Springtime is finally here! And with the added sunlight comes a burst of excellent new albums sprouting up across genres. Admittedly, I haven’t done as many full-album deep-dives over the past year, as I’ve gravitated towards unfocused listening patterns — obsessing over individual tracks and relentlessly overplaying them. But recently, a few albums have grabbed my full attention, pulling me out of my WFH blues and into their sonic worlds. Use them to soundtrack a few long, sunny, cautiously optimistic walks as we keep inching towards the prospect of a semi-normal summer.
Follow the Hear Hear playlist for standout tracks from the below albums, along with more songs featured in this newsletter and past issues.
Super Monster, Claud: bedroom pop, perfected. A ridiculously strong debut album, meshing coming-of-age lyrics with whirring beats and subtly beautiful melodies. Much like Clairo, their friend and collaborator, the 21-year-old Claud has a knack for catchy hooks and fresh, vibey production. Super Monster is loaded with addicting earworms, especially “Gold” and “Soft Spot.” (It’s also the first release on Saddest Factory Records, a new label founded by Phoebe Bridgers, who seemingly finds her way into every issue of Hear Hear at this point.)
A Billion Little Lights, Wild Pink: shimmering, soothing Americana. I’ve shared the music of Wild Pink before, which fuses warm synths with sweeping guitars for a big-but-still-gentle indie rock sound. But the singles are even better within the context of the album — especially as the chimes of “Bigger Than Christmas” steadily flow into the power chords of “The Shining but Tropical.”
Somewhere, Sun June: soft, melancholy Sunday afternoon tunes. The self-coined “regret pop” of Sun June is a wistful sound, anchored by the captivating vocals of Laura Colwell and ethereal, twangy guitar chords that reflect the band’s Austin, TX roots. Standout tracks “Bad with time,” “Everything I had” and “Everywhere” are lush pieces of drifting folk.
A bad Paul McCartney song is now a great Dominic Fike song?
In this writer’s humble opinion, 2020’s McCartney III was a disappointing album with a few solid tunes — but “The Kiss of Venus” was not one of them. Of course, Sir Paul often has a trick up his sleeve, and this time it’s a follow-up album with covers of each track from artists like Blood Orange, Phoebe Bridgers (again, she’s everywhere), St. Vincent, and rising star Dominic Fike, who has transformed “Kiss of Venus” into a true stunner.
Funny enough, Fike gives the song a Beatles-y makeover, adding a dash of Sgt. Pepper’s psychedelic whimsy alongside a modern beat. Even if you couldn’t get into Dominic’s album, give this one a shot — it’s closer to Rex Orange County’s brand of shape-shifting, kitchen sink R&B pop. And like all of McCartney’s best songs, I can’t get that melody out of my head.
Anderson .Paak + Bruno Mars make a good duo
“Leave The Door Open,” the lead single from Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars’ new duo Silk Sonic, is a pitch-perfect slice of retro ‘70s soul. Their Grammy performance was excellent and worth watching (as was their Little Richard tribute) but I prefer the playful music video above, with its cinematic style and goofy, winking self-awareness. Sign me up for a Silk Sonic post-pandemic tour.
A perfect Spring playlist to follow
Writer and poet Hanif Abdurraqib put together a lovely mix of songs “for days growing in daylight and shrinking in darkness” with a wide-ranging tracklist spanning decades and genres — featuring legendary artists (Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison) alongside today’s innovators (James Blake, FKA Twigs, Frank Ocean) and rising stars (Arlo Parks, Bartees Strange, Claud). Plus a few guilty pleasures, like Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” and The Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition.”
Get to know Sam Dew
Sam Dew’s stunning falsetto first caught my ear on his 2015 EP, Damn Sue. (You see what he did there.) The hypnotic tracks “Victor” and “Desperately” are instant gems, the former with old-school chimes and the latter with futuristic synths, both accenting Dew’s remarkable vocals.
In 2019, he returned via Red Hearse, an underrated collaboration with producers Jack Antonoff and Sounwave. If you missed those tracks, they’re really worth checking out — overproduced electro-jams that showcase Dew’s voice alongside digital distortions.
Now, he’s got a new solo album taking his sound in experimental new directions. The standout track is “DJ,” which Dew brought to Kimmel with a captivating performance, complete with a majestic Malibu background.
More TV performances worth watching…
As my longing for live music continues, I’ve been enjoying the string of great artists booked on late-night shows recently. A few highlights: Waxahatchee playing “Lilacs” with chill-rockers Bonny Doon as a backing band, Julien Baker’s killer rendition of album standout “Hardline,” Pink Sweat$ dueting with Kehlani, and Japanese Breakfast performing new single “Be Sweet” from the intimate Brooklyn venue National Sawdust.
I also enjoyed this year’s Grammy format, which ripped off Britain’s Later… with Jools Holland setup for an in-the-round variety show feel. Haim commanded the center stage with a riveting performance of “The Steps,” complete with Trevor Noah as an accidental backup dancer.
Last but not least, a performance from rising pop star Ashe, who collaborated with Billie Eilish’s brother FINNEAS for a corny, over-the-top love ballad. It’s a lot, but the earnest seaside performance won me over.
In addition to the above clips, also amplifying Karen Chee’s powerful intro from last Thursday’s Late Night, paired with her Twitter thread of additional resources for supporting the AAPI community. Standing in solidarity with the Asian community in the wake of last week’s horrific shooting.