Little Image – “WORTH IT”: Little Image—a trio from Dallas, TX—hit my radar a couple of years ago as a band with a markedly indie sound, who quickly gained footing with the indie pop crowd. Their grassroots following of fans who mainly like bands like the 1975 and LANY was noteworthy. This might explain the rebranding, which I don’t entirely think was necessary. However, “WORTH IT” is a certified banger and mixes the best elements of MUTEMATH (Vitals era) and The 1975, all produced by Nashville’s Jeremy Lutito, who has worked with some of my favorites in recent years (Leagues, Mountains Like Wax, Fleurie, Sam Tinnesz). So, even though my personal opinion is that Little Image didn’t need to rebrand, I’m hopeful for their future, because I love the new sound and know they’re great songwriters. “WORTH IT” is more than an alternative pop song. It’s anthemic and has several neat layers of production that offer new discoveries for each listen. Jackson Simmons’ vocals don’t lose their emotion, even with the added distortion.
Half Waif – “Ordinary Talk” [photo credit – Brian Vu]: Half Waif has always excelled at crafting mysterious dream pop songs that sound custom crafted for a dark venue with lots of incense and tea. “Ordinary Talk” is no exception to this rule. Half Waif uses this song and others to sing about the ethereal elements found in the mundane, the patterns that are allegories for dealing with personal trial. The song’s beginning includes this poignant verse: “Baby when I’m feeling low, you don’t need to repair me / I know myself well / When I’m in this hell / It’s part of the process, it doesn’t scare me.” The minimalist tone of the song and ethereal melody articulate how she cannot escape her thoughts, but welcomes them anyway. The song ends: “Singing at the stars, fumbling from my light / Laughing at the TV, doing alright / Everybody knows it’s only for the night.” Adding that ethereal element to the mundane, especially in times of sadness, make the process all the more bearable and even beautiful. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe, but Half Waif makes me covet it.
Veaux – “You Won’t Say That”: Veaux asked on their Instagram today for their followers to describe their sound. “Cinematic pop” and “alt pop” are accurate but feel wholly inadequate for this band. “You Won’t Say That” is the latest evidence of this position I’m taking. This song is sweeping and pensive, yet oddly uplifting at the same time. Aaron Wagner’s voice is distinct in a saturated genre. I think people are craving their brand of freshness—they just don’t know it yet.
Blu – “Wayside”: If you’ve been following Tuned Up for awhile, you might be aware of a now defunct power pop/dark rock outfit, Absolute Hero. If you know the tenacious frontwoman Sarah Nichole, you won’t be surprised at all to know she wouldn’t stay quiet for long. She’s back in the spotlight under her new dark pop persona, Blu. This song, which is an honest look at pushing away someone in a relationship, in a “get them before they get me” mindset. For Sarah, this was a reflection of her struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder—and this song is her creative reckoning with that struggle. She expresses this well in a dark power ballad with a big hook.
Faye – “Extortionate”: Faye has an indie pop aesthetic but puts out music with a rock and roll swagger. Her second single is a driving, down-to-earth song with just the right amount of attitude. All of my interactions with this singer (who you can see at our own Steadfast Festival next month) thus far have been pleasant, and she definitely comes across as someone both unassuming and one who knows what she wants. “Extortionate” exhibits these values and is a strong song in general—”I just wanna take flight” is going to be Faye’s mantra from this point forward.
The Fears – “Break Me Down”: I noticed The Fears for the first time when they quietly followed the Tuned Up Instagram account. A couple of weeks ago, a live video filmed by Ross Theisen showed up as a sponsored post on my timeline, and the intrigue grew. I think in a period of time where indie pop is so ubiquitous pensive, well written indie rock is needed. Can there be a modernized version of some of the melancholy pop rock we heard in the 90s? The Fears might be here to answer that question. The Fears are incredibly satisfying in a mellow, thoughtful, driving way. This is the sort of band I would present to someone that only listens to top 40 radio but that I eventually want to convert to The War on Drugs or Death Cab. The Fears are a nice happy medium between accessibility and indie rock with depth—they’re both. All of these thoughts came to mind from this one track, “Break Me Down.”
Find all of the above and more on our playlist, “Tuned Up’s New and Nifty”: