Being human is a complicated business.
We love our mothers. We struggle with weird and frenetic thoughts. We get caught in existentially sapping lockdowns. We drive across country on a bus decorated with marigolds (or something like that) and we wonder if this wonderful called love, which feels so perfect and good, can survive in manifestly imperfect hands.
That’s a lot to think, through, feel, deal with but you don’t have to do it alone – these five brilliant artists know what it’s like to be human and they articulate it so beautifully and with such delightful musical vivacity that you will feel understood and listened to, even as you listen to their slices of gorgeous, life-affirming pop.
“Grace” by Brooke Alexx
However you slice it, celebrating your mum is always worth doing.
Clearly, New Jersey native, now Nashville-based Brooke Alexx, a rising star on the music scene wholeheartedly agree if her track “Grace” indicates, a warm slice of joy-filled pop that is a love letter to her mum.
The lyrics are as heartfelt as any song gets, and coupled with a jauntily upbeat melody that soars in perfect symmetry with its lyrical accompaniment, “Grace”, released in the middle Women’s History Month in March, is one of the most authentic songs you will hear.
What’s especially lovely about it, apart from everything really, is that in a period of history has ruptured the physical closeness of many a relationship, “Grace” reminds us how much those we love mean to us and why shouting that, or singing in the case of this independent artist, is something we should all be doing, and often.
“Self!” by Isaia Huron
There are some songs that are such a perfect combination of lyric, music and vocals that you have to sit back in wonder and let the pop gorgeousness wash over you and right into the happy depths of your soul.
“Self!” by Nashville artists Isaia Huron, which Alfitude describes as a “gorgeously intricate fusion of soul, RnB and pop”, is just such a song, filling you up with an exuberance that leaps from note to note, and word to happy word.
The song is a heartfelt cry to a lover to hang in there and see if they can make their sometimes problematic relationship last – “Wouldn’t you love to make it to winter?” – an entreaty that’s followed by lyrics that will be intimately familiar to anyone who’s ever been imperfectly in love (isn’t that all of us if we’re really honest?):
“Girl, don’t you remember?
Up in New York and you were at dinner
Texting and calling, hoping I picked up
And when I did, the first thing you said was
I want you to myself
I want you to myself
I want you to myself.”
We are imperfect people chasing something that often feels ineffably perfect and Huron captures this often desperate tension between what we have and what we want so beautifully that your hear soars with recognition every time “Self!” comes on.
“Sometimes” by John Errol
Hailing from Los Angeles, John Errol knows a thing or two about dealing with impermanence with his song “Sometimes” taking a visually striking deep dive into the messy ephemerality of the way our minds work.
The song, which the artist has referred to as a “panic attack on a loop”, has been captured brilliantly by FLOOD magazine:
“Over jittery drums and cranky, soaring loops, Errol reflects on the instability of feelings and impulsive thoughts. It’s that instability that’s simultaneously terrifying, reassuring, and, finally, hopeful. Thoughts, the free-floating enigmas of our cranium, are chaotic but impermanent and susceptible to change. For “Sometimes,” thoughts of killing a man shift to feelings of inadequacy in the viscous, noisy distortion.”
Errol captures with insight and real beauty what it’s like to struggle with our brains running amok.
“‘It’s a collection of some very personal thoughts,’ Errol says, ‘that tend to get stuck on loop in my head. I wanted the music to mimic the cyclical nature of this kind of interior dialogue. The message is clear and immediate: Sometimes I feel good, other times I don’t. Sometimes I feel like ending my life. But sometimes I feel like celebrating it.'” (FLOOD)
“Marigold” by Jelani Aryeh
Good lord but artists with a distinctive sense of self and unique artistry are such a joy to listen to.
Jelani Aryeh, who magics R&B and pop into a wholly new modern sound and whose visual style is gloriously, wonderfully idiosyncratic, has come with a joyously lovely track in “Marigold” which ones to watch describes this way.
“Jelani Aryeh’s newest release ‘Marigold’ sounds how sunshine feels. The track feels blissfully sentimental with upbeat indie production from Danny Dwyer and Jack Kolbe. Jelani Aryeh sings of marigold flowers and references their nickname ‘little lion’, which parallels the meaning of his own name – ‘mighty lion’. This connection is what initially inspired the song.
“‘It’s my soul song. At my core, I am this marigold mellow – a quiet soul. It’s what I aspire to be and, without my flaws, this is who I aim for,’ Jelani Aryeh explains.”
It a luxuriously languid piece of musical bliss that delights the eyes, makes your ears happy and makes life seem that bit much brighter and well marogold-y …
“Cigarette Packet” by Sorry
Happily described as “genre defiant” by NME, Londoners Sorry band have come with a song in “Sorry”, and its simultaneous release mate “Separate”, that feel altogether different and unusual from the usual run of the mill tracks out there.
“The sounds are quite metallic / silver / grey and the lyrical ideas are repetitive almost as if they are whispers / mantras/ worries that you’d say to yourself and keep to yourself.” (Asha Lorenz, Sorry, NME)
Created in lockdown in the midst of the pandemic – COVID-19 derailed plans to tour their much-acclaimed debut album 925, which Stereogum christened one of the 50 best albums of 2020 – the songs are all swirling, exuberantly dark electronica, a mirror of the sensibility that gripped many people during this strange period in human history.
So adroitly do they capture the vibe of the times, that the Twixtustwain EP, from which the two songs hail, has been described by Pitchfork accurately and with almost poetic expression as a release that “lurks in the shadowy spaces of claustrophobia, existential dread, and the sadness of a long pandemic winter.”