WIBLT: New Music You Need To Hear.
What I've Been Listening To, 6/23/21
Top to bottom, this might be the best batch of projects I’ve ever put together in one of these posts. Super excited to share them with you.
Don’t miss out on posts like these by subscribing to the playlist below. It’s always updated with the eight standout tracks from all my “What I’ve Been Listening To” posts in 2021.
Xardinal Coffee - EXUM
9 tracks, 30 minutes
Released: June 5th, 2021
From: Richmond, VA
Genres: Alternative, Hip-Hop/Rap, Pop
Recommended For Fans Of: JPEGMAFIA, Genesis Owusu, Blood Orange
On September 30th 2018, San Francisco 49ers safety Antone Exum Jr. intercepted Phillip Rivers and returned it to the house for a touchdown. It was the first interception and touchdown of his five year NFL career. Though he must have been on top of the world in that moment, wether he knew it or not, his true calling lied off the field. Flash forward 3 years and one near death experience later, and we have Xardinal Coffee, the debut album from EXUM. If you think you know what to expect sonically from an ex-football star, check those expectations at the door. “I love bringing the androgynous attitude to everything I do,” he told The Guardian. “I love open sexuality. [Societal norms] don’t matter to me.” Comments like this, along with the music, and things like showing up to practice with his nails painted lead his teammates to dub him “the Dennis Rodman of football.” Music has been a lifelong passion along with football, and this album was birthed while still in the league. Exum linked with producer Erik Samkopf in 2018, and would work on songs in between games and practices. The connection was made remotely though as Samkopf lives in Norway. “I was emailing him demos over beats I found on YouTube, then he’d strip the music out and produce over the lyrics,” Exum said. With a one of a kind story, and an impossible to pin down sound, this is an eclectic debut that you have to hear yourself to believe.
Standout Track: Bad Chick Bad Dude
claire - kezia
7 tracks, 19 minutes
Released: June 11th, 2021
From: American Canyon, CA
Genres: Hip-Hop/Rap, Bedroom Pop, Indie
Recommended For Fans Of: Serena Isioma, Jean Deaux
claire is the debut EP from kezia that I’ve been eagerly anticipating since the release of her single south! in 2019. That track has been updated with a Nayana Iz feature since then (who I included in a WIBLT post last year), and also includes the other singles megan fox and SUNSHINE. This brief EP serves as an introduction to a diverse sound that sees her switching up from rap, indie R&B, bedroom pop, and more effortlessly. Understandable for an artist who’s influences range from My Chemical Romance to Fela Kuti. “My deepest vulnerabilities are present in my music,” Kezia said in a statement. “And ‘Claire’ is my honest and unguarded introduction to the lessons of learning to love through love.” This is just the beginning of what looks to be a fruitful music career that she hopes will also branch out to include fashion and filmmaking. claire has a song that can soundtrack any type of situation you might get into this summer.
Standout Track: megan fox
Open The Door - Veps
6 tracks, 21 minutes
Released: June 11th, 2021
From: Oslo, Norway
Genres: Indie, Alternative, Garage Pop
Recommended For Fans Of: Hinds, Sunflower Bean
Open The Door is the official debut EP from a band that formed when they were in middle school. Though that was just three years ago for the four piece comprised of all seventeen year olds, you wouldn’t be able to guess that from this project. Veps makes music that sounds experienced beyond their years. They credit their sound to being four girls with “slightly different music tastes and backgrounds, and we each bring elements from what we like into our songs,”they told When The Horn Blows. The band name originates from a wasp flying into their rehearsal room as they were trying to come up with a band name (veps is Norwegian for wasp). Open The Door was released by Kanine Records, label to artists such as Grizzly Bear, Hockey Dad, Chairlift, and the previously featured Hoorsees.
Standout Track: Girl on TV
Cycles - Tiara Imani
5 tracks, 10 minutes
Released: June 11th, 2021
From: Woodbridge, Virginia -> Los Angeles, CA
Genres: R&B, Soul
Recommended For Fans Of: SZA, Ari Lennox, H.E.R.
Cycles is the debut EP from L.A. via Virginia artist Tiara Imani, and it tells the story of growth. The albums track titles (and song themes) reflect the lifecycle of a plant from seed to bearing fruit, reflecting how humans go through similar lifecycles. Over the course of five tracks, we get introduced to Imani’s smooth vocals as they cruise over laid back R&B beats. The only thing to dislike here is that at just ten minutes, you’ll have to play it over and over again if you want more (which I think you will). It’s no surprise that Imani’s seeds are starting to bear fruit themself from this flowery project. Apple Music added Flowers to their “New in R&B” playlist, to which Imani had this to say:
As an artist with their hand in directing, editing, and acting as well as music, this is just the beginning of Tiara Imani receiving her flowers.
Standout Track: Bud
You like what you’re hearing?
I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES - Backxwash
10 tracks, 33 minutes
Released: June 20th, 2021
From: Zambia -> Québec
Genres: Industrial, Metal, Horrorcore, Rap
Recommended For Fans Of: Black Dresses, Lingua, Ignota, clipping.
“The purpose of pain is to get our attention that something is wrong, protect us from further damage, and to request care. It’s in this sense that a little bit of pain is a good thing.”
Before erupting into noise with the track WAIL of the BANSHEE, a loop of this quote is sampled and layered with short delay to set the album’s tone. Fitting for an album billed as an “audio-visual landscape of pain and despair [that] features Backxwash as an empress of chaos on a path of self-destruction.” With industrial beats, thrashing metal guitars, samples and soundbites, screaming vocals, rapping, and an appearance from Sad13 of Speedy Ortiz, this project indulges in just about everything under the sun. Backxwash is the grounding center throughout the album though, as their vocals demand attention no matter what chaos is surrounding them on any given track. This comes almost exactly a year after the 2020 album God Has Nothing to Do with This Leave Him Out of It, which won Backxwash the 2020 Polaris Music Prize. The Bandcamp description for this project says while that album was a “study in mercy,” Backxwash finds “solace in being consumed by her malevolent behaviours,” with this one.
Standout Track: TERROR PACKETS (Feat. Censored Dialogue)
Small Talk - Good Morning TV
11 tracks, 41 minutes
Released: June 18th, 2021
From: Paris, France
Genres: Indie Rock, Dream Pop
Recommended For Fans Of: Men I Trust, Deerhoof, Tapeworms
Much like when you meet someone new at a party, Good Morning TV uses Small Talk as a means of introduction. This debut album combines hazy synths with lackadaisical indie rock to create their signature sound. Coming five years after their 2016 self titled EP, Good Morning TV has grown from the Bérénice Deloire solo project it was back then. Since, she’s joined forces with Barth Bouveret (who produced that EP and this album), Thibault Picot, and Hugo Dupuis to form the full group. Together, they took their time writing this for two years before retreating to a makeshift studio at a house in the south of France. Rather than call it a studio, they thought of it more as a “weird laboratory,” where they made an album that slowly sways between lullaby and fever dream.
Standout Track: Lethargic Way
Moon Room - Destiny X
9 tracks, 20 minutes
Released: June 15th, 2021
From: Philadelphia, PA
Genres: R&B, Hip-Hop
Recommended For Fans Of: Peyton, Demae
Destiny X follows up her 2018 album CHAI and 2019 EP Moods with this new project Moon Room. Here she lays warm vocals over funky production that often sounds like it was bounced straight out of a Roland SP-404. The project has been in the works for a while, as the interlude Bloop has been out on Soundcloud for over a year, and she said on Instagram that this is the longest she’s ever worked on anything. But now that we get to reap the benefits of those years laboring, it’s hard to say it wasn’t worth the wait. In a short amount of time, Destiny X shows a lot of versatility. From more upbeat head-bopping tracks like 2001 (Moon Room) and Rush, to smoother tracks like Love Potion and Luv 2 Me, you’re sure to find something you like on this project.
Standout Track: 2001 (Moon Room)
PUNK GOES DRILL+** - POLO PERKS <3 <3 <3
11 tracks, 20 minutes
Released: March 5th, 2021
From: New York City, NY
Genres: Hip-Hop/Rap, Punk, Drill
Recommended For Fans Of: Chief Keef, Lil Tracy, Playboi Carti
Remember those Punk Goes Pop albums from the 2000s where pop-punk bands would cover popular radio songs? This is…something like that. Polo Perks puts his spin on classic songs by artists like The Killers, Blink-182, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Snow Patrol, and many more. It makes sense for a kid that was as into rap music as he was Neil Young and Motion City Soundtrack. The samples and production are handled by his close friends (he adds his producer’s name to the title of every track) in Surf Gang, which also includes rappers like Perks and Babyxsosa. While it’s an incredibly fun project, it ultimately comes down to putting on for the 2000s, and the kids it raised.
“I was going to get a sandwich, and this kid stopped me and started talking about PUNK GOES DRILL. He was like, ‘This is the music I grew up on, but I had to keep in the shadows. The fact that a real n***a used all these samples makes me less shy about it, and more appreciative of it. The fact that you as a Black artist did this, there are so many people just like you. The Black kid who grew up on rock music, and had to keep it in the cut.’ He FaceTimed his brother, like, ‘Bro, look who I’m with!’ And off the first rip, I could tell his brother was the same type of kid. They were both hyped.” - Polo Perks for Underground Underdogs.
Standout Track: Mr.Brightside (Tommytohotty)
Stay High - Brittany Howard
Yesterday Brittany Howard announced a reimagined version of her excellent solo debut album Jaime. The whole tracklist looks spectacular, but my mind can’t stop imagining what Gambino will do with this one. Can’t wait.
Cashmere - Tkay Maidza
Tkay Maidza is steadily putting together an incredible visual portfolio. Her music videos always have superb set design and execution. Not many others are doing music videos on her level right now.
Mid-year round up coming next week, don’t miss it!