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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 5 below, or scroll to the end for playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. Previous instalments available here.
Reaching the end of January represents an achievement and a sense of relief for many. It’s an end to a long, cold month of self-improvement and penny pinching, with the hope of better things to come. This sense of hope is reflected in this week’s selections, whether it takes the form of heartwarming covers, soulful samples, or euphoric horn sections. Enjoy!
Jelani Aryeh | ‘Angels’
Songs have the amazing ability to transport the listener back to a place in time when the song had some emotional resonance with them. Jelani Aryeh describes how ’Angels’ by The xx brings him back to junior high and he wanted to pay homage to this iconic piece of music.
Covering a band like The xx is no easy feat, they bring such a unique sound and build such a vibrant atmosphere around their music. But Jelani Aryeh brings a fresh perspective to one of their classics. Aryeh’s version introduces a more upbeat outlook that is beautifully nostalgic. His smooth, emotive delivery shows that he relates to the lyrics in a meaningful way.
This contemporary reimagining shows the ability and desire of Aryeh to cover new ground sonically and builds anticipation for whatever comes next.
redveil | ‘how 2 find hope’
As soon as the sample hits, this song feels like a breath of fresh air. Every element of this track is crafted beautifully, from the soulful sample to the reflective lyrics.
The uplifting production provides the ideal structure for redveil to weave his vocal melodies around. Both the delivery and the production transition seamlessly from verse to chorus and back again. The melodic style of rap and punchy one-liners is reminiscent of Earl Sweatshirt, as is the melancholic optimism he delivers through his lyrics.
At only sixteen years old, and having produced this track by himself, the future looks very bright for redveil. Although the production is euphoric, the plea for hope is delivered with sincerity and is particularly appropriate at this time.
Besphrenz | ‘ITTLMHBID’
This track was released a number of months ago, but is finally getting some much deserved attention. The title isn’t a misspelling, instead it’s a needless abbreviation of the phrase, “I Tried to Leave My House But I Didn’t.”
Exploring themes of anxiety and dealing with difficult issues, the Philadelphia band convey considerable swagger throughout. The verses flow over a rhythmic beat until the uplifting chorus comes in with delicate guitar work and energetic synths.
The band successfully create the vibe of a breezy summer day as they reflect on life’s challenges. Besphrenz provide a playful song and deliver a relevant message with a smile on their faces.
Noga Erez | ‘End of the Road’
Israeli born Noga Erez manages to show her considerable charisma here, while also shrugging off the tight grip of human mortality. She delivers her part spoken word vocal over a crisp bombastic production that is reminiscent of M.I.A. or Gwen Stefani.
Erez sounds extremely comfortable and self-assured as she delivers her commentary on modern life. Her vocal harmonies and melodic sensibilities are on full display throughout as she playfully explores the beat.
It’s a smart and stylish track with the sharp and punchy production she has become associated with. She manages to remain playful while exploring introspective themes about mortality. In her own words, the song is about “walking towards the unknown with a smile.”
Beach Bunny | ‘Nice Guys’
The new Blame Game EP from Beach Bunny takes a very clear stance against toxic masculinity. On this track, in particular, lead singer Lily Trifilio condemns the stereotype of self-proclaimed nice guys, accusing them of being manipulative and fake.
The lyrics here are outstanding and are delivered with a pointed sense of humour. Trifilio’s remarks are abrasive as she conveys her personal frustrations, but there are moments of self-awareness and playfulness throughout. The production is nostalgic yet modern. The atmospheric crash cymbals and uplifting guitar sounds match the frustrations conveyed in the lyrics.
It’s another catchy, well produced offering from an accomplished band. Lily Trifilio is showing more depth and range as a songwriter as Beach Bunny sharpen their unique sound.
Middle Kids | ‘Questions’
The latest offering from the Australian band, ‘Questions’ explores the questions that remain unasked in relationships due to the uncomfortable answers they may unveil. Singer Hannah Joy reflects on her past relationships which revolved around drinking as a starting point to delve deeper into these issues that can remain bubbling under the surface in a long-term relationship.
This emotive and heart-wrenching songwriting is something the band has become known for and Joy’s vulnerable approach to lyricism is on full display here. Following a patient start that builds slowly, the song bursts into HD vision with explosive rhythms and restless guitar lines. The horn section is particularly satisfying for the listener after each verse, as the building tension reaches a deserved climax.
The star of the show here is a complex handclap which provides the spine of the song, no doubt this will prove to be a challenge for any audience when concerts finally return.
Kynsy | ‘Elephant in the Room’
The ability to use experiences from your past as reminders not to make the same mistakes again is an invaluable lesson for everyone, but is something that is easier said than done. This is the topic that Dublin artist Ciara Lindsey explores on this track. She explores the idea of using nostalgia to remedy the concerns of the present. These are complex themes for a songwriter to confront, but Lindsey proves that she is more than capable.
The track opens with electronic production before building to a crescendo of uplifting vocals and bolting guitars. The climactic progression of the lush production builds tension throughout the song.
The blending of contemporary electronic sounds with traditional rock influences makes this a fascinating journey. Lyrically Lyndsey explores themes of self-judgement and anxiety with a nuance and attention to detail that will only build anticipation for what is to come from this talented songwriter.
Andra Day | ‘Tigress & Tweed’
Written for the end credits of the upcoming Billie Holiday biopic in which Day is the star, this song was envisaged as an evolution of Holiday’s classic ‘Strange Fruit’. Day explains, if ‘Strange Fruit’ was a call to awareness, this track is a call to arms.
The presence of the legendary Raphael Saadiq is noticeable in the soulful textures of the production and the nuanced lyrics. The opening simple piano loop creates an old school blues vibe until the hard-hitting boom bap hip hop drums kick in.
Day’s beautiful voice flows over the instrumental delivering a timely message. Regardless of the movie, this track is a reminder of Day’s considerable talent as a songwriter and vocalist.