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Welcome to The Rotation, a roundup of the week’s key moments in music and why you should listen. Read Volume 10 below, or scroll to the end for playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. Previous instalments available here.
As many established artists are reviewing the current landscape and assessing when to release new music, or tour again, it has created a space for new artists to thrive and gain more attention.
This week’s selections feature some highlights of this new music, including introspective tracks as well as energetic tracks that will make you want to move. Enjoy!
BERWYN | ‘100,000,000’
Trinidad born, east London-based singer BERWYN came to a lot of people’s attention last year with his critically acclaimed debut EP DEMOTAPE/VEGA, his single ‘Vinyl’ featured on this playlist. Here, he returns with a reflective track detailing more about his intriguing story.
He has a sharp wit as he details his issues with homelessness, immigration and trying to connect with his father. He references dark themes such as dealing with depression but does this with a cheeky sense of humour. Clearly, Berwyn Du Bois is not afraid to discuss his struggles and express his raw emotions, but his real talent is being able to do this on a mellow track with a simple but infectious melody. The verses are delivered as a stream of consciousness while the chorus is soothing and relatable. The track sounds like the middle ground between James Blake and the UK rap scene.
A new mixtape is expected to be released later this year and based on his references to the Grammys, BERWYN’s rebellious streak is only matched by his ambition.
Low Island | ‘Who’s Having the Greatest Time?’
At one stage or another we have all toyed with the idea of leaving social media for good, this is something that Oxford quartet Low Island have clearly been considering. Here they critique the negative performative nature of social media and its tendency to prey on your insecurities. They ask the question, why don’t we leave the whole thing behind for good?
The icy production and precise instrumentation have become their signature sound with the pulsating beat and bristling electronics. The band create the atmosphere of a great party while critiquing the need to prove that they’re having fun. There are definitely hints of Radiohead, Glass Animals and TV on the Radio in their sound, but it still manages to be cohesive and unique.
Their debut album If You Could Have It All Again arrives April 16 and promises to be an interesting listen based on releases so far.
half•alive | ‘What’s Wrong’
Sometimes misquoting something can trigger inspiration more than the actual quote. This is the case here as the chorus for this track is based on a conversation with actress/director Olivia Wilde where she said, “the time is always right to do what’s right.” However, this was quoted to the band as, “the time is always right to fix what’s wrong”, leading to the chorus of this groove inspired track.
The lyrics are based on the band’s personal philosophy of transformation of one’s intimate, and eventually global, environment by looking inward and realising that is where the change needs to start. The production is a new avenue for the band based on intricate instrumentation and strong synths, but they still deliver a bombastic chorus. The soundscape they create over the atmospheric bridge is a particular highlight too.
This is a strong and refreshingly genuine return for the talented band and will raise expectations for an album at some stage this year.
Rooue | ‘Bad Blood’
Dublin twins Ro and Lo return with this track asking if their partner’s issues are fixable or if are they deeply rooted in their blood. Lyrically the sisters are confronting the realisation that a relationship has turned sour and are running through the stages of denial.
The production, provided by Diffusion Lab, is a slight change of pace for the band, but their signature blended harmonies are still the focus. The track is clearly indebted to R&B from the ’90s but also introduces a dark electronic twist through the warping production.
Rooue had success previously with their single ‘Flavour’ and, based on this track, fans will be eagerly anticipating a full-length release.
Elkin | ‘Tuesday’
Is there a good day to break up? If there is, it’s probably not a Tuesday. Dublin duo Elkin reflect on an ill-fated midweek date that took an unexpected turn. Singers Ellen O’Mahony and Carla Ryan have spoken about this track not being particularly deep. They described how a messy breakup can be emotionally draining but it can be gas to tell your friends—but when the breakup is as boring as the relationship, you don’t even get a good story out of it.
Elkin take an emotional subject and explore it with a sense of humour, but the sonically twisting production here from Lullahush is the star of the show. The lush soundscapes, elaborate vocal processing and textured harmonies give this track the depth for the singers to have some fun with the lyrics.
This is the second instalment in a series of singles set for release throughout 2021, which Elkin are calling an anthology. Based on this track it will be worth keeping an eye on forthcoming releases.
Chiiild | ‘Awake (feat. Mahalia)’
Chiiild described this track as the feeling that you get when the week is over and you can take the weight off. It’s a track that tells you exactly what it sets out to be from the start—and then completely changes halfway through. It starts with a bassline reminiscent of Childish Gambino’s ‘Redbone’ with a four-on-the-floor rhythm and a catchy chorus. The attention to detail of the vinyl crackling, the bongos in the background, the heavily compressed, distorted drum kit, and the little guitar chords give this section its texture and soul.
But the second half of the song introduces soaring synths and a slowed down trap beat. It’s an interesting contrast and it is executed perfectly. Over both halves of the song Chiiild and Mahalia deliver beautiful vocal performances. Lyrically the song tells the story of two lovers anticipating a reconnection after waiting for an eternity.
This is another in a string of starring guest appearances for Irish singer Mahalia. While Chiiild’s new album Hope for Sale is released later this year.
Will Paquin | ‘21’
Will Paquin initially found success on TikTok through a series of covers, and his previous single ‘Chandelier brought him significant interest. Here he follows up that success with an introspective track that showcases his technical guitar abilities.
He has previously described his admiration for classical guitarists such as Baden Powell or Luiz Bonfa, and this attention to the detail of his craft is evident here. The guitar work is exquisite, both soothing and technically impressive.
Paquin is a young artist and based on limited releases to date he is going to be an artist to watch as he continues to define his sound.
DYVR | ‘Holding Back (feat. Benjamin Yellowitz)’
London born, Belfast-based artist DYVR returns with a track addressing the acceptance of their LGBTQ+ identity. They describe the theme of the record as exploring the personas we build and how we hide and mask ourselves—they want to emphasize the importance of loving who you truly are.
It’s clearly an important message and it is emphasised by an engaging spoken word segment from Yellowitz, alluding to the pervasiveness of heteronormativity with a witty Barbie & Ken reference. The production here is stunning, they create a sonically seductive, impactful soundscape for their haunting smooth falsetto to flow over. The glittering synths and thumping beat add texture to this hypnotic track.
DYVR have deservedly been getting more attention recently, notably being featured in the virtual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Their upcoming EP Part 3 will be released later this year via Dublin label VETA Music and will feature more of this brutally honest storytelling and memorable production.