As a companion column to Annot(e)tations, Press Play will review music across boundaries of time, genre, and language in the hopes that you will find a song that speaks to you.
It’s been one hell of a week.
In the span of the last seven days, there was a mass shooting in Milwaukee, the first death from coronavirus in the U.S., and San Marino High School cancelled an active shooter drill due to concern from the American Civil Liberties Union, as reported by the L.A. Times.
Hopefully, you’ll find a track or two here that offers some respite from the chaos of the world.
Recent single releases:
“Bittersweet” by Lianne La Havas
With a few exceptions (“Grow,” “Ghost,” “Never Get Enough”), Lianne La Havas’ “Blood” was an album for sunlight and smiles — the part of love that was easy, glittering with golden daydreams and breezing in on the back of the beat.
“Bittersweet” isn’t that different sonically — both works have Lianne La Havas and Matt Hales’ fingerprints on them as producers. But the storyline in the song has unraveled into a relationship in turmoil.
“Please stop asking, ‘Do you still love me?’ / Don’t know what to say/ Let’s speak in the morning,” she sings to open the song, setting the scene before the conflict and her voice climax: “No hangin’ around/ Oh, my sun’s goin’ down, oh/ Tellin’ me something isn’t right.”
Joining the ranks of “Tokyo” (specifically the bridge) and “Grow,” the lead single from La Havas’ third album provides one of her most powerful vocal performances and messages: to leave the past behind us, step away from the delusions of the present, and be “born again.”
Listen to “Bittersweet” on Spotify
“Boyfriend (Feat. Khakii)” by Chai
Known mostly for her song “Oh My Angel” on the drama “Angel’s Last Mission: Love,” Chai has remained relatively obscured from the public eye. Her following has not broken the six-figure echelon on Spotify or Instagram, even with the release of her three-track EP “Give and Take.”
But “Gimme That,” her collaboration with “ZGZG” breakthrough star SAAY, and “Boyfriend” could be her chance to change that. Produced by Colde, the B-side single could easily find a place alongside viral hits like DEAN’s “instagram” or offonoff’s “Dance” in a playlist.
Though it distinguishes itself with Khakii’s back-of-the-beat nonchalance and Chai’s flirtatious delivery: “Might need you there right by my side/ Pretend that it’s the chance that I can make you mine.”
Listen to “Boyfriend” on Spotify
“whatchu do? (feat. IRI)” by The Allen (디 앨런)
If I’m completely honest, when I saw that song featured “IRI,” I thought it referred to the red/purple-haired Korean rapper/singer who released “24-25” and “Sparkle” as her latest singles, but no: the vocals are (quite obviously) male, and The Allen, known as 디 앨런 in Korean, is listed as the only producer.
In spite of my defeated expectations though, “whatchu do?” is an irresistible glimpse into the electronic music scene in Korea, equipped for the dance floor with a jaw-dropping falsetto performance from (male) IRI and a disorienting verse of vocal distortion and synth deconstruction.
Listen to “whatchu do? (feat. iri)” on Spotify
Recent album releases:
“ROMANTIC” (EP) by ives.
Having been a fan of ives. since the release of “172,” I have to admit: the hiatus between her last standalone single “Fine” and the “ROMANTIC” EP left doubt as to whether she would continue to pursue her music career or not.
When music fails to reach a measurable audience, emerging artists have no choice but to abandon their work and fall off the face of the music industry, and in the age of algorithmic panic, tracks can become easily obscured/buried if they’re not up to par with the trends of the zeitgeist (such as indie-pop singer Lena Fayre or post-hardcore band Keyes).
But in “ROMANTIC,” ives. is somehow able to cater to popular playlists like “Chill af” and “Pop Edge” while still maintaining her signature sound: left-field pop minimalism that expands beyond and defies a time and place. It becomes the perfect space to explore love and its contradictions of self-sacrifice vs self-sufficiency, the unrequited vs the reciprocated, and gives beauty to the view from an airplane seat, the only place where our heads are truly lost in the clouds and the concrete world becomes lost in a daydream.
In “No Longer Cry,” ives. sings “Post love letters on your phone/ Holding on to those you let go.”
Listen to “ROMANTIC” on Spotify
Peer into the past: “B.Miles – EP” by B.Miles
The anniversary of B.Miles’ self-titled EP is fast approaching, and even three years after its release, the record remains captivating in how the artist melds disparate instruments into one cinematic atmosphere. “Rude” thickens the air with tension through a horror-movie-soundtrack violin opening, Western-twang guitar plucks, and late-night synth bass before “Yinu” closes the album out in a nebulous shroud of radio static, jarring synths, and samples of (what seems to be) a slide carousel being run.
In 2017, B. Miles created electronica that was forward-looking, redrawing the lines of what instrumentation defined the genre by shading her music in with the indie rock of the xx and the pop of VÉRITÉ’s “Living” era, but today, the amalgamation is the status quo: Just look to your left at Lil Nas X and his countrified hip-hop and to your right at the portmanteaus of subgenres that have become prominent like dance-pop.
Listen to “B. Miles” on Spotify