The Playlist: January 2021
It’s been an absolutely hectic few weeks. Was Christmas really only a month ago?!
Welcome to 2021 (I guess!) and we’ve been blessed with some wonderful new tracks that have made the days feel a little warmer and brighter in spite of everything.
Here are our top picks of the month that you might not have heard but definitely should be listening to.
In this new feature we’re collating our favourite songs of the past month, every month.
Nenci, Virgo Rising, Sabiyha, Olivia Morreale, VENUS GRRRLS, Lynks, Sturle Dagsland, carpetgarden, switchdown, The Great Emu War Casualties, Jackfruit and George Clement
Words: Amy Albinson & Molly Davies
Cover art: @alexandraisart
Nenci | underneath the moon
Queer Vietnamese-American singer/songwriter Nenci’s new track underneath the moon explores the hopeful topic of the role imagination plays when in pursuit of a new love. With striking production, her music stems from a desire to explore the application of classical flute blended with Californian Hip Hop and experimental R&B. Combining synths with low kicks and 808s whilst highlighting the mostly unexplored versatility offered by well used flutes, her high trills merge with chopped vocals to create a stunningly disjointed and trance-like daydream of a song.
Virgo Rising | Headlights
From the very first beat of Headlights Virgo Rising transport into their self-described, underplayed world of “three sad girls making songs in Winnipeg” and we're eager to wade into the melancholy with them. The sparkling trio are not afraid to utilise quietness, a rare quality in this pop-drenched period, emphasising emotive snippets and startlingly shining musicianship - with Emily Sinclair’s haunting vocals a particular highlight in their stunning new track.
Sabiyha | Lullaby
A huge favourite this month, Lullaby is a celebration of artist Sabiyha’s Guyanese heritage. Paying tribute to her Nanny - an impressive and proud matriarchal figure - the new track builds around the sentiments of a lullaby recalled from her childhood. With Sabiyha’s commanding vocals resonating with her Nanny's resilience, a woman who consistently taught the singer “the importance of repping our heritage and being proud of our roots”, she celebrates herself and her family within a British culture that too often revels in dismissing cultural significance.
The soundscape Sabiyha has created in her first single of 2021 is a rich texture of overlapping conversations from large family gatherings that sit underneath complex and driving rhythms. Influenced by clapping games the artist played as a child, the production of the track gives each carefully thought-out element room to breathe, leading to a spine-tingling aural tapestry that holds Sabiyha’s vocals as the stunning focal point throughout. A firm favourite to keep an eye on.
Olivia Morreale | No Answer
No Answer is the perfect soundtrack for late night pondering. Evoking nostalgic memories of sunset ocean drives and daydreaming while bathed in starlight, the smooth 80s retro-wave synths blend effortlessly together to perfectly support Olivia Morreale’s soothing vocals. Co-created with Eli Koskoff, No Answer is the perfect track to kick off her new EP Space Dreams, and leaves you feeling like if nothing makes sense, that’s fine, it never mattered anyway.
VENUS GRRRLS | Goth Girl
Oh, to be a VENUS GRRRL! In celebration of female friendship and all counter-culture goth girls, the group's latest track embraces subculture stereotypes and highlights the speed in which fashions can change. When movements that were once ‘unpopular’ become the height of what is ‘in’ and influential - see the rise in TikTok witches and goth partners for cottage core kitsch lesbians - nothing is more relatable than the line “and I was never popular” because nothing used to scream outsider like being the goth girl, but oh did I want to be one!
Lynks | Everyone’s Hot (And I’m Not)
Despite my inability to relate to this song (I’m hot, what can I say?), Lynks’ new track is a stomper of a mood - coated in cutting wit and queer idiosyncrasies. Released alongside a one-shot video showcasing their penchant for performance, Everyone's Hot (And I'm Not) focusses on the bitter sting of being violently rejected by someone you wrongly assumed to be gay. Flitting from pounding self-effacing avant-pop dance to downtempo reflections on boys who are into pussy, twats, vaginas and everything that’s not-so-Lynks, the track is a rager of a tune we just can't wait to hear live.
Sturle Dagsland | Dreaming
There’s a startling, unique sound to Norwegian avant-pop singer Sturle Dagsland.
Coated in reverb-laden strings, breathy ethereal vocals, and grand orchestral uprisings, his new track Dreaming harbours a deep, bubbling sense of power. Recorded in a lighthouse off the coast of the North Sea, the complex strangeness of his voice evokes both the eccentricities of Bjork and the breadth of landscapes within Sigur Ros. Flitting from calm dreamscapes to stormy waters, Sturle Dagsland is gearing up for the release of his self-titled debut on the 5th February, and Dreaming feels like a promising taste of what’s to come.
carpetgarden | Westside
carpetgarden is the moniker of California-based slacker-rock/bedroom-pop songwriter David Sweet. Offering up another glimpse of their new EP, set for a 24th February release, new track Westside is a bonafide summer anthem, relishing in the captivating nature of whimsical charm. Sunny car rides and lazy days abound, there’s a light, carefree undercurrent to the track, a happy-go-lucky antidote to a - quite frankly - terribly depressing period of time.
George Clement | Mum Pick Me Up, I'm Scared
Piano-led Mum Pick Me Up, I'm Scared is a beautifully sincere sophomore single from Bristol-based songwriter George Clement. Gently haunting in its chiming melodies, the track builds with a quietly driven sense of purpose, enchanting in his heart-on-sleeve approach. The perfect tonic to rainy day bus rides, the song is a promising glimpse at a new artist very much worth keeping an eye on.
switchdown | WHY-PHY
The Leicestershire trio are back with another alt-rock anthem, overflowing with vibrant melodies and catchy hooks abound. With their first release of 2021, WHY-PHY combines fast-paced riffs with a punk ferocity, easy listening crossed with a riled up, attention-commanding energy. Though relative newcomers, since the release of their debut EP Headway in January last year, the band continue to stride out as a strong contender for a small town rock act you should definitely be keeping an eye on.
The Great Emu War Casualties | I'm A Yes Man
A new favourite this month, soaring guitars paint the synth-pop daydream world of the humorously named The Great Emu War Casualties. Hailing from Australia, the trio dance a fine line between rock band and art-pop project. New release I'm A Yes Man, is a tale of feeling overwhelmed and over burdened, with stream-of-consciousness lyricism moving through a daunting world.
Jackfruit | I had gay sex with god (it could've gone better)
Hailing from New York City, Jackfruit is the solo project of 19 year old Jack Braun. Combining intensely personal lyricism crossed with an upbeat humerous outlook, new release I had gay sex with god (it could've gone better) is lofi bedroom-pop at its finest. Beautifully queer and sincere, and reminiscent of the likes of Conan Gray and Cavetown, his new track is increasingly fragile in its honesty, a gorgeous closer to the upcoming EP due out mid-February.
Each month we'll be updating the playlist with our new favourite finds.
Have a listen and give the playlist a follow here.