Welcome to Snack Break—a list of tracks and notable musicians that I’ve been putting on repeat. This week includes Tkay Maidza, Girlpuppy, Pillow Queens and more. Take a pause from your day and indulge in these finds below.
Manu Grace – “Over The Stone”
The new track from South African multi-instrumentalist and singer Manu Grace brings a bit of Haim and a bit of Aldous Harding. “Over The Stove” is a pearly, funky gem that shifts from a perky, observation of chemistry in the room to a lustful exclamation of romantic desire. “I don’t want to be holding on to a stale set of morals,” Grace sings in breathy exhales. Then the lights in the room dim and percussion slows and the guitars become languid. Her voice has spread itself out like a satin bed sheet. “I wanna make love,” she coos. “Over The Stove” is an agile and exciting pop song, running through shades of funk and R&B at yearning’s whim. Manu Grace’s sophomore EP No Room For Error is out 10/16.
Girlpuppy – “Cheerleader”
With lithe vocals as heavy as a ghost, Atlanta-based musician Becca Harvey let’s us in on the tumultuous ending to a relationship, fighting for custody over her dog, and where the compromise between broken hearts turns insultingly sour. The shimmering melody churns like a lullaby, succumbing to a blueness as Harvey questions her culpability on the chorus. “And I feel like a cheerleader with no team/I’m just watching you from the stand/Hiding under the bleachers you made me feel stupid for wanting to dance,” she sings. On “Cheerleader,” Girlpuppy captures the self-doubt and simmering anger for investing love in a relationship that in retrospect was parasitic.
Coolhand Jax – “Backseat Swinging”
Coolhand Jax is the project born from laid-back finesse and road-trips of 23-year-old Jake Weissman. Weary of the bedroom-pop branding, Weissman has dubbed his music “backseat pop,” since many of his tracks had their initial beginnings in his car. “Backseat Swinging” is a sunny, windows-down concoction of funky tangled guitars and pixelated keyboard embellishments. The song is part fun, mundane irreverence (love a good Ibuprofen line) and part critique on the institutional ways self-worth and fiscal accomplishment poisonously overlap. Depending on how your ear catches the song, Coolhand Jax will either make you think deeply about the groove or societal ills.
otta – “just like the rain”
In July, British-Finish artist Otta released her second EP Songbook. It’s filled with glitchy dance tracks, practices in brooding hip-hop, and jazz-inflected bit of experimental pop. Sometimes her soulful vocals cascade across these tracks like lost specters, while on others they practice nice posture on of top piano chords. Like shifting forms of water, her voice and song structure solidify and then vaporize within seconds. A highlight of Songbook that I keep coming back to is the dystopian disco pep talk “Just Like The Rain.” She keeps in the mind the powerful magic of water as inspiration for autonomy: “Go where you wanna go/Fall when you wanna fall/Move when you wanna move.” The only obstacle in your way is yourself. Mid-song, the track crumbles onto itself and then changes into a cloud of improvised jazz, reassembles itself, and then collapses again. Otta’s voice is a steadfast glimmer amongst the transforming noise. “I hope you see the light.”
AJRadico – “Armor”
Queens-based rapper and producer AJRadico has a flow like a bike messenger dodging NYC traffic. On his 2019 single “Armor,” he’s confident, braggadocious, and dexterous with his borderline corny references. Within a few breaths he mentions a famous line from Dexter’s Laboratory, the beloved Wallace and Gromit, and Mario Party. Even while AJRadico is calling out fake fuckbois, he manages to be animated without coming off cartoonish.
Perto – “I Miss You [ft. Banoffee]”
Earlier this year, Banoffee released her excellent debut album Look At Us Now Dad, which reflected upon hereditary trauma and mental health over affecting, caffeinated dance music. Her first post-album release continues Banoffee’s penchant for angular hyper-pop with a vulnerable center. She’s teamed up with fellow Australian producer Perto—an 18-year-old electronic artist who has worked with Alison Wonderland, Timbaland, and Ludacris among others. A thick bass, tinkering synths, and a hypnotic glitchy melody accompany Banoffee as she sings about witnessing a friend succumb to self-destruction.
Pillow Queens – “Holy Show”
Pillow Queens—a four-person group from Dublin—are going to release their debut album In Waiting on 9/25. Their latest single “Holy Show” is a slow-burn stunner. Over rolling drums and lean guitar work, Pillow Queens depict the cognitive aftermath of regretful words and embarrassed actions. The lyrics capture that kind of vulnerability when one reveals they don’t feel their age, maybe they’re not as mature as society expects them to be, or maybe it’s bashful intimacy that brings them back to adolescence. “If you remember a thing about it/Tell me that it’s not back/Why’d I even say that?” goes the chorus. “Holy Show” is a glorious war of sought after validation and then sheepish retraction.
Tkay Maidza – “24k”
I’ve tweeted it before and I’ll say it again: Tkay Maidza is underrated! The Australian singer-rapper followed up 2018’s first edition of Last Year Was Weird with an excellent volume two. As the temperature, animosity, and violence of the world has increased, Maidza has only upped her game. Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2 is packed with sultry confident boosters and ferocious bass-blasting taunts. An obvious highlight is “24k,” a wavy fuck-off to negative Nancys that don’t mind their business. Over a smooth, pulsing bass and a weepy guitar, she hunkers down on her shine and reminds her detractors that they’re in her periphery.