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updog – dying breath

updog’s new single is a major mission statement that puts him in a distinguished category of artists who have figured out the perfect intersection between raw throwback vocals and super current electronic sounds. “dying breath” is a colossal heavy hitter in every sense of the word, feeling like the perfect soundtrack to your latest epic highlight video as the drop arrives with thunderous grandiosity, rippling through the airwaves without restraint. That said, it’s a precise, calculated venture where no sound is wasted – it’s tailor made and meticulously crafted, showing an attention to detail that elevates “dying breath” above its sonic contemporaries.

What will you take to the grave? Is there anything within you that is impossible to speak, impossible to vocalize, impossible to relay to another human? It might feel that way, but it doesn’t have to be – 99% of our innermost secrets aren’t isolated or unique – they’re shared sentiments, that when discussed with another human being, provide the beginning of infinite relief. If you believe this human form is just one cycle of our cosmic journey, then why not prepare yourself as deeply as possible for the next step? Clear your mind, clear your heart, and become the best version of you!

TESSA – Bad Bad Love (ft. Terrell Morris)

Formerly known as Hoodlem, TESSA continues to validate the extensive buzz around her with a modern, r&b-infused pop single that harnesses the maturity of a seasoned veteran prepared to make waves throughout the scene. It’s personal yet punchy, sentimental yet self-assertive, cycling through a range of emotional approaches that all fit neatly within one another’s form. The song also features a killer assist from Terrell Morris as he refracts the track’s approach through a rap lens, adding a delicious new layer that shows just how ready-made TESSA’s approach is to coexist with any genre. Dropping a persona in favor of living her truth, TESSA has made her best music to date.

Bad love immediately conjures up images of romantic relationships gone wrong, but this notion applies to friendships as well. I can identify a couple of friendships in my life where they were soured by the inability to foster a mutually loving existence. One of those friendships ended poorly as bad love tends to do, while the other friendship has been reconfigured from my perspective so that I don’t expect the other person to emotionally provide anything more than they’re capable of. We can’t expect other people to bend toward our expectations if they don’t have the capacity – instead, we need to find people who meet our needs. That’s how I see it, anyway. 

Rich Delinquent – It’s Cold Where I’m From

Rich Delinquent returns to our pages with an emotional ballad that’s classic in its sentiments yet forward-thinking in sound, calling upon introspective vocals spread atop an externalized electronic beat that wobbles as each heart-string is tugged. “It’s Cold Where I’m From” begins with a sparse atmosphere spliced with keys as Rich Delinquent’s vocals exist front and center, exactly where they should be as he’s fittingly rich in tone and bursting with emotion. That monologue eventually gives way to the aforementioned electronic stylings as synths are stretched like rubber bands, shifting form but always existing within the limits of the song’s carefully curated atmosphere. There’s no doubt that this is Rich Delinquent’s best release yet.

There were points in my life where I reveled in the darkness – the blanket of grey is a comfortable state indeed. Much like Rich Delinquent setting his piano on fire in an act of an emotional rebuttal, I eventually saw the utter monotony and uselessness of being trapped by the cold of the heart. It is poetic and makes for fascinating art, but I simply couldn’t live like that anymore. I needed the fires of passion and love to burn inside me, to feel fulfilled and feel a sense of purpose beyond those frosty moments. “It’s Cold Where I’m From” reminds me of where I came from and where I’m going.

Ella Isaacson – Naked (Acoustic)

Ella Isaacson proves herself as a pop tour-de-force through an acoustic take on “Naked”, its original iteration being a bouncy r&b-infused bop that’s vulnerable yet supremely poised. Her acoustic take, on the other hand, feels like a revealing confessional with the lights down, only Isaacson and her piano present as she commands the center of attention with a voice that cuts through the silence. I can’t help but be reminded of ballads from early 2000s pop starlets, the centerpiece of radio-ready albums where all genre constraints melted away and they were able to display their inherent talents at their most raw. It’s the kind of song that’ll turn passive fans into dedicated fans now that they’ve been given a purely honest glimpse into Isaacson’s world.

You wouldn’t have caught me proclaiming this during the era, but there was something deeply captivating about the likes of Vanessa Carlton and Michelle Branch, the purveyors of pop who bucked the songwriting camps of the early 2000s with enough meticulous characteristics to target every little dopamine center of the brain like a fast food sandwich. Instead, they succeeded on the presumption of relatability, a down-to-earth alternative to what was circulating on the radio waves at the time. I get the same feeling from Isaacson and look forward to what’s coming next.

Sulkin’ Raven – Oxygen

Sulkin’ Raven reminds me deeply of a similarly-named aves, Blackbird Blackbird, for his kaleidoscopic landscapes. That’s about where the similarities end though as “Oxygen” proves itself to be a time-traveling delight that channels ’80s synth music and modern chip-tune sprinkles alike. His instrumentals are masterful, showcasing a decadent approach to layers upon layers swirling together into one colorful agglomeration that’s best described as the stunning paint splattered across the artwork. Sulkin’ Raven’s vocals are equally alluring, hiding behind a seductive haze of effects-laden croons. “Oxygen” is an utter beauty that truly demands your attention.

Oxygen is obviously a physical necessity for life, but I think we have spiritual needs too. Meditation, reading, all of these things sustain my every-day existence as care for the mind is as essential as care for the body. It’s not as widely understood in society as I’d like, but it is promising to see commercials with the likes of LeBron James promoting meditation as something equally important as his deep dedication to training his body for peak performance in the NBA. Anyways, those are just my associated thoughts for the day – hope everyone enjoys the rest of their week!

Reva DeVito – Bet You Stay

If you’re looking for a sunny r&b jam, look no further than this exquisite new Reva DeVito single. It has the deep allure of rolling sand with the waves crashing, calling you to immerse yourself until one form of matter gives way to another in a seamless blend. DeVito’s vocals are utterly beautiful, harkening back to the absolute greats of ’90s R&B while the production is crisp and timeless. You could have told me this was a chart-topping hit from that aforementioned era and I wouldn’t blink an eye – it’s just that good.

I have a lot of nostalgia for an era that I’m too young to remember. Funnily enough, most of my memories formed around ’90s R&B are from playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. That game’s West Coast soundtrack exposed me to an absolute wealth of musical treasures, interspersed with memories of taking the flying car cheat code with my best friend and flying over a conjured-up Los Angeles in the dead of the Georgia night in the 2000s. It’s funny how memories work like that, almost feeling like I was a teenager during the ’90s rather than just being born. Regardless, I have a deep appreciation for that style of R&B and feel like I just discovered the next great treasure on “Bet You Stay”.

Xie – Seasons ft. Reo Cragun

Xie’s return on “Jungle Juice” was the perfect party-pop anthem, but she takes an emotional turn on “Seasons” that’s pure chills-inducing fare. The production is intricately melodic as little flashes of keys and chopped up vocals swirl underneath a wake-up call of a lead synth that awakens all the senses. That all goes without mentioning Xie’s wonderful lead vocals which make the perfect centerpiece, all complemented by Reo Cragun’s fitting assist which adds the perfect amount of swagger to balance out the pure emotions flowing. There’s no doubt that “Seasons” is Xie’s best single yet, so give this one a much-deserved listen.

Seasons change, people come and go, everything moves in cycles. We can track internal cycles, cycles of the skies, and intertwine both as above rhymes with so below, our human bodies mirroring the stars. I don’t think that sentiment makes us predictable, though – we’re still spiritual beings that can’t be quantified, it’s more just a recognition that we ebb and flow like every other element in the universe. There’s beauty to the cyclic nature of the lives we live.

Lo Lytes – Fuck With My Heart

We’ve been tracking the trajectory of Lo Lytes throughout his steady stream of singles, always enjoying one more than the next, and man does that kick into overdrive with his new one. It’s called “Fuck With My Heart” and it’s like an ’80s new wave convertible drove through a cloud of r&b smoke, emerging surrounded by a glowing haze that you can’t take your eyes (or ears) off of. His vocals are silky smooth, the production is top notch with crisp percussion that taps into all the right areas, and that little vocoder bridge to top things off just makes this song irresistible. Do yourself a favor and spin this one while blasting off into another dimension.

The manipulation of fucking with someone’s heart is so bizarre. If you’ve earned the trust and respect of someone, why take advantage of that intimacy and hurt another? Allowing access to your heart center is the most spiritual form of connection, not just in a romantic way, but in opening a direct channel with another person. Time and time again, I’ve given someone a look into this intimate space of loving potential and received indifference, or even worse, disrespect. It’s an unfortunate chain of events, but hey, at least it results in some great music like this Lo Lytes single.

The Geek x Vrv – Time Machine

The Geek x Vrv are time traveling shapeshifters who are able to embody the aura of any era on command. The opener to their debut album Time Machine is a West Coast sensation that could’ve come directly from the ’90s heyday, vocoder-soaked vocals and all, while “Oh Baby 1939” is a subtle funk jam that feels like cruising down Sunset with the windows down. The singles from this album that I’ve been raving about for months all fit seamlessly into the the trajectory of the Time Machine’s flight path as the seemingly contradictory sounds fit like puzzle pieces with one another. It’s a testament to the fact that The Geek x Vrv are one of the most exciting voices in electronic music right now.

My music taste often feels like a mishmash of eras, from ’90s Brooklyn hip-hop to early ’80s new wave, Mobb Deep and Duran Duran potentially going back to back on a playlist without warning. I can respect people whose tastes like solely within one genre (hey, if you know your interests that well, more power to you), but I personally prefer the dynamic nature of appreciating music beyond boundaries, especially in this limited time on Earth. That goes for everything for me, though; films, art, books, I keep an open mind to all of it because one of the most fulfilling experiences could be hiding right around an unexplored corner.

du0 – Come Home | Better Place

du0’s new pair of singles feel like being taken to a secular church with a communal channeling of the positive spirit of the universe. There’s a thread of pure joy and optimism running through these tracks, unlocking pleasure centers within the brain that rush upon arrival, overwhelming the self with a sense of comfort akin to the comfort of home. “Come Home” is the slow evolution of this progression, building with an indie-laced beat whose landscape flies by as you’re aboard an imagined train, soaking in what’s in front of you. “Better Place” marks the explosion of color after the introspection, pumping up the tempo with a quicker paced beat more apt to move the feet beneath you.

Even when things are tough and a cloud of grey sets itself upon you, there’s better days ahead. Once you’re driven through the ringer enough and seen the light at the end of the tunnel time and time again, there’s a sliver of understanding that things will eventually be okay. It’s a weird transition period in life right now, not just on a personal level, but at a global level where a current of some sort of change seems to be coursing through our collective fields…you can feel the vibrations fluttering without knowing where they’re going to manifest next, but if you trust in a process that has run through humanity for an endless amount of years, then hope continues to reign free.