in the summer night’s glow [single reviews]
Speak Seldom – “Sanity”: If you feel like getting starry eyed, perhaps in a dreamy realm, Speak Seldom’s fourth single “Sanity” is a sweeping experience you’ll undoubtedly enjoy. While there are many familiar elements at play in this track, I’m trying in vain to come up with bands to name drop. Perhaps St. Lucia? In any case, this atmospheric track is anthemic and cathartic in equal doses. This would have been the year for Speak Seldom to begin to play live for the first time—darn you COVID! “Sanity” is a nice consolation prize from the band—likely their strongest single to date.
SAIAH – “HEART(BREAK)”: This song by Arizona’s SAIAH is a soaring emo ballad with, I daresay, a bit of Americana influence. The desperation in the vocals in the latter half of the song are bordering on grating, but raw emotion isn’t always pretty or easy to absorb. The theme here is one of the most universal in songwriting, but as SAIAH proves, any exposition of one’s experiences into art is worthwhile, no matter how common. Something can’t be cliche if it gives many listeners a healthy outlet for their own emotions. SAIAH has more music to come via InVogue Records.
LAU – “Stunning”: Brian Skeel, a Columbus sound engineer I know because of The Castros, recently posted a link to “Stunning,” the debut single from this retro/synthwave artist. While I enjoy the dystopian, cyberpunk, side of the Outrun universe, I prefer the slick, cool, futuristic yet nostalgic upbeat expressions of synthwave. LAU is every cliche of this genre in one song, except its really not cliche at all. What I mean by that is the song’s elements are predictable on paper, but like the band The Midnight, it’s just so friggin enjoyable to listen to. This sounds like what might happen if Enrique Iglesias hung out in the studio with both the aforementioned The Midnight and M83 for a week and then cut a track.
Notelle – “Bugs”: Possibly my favorite pop discovery out of Nashville in 2020 is the dark, industrial leaning Notelle. This song is a little less abrasive than her previous single “Alive,” but as the title might indicate, it gets under my skin (and likely will get under yours, too). Her vocals are measured and quiet, going from a whisper to a lilting plea and back again. The melody is haunting. In my mind I see this translating live in a manner similar to Billie Eilish’s setup, with a little less edgy teenager and more aura of mystery that means business.
Phangs – “When I’m Alone”: This is the lead single from the forthcoming album from dreampop act Phangs, entitled Who’s Gonna Break Your Heart Tonight? This song takes the expected sentiments that come from being alone and flips them upside down. It’s a triumphant banger that encourages the listener to make the most of a less than ideal situation, and find the silver lining. The hook has a sense of optimism that lingers after the song ends, even after first listen. The vocal delivery is Jake Germany at his most emphatic. It’s a genuine song with a slick finish.
BYSTS – “Runes”: Listening to this song makes me think of the Saw movies, or perhaps the movie Silent Night when the foggy landscape transforms into the nightmarish alter-reality. I don’t flock to that imagery by default myself, but there’s something alluring about darkwave duo BYSTS’ newest outing “Runes,” which could as easily be spelled R-U-I-N-S as R-U-N-E-S – not because the song is bad, but because it has an effect of laying the soundscape to waste while being slick at the same time. The vocals are buried in the instrumentation, shoegaze-style, inviting my mind to zone out in an odd, disquieting place.
90’s Kids – “Freak Me Out”: The laid back, pensive chorus of “Freak Me Out” makes me think a bit of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody,” while the track as a whole is a throwback to the late 90s-early 00s, whimsical synth flourishes add fitting accents to an overall smooth mid-tempo pop jam. The pop band from central Ohio is certainly one to watch, having wrapped up a tour with Phangs literally right before quarantine went into effect. This is one of those songs that will be great live when shows come back, but is a sort of contemplative fun anthem for the in-between period as well.
Find all of the above and more on our New and Nifty playlist: