the tropical electronic sound, but he’s totally switched up his artistic direction and it’s seriously paid off. That couldn’t be more apparent on “1999”, a single that’s equal parts swagged out and soulful. His production has a wonderful punch to it that resonates through a reverberating low end while horns tailor made for a celebration are draped across the top of the instrumental like a colorful decoration. Brandyn Burnette’s vocals drive that vibe home – he essentially floats across Viceroy’s production with such an effortlessly cool demeanor that you can’t resist nodding along and feeling all the joy he’s putting out into the world.

I’d love to hear an EP or an album between these two. They complement each other so well and the synergy between them is so strong that it’s almost difficult to put into words. Not only do they sound amazing together, but Burnette’s lyrics totally fit the aura Viceroy creates. They celebrate a shared love for their nostalgia when it comes to the ’90s but sound totally fresh while doing so – I love the lines ranging from Steve Nash shooting free throws to Tony Hawk on his grind. It really catches the feel of that era and has me thinking about my days during that decade. Here’s to appreciating the past while keeping our eyes on the present and future.