It’s tempting to think of pop music as throwaway music that entertains briefly, shimmers and shines for a moment before ebbing away into nothingness.
That’s not true, of course, but nowhere is this better illustrated than in the artistic efforts of the following five artists who blend sparse, elegantly-beautiful melodies with some incredibly deep and philosophical musings that far from feeling like rarefied, unreachable and unrelatable meditations on life, feel like life explained as it really is.
It’s rare to feel like someone gets you but all five of these artists feel like they have reached into my soul and spoken the kind of truths we know innately but somewhere struggle to excavate from our souls.
I hope as you listen to them and their superlative songs that you’ll have a similar reaction to pop that is anything but disposable.
“Time is a Dark Feeling” by Florist
Time is a cruel master or mistress or whatever non-binary gender you would like to assign to it.
While it gives us order amidst the chaos of life, it is also a straitjacket of sorts, one so controlling and rigidly impelling that straying from it feels like an impossible task and staying under its yoke feels like a burden too great to bear.
Brooklyn, NY-based Emily A. Sprague aka Florist cares not, distilling in her evocatively haunting song “Time is a Dark Feeling” a singularly-divergent philosophy of time that cares for emotions and experiences than the insistent ticking of the clock and the marking of major and minor events.
Talking to Stereogum, Florist reflects on what time really means to her:
“I don’t think that time really exists at all, but obviously in our reality, in our lives, we have a very rigid construct of time our whole lives. It’s something we have to exist within for the most part, but I think it’s really interesting to look at time and pick apart moments and memory and reflect on how that becomes a part of anyone’s consciousness. The things we remember, the fragments of life that make us who we are — it’s not about time anymore, it’s just about feeling.”
“The Fly” by Cross Record
If you’re not comfortable with your own frailty of being or death or the sense that your well-ordered sense of life may be on the edge of crumbling into nothing, then perhaps listening to Cross Record, the solo project of Texan/NYC band Loma singer Emily Cross may not be the best idea.
But if you’re the kind of person who likes to ask the big questions, and have them mused upon in music that is idiosyncratically chilled and stripped bare, then this quite remarkable insightful music artist is just what the existential doctor ordered.
Her song, “The Fly”, which reflects her role as an end-of-life doula who “serve[s] and uphold[s] the wishes of the dying” – this is drawn from the website of her own oragnisation Steady Waves End of Life Services – goes to some very deep places indeed against a backdrop of gorgeously quiet, gently percolating electronica as her press release indicates:
“I was thinking about the fragility of the mind under pressure, being on a brink of collapse and being aware of that, and finding the humor in it objectively. The fly in old oil paintings is a signifier of death and impermanence. The viewer sees all of the perfectly ripe fruits, flowering buds at the height of their glory–but it does all end some day. I suppose it’s a song about brinks or being close to an edge: the edge of a meltdown, the edge between life and death, the moment you think you see something beautiful but it turns out to be a plastic bag, and that’s funny sometimes.” (via Under the Radar)
The beauty of the marriage of indepth philosophising and nuanced melody is that it gives you time not simply to soak up the contemplative ambience but to really think how you’d react if you’d that close to the edge of the abyss, a sobering realisation that is actually quite freeing.
“Açaí Bowl” by Dominic Fike
Described rather beautifully by Sniffers as a “hazy, warm hearted alternative pop slow burner”, along with co-release “Rollerblads”, hazy, “Açaí Bowl” is a dreamy slice of pop that showcases the emotionally-evocative voice of Floridian Dominic Fike.
They follow Fike’s 2018 Don’t Forget About Me, Demos EP which highlighted the talent of this artist who invests his songs with a ruminative beauty that is as intensely introspective lyrically as it is musically.
What sets apart “Açaí Bowl” as something truly special is the way it evokes that sense of shared intimacy and wonder that exists between you and someone who loves you no matter what, who knows you better than anyone and who has stuck by you through the good times and bad.
The alignment of intimate lyrics with equally intimate melody is an exquisite thing, as if every word and note is imbued with the strength and closeness of this relationship.
If you have ever been, or are currently, that close to someone, this song will not feel deeply relatable but will strike a resonant chord with you, the kind that reminds in all the best ways while these kinds of relationships are so life defining.
“Roses” by GASHI
If you’ve been alive for more than five seconds, it will have become obvious to you that there’s a huge gap between the idealistic behaviour we aim for and what we usually end up doing.
Born to Albanian parents in Africa who now reside in the US, GASHI knows all to well what this feels like as Banger of the Day beautifully articulates:
“[The song describes] his love and how he struggles with infidelity and keeps claiming to make it up to her… but what do you get a girl who doesn’t like “Roses”? … The overall song is so electrifying as he goes through their history and how much it actually means to him, but he can’t seem to stay loyal.”
It’s a sobering listen because the assumption is if you love someone, your love will be perfect and absolute but that’s not always the case, and while we may not be cheating on our partners, there are probably a thousand different ways we let them down on complete contravention of what we wish for them, and for us.
GASHI’s honesty in this extravagently lush and beautiful song captures exactly how it feels to fall between expectation and execution in a way that cust right to the heart.
“Belong” by Slenderbodies
John Donne rightly observed that “No man is an island”, with the truth of his meditative pronouncement never more keenly felt that in our current digital age where the promise of great connectivity, which has taken place, not necessarily resulting in greater and rich human contact or an enhanced sense of belonging.
Comprised of Californians Max Vehuni and Benji Cormack, slenderbodies addresses how desperately important it is for all of us to feel connected but more crucially, to feel like we belong as an intrinsic part of a community.
“‘Belong’ is so many things to us. It’s this fun dancey record, but that carefree feeling is all built from the concept of the song. ‘Belong’ is about the warmth and fullness we got from vibrant enriching communities, how those communities intertwined us with nature and ultimately brought us to a place of peacefulness with our identities to be able to feel like we belong anywhere.”
The song is bright and effusively bouncy but it is also passionately, meaninfully lushly introspective, musing on how much the health of our psyches depends on belonging in a way that actually means somethingand isn’t just turning up and ticking boxes.
SONGS, SONGS AND MORE SONGS EXTRA!
Let’s be honest – lots of music videos are reasonably ho-hum. Not so, Meg Myers promotional video for her cover of the Kate Bush classic “Running Up That Hill” which not only looks stunning, like a colouring sprung magically to life, but into which went a lot of work …
“As part of her partnership with HOLA, Meg and the producer of the video, Jo Roy taught animation classes to elementary school students. The frames they made during the classes were then composited together, and used in the video. The result is an ethereal and highly captivating animated journey. With every frame being radically unique, the only constant is the certainty of change.
“… Meg climbed monkey bars, hung upside down, flew using a harness and wires …we erased all the rigging, added animation components that were moved around using visual effects (including wings), and put every frame through a photoshop filter to define the “coloring book” lines. Then, the frames were printed off into individual coloring pages which were distributed to 10 schools and various organizations in Los Angeles and Canada for children to color with real crayons also provided.” (copy via Laughing Squid)
Think nothing much is happening now the Eurovision Song Contest is over for another year? You’d be wrong!
Five Dutch cities are in the running to host the event – there were six but Amsterdam has now withdrawn its candidacy – and you can find out everything you want to know about the host bid process (the host city will be announced in August) and Eurovision news in general in the following videos …