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Dalona – Lovely

I can’t claim to know much about rap in Sweden outside of Yung Lean, but I do know that the country is a straight up factory for pop-music writers and musicians (I swear there’s a new Swedish pop import every season of the year…Skott, Sigrid, it’s hard to keep up). I’m not sure if it’s in their genes or what, but the Swedes know how to write music that sticks in your brain like glue and that’s been the case since ABBA was dominating the charts with “Dancing Queen” during my younger days.

After hearing rap newcomer Dalona’s “Lovely”, it seems like that rule doesn’t just apply to pop though. His debut single combines a super natural, swagged out flow that takes cues from the new generation of American rappers like Travis Scott with melodies that only a Swede could deliver. The beat’s icy synths and his auto-tuned sing-song vocals are a hypnotic one-two punch that’s more infectious than anything I’ve heard stateside. I may be a hip-hop old head who was right in the mix of LA’s 90s underground sound, but I have a serious appreciation for what the younger crowd is doing and know talent when I hear it, and Dalona is a massive one in the making. Sweden just might have their next major export on their hands!

LCAW – Nobody Else But You

I’m an unabashed pop fan who will go to the ends of the Earth to find serotonin-stimulating singles and digest all of the content that surrounds them. Sometimes that shows itself in the form of tearing through John Seabrook’s The Song Machine, rapidly taking notes and earmarking every other page to better understand the overarching process behind the music I love. Other times it involves walking down the street to Amoeba and dropping a cool $60 on a cornucopia of pop material that includes (but is not limited to) a Madonna Advocate cover issue and Hard Candy boxset, Kylie Minogue’s quintessential Fever, every Max Martin assisted CD in sight, and a Britney Spears covered magazine in a language which I most definitely don’t speak.

Through all of that obsessive collecting and information processing pop music’s vast range, I can assure you that I know a good bop when I hear one. Such is the case for LCAW’s “Nobody Else But You”, a funk-and-disco channeling single that beams with rays of joy and has urged me to hit the repeat button on more than one occasion. There’s no point in the song that isn’t infectious as it perpetually operates between “catchy” on its verses and “absurdly catchy” on its chorus (which is owed not only to LCAW’s production, but those utterly intoxicating guest vocals). It’s the perfect summertime soundtrack that will be making more than one appearance on beach days and coastal drives over the coming months.

Bella Mer – Loaded Gun

Bella Mer’s artwork for “Loaded Gun” finds her wrapped in a seemingly celestial glow, teetering between the earthly and the otherworldly; it’s a fitting visual approach to a track that’s best described as grandiose. Commenced with glimmering guitar-work, subtleties give way to a grand hook as the guitar-work goes gritty and its low-end swells underneath. While the instrumentals anchor the track, Mer vocally marches atop them with a blend of poise and potency that commands attention.

“Loaded Gun” undoubtedly thrives in its dramatics, yet it never strays away from pop music’s key element of perpetual forward momentum. So is that what defines the future pop banner it’s billed under? I’ve always mentally notated the PC Music sound as future pop, but you won’t find me arguing semantics with a song as tightly knit as “Loaded Gun”. Either way, its visuals and sound makes me think toward the future.

Gianni & Kyle – Jealous

In my experience, there’s two sides to jealousy in a relationship: anger and sadness. It doesn’t matter which one is the initial emotion, but they feed off of one another until it’s impossible to avoid turbulence. Gianni & Kyle carry that sentiment on “Jealous”, a brand new joint from the buzzing duo that finds them trading sung vocals with bars as they strike a delicate balance between rap and r&b. It’s a perfect sonic approach as the crooned hook of “when you don’t pick up the phone, I get jealous” feeds into the softer side of resentments, while the rapping in the song’s latter half is all about unadulterated frustration: “Under influence and booze and liquor is the only time I’m coming through, yeah; how you manage, what your plan is? Fucked around and got my heart where your hand is.”

Driven by dramatics that harken back to the ’90s stylings Gianni & Kyle previously invoked on Backstreet Boy Meets World, the song is melodramatic in the best way possible through its lyrics and sound. There’s enough tension going on here to warrant a sequel, so I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for an update (and maybe visuals with a ’90s r&b aesthetic to match).

Golden Vessel – Shoulders (ft. Elkkle & Mallrat)

When I listen to music for the purpose of reviewing it, I try to hone in on the minute details and mentally notate the track piece-by-piece. After hearing “Shoulders” and deciding I wanted to give my thoughts on it, though, that process shifted on its own terms. As I listened to the track, I began to zone out and discern my senses; the delicate warmth of the California air, the sunlight beaming through my windows, all wrapped into one lucid experience by the groovy atmospherics of “Shoulders”.

It’s a song that positively delivers during isolated listens, there’s no doubt about that, but my drift toward a wholly vivid experience is one that I’m inclined to pursue again. I have an urge to lay out on a quiet beach with a blanket with “Shoulders” coursing through my headphones as I fall asleep, the sounds of the ocean interlaced with Golden Vessel’s music as I approach a personal zen state.

I think I might have just figured out my weekend plans.

Ashe – Used To It

“Sick of all the issues…”

Why I’m not in love. It comes with issues. The side effects and prolonged trauma of co-existence. My view is dark, I don’t deny it. Relationships I’ve had still grind me with apprehension — was I too removed? The sex was good…mostly? Should I have been more attentive? Jealous? Thoughtful?

Fuck it, they’re done. Skeletons in the closet. But I can’t blame people for their reactions to me, there’s honesty there — lovers, friends, enemies. Fuck 90% of most people’s opinions, too often distorted and uninformed…but that remaining 10% can be harsh to look at, because it carries truth. They were probably right about me, their criticism justified. I’m not easy to be in love with, and neither were they!

I guess that’s what Ashe is saying in her debut banger (on Mom + Pop records), you can’t escape the issues. Whoever thought a relationship was a joyride was on drugs — love is work. But the highs beat the lows, and at the end of the day we just need to get used to it if we don’t want to end up alone.

PHANTOGRAM – You Don’t Get Me High Anymore (A-Trak Remix) [feat. Joey Purp]

I’ve been a running around a chicken with their head cut off since I have been back in NYC, I mean that’s the NYC lifestyle so I didn’t expect anything less or any relaxation once I got here.  It’s been amazing to be back, back on the grind, back blazin’ trails with aggressive hardworking artists such as myself.  That’s why I love it here, people don’t stop whether they are working or playing, they just don’t stop, “sleep when you are dead”, I love that and you will probably hear me say it a lot because once you become an adult with conviction it should be a saying that you live by… And die by!

You don’t get me high anymore.”

I am relating to this a lot in terms of the things that have changed in my life.  I was only away from NYC for 7 months, but being away for that amount of time I think I was able to look at NYC from a different perspective, decide who I really wanted in my life when I got back, who was there for me, who wasn’t.  Things change a lot when you have kids, it’s an eye opener in terms of the way your friends react towards you, how your lifestyle has to change a bit.  Don’t get me wrong I love the way my life has changed, I love all of the challenges and learning experiences but it is definitely crazy how your whole world can flip and you are rearranging EVERYTHING!  Certain things, certain people, they just don’t get me high anymore…

I needed a good feel good Summer track to get me ready for the weekend in the Hamptons, this one got me in the mood so press play and maybe I will see some of you out there! xx

AWAY – Sleepwalker (feat. London Thor)

AWAY and London Thor communicate the experience of being blindsided by love lost in such a stunning fashion on “Sleepwalker”. Thor’s vocals and the production during the verses are decidedly delicate, a strong contrast to the glitchy, chopped-up drop that swings the track from introspective to external upheaval. Rather than basking in sadness or confusion independently, it’s a sonic approach that understands the complex emotions of heartbreak.

I’ve only experienced heartbreak once, heartbreak that was swift and painful. I hope to never experience it again, but I have to level with myself and realize that’s not a realistic expectation. If I offer my love to another human, I’m embracing vulnerability at its peak. Maybe it’s better to wish that future heartbreak at least involves dialogue rather than sudden dissipation, but who am I to dictate that either?

The short answer is I’m not, but as long as there’s emotive music like “Sleepwalker” to fall back on, I think I’ll be alright.

Xan Griffin – Gemini (Feat. WILD)

The artwork for Xan Griffin’s “Gemini” looks like it was taken straight from the dust jacket of a Lovecraftian novel, so it goes without saying that I looked for the track to deliver an imagination-inciting sound. There’s no doubt that Griffin and his featured counterparts in WILD deliver on those expectations as the track builds up with enough inspiring tension to fill up an arena. Gang vocals declare in unison “So start a fire!” as it accelerates toward its peak and swells into a gorgeous, synth-laden drop that feels like the culmination of an epic.

Relating the music back to its Lovecraftian visuals, I can’t help but associate the density of the track and its resulting extravagance with that of the best mystical and science-fiction stories. Plenty of books and films can attempt to replicate the awe of a hypothetical world, but it requires layers and layers of compelling material to explore so that the resulting art avoids hollow mimicry and instead achieves esoteric bliss. For every Star Wars or Mass Effect universe, there’s 1,000 Season Of The Witches, so it’s important to cherish those thrilling exceptions. There’s no doubt I’ll apply that appreciative rule of thumb “Gemini.”

Lenis – Told Him

I don’t have much of a personal anecdote to relate to Lenis’ “Told Him,” but I do have a laundry list of aspects to her debut solo outing that I’m prepared to rave about. Where to start? She moves with such ease atop Zuma’s production that her vocals feel almost conversational, yet each and every note drips with pathos. They’re phenomenal when isolated, but they’re at their most thrilling when harmonized in layers that harken back to R&B’s ’90s heyday; every declaration of mistrust toward the song’s unnamed “him” is powerful when backed by a vocal entourage.

As for Zuma’s production, I’m genuinely taken aback by the versatility he delivers. It’s a soulful R&B instrumental at its core, sure, but the stuttering drum-patterns and fluttery synthesizers make “Told Him” transcend simply being a genre piece – and that doesn’t even take into consideration the groovy house break near the song’s conclusion. It’s, in turn, ultra-admirable how Lenis is able to sound effortless when working with these atypical sounds and structures that Zuma provides; she has innate talent that shines through with every divergence from the norm.

These two artists have chemistry that simply can’t be replicated. Here’s to hoping more collaborations are in store.