Every week, there’s more new music waiting to be discovered.
You’re no doubt stuck at home for what seems like the 500th day. Saturday feels like Tuesday, and maybe you’ve done the impossible and dried Netflix’s well of passive entertainment. You’re over “social distancing,” so it’s time for new music to ease your nerves.
Even with all the extra time, finding the next best track isn’t any less daunting. Seriously, who really has the time to sort through all that? RIFF does! We’re happy to bring you the latest, greatest new songs in this weekly segment.
Enjoy this week’s hidden gems.
Joe Wong, “Dreams Wash Away” — Having just discovered this L.A. composer and multi-instrumentalist on “The Trap Set” podcast, perhaps it was meant to be that a few days later I received this track. Turns out, I was already in love with his music from the Netflix series “Russian Doll.” Likewise, “Dreams Wash Away” is from Netflix series “The Midnight Gospel.” The song provides a gorgeous, down-tempo, hazy slow-build and a psych-pop chorus. The dreamy and hypnotic vibe maintains an otherworldly feel. Mary Lattimore’s harp performance adds to the swell of the song, evoking both sadness and happiness. The video actually makes me want to check out the series. This track is off his first solo album, NITE CREATURES, which features a host of other talented contributing musicians.
CHAI, “Ready Cheeky Pretty” — This Japanese quartet has been keeping busy during the quarantine, releasing the infectious “Ready Cheeky Pretty.” The song centers on self-love and motivation with a catchy and fun attitude. With driving synths and zany lyrics, it’s easy to get caught up in the breezy energy. The video, illustrated and co-directed by bassist YUUKI, is impossible to look away from. In between these girls’ frequent Instagram livestreams, have fun singing along to these quirky lyrics: “We are the upbeat cheeky monkeys/ Look up the mirror/ Oh! It’s pretty monkey!/ We are good already/ Keep it real.”
The California Honeydrops, “In The Air” — This Oakland band’s folky R&B jam would fit in snugly in the ’70s. The song comes loaded with an infectious hook. “In The Air” has a sunshiny pop sound straight out of Laurel Canyon, mixed with some Motown and gospel flair. It evokes happiness and lightheartedness, with bursts of trumpet blasts. Lead singer Lech Wierzynski’s falsetto grabs you immediately. The lyrics seem so fitting for the times: “Without music I can’t make it girl/ Without music/ Oh in the air/ Without music/ Please baby.” The song could not come out at a more perfect time.
Ajeet, “When She Rises” — Ajeet’s newest dose of beauty is performed on hillside with a harp and acoustic guitar. The song’s mystical feel plays like a beautiful lullaby, bringing Enya to mind. “When She Rises” is meditative and transportive, as Ajeet’s vocal melodies soar over the arrangement. It epitomizes escapism, taking you to another part of the world. The heartfelt melodies have a beautiful ache and sadness to them, yet you want to hear more. The song is a breath of fresh air that you didn’t even know you needed.
“Each stage of the moon’s cycle has an essence and a feeling,” Ajeet said of the song, which invokes the feeling of an inward turn and tells the story of quiet strength rising out of times spent in solitude and life’s shadows.
The Jerry Cans, “Swell (My Brother)” — The Jerry Cans are from Nunavut, a massive, sparsely populated territory of northern Canada. Their music is typically written in Inuktitut, the indigenous language of the Inuit people. Sadly, suicide is a huge problem up there, and this song hits the issue straight on. This violins come piercing through the lyrics, aching and clawing at you. Set against an arctic expanse, the song has a spacious feel that feels like it can only soar higher. The chorus provides a huge dynamic swell—an outpouring of emotion as the band sings, “How long must we keep on dying?” It’s hauntingly beautiful with a hypnotic drumbeat that carries through the runtime. While it’s lyrically sad, the melodies and the instrumentation add up to a hypnotizing listen.
Alexander Jean, “For Anybody Wondering” — For anybody wondering what happened to Mark “Alexander” Ballas on “Dancing With the Stars,” apparently he’s working on his music career. The bad boy of the ballroom traded in his ballroom shoes for Dr. Martens and a guitar. Alexander Jean is an L.A. band comprised of Ballas and BC Jean. The song’s catchy hooks are easy to get lost in. When Jean starts singing, her vocals remain punchy and raw. The song has a palpably sexy vibe. Their vocals together are pure hotness. The melodies are infectious enough to merit constant repetition. Besides, watching the two of them together is what we all need during this time.
Rachel’s Pick: After hearing “For Anyone Wondering,” I thought I knew what my favorite track would be. Then, I heard “Swell (My Brother)” and it felt like hitting a brick wall at an ungodly speed. It knocked me dead in my tracks. Perhaps it was reading about context of the song, or just the moment I first heard the opening note. The lyrics are crushing, but the song has an arresting build. The chorus brings a catharsis that simply lets everything go. The moment the song builds into a frenetic pace, you truly can’t escape. It didn’t matter that the video was set against so much open space—it still feels claustrophobic. I was drawn in and didn’t want to leave this moment.
Here’s my own PSA: These are trying times. If you need help or want to talk, you have resources out there. If you’re in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.