This week brings lots of new synth pop, indie rock, and anticipated new albums from Cate le Bon and Faye Webster.
Fresh Music Friday is here to give you a breakdown of new singles, EPs, and albums to check out as you make your way into the weekend. Get ready to jam out with some of our favorite up-and-coming artists, plus celebrate new releases from those you already know and love.
1. - HÅN - "gymnasion"
Hailing from a small, lakeside town in Italy, singer/songwriter HÅN crafts spacious synth pop that's as magical as the Italian countryside. 2017 saw the release of HÅN's cinematic debut EP, today she delivers another enchanting new track called "gymnasion." This time around, HÅN employs much of the same intricate songwriting skills––pairing delicate synth work with warm, wistful vocals to a gorgeous effect.
2. micki maverick - "HE/ART"
Los Angeles-based musician micki maverick (real name: Dylan Neil) is sharing her debut single, "HE/ART" today. Her new song provides a glimpse of what's to come in the future from the 22-year-old California native. "HE/ART" has a laid-back vibe; Neil puts a bedroom-pop spin on R&B to create a sound equal parts chilled out and compelling, influenced by Kehlani.
Here's what Neil had to say on the track: "'HE/ART' is really a complete look into my life, my past, and my insecurities. Society expects perfection, but that standard is completely unattainable. Not everything in life can be fixed, some things remain broken. And that's what I believe should be the new standard: broken pieces that form something new, something more beautiful."
3. Cassidy King - "I Can't"
Cassidy King's infectious pop is the perfect accompaniment to the recent spring sunshine. Her new single, "I Can't," melds crisp production with the 21-year-old's dazzling vocals in a sound that's reminiscent of E•MO•TION-era Carly Rae Jepsen. She explains that the release is "about going along with the warm summer feeling, that same feeling of warmth represents the honeymoon stage of a relationship to me. This song captures that stage where you just became intrigued by that certain someone and you're doing absolutely anything to get their attention."
4. Sorcha Richardson - "Don't Talk About It"
Dublin-born, Brooklyn-raised singer/songwriter Sorcha Richardson shares the first single, "Don't Talk About It," from her debut album, First Prize Bravery, due out in the fall. The song starts off with a grooving guitar line under Sorcha's evocative vocals before building beautifully into a bright, full-bodied chorus that's hard not to sing along to: "Hey, okay, we don't have to talk about it / It's only love, I guess we'll live without it."
5. Alien Tango - "Friends!"
The zany, technicolor world of London-based band Alien Tango is extra vibrant on their new single, "Friends." There are layered modulated vocals that zig-zag over playful, upbeat instrumentation, and from the first second of listening it feels like you've entered a surreal funhouse. "Friends" is the perfect kind of chaos that sounds like an intersection of Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavillion and an 8-bit video game soundtrack; plus, there's a trippy video to match.
Chicago rapper Calboy shows how much he's grown as a rapper, singer, and storyteller on his forthcoming project, Wildflower. He recently tapped Moneybagg Yo for his reflective cut, "Unjudge Me." Here, Calboy flexes his dexterous bars and off-kilter melodies, and he continues to dip between songs that feel loose and hard at the same time.
7. Middle Kids - New Songs For Old Problems EP
The Australian rock trio has been sharing a slew of excellent singles like "Real Thing" and "Beliefs and Prayers" in anticipation of their mini-album. Now their new EP, New Songs For Old Problems, is full of anthemic, indie rock gems. This is the follow-up to their critically acclaimed LP, Lost Friends.
8. Faye Webster – Atlanta Millionaires Club
Faye Webster finds harmony in the juxtaposing textures of country, R&B, and folk. Her sound is fully-realized on her new album, Atlanta Millionaires Club, the follow-up to her 2017 self-titled record. On the new LP, Webster's wistful vocals nestle perfectly in between woozy steel guitars and swanky horn parts, as she sings of heartbreak and lovesickness.
9. Honeyblood – In Plain Sight
On Honeyblood's new record, singer/guitarist Stina Tweeddale takes the Glasgow-band-turned solo-project in a new, grittier direction. There's still the same fuzzy post-punk guitar lines that defined Honeyblood's sound on their earlier albums, but this time around, with the help of producer John Congleton, In Plain Sight takes on a spookier, more futuristic territory. It's exciting to see Tweeddale expand her artistic vision, signaling the mark of a new era in Honeyblood's story.
10. Cate Le Bon - RewardCate Le Bon's fifth full-length album, Reward, is a revelation. Recorded while Le Bon stayed in a remote house in Cumbria and took furniture classes by day and played piano by night, Reward is a minimalist meditation on the isolation that unfolds slowly and softly, becoming one of Le Bon's most conventionally accessible--and rewarding--listens.
Breaking down the bias of comfort films.
With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.
Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.
Rivera's "Glee" character was not just important, she was groundbreaking.
As a young queer girl growing up in the south, I was lucky that my parents weren't homophobes.
My parents believed that people were sometimes born gay, and while they wouldn't "wish that harder life" on their children, they certainly made me and my sister believe that gay people were just as worthy of love as anyone else. I was lucky.
Still, in my relatively sheltered world of Northern Virginia (a rich suburb near Washington D.C.), homophobia wasn't as blatant as hate crimes or shouted slurs, but it was generally accepted that being straight was, simply, better.
In high school, it wasn't uncommon to use "gay" as an insult or for girls to tease each other about being "lez." While many of us, if asked, would have said we were in support of gay marriage and loved The Ellen Show, being gay remained an undesirable affliction.
Even more insidious, I was instilled with the belief—by my church and my peers—that if gay and lesbian people could be straight, they would. But since they were simply incapable of attraction to the opposite sex or fitting into traditional gender roles, we should accept them as they are as an act of mercy. At the time, this kind of pity seemed progressive and noble. Those in my close circle of family and friends weren't openly dismissive or condemning of gay people, but we saw homosexuality as a clear predisposition with no gray areas.
Specifically: Gay men talked with a lilt, giggled femininely, and were interested in things that weren't traditionally "masculine." Meanwhile, gay women dressed like men, had no interest in makeup or other traditionally female interests, and probably had masculine bodies and features. In my mind, before someone came out as gay, they did everything in their power to "try to be straight" but were eventually forced to confront the difficult reality that they felt no attraction at all to the opposite sex. I viewed homosexuality not as a spectrum, but as a black and white biological predisposition that meant you were thoroughly, completely, and pitiably gay.
As a child, when I began to experience stirrings of attraction for other girls, I would reassure myself that not only had I definitely felt attraction for men in the past, but I also liked being pretty. I was a tomboy as a child, sure, but as I got older I recognized that my value was increased in the eyes of society if I tried to be a pretty girl. As it turned out, I even liked putting on clothes that made me feel good, I liked applying makeup, and I liked some traditionally "feminine" things. In my mind, this meant that I couldn't be gay, because gay women didn't like "girl" stuff.
As a teenager, I began to learn more about the difference between gender and sexuality, and the fluidity of both. I began to let myself feel some of the long-suppressed feelings of queer desire I still harbored.
Still, in the back of my mind, the instilled certainty of sexuality as an extremely rigid thing sometimes kept me up at night. What if I was gay? Would I have to change the way I looked? Would I have to give up some of the things I liked? In my mind, being gay meant your sexuality was your whole identity, and everything else about you disappeared beneath the weight of it.
But then, Santana came out as gay on Glee.
GLEE - The Santana 'Coming Out Scene' www.youtube.com
If you didn't watch Glee, than you might not know the importance of Naya Rivera's character to so many queer young women like myself. Santana was beautiful, she was popular, she had dated boys, she was feminine, she was sexy, and she was gay. There's even evidence that Santana had previously enjoyed relationships with men.
But the character came out anyways, not because she had to or because it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gay, but because her attraction to women was an aspect of her identity she was proud of. It wasn't an unfortunate reality she simply had to make the best of; it was an exciting, beautiful, aspect of her identity worth celebrating.
Before Santana, it had never really come home for me that being gay wasn't an entire identity—that it wasn't an affliction or disorder, but just another part of a person. She also didn't suddenly start wearing flannels or cutting her hair after coming out. She was the same feminine person she had always been. I had never realized that being a gay woman didn't have to look a certain way. Santana and Brittany's gay storyline showed two femme-presenting women in love, and for me, that was a revolution.
If it wasn't for Naya Rivera, we may never have had that important story line.
"It's up to writers, but I would love to represent [the LGBTQ community] because we know that there are tons of people who experience something like that and it's not comical for them in their lives," Rivera told E! News in 2011. "So I hope that maybe we can shed some light on that."
While Rivera herself wasn't gay (the importance of casting gay actors in gay roles is a separate conversation), she understood how important her character was to the queer community. "There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them," Rivera told Latina magazine in 2013. "I love supporting this cause, but it's a big responsibility, and sometimes it's a lot of pressure on me."
Rivera wasn't just a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community on screen. In 2017, she wrote a "Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community" for Billboard's Pride Month. In it, she wrote, "We are all put on this earth to be a service to others and I am grateful that for some, my Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays may have given a little light to someone somewhere, who may have needed it. To everyone whose heartfelt stories I have heard, or read I thank you for truly enriching my life."
Now, as we mourn the loss of Naya Rivera, at least we can take comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on—that the light her Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays gave us won't go out any time soon.
Excuse me, I have to go weep-sing-along to Rivera's cover of landslide now.
Glee - Landslide (Full Performance + Scene) 2x15 youtu.be
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