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Top 10 Tracks – February 2019

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Top 10 Tracks – February 2019

Jackson Wyatt, Digital Editor-in-Chief

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When thinking of February, two conflicting attributes could come to mind. On one hand, it is a short and relatively tepid month, awkwardly placed at the beginning of the year in the midst of cold, unforgiving weather. On the other hand, it features one of the year’s biggest holidays, the only one in popular Western culture that seems to emphasize romantic love over goodwill. Compared to January, the tracks on this list are not particularly focused on the idea of romance and passion. Some of the songs present relate to it, but music has always been enamored with the trials and tribulations of love. They go hand-and-hand like flowers and chocolate. Whether or not you found yourself in someone’s arms this Valentine’s Day, here are ten eligible bachelors for your music library.

 

  1. Poppy, ‘Voicemail’

Is Poppy okay? As an equal-parts character and artist created by director-mastermind Titanic Sinclair, she always occupies a space between childlike innocence and robotic detachment. Her music and YouTube channel are both bubbly and off-putting, but a current of ominous undertones runs through it and seems to be getting stronger with each release. ‘Voicemail’ itself is an explosion of tension and paranoia. Over pounding bass and bubbling synths, Poppy sings of being covered in blood, calling the police and running when no one will take her call. As her voice continues to be modulated into an artificial fuzz, it is hard to discern if she is the victim or perpetrator. Regardless, the resulting track is bold, hard-hitting and fascinating, melding the crunchy textures of EDM with elastic vocals.

 

  1. Wallows feat. Clairo, ‘Are You Bored Yet?’

Cloaked in a sunset haze of dream pop glow, Wallows’ first single off of their upcoming album Nothing Happens combines the angsty doubt of teenage relationships with a soft and warm sound. Dylan Minnette, one third of the band, sings,I’m still thinking, let’s pretend to fall asleep now / When we get old, will we regret this?” over bright piano hits, mellow drums and cloudy guitars, creating an all-encompassing atmosphere of spring-like balminess. Lo-fi starlet Clairo joins in, answering from the perspective of the narrator’s concerned partner. It feels like an indie-movie conversation set to a rhyme scheme and music, gliding over pastel emotions into a satisfying mix of immediacy and quirkiness.

 

  1. Zed Kenzo, ‘Astral Girl’

Milwaukee-based rapper Zed Kenzo may be this month’s best example of an underrated artist. Currently clocking in with under 1,000 listens on Spotify, her self-produced single ‘Astral Girl’ showcases a level of talent and personality missing from many recent cuts from chart-topping artists. Aided by a steady beat, punchy bass, and a woodwind-like sample that changes tunes around halfway through the track, Kenzo spits her head off, flowing effortlessly with a cold sense of bravado. Between orders for someone to bring her her money as fast as Sonic the Hedgehog and calling herself an Astral Girl because she is “out of this world,” Kenzo balances her bold flexing with a good sense of humor. She may be prepared to run the game ruthlessly, but she is going to do it with a grin. Despite the earliness of her career, ‘Astral Girl’ is a worthy declaration that she is more than ready to take on the task.

 

  1. Laura Stevenson, ‘Living Room, NY’

Previously playing the keyboard for indie collective Bomb The Music Industry! and with multiple solo albums under her belt, Laura Stevenson knows the alchemy behind well-crafted songwriting and execution. ‘Living Room, NY,’ is not a bold, sweeping call of craft, though, but a compact and pinpointed ballad, focusing in on churning emotions that feel too potent to not be personal. Stevenson sings of stuffy waiting rooms, nervous elevator rides, staring at ceilings and yearning to be back in a special place with a special someone one last time. Aided by acoustic strums and rising orchestration, the hushed tone rises and falls with every emotional peak and impassioned vocal. Stevenson hangs on each thought, exploring the pain and loss like an empty living room until falling back into twilight. The track in sum is deeply felt and cathartic, an intense piece that aims to sting instead of uppercut you with feelings.

 

  1. Tierra Whack, ‘Only Child’

There seems to be no box big enough to hold Tierra Whack. The rising north-Philly rapper is currently making a name for herself through her versatile vocal talents, bold outfits, eclectic personality, well-established aesthetic, clean production, excellent music videos and a fascinating hook on her last project, Whack World: Each of the 15 tracks were exactly one minute long. This constraint has been broken, too, though, on her recent single, ‘Only Child.’ The track clocks in just under four minutes, an equally exciting and risky gesture given Whack’s talent at catchy hooks and fast-paced structures. The good news it that ‘Only Child’ only serves to strengthen her legitimacy, pairing Whack’s typically quirky vocals and lyrics over blooming synths and a clattering beat. The result is extremely addictive, confident and upbeat. With material like this, the three extra minutes are very welcome.

 

  1. Cherry Glazerr, ‘Stupid Fish’

Out of all the metaphors there are for complicated relationships, a fish is not the most obvious or appealing choice. On their recent track ‘Stupid Fish,’ though, California rock band Cherry Glazerr run with the comparison and peer into its nooks and crannies, exploring feelings of being tied up and laying on the sand, unimportant and ignored. The relationship present at the center of the song, whether romantic or not, rings out as very unhealthy, combining self-loathing with a sense of furious acceptance. That may seem harsh, and it is. The whole track is harsh, buoying crunchy guitars and muddied drums with frontwoman Clementine Creevy’s equally measured and guttural vocals. ‘Stupid Fish’ may be a bleeding heart, but it is a well-composed and cathartic one. No track this month will better capture the uncomfortable feelings of love’s darker edges.

 

  1. Lizzo, ‘Cuz I Love You’

You may not know about Minnesotan rapper and singer Lizzo yet, but she is going to make sure you do. Between her recent string of excellent singles, well-produced music videos, a performance on Ellen and a viral video of her playing the flute during a concert, it seems like a matter of time before she dominates the charts. Her most recent track, ‘Cuz I Love You,’ proves that she has the chops to pull it off. Switching between sugary melodrama and playfulness, Lizzo fully commits to the highs and lows of what other artists would treat as a fluffy love song. Her range is flawless, flowing from tight rap-singing to diva-style, powerhouse belting. It is theatrical in the sense of watching a choir kid do as many runs as they possibly can, but without any resounding cockiness. Lizzo is equally good-natured and confident, and with a voice like hers, why should she not not want to show off?

 

  1. Show Me the Body, ‘Camp Orchestra’

Off of New York hardcore band Show Me the Body’s upcoming album Dog Whistle, lead single and album-opener ‘Camp Orchestra’ starts with approximately two minutes of instrumental. The passage is mesmerizing, melding deep rumbles with careful plucking into a rising pattern, creating an equal sense of tension and hypnosis. It feels similar to gliding across concrete in the dark of night, face one inch away from the textured and monochrome surface. When the passage eventually explodes into a crunchy guitar riff, though, it feels like hitting the ground and being dragged across it as reality finally sets in. Show Me the Body is not here to placate; they want to do just the opposite. ‘Camp Orchestra’ feels like the condensed rage of five fist fights, pulsing with raw drums and guttural vocals shouting, “No work will set you free.” The result is electric, hulking and angry enough to take on the whole world.

 

  1. Jimothy, ‘Getting Burberry Socks’

What is the correlation between humor and quality in art? North London rapper Jimothy’s single ‘Getting Burberry Socks’ may be rooted heavily in tongue-and-cheek, self-aware cockiness, but it still stands as an excellent piece of music nonetheless. The repetitive lyrics about flexing Burberry socks (among other products) are subtly absurd, ridiculous enough for an eye-roll and reserved enough to almost be believable. How serious is it? That may just be the point. Regardless of the intent, ‘Getting Burberry Socks’ is addictive. The hook will work its way into your brain with each listen, planting Jimothy’s strange intonations while you grin along. The track is smooth, well-produced and quirky, a trio of attributes surely working together to get this earworm of a semi-parody stuck in your head. With its comfortable atmosphere and good-natured attitude, there is no harm in letting it.

 

  1. Y La Bamba, ‘My Death’

Despite its title, there is no outright mention of death in Y La Bamba’s track off of their recent album Mujeres. There is a certain quality of mourning to it, but not in the oppressive, funeral-march sense. ‘My Death’ feels love-sick and defeated in an existential sense, with the chorus being the equal-parts optimistic and uneasy phrase, “Show me a reason / Some reasons are the way to be found.” The track strays away from being downtrodden, though. The heavy lines are adorned with sing-along Falalala’s like ornaments on a pastel Christmas tree, winding a soft and sweet melody through the warm, hazy sonic textures. ‘My Death’ could easily be treated as a hard pill to swallow for its themes, but it is so effortlessly dreamy and organic that it calls for flowers to spring forth from the snow-covered ground. Listen with your eyes closed and watch gardens grow in your mind. Spring is right around the corner.

 

(All sources from featured artists’ Genius and Spotify pages)

For more track reviews:

Top 18 Tracks of 2018

Top 10 Tracks – January 2019

About the Writer
Jackson Wyatt, Digital Editor-in-Chief

"Writing has always been my biggest passion, and while I'm most comfortable writing fiction, East Highlights helps me fine-tune a lot of my skills."

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