fending off a second lockdown [single reviews]

By Ryan G

Future Islands – “For Sure”: The crowd-pleasing dreampop act has returned with an aggressive, anthemic track that is the kind of lead single we need right now. Samuel T. Herring’s vocals are as on point as ever. He is pointed in his delivery. I just know that live probably half of this is going to come out as growls. Future Islands know their lane, and they’re sticking to it and getting better all the while. I know that the flourishes in each chorus will lend themselves equally well to clean or rough vocals! Will this be as iconic as “Seasons”? No, but it doesn’t need to be.

The Manatee Room – “Pastel”: The Columbus, OH trio have been steadily making a name for themselves on the bar circuit for about a year or two, but their debut single “Pastel” is only just coming into the world. The midt-empo track is radio-alternative in the vein of The Cranberries or perhaps an angsty Sixpence None the Richer. I personally would love to hear a collaboration between The Manatee Room’s Kallan Imhoff and The Cordial Sins’ Liz Fisher. I like the soft march that carries the outro of the track.

Of the Lion – “Summer Love”: The husky voice of Of the Lion’s Nathanael De Leon provides an interesting contrast to a breezy backdrop in this cinematic pop song. If you’re looking for something to play with someone special on a date or just to calm your nerves, this song will do the trick on both counts. This isn’t your typical indie pop song. It has a thoughtful, pensive tone and ditches some of the electronics for a more organic approach without compromising on slick production.

Afel Bocoum – “Dakamana”: One of my favorite parts of this job is the chance to really dive into sounds that are outside of my usual lanes. Obviously, Damon Albarn agrees with me. He produced this track in Afel Bocoum’s native tongue, which is a plea for unity in Mali in one of the most divisive periods of our time. Unifying songs often take on an anthemic tone and are a technicolor conglomeration of cliches and sky-high hooks. This song isn’t any of those. It’s genuine and doesn’t try too hard. It also doubles as a great easy listening track.

South of Eden – “Dancing With Fire”: Are you ready to rock? The band formerly known as Black Coffee is back with their first single as a major label act and under the South of Eden moniker. Ehab Omran’s vocals are abrasively nostalgic and are a bit easier on the ears than Greta Van Fleet’s Josh Kiszka. Will this band be as divisive as GVF? I hope not. They’re certainly aggressively rock and roll and go the classic rather than the radio rock route. I’ve mentioned this before about this band, but it bears repeating: everything hear about this act screams festival act. I’d also love to see them traverse the late night circuit on TV.

LIGHTS / MYTH – “Dead End”: You probably know Lights, and you likely know Myth too—you just don’t know how yet. Early on in the life of Tuned Up, we wrote about a little Dayton band called Dangerkids, and Tyler Smyth from that band is emerging as a bona fide electronic producer who just landed the collab of a lifetime with “Dead End.” This track slaps. I’ll be the first to admit I lack a lot of the vocabulary needed to adequately react to a banger of a release from the EDM scene like this one, but after listening I’m motivated to grow it!

Fellow Hollow – “Where Can I Buy Fresh Berries At Night?”: If you would prefer to skip over the sheen of pop-electronic sounds, take a listen to Columbus duo Fellow Hollow’s first output since 2016. This lush folk composition carries some of the best qualities of pre-The Age of Adz Sufjan. The harmonies are so on point and carefully layered. Drew Williams and Luke Fleeman clearly have a chemistry together that is borderline magical. The 5-minute song steadily builds upon itself in a very cathartic, satisfying way. Topically, the song is about grief and explores a topic delved into in the Black Mirror episode “Be Right Back.” As calming, and even bordering on upbeat as this song sometimes is, there is an in-between that is explored both sonically and lyrically.

VEAUX – “Tell Me You Love Me”: If there’s one thing that VEAUX knows how to do well, its to take a raw, difficult topic and construct a collection of thoughts in such a way that is slick and just cool. In the case of VEAUX’s Aaron Wagner, this song is autobiographical. While this song is undeniably cinematic pop like their other tracks, there’s an inherent sense of conflict that’s expressed effectively via on point production and a bevy of well-placed effects. I’d like to see this be the one to put VEAUX on the map.

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