These are the songs that have carried me through yet another strange year. My hope is that by introducing or reminding you of these tracks, you will have a deeper exploration of the artist. Sometimes it just takes one song to really hit you – these are mine.
A song as striking and moving as Nick Hakim’s voice,“The Light” carries me over the bridge to work in the early morning, submerging my whole being into a certain type of tranquility I can only get from this song. This past year has solidified that Hakim is truly my favorite artist. From his beginning EPs into his two full-length albums, Hakim has grown into an artist that can put all the pain and vulnerability of being a human into a whole sonic experience. There is so much to explore with this gifted artist.
“Interlude”, Lucy Yeghiazaryan and Vanisha Gould, In Her Words (2021)
Although it is titled “Interlude”, this song can stand on its own. I can’t say that about any other song I know that is under a minute long. The vocal harmonies are stunning; the live performance absolutely captivating. There’s this incredible moment between the bass player and the vocalists that takes my breath away. It reminds me that above all, jazz is about communication, and the short story that is told in “Interlude” is fascinating.
“Nunca Vas A Comprender”, Rita Payés, Como La Piel (2021)
This song is performed with such joy, such ease. I played it countless times while riding my bike under the summer sun. Rita Payes is a Catalan multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who possesses an incredible ability to inspire and awe. Each track on this album is filled with layers of richness and warmth, but it is this particular song that uplifts and inspires.
The first piano notes fold seamlessly into Jacob Lusk’s staggering vocals. This song was four years in the making, and its crisp, powerful perfection shows that it was a labor of love. I first heard of Gabriels on a Bandcamp episode when they had only a few listeners and their music has grown into a sound of its own. The trio combines Lusk’s L.A gospel background with the soaring beauty of a movie soundtrack which producers Ryan Hope and Ari Balouzian effortlessly create. “In Loving Memory” is just one of the many poignant and haunting tracks that Gabriels have introduced to the world.
I’ve been listening to The Marias since their humble beginnings with Superclean, Vol 1. Their first two EPs will hold such a special place in my heart, but there’s no doubt that their debut album CINEMA has had a strong impact. “Heavy” is the song I’ve played most from their new album — one that really deviates from their previous tracks and incorporates interesting melodies and structures. With the exception of the reggaeton-inspired “Un Millón”, the seventh track is an intriguing segway into the latter half of the album which feels a bit less pop-oriented and has strong Radiohead leanings. “Heavy” is lush, atmospheric and can easily transport you to another world.
“Weak For Your Love”, Thee Sacred Souls, “Weak For Your Love” (2020)
Rising quickly to success, Thee Sacred Souls quite simply, just have it. Soulful vocals by singer Josh Lane that give you goosebumps. The cleanest bass lines and an undeniable groove. Seriously, listen to all the songs these guys have put out because they are all flawless. In “Weak For Your Love”, Lane’s voice absolutely soars as he tells a love story that’s surely been sung thousands of times, but there is something about the way he sings it that gives it a breath of fresh air. His soulful melodies are intuitive and captivating. I cannot wait for what this band has in store for the new year.
“Pipe Dreamer”, Alexandra Riorden, Weirdflower, (2019)
Alexandra Riorden is an artist my roommate went to college with. When she introduced me to her music, I was instantly inspired by the unique lyricism. It is so refreshing to listen to an artist whose lyrics are truly rare, utterly poetic and brimming with insight. “Pipe Dreamer” opens with a floating softness, punctuated by “Too many questions, child/Makes the mind grow weak/She is smiling vacantly/Society’s got its keep/But oh to be bold/When the game favors the meek/” I honestly haven’t seen lyrics I gravitate so much to or seen so much creativity from since I first listened to Hiatus Kaiyote. Riorden is one rad lady and her music deserves to be in the ears of many.
And speaking of Hiatus Kaiyote…
“Red Room”, Hiatus Kaiyote, Mood Valiant, (2021)
“Red Room” was released prior to Hiatus Kaiyote’s long-anticipated third album Mood Valiant, and as soon as the first notes began, I knew that this album would be different than their other two. Their genre-bending, often sonically visceral music has always had the ability to give me such profound sadness and introspectiveness that lets me heal old wounds. The brilliance of “Red Room” was that it was completely improvisational, fully recorded in one take at 4am in a studio in Rio de Janiero. The power of Nai Palm’s vocals is in its simultaneous endearing tenderness and captivating rasp as Perrin Moss’s prodigal and grounding drumming and Paul Bender’s intuitive bass lines float around the soulful keys of Simon Mavin. “Red Room”, in its spontaneous beauty reinforces more than ever the pure musical genius of this band.