Tuesday Tracks: Your Weekly New Music Discovery – July 23

Vivian Girls, KÁRYYN, NCT 127, Pearla, Monomotion, Nicole Bus

Clockwise from top left: Vivian Girls, KÁRYYN, NCT 127, Pearla, Monomotion and Nicole Bus.

With so much music coming out at once, it’s easy to stick to what you know and avoid the intimidating ocean of tunes.

Daunted music lovers can count on RIFF to deep dive for you. Our weekly Tuesday Tracks series provides six cuts that caught our eye during the previous week.

I am personally a firm believer in the diversity of modern music, so my picks often span a large swath of musical landscape. From neo-classical noise music to gospel-influence avant-soul, this week’s list offers quite a lot to chew on.

Have fun with this week’s standout songs!


Nicole Bus, “Mr. Big Shot” — Nicole Bus blends jazz-rap, soul and old-school dub in a solid follow-up to her last chart-topping single, “You.” The song’s funky bass line and syncopated backbeat commingle with classic R&B vocal harmonies and reggae vocal inflections. Abounding with swagger and confidence, she manages to sound tough and sensual at the same time. It’s a hard balance to strike, but Bus has done so with a rock-solid groove.


KÁRYYN, “YAJNA (Edit)” — Reflecting her Armenian heritage on avant-electronica, KÁRYYN injects emotive vocals into immersive soundscapes. On this new version of her single “YAJNA,” she trims the extended ambient passages. The lessened time commitment doesn’t take from the atmosphere. It actually emphasizes the song’s inherently mind-altering nature. Her spiritual, emotive vocal melodies are as spellbinding as the evolving production. This shorter version proves she doesn’t rely on long-winded arrangements to achieve her mystifying ends.


Monomotion, “Borders” — Monomotion’s deep house is worthy of a Pat Metheny solo. The grand chord progressions on “Borders” swell like waves over the tight, soft-spoken rhythm section. Monomotion exhibits impressive musicality with his balance between huge drones and nuanced beats. The song’s feeling of hope is palpable, finding power in a meditative state. The song is both club-worthy and cinematic, which gives it surprising crossover appeal.


Vivian Girls, “Sick” — In anticipation of their first album in eight years, indie rock legends Vivian Girls drop a shoegaze single. As a noisy wall of sound builds throughout, the melodies and chord progressions remain serene. The trio provides some complex vocal harmonies, though preferring to remain blended with the soundscape. Tying into the album’s themes of moving on and moving up, “Sick” is a testament to the longevity of Vivian Girls’ form of indie rock.


Pearla, “Daydream” — The depth and vividness of Pearla’s acoustic psychedelia is arresting and intimate. Her articulate sonic tapestry ebbs and flows like a sentient being. This proves vital to the song’s unorthodox flow. It lives up to its name, drifting from the traditional and entering a subconscious world. Rustic percussion and catchy guitar riffs do emerge, but the arrangement becomes immersed in fantastical, nuanced layers.


NCT 127, “Highway to Heaven” — While a lot of K-pop is defined by a complete lack of inhibition, NCT 127’s new single takes a more vibe-laden approach. However, in accordance to the style, “Highway to Heaven” is just as much about the dance choreography as it is about the banging beat. It may be the fact this cultural export has been exploding in popularity in the Western musical landscape, but this particular cut feels very natural within the larger pop music. From structure to timbre and vocal hooks, the producers behind this track know how to accentuate the eccentricities of this style while dialing into what listeners love to hear on the radio.


Max’s Pick: Give me an otherworldly atmosphere, some solid beats and a bewitching voice, and I’m set with KÁRYYN’s “YAJNA.” I’m especially impressed with this version because it shows she doesn’t need to draw things out. The full version of this song certainly merits its longer runtime, but the cut I included today shows how trimming the fat doesn’t reduce the impact. This is a culturally immersive avant-pop number worthy of My Brightest Diamond, Sufjan Stevens or even the Icelandic goddess herself: Bjork.

Follow editor Max Heilman at Twitter.com/madmaxx1995 and Instagram.com/maxlikessound.

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