Amerika by Young the Giant
Cultural commentary and musical authenticity converge in the Young the Giant’s prolific feature “Amerika.” In remarkable parallel to film or literature, Young the Giant shaped “Amerika” in the form of narrative, moving through intense feelings of hope, romance, desperation, and defeat all in one cohesive melody. The song carries the audience through the journey of an American immigrant and does so in a way uniquely realistic and relevant to modern society. “Amerika,” along with the rest of its accompanying album “Home of the Strange,” finds substance in its musical and artistic nuances.
The Swimming Song by Loudon Wainwright III
“The Swimming Song” not only captures the quintessence of summer but does so in a way while emphasizing the simple joys of life through distinct and natural acoustics. Released initially 1974, the single reflects upon Wainwright’s own experiences in a witty, self-mocking style.
Southern Freeez – Freeez
The second single of British dance group Freeez, “Southern Freeez” builds upon the classics funk tunes and rhythms of the 1980s. With a light taste of rock-esque guitar, the song sticks to the traditional yet current roots the band lays for itself. For the listener looking to curate his own R&B/Funk playlist, “Southern Freeez” constitutes a must–at least for consideration.
blaze – Zuli
The indie-rock song by eclectic artist Zuli takes on the relationship between man and dog to another level. Paired with a powerful yet oddly humorous music video, the song finds its strengths in the vocals. Despite his relative obscurity, Zuli is sure to break the alternative music scene, with a listing on Spotify’s “Hot New Tracks” as a possible indicator of success.
Mama Said – Lukas Graham
Most listeners of pop radio know Lukas Graham exclusively for his hit single “Seven Years” that had its moment in the spotlight in 2015. Although “Mama Said” came out a year prior, the song features a similarly human and personal narrative of growing up. Featuring the distinct vocals of children, “Mama Said” focuses on the mother-son relationship in a lighthearted tune.
Dance, Baby! – boy Pablo
While scrolling through YouTube a few weeks ago, a thumbnail of a kid standing by the water with a guitar continually popped up under the recommended tab. If YouTube wanted me to watch this video so badly, then I figured it was meant to be. I finally clicked on the link, and a few moments into this song, I realized that YouTube had made a perfect match. boy Pablo is technically 18 year-old singer-songwriter Pablo Munoz, a native of Oslo, Norway. Pablo writes the music, and he and his four friends perform the songs. I listed two songs by boy Pablo here because they’re both just so good. Both tracks are full of teenage emotion and confusion, but the music never gets caught up in the melancholy themes of the lyrics. (See Album Trade for full comprehensive review of the album by writer-extraordinaire Bennett Morris!)
Sunflower – Rex Orange County
Alex O’Connor, or as he is known to the world, Rex Orange County, is a singer-songwriter from South London, England who recently rose to fame, in part through his collaboration with artists like Tyler, the Creator and BadBadNotGood, but more importantly because of his amazing music. ROC’s track “Sunflower” begins ominously with O’Connor singing softly about romantic despair as he’s accompanied only by a solo trumpet and the occasional twangy guitar chords. However, around the 50 second mark, the song bangs a hard U-turn as syncopated drums enter and O’Connor’s voice picks up in speed and pitch. My favorite part of this song is the drums: they really change the direction of the song, and their rhythm make it a track you can listen to repeatedly without getting bored.
Harlem Streets – Cam’Ron
Okay, I had to switch it up from the indie rock and add some rap to this playlist. And what’s better than some early-2000s Cam’Ron?! This song is all about Cam’s endeavors and experiences as a product of Harlem. Unlike most of the cookie-cutter rap we hear today, “Harlem Streets” features legitimate instrumentation, such as piano, horns, and a simple but clean drum beat. I love how this song can be so good and minimalistic at the same time. “I’ve been all over the world, ain’t no place like Harlem, man.”
Moments in Love – Art of Noise
I was watching a “What’s in My Bag” segment that Amoeba Records in L.A. oftens posts to Youtube when I was introduced to the Art of Noise. The episodes often feature budding or famous artists, and I was watching the one with Earl Sweatshirt and Samiyam. When both artists offered up Art of Noise’s “Moments in Love” as a song they wanted to sample, I immediately became intrigued. Formed in 1983, Art of Noise were an English avant-garde synth-pop group, whose music features some really experimental and trippy compositions. This track, like many of Art of Noise’s other songs, is a sound collage made with computers and electronics, which was a revolutionary practice at the time of this group’s inception. Art of Noise pioneered musical sampling, paving the way for artists now like Earl and Samiyam. You can get lost in the mysterious and unique nature of this song, and it’s definitely one you have to hear for yourself.
Atomic Bomb – William Onyeabor
William Onyeabor was a Nigerian businessman who also tried his hand at funk music, rising to fame in Nigeria during the 1970s and 80s and falling into reclusion shortly thereafter. You may be wondering how I discovered Onyeabor’s music, and surprisingly enough, so am I! Nonetheless, Onyeabor is an extremely talented musician, and his track “Atomic Bomb” is one to note. I would be lying if I said I understand the meaning of his lyrics, but through my interpretation, Onyeabor is frustrated by something to the point where he is ready to explode. The song features Onyeabor’s as well as some unidentified women’s vocals, an infective piano part, a funky bass riff, guitar solos, and a type of synthesizer that I guarantee you have never heard before. “Atomic Bomb” joins “Moments in Love” in the weird-song-club, but it is definitely one that will get stuck in your head.