Cristin Milioti – “715 Creeks”: The acclaimed actress and Broadway performer is here with a cover to kick off the year with a needed dose of calm. Nothing but voice and piano form a marked contrast to Bon Iver’s vocoder doused version. A bit of tension emerges in some reverbed stringed instruments. The vocals at times have a slight lilt to them. I can definitely tell Milioti has a background in theatre—this cover is my first time experiencing her musical side. There is a sense of vulnerability throughout, culminating in an unexpected gut punch of a climax. Look for much more to come from this artist this year.
Paco is Desperate! – “Margaret”: The Toledo emo outfit released a song about heartbreak near the end of 2020 that oddly brings me a sense of calm tonight. The music video plays out poignantly, with portions looking like a still from a Wes Anderson film. One line that stood out to me involves a glance hitting you like a heart attack—something I find relatable. That visceral, physical feeling you have when someone gives you a negative look or you experience an unpleasant memory suddenly—is something no one likes. I’m reminded vaguely of Title Fight in the way this song plays out. A new EP is coming this year.
Abigail Jerri – “Mind”: There is no shortage of pop singers putting out earworms in Nashville, but Abigail Jerri is the first one I’ve encountered that released a dance video. No, not a music video with dance music. A video where the primary focus is a custom dance for the song. The song itself is fairly memorable and catchy yet pensive. I also appreciate how she takes the time to shout out the dancers in the video one by one at the end, showing their Instagrams. I wish more artists did this.
Cousin Simple – “We Know”: Part 80s, part present day—meet Cousin Simple’s newest single, “We Know.” Now, this isn’t 80s in the sense that there’s synthesizers everywhere, and every line feels like it could exist alongside “Take On Me.” Yet, there’s a nostalgic edge to Harsh Hoag’s vocals that hits me more in this song than I have heard in Cousin Simple songs so far—and that includes the huge “Star Destroyers.” With “We Know” the band continues to come into their own.
Lubalin – “long txts”: I guess I’m getting older. I, at the ripe old age of 32, make a Tik Tok account for Tuned Up last year, but even I missed the viral back to back videos from creator Lubalin, who sings with custom compositions over random social media—thanks for giving me a needed laugh today, man! But in all serious, his tune “long txts” is a friggin’ banger. Listening to this, which by all accounts is a serious song, was tough—not because it made me emotional, but because I couldn’t stop picturing Lubalin’s face making ridiculous expressions with each new inflection. But for real, you should jam this. Watch out, Post Malone.
Rachel Mayer – “Row of Doors”: This Philly-based singer songwriter debuts with what sounds like an autobiographical piano ballad. Like so many other songs in this vein, it’s relatable. It’s short and to the point, but doesn’t feel short and to the point. It feels just right. I appreciate the way the strings swell up in a way that almost overwhelms—a reflection or perhaps an extension of the emotions Mayer feels.