With the release of his second EP Violet, Ben Kessler is cementing himself as a force to be reckoned with among his singer songwriter peers. Like all of his previous music, the songs on Violet are painfully detailed and honestly crafted- made all that much better by Kessler’s voice which wears every single emotion right on his sleeve. I dare you to listen and not feel something.
2022 has proven to be a huge year for the singer, headlining his first two shows and just coming off of a European tour with friend and frequent collaborator Lizzy McAlpine. He shows no sign of stopping with the release of Violet, which Kessler himself has called a collection of the best music he has ever made (so far). A bold statement for sure but I can honestly concur- it’s difficult to ever doubt him when every single release is this damn good.
Opening track “April” was released nearly a year ago and has been in constant rotation ever since. Lyrically, it finds Ben in a hopeful place- setting himself a goal of feeling better by the time April comes around when this dark cloud will no longer hover over him. Sonically, the soft production and Kessler’s falsetto feel like a comforting hug to help any listener going through something similar hold on just a little while longer. The build of the song crescendos into this gorgeous musical break after the third chorus that instantly brings chills to my arms with every listen. “I get nostalgic when the weather changes, Been dreaming strangers with your face and, Sometimes I think that I can’t face it, But changing seasons makes me shaken,” the track sets the tone perfectly for what’s to come in this project and still feels just as fresh as it did when it came out last January.
Next up is “Graffiti”, my personal favorite from the tracklist and a song that encapsulates that feeling of seeing the one you are in love with everywhere you go. It’s painful, it’s relatable and it’s a damn good song. “And I thought that I could run away, and I almost thought I would feel the same, now everybody has your face, And I’m chasing graffiti with your name, Yeah, I’d wait for you all night, Just to know that you’re alright,” he sings on the chorus. That feeling of running away from your source of pain as an act of distraction is universal- yet we all experience it in our own unique ways and are forced to reckon with the fact that no matter where we go, they will always follow us. Using his lover’s name in graffiti as a metaphor for the term “writing on the wall” which is usually used to describe an impending disaster, Ben expertly lets us in on his thought process when it comes to this particular relationship. Sonically, it feels almost dreamlike- the production on his vocals so smooth as he croons away over that haunting piano melody.
“Default” details the ways in which Ben sometimes feels as if he’s no longer human- as if he is nothing more than just some wiring and written code, doomed to be set in his ways for the rest of his time. He’s left to overthink everything that people say to him and about him and hopes that he can get back to his “default” settings, before life had become this trying. “Just rip all of my wires out, See how long it takes ’til I shut down, Twist me ’til the truth falls out, Don’t call me when you’re guilty now,” he wishes he could start again, free to be his true self and speak what’s on his mind instead of worrying how it will be perceived. I’m not always a fan of overly produced vocals but when used so perfectly in tracks like this and balanced by an impressive vocal performance, it works extremely well.
On the next track “Just Like Me”, Ben explores the similarities between him and the one he loves and how he knows them so clearly because of their shared complexities. From the moment that chorus first hits, you can feel a rush of what can only be labeled “sonic euphoria”. It demands to be blasted in front of a crowd and sung back just as loud. “Everybody says you’re just like me, I know the shadows underneath your eyes, Could I fix your heart if I fix mine?, Baby, you’re really just like me,” it’s all about that beauty of not judging someone for whatever they are going through and instead, just seeing them clearly and loving them completely. It’s this topic of relativity that I feel like I’ve never heard portrayed so earnestly by an artist before this.
Back in July, we featured the EP’s next track “I Could Do This All Night” in our Scalding Hot series so I’m not going to do a full coverage on it here but SPOILER ALERT, we absolutely loved it. The song continues to get better with each consecutive listen and the playful melodies implant themselves in my head for hours and hours afterwards, proving that Ben can in fact do this all night. Wow I hate myself for making that joke. Anyways….
The EP’s final track “Violet” is a stunning deep dive into Ben’s state of mind and how he approaches the idea of truly falling in love and being vulnerable with his partner. He approaches it quite hesitantly as a form of both self-preservation and the mere fact that he feels unworthy of their love. “My fingers are crossеd, One hand on your leg, Pretend for a minute, I know how to stay, I’m too scared of falling, I give less than I should, Just know that I love you, I’d love you if I could,” he confesses on the title track. The visual of him shutting his eyes so tightly that all he can see is violet when he finally opens them is so striking that it adds even more depth to the emotions behind this song as Ben lays it all on the line for his love.
Ending the project on this final note leaves a lot to the imagination as the track comes to a close on the line “I’d love you if I could“, which I found particularly haunting as I tried to resonate everything I had heard. In a way, it’s quite a poignant statement by the young singer who had previously felt like on earlier tracks that he needed to bite his tongue. This is a man that knows exactly who he is, even if he still doubts himself. He communicates his feelings and recognizes the traits that might be a bit toxic. The honesty and sense of self exploration featured throughout these 6 tracks is what makes music, and artists of this caliber so meaningful to this world.
The world needs more artists like Ben Kessler. Now go stream the hell out of this EP.
Midnights isn’t just an album, it’s an out of body experience that Taylor Swift was kind enough to grace us with just two weeks ago. As if it wasn’t already overwhelming enough, she has since released an extended edition dubbed Midnights (3am Edition) which features some of the greatest songs from her widespread career. This isn’t a simple, deluxe edition that so many artists release with tracks that merely fizzle and only serve to help streaming numbers. This is art of the highest caliber, with each track fully capable of earning their place on the main 13 track standard edition.
“The Great War” is the first of several songs produced by Aaron Dessner on this deluxe edition, and his presence carries a great deal of sonic weight to these tracks. Detailing a difficult turmoil in a relationship, the production is so gorgeously reminiscent of Swift’s previous album Evermore and is drenched in metaphorical bliss. The production choices from the military drum like breakdown to the reverbed background vocals on each pre-chorus are simply perfection. The way Taylor crafts the storyline throughout each subsequent chorus turns the message into a more hopeful one with the final chorus echoing that “I vowed I would always be yours ’cause we survived The Great War.”
“Bigger Than The Whole Sky” is one of the most hauntingly gorgeous songs in Taylor’s vast catalogue. A song about a great loss of someone important to you that you wish you could’ve had more time with- the track’s lyrics are resonating with every listener in their own unique way. Everyone seems to have their own interpretation of the meaning- with some relating it to the loss of a child and others even relating it to the end of a relationship. That’s the beauty in the way that Taylor writes, crafting a song that is clearly painful for her own experience and making it vague enough for the world to make their own. In a track filled with gorgeous lyrics, the one that I find myself constantly going back to hits you right in the beginning: “no words appear before me in the aftermath, salt streams out my eyes and into my ears“.
Now I’m not going to lie, out of all 20 tracks- there has to be a least favorite and I am sorry to say that “Paris” has earned that title. I actually don’t dislike it at all, but I find it to be the least interesting one both sonically and lyrically. If you listen closely, you can hear the angry mobs approaching my house upon publishing this review. That being said, this song feels like falling in love and captures that wonderfully through its production. It feels like it would fit in perfectly on Lover– transcendent in its ability to transport you to that feeling of being in love within the City of Lights. Lines like “let the only flashing lights be the tower at midnight,” bring a great deal of depth to the track in her wish to keep this love private and away from the barrage of paparazzi and tabloid rumors that have always plagued her life. It’s a tragic image- and yet it brings with it the sigh of relief that Taylor feels now that she has found a love that gives her that peace.
“High Infidelity” is an absolute standout track, continuing Taylor’s in depth look at the nuances of cheating and infidelity that she has touched upon in songs like “August” and “Ivy” quite poignantly. Detailing the feeling of meeting someone who brings a sense of light and freedom back into your life that your current partner has somehow sucked out of you- the song is heartbreakingly gorgeous. The melody has to be one of Taylor’s finest in recent memory- instantly memorable and reminiscent of her and Dessner’s work on Folklore and Evermore. Some of these lyrics are absolutely illegal in their ability to hurt my soul, like “You know there’s many different ways that you can kill the one you love, The slowest way is never loving them enough. Do you really wanna know where I was April 29th? Do I really have to tell you how he brought me back to life?” Taylor doesn’t pull any punches here- crafting a song that is somehow so full of emotion and yet depicts a relationship that has since turned cold. It’s simply gorgeous.
Perhaps the most unique and unlike anything that has come prior to this point in her career is “Glitch” which finds Taylor in what she refers to as a “glitch”- a relationship that never should’ve become anything more than a friendship. Sonically, it has remnants of the dark pop found on Lorde’s Melodrama and pieces of Beyoncé’s R&B delivery that all add up to make a rather weird and wonderful song. “I was supposed to sweat you out,” she sings on the second verse, comparing the beginnings of their relationship to the intensity of sweating out a fever. Frankly, the way she jumps the octave and goes into that second chorus is pure heaven and absolutely makes the song for me. It’s fun, it’s experimental and it will likely go down as one of the most underrated songs on this record.
“Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” is one of the finest songs on this record- perhaps of the entire year. It’s a chilling story about the toll of an adult man taking a young girl’s innocence away from her. I can’t get through this song without having chills all over my body and that perhaps all comes down to the fact that this is a memory that continues to keep Taylor up at night after all of these years. Through every experience she has faced since this encounter at 19-years-old, she has gotten perspective on the situation and now regrets it- using religious overtones to describe her youth and the ways in which that was taken from her. The entire song is perfect, but it really doesn’t get much better than the song’s bridge and outro- with Swift singing “God rest my soul, I miss who I used to be, The tomb won’t close, Stained glass windows in my mind, I regret you all the time. I can’t let this go, I fight with you in my sleep, The wound won’t close, I keep on waiting for a sign, I regret you all the time“.
The album closer, “Dear Reader” finds Taylor attempting to give the listeners (or readers) advice and then telling us all to take it with a grain of salt- as she herself is falling apart. It reads like a diary entry and feels like this is the closest look we get at her current mindset on the entire record. Bringing back the synth found on the standard edition and the vocal effects used on songs like “Midnight Rain”, this track is a perfect choice to close out this record. “So I wander through these nights, I prefer hiding in plain sight, My fourth drink in my hand, These desperate prayers of a cursed man, Spilling out to you for free, But darling, darling, please, You wouldn’t take my word for it if you knew who was talking, If you knew where I was walking, To a house, not a home, all alone cause nobody’s there, Where I pace in my pen and my friends found friends who care, No one sees when you lose when you’re playing solitaire,” she warns us that we wouldn’t look up to her if we knew what her life was really like. In the end, she closes the album by repeating the lines “You should find another guiding light, but I shine so bright”– telling us that we should all look to someone else but recognizing that no matter what she says, she won’t be able to escape the attention.
Taylor Swift has truly delivered again- crafting another seven standout tracks that give another, nuanced look at the painful (and sometimes beautiful) thoughts that keep her up at night. She isn’t alone in that feeling, it’s universal. It’s what connects everyone in the world, and yet it’s also what can make us all feel so alone. Thankfully, we have Midnights to keep us company on all of these nights going forward.
Midnights (3am Edition) is out on all streaming services now!
“Ask me why so many fade, but I’m still here“- Taylor Swift on “Karma”
Midnights is a gritty New York City night, filled with lonely dance floors, glitter eye shadow, shots of patron, and a tinge of self-loathing. It’s a shimmering mirror ball sparkling above your head as you mourn the innocence that was once yours. It’s that perfect night in with the one you love when you realize that this is all you could ever wish for in this life. And most notably, it’s Taylor Swift’s finest album to date.
Taylor Swift has dominated the charts and all of our hearts since her debut album was first released in 2006, winning countless awards and breaking records with every consecutive release- and yet she somehow still remains underrated. A chameleon in her craft, she effortlessly subverts expectations of genre and dominates every single one of her peers with her immaculate songwriting. It can’t be appreciated enough just how insane it is for an artist of her caliber to still be at the top this deep into her career.
The collaboration between Swift and longtime friend and producer Jack Antonoff is literal heaven- shifting the nuanced storytelling of folklore and evermore, into this synth-pop dreamscape that carries the torch gorgeously from the two previous folk influenced records. A concept album, Midnights is a collection of confessional stories influenced by sleepless nights that take us on a journey through self-criticism, falling in love, the wondering of what could have been, and the feeling of falling apart. It’s songwriting of the highest degree- so let’s break it all down!
Opening track “Lavender Haze” is a groovy introduction to the new soundscape, synth heavy with a tinge of R&B which builds beautifully into a chorus that is the textbook definition of pop perfection. Taylor’s falsetto is mighty refined- layered masterfully with the stellar production and euphoric sensation of its melodies. “I feel the lavender haze creeping up on me, Surreal, I’m damned if I do give a damn what people say. No deal, the 1950s shit they want from me, I just wanna stay in that lavender haze,” she wants to focus on the passion of the love between her and longtime boyfriend Joe Alwyn so they can put aside the pressures that society and the media puts on their relationship. Taylor once again succeeds in making a song personal to her own situation while also targeting the societal pressure and hypocritical expectations that women are often persecuted with compared to their male peers.
“Maroon” transports you into a trance like state with a melodic flow so gorgeous that it’ll stay with you long after the first listen. Like a more mature sequel to “Red” which described the all-encompassing emotions associated with the color red- love, anger, etc- “Maroon” isn’t quite as straightforward. It’s a more mature look at love and just like the color maroon- it isn’t just one thing. The complexities of the relationship are given to us in the tiniest of details that make the track so cinematic. “When you splashed your wine into me, and how the blood rushed into my cheeks, so scarlet it was, the mark they saw on my collarbone, the rust that grew between telephones, the lips I used to call home, so scarlet it was maroon,” the chorus feels so classic, as if it has simply existed for the last 30+ years. It’s so damn good.
In pure Taylor fashion, “Anti-Hero” addresses her self-criticisms and self-hatred in a tongue in cheek manner. Sonically, it’s bright and shiny but when you break down the lyrics- it might be one of the saddest songs on this record. “I’ll stare directly at the sun, but never in the mirror. It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero,” Taylor is at her most vulnerable here, laying out all of the qualities she hates most about herself and stating that she would understand if those who support her grew tired of doing so when she continues to make the wrong decisions. It’s heartbreakingly raw and quite a poignant moment to think on the fact that the biggest singer in the world suffers from the same negative thoughts as we do- and it’s ultimately what makes Taylor the best in the game.
The long-awaited collaboration between Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey has finally graced our ears and it is absolute perfection. “Snow On The Beach” is the epitome of two artists at the top of their game making a masterclass in songwriting. Comparing the feeling of having the person you’re in love with falling in love with you as well to snow falling on the beach is a gorgeous sentiment about the rarity of their relationship. Their voices blend together like they’ve always been one, with one of the most gorgeous melodies I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. “And it’s like snow at the beach, weird, but fucking beautiful, flying in a dream, stars by the pocketful, you wanting me, tonight feels impossible, but it’s coming down, no sound, it’s all around,” the chorus is so hauntingly beautiful that I’ll overlook the fact that Lana never gets a verse to herself.
“You’re On Your Own, Kid” is track five which unless you’re living under a rock in the Taylor Swift Extended Universe, means it is the most emotional track on the album- but this one hits a bit differently than previous ones. By the time we hit the bridge, there’s a sense of positivity- an ascension out of the darkest moments when she reminds us that we’ve all always been on our own and even if we never noticed it, we’ve always been brave. It’s the warmest of hugs in the moment you needed it most and as Taylor says on the track “Everything you lose is a step you take“.
“Midnight Rain” was an instant favorite for me from the moment the pitched down vocals hit. It’s sonically one of the most experimental moments on the record and Swift’s cinematic storytelling is front and center. Telling the story of an old love that would have wanted to be her husband, she saw a different path for her story and decided to pursue her career. “He wanted it comfortable, I wanted that pain, he wanted a bride, I was making my own name, chasing that fame, he stayed the same, all of me changed like midnight,” Jack Antonoff’s production choices are spectacular here, with the vocal effects placed on the breakdown of the chorus- highlighting the depth of the storytelling and giving it a dream like sensation. This is immaculate pop music.
Continuing the cinematic feel of the album, “Question…?” left me with an entire movie scene playing out in my mind. Her ability to tell a rich story in 3 and a half minutes is simply astounding as her mind races through a specific memory of a relationship that is no more. Like many of us, she goes over the questions that race in her mind and wishes she could ask that one person all that keeps her up at night. It feels like a late-night conversation underneath the stars as she sings “We had one thing goin’ on, I swear that it was somethin’, cause I don’t remember who I was before you painted all my nights, a color I’ve searched for since“.
Taylor sets her eyes on revenge with “Vigilante Shit” another track that shifts gears into a completely different place sonically with a sultry, dark pop production that would have fit perfectly on her 2017 album Reputation. While it is nowhere near my favorite track on this record, I can definitely foresee it becoming a song that will rise up in my ranking with time. Some of the lyrics are so pointedly fantastic, I can also foresee them becoming a part of the culture which Swift is no stranger to (ex: “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22” anyone?!”).
Speaking of pop perfection, she gifts us “Bejeweled”- a sparkly, video game like banger about being undervalued by your partner. The confidence she exudes on this track is absolutely contagious, both empowering and danceable with a production that actually sounds like sparkling (I know how it sounds but just go with it, okay?). “Familiarity breeds contempt, so put me in the basement, when I want the penthouse of your heart, diamonds in my eyes, I polish up real nice,” she sings on the chorus- reminding us all of her pen game. How does she expect us to focus on the lines that follow when she writes like this??? One also cannot talk about this song without giving “And I miss you, but I miss sparkling” the love and attention it deserves.
“Labyrinth” is another trance like track that just leaves you mesmerized in place, or one might say- right where you left me? * wink, wink*. The track is about falling in love again not long after a heartbreak, and you’d be correct to assume that it’s a stunner. Sonically, the way it builds throughout the song is simply gorgeous in the best Antonoff-ian fashion. Exploring the true nature of how terrifying falling love can be, Taylor unpacks that emotional baggage and leans into the love. Letting yourself fall in love is a beautiful thing- creating a legacy that can last an entire lifetime, which ultimately outweighs the fear that once kept you in place. “I thought the plane was goin’ down, how’d you turn it right around,” she sings on the hook in her lowest tone which is just…… *chefs kiss*.
Okay, okay, okay- let’s just get this straight. “Karma” really is THAT song, okay? Featuring some of the most playful lyrics that Taylor has ever written- the track explores the fact that karma really has been a friend to her throughout her life and career. Unfortunately, Taylor has faced a lot of backlash over the years and warranted or not, she’s always come out on top. “Cause Karma is my boyfriend, karma is a God, karma is the breeze in my hair on the weekend, karma’s a relaxing thought, Aren’t you envious that for you it’s not? Sweet like honey, karma is a cat, purring in my lap ’cause it loves me, flexing like a goddamn acrobat, me and karma vibe like that,” the chorus is instantly iconic and if you disagree, I feel extremely sorry for you. I hope Karma treats you well.
Joined by her collaborator in both life and now music, Joe Alwyn, Taylor gives us “Sweet Nothing” which is the embodiment of what true serenity sounds like. A simple, stripped back track, it represents a love that is both mature and healthy. Following Taylor is like watching your favorite character develop beautifully on your favorite television show- filled with full circle plot developments and a love that they deserve. It’s a pleasure to have watched her find the kind of love she had often wished for when she was 17 years old and it’s clear that his presence in her life has given her a security that the loves she used to write about clearly lacked. This track feels like a gorgeous followup to folklore‘s “peace” which was about her anxiety surrounding their relationship and if what she brings to it is enough to make him stay even in the moments filled with turbulence. “Outside, they’re push and shovin’, You’re in the kitchen hummin’, All that you ever wanted from me was sweet nothin’,” she sings on the chorus- self-assuredly answering her previous questions that she will always be enough for him. God I am so single.
The final track on this standard edition, “Mastermind” is a how to guide on how to get the man of your dreams. Just kidding….. But anyways, it is how Miss Tay landed her longtime boyfriend. What she once said was purely accidental was, in fact, a scheme she had hatched to land him and with a major degree of trust in her relationship- she reveals this to him after all of these years. “I laid the groundwork, and then, just like clockwork, the dominoes cascaded in a line, what if I told you I’m a mastermind? And now you’re mine, it was all my design, ’cause I’m a mastermind,” she reminds us that there is nothing wrong with being proactive in your life- taking the wheel and going after what will bring you happiness. Her ability to understand the origin of her motivation is astounding, bringing an unforeseen depth to the lyrics in the bridge when she sings that “no one wanted to play with me as a little kid, so I’ve been scheming like a criminal ever since.”
Midnights is triumphant in its blend of pop centric synth and the nuanced storytelling of Taylor Swift’s previous 2 albums- making for a first listen so pleasurable that you’ll be sure to instantly restart it all over again from the beginning. Like all of her best records, Swift is effortlessly relatable with her self deprecative tone and inane ability to craft perfect melodies. The record itself feels like a culmination of her journey, taking in the best qualities from all of her previous albums and crafting an album with a masterful level of freshness as it makes its way through unexplored facets of the human experience.
Just hours after the album’s release, Swift dropped 7 more tracks on the deluxe edition titled Midnights (3.AM Edition) which are simply illegal and require their own exploration in the days to come. Stay tuned for my breakdown of the deluxe tracks in the next few days!
I’ve also ranked the songs on this Standard Edition over on my Instagram so come say hey and let me know what your favorite Midnights tracks are too!
Alas we are back with another Fresh Brewed Playlist and this week, we have Gracie Abrams to blame for our tears! Her newest single “Difficult” is anything but difficult to listen to, with melodies that only the masterful minds of Gracie Abrams and Aaron Dessner could craft. While the lyrics continue the raw writing style Abrams has become known for, the production is sonically more expansive than anything the singer songwriter has previously released. The chorus soars as Gracie describes the weight that her inability to escape her own thoughts has had on her. “And I’ve been thinkin’, If I move out this year, I’ll feel my parents slippin’, Away and also, I’m just scared of that commitment, I really think sometimes there’s somethin’ that I’m missin’,” she puts all of her insecurities on display with this track and still finds a way to somehow still make it fun. Her voice is as gorgeous and painful as always, mixed perfectly with the guitar and drum heavy track. If “Difficult” and the previously released “Block Me Out” are a sign of what is to come from Abrams’ new album, 2023 is going to be moody in all of the best ways.
Joesef’s new single “Joe” is about grieving the person he used to be before all of the pain and heartache. Nostalgic of that simpler time, the anthemic track is ready to be screamed and cried out on these cool fall evenings. That itself is the risk of loving big and being open right? The toll that it can take on who we are, forever changed by the scar tissue built around our heart. But that’s the beauty of it- if we never loved, would we ever truly love? Joesef wrestles with this realization on this track, which he says will be an overarching theme across his new album Permanent Damage which will be released on January 13, 2023. “How much of myself can I give away, ‘Til there’s nothing left to take from me? Feels like I’m losing things I can’t replace, It’s an emptiness that makes me weak,” he opens the song with a knife to our hearts- so rudely relatable and wonderfully addictive in its instant listenability.
“Runaway Blue” by Chloe George is an addictive, late summer release that evokes the feelings of a hot New York City night. The track is about her own fear of commitment- her inability to allow herself to truly feel at peace with her partner as she is beginning to fall deep. Sonically, it feels so joyously wonderful- actually reminiscent of Sza in all of the best ways. “It’s just usually I see it comin’, so vivid before it finds me, but with you, it’s somethin’ I could never know, woah, I love you out of the blue since I’m givin’ way too much, I feel I been waitin’ up for you, I know life changes, if your mind changes out the blue, would you let me know,” she pours her heart out, afraid to let herself get too vulnerable in case her partner changes their mind without her realizing it. The songwriting and production choices made are absolutely gorgeous, and it makes me so excited to see what Chloe has in store for us with all of her future releases.
Check out the rest of the songs featured on Fresh Brewed #16 below!
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Fletcher’s long awaited debut album Girl Of My Dreams is triumphant in its exploration of finding self-love in the aftermath of a devastating heartbreak. Throughout her discography, Fletcher has never shied away from her brutal honesty- representing a darker side of pop that is just absolutely epic when paired with her killer voice. With this being her debut album- every aspect that has worked so well in her past EP’s is amplified here, and did I mention that it’s like….. super gay? Need I say more?! Let’s get into the best of the best here!
Album opener “Sting” sets the tone perfectly- placing us directly in the wake of her breakup with her vulnerable lyrics and gorgeously emotive voice. Referencing several moments throughout her career from “All Love” on her second EP you ruined new york city for me to her third EP The S(EX) TAPES- the track compares the hurt to a sting as she wonders if it will simply always feel this way. The production is slick and perfectly crafted, allowing the track to continue to build until that vibey beat finally drops in the second verse. “Honestly, all I wanna know why does it sting? Why am I still hung up on things? Are you gonna give that diamond ring that’s meant for me to her? But maybe I like the way it sting, it’s all I got left of you and me, I’d rather it keep on cutting deeper, show what we’re worth,” Fletcher sings on the chorus, making me feel like shaking and crying in a way that only Cari Fletcher can succeed in doing.
Continuing the self-referential nature of the opener, the album’s followup track “Guess We Lied” is an absolute knockout- interpolating the chorus of Fletcher’s single “If You’re Gonna Lie” from you ruined new york city for me and giving it more of a rock edge to fit this edgier and more mature vision. As a longtime fan, I was shocked to hear the chorus of one of my favorite Fletcher songs sampled here but it works incredibly well- in a way that shows how time can change us and give us truth in hindsight. The original placed the blame directly on her ex, but this newer version allows Cari to accept some of the blame as well in lines like “I know we said forever but I guess we lied” there to destroy us emotionally. Now, my personal favorite lyric here comes from the start of the second verse- “Do you ever get the feeling, we’re a real deep cut that’s never healing, it’s fuckin’ me up but not in a good way”. Through connecting these newer songs to her past- the growth not only in her vocals but in herself as well serves to drive home the album’s overarching themes (more on this later).
“Birthday Girl” is another devastating moment on the album, written in the spiral of knowing that her ex- girlfriend shares the same birthday as her and being unable to escape the thought of her as she tries to celebrate her own day. As the album’s first stripped back track, “Birthday Girl” is a showcase to Fletcher’s incredible pen game- shattering my heart in simple sentences like “The night we met, we found out we were born on the same day, It was weird but kinda cute, And now it’s weird but fucking sucks, ‘Cause we broke up and I’m scared that it’ll never feel the same way. I hate that song without your name, and mine looks lonely on the cake“.
The heartbreak-tinged pop perfection continues through the middle of the album as we reach the singles that preceded its release like the chaotically petty “Becky’s So Hot” about her ex’s new girlfriend and “Better Version” which is about how the next person gets the so called “better version” of someone who moves on from a relationship. It’s here where the album takes a shift inward, abandoning the focus of past heartbreak and honing in on an exploration of self with the interlude called “I Think I’m Growing”. “I’ve had to get along and hang out with me instead, I saw all the parts I didn’t like, so insecure, so quick to fight, I didn’t know I was so co-dependent, I didn’t know I had so much resentment,” she sings on the opening verse of learning to be okay on her own for the first time in so long and discovering what she needs to work on in order to improve. The production is literal lesbian heaven- with Fletcher’s voice carrying us up through the rainbow gates with harmonies so tightly perfect, it has yet to resonate with me that they are actually real. So so so good.
Title track “Girl Of My Dreams” takes leaps forward towards self-preservation and love- proclaiming herself to be the only “girl of my dreams”- which honestly grasped my attention so firmly after incorrectly assuming that it would be a love song about another woman. “I’m all hers, and she’s all mine, I’ll love her ’til the day I die,” the New Jersey native isn’t claiming to be fixed or know the answer to what troubles her- but instead recognizes how she is the one who needs to stand tall and love herself unconditionally. There’s a sense of comfort in the lyrics, like a much-needed warm hug, to thank herself for being the one who has always gotten her through the toughest days. It’s a gorgeous statement and extremely worthy of representing the album as a whole.
Cari continues this look inward with “I Love You, Bitch” which is her learning to say that she loves herself after having said it much more easily towards her exes than she ever has to herself. “‘Cause I’ve said it, to everyone, everyone, everyone, everyone else, Like oh my God. And I’ve meant it, to everyone, everyone, everyone but myself, Like oh my God, So I’ve been looking in the mirror and I practice saying this: I love you, bitch,” the personality and charisma that Fletcher brings to every track truly shines here most of all- somehow escaping the pitfall that “self-love anthems” are often stigmatized for. The production is light and quite playful, a fun little song that perfectly blends to fit each moment- having taken influence from the pop punk resurgence in the chorus and the dream pop escapism of the verses and still allowing it time to breathe in order to continue building.
As we finally reach the album’s closing track “For Cari”, she offensively attacks our feelings as she dedicates this final note to Cari- the girl she is on the inside, the girl she has always been. It’s one thing to love and appreciate the singer that is Fletcher along with her writing and performing but to hear her talk so lovingly of Cari and take note of the growth felt throughout this experience, it resonates on absolutely every level. “‘So I’ll say ‘farewell’ to the hard times, and I’ll say “fuck you” to the bad vibes, and I’ll raise a glass while I toast to myself, I’m a bad bitch and nothin’ can scare me, This one’s for Cari,” the melodic structure and lyrics are so refreshing- they give me drunken night’s out with friends and toasting to the crowded bar kinds of vibes. It’s gorgeous and lots of fun- sealing off the album on the perfect note.
Overall, Fletcher absolutely crushed it while making this album. The years that have preceded this release have done an incredible job of setting us up for what was to come while also respectfully keeping an eye on her past. If there’s any justice in this world, Fletcher will become THE pop queen with the release of this album- serving vocals, beauty and an undercurrent of honesty throughout that prove her to be more fearless than any of her current peers.
Girl Of My Dreams is out now on all streaming platforms!
Beyoncé’s new album Renaissance is a triumphant tour de force- just the kind of electrifying jumpstart that Pop and R&B needed this year. Now I know what you’re thinking: this has literally been out for nearly two months. And yes, you’d be correct in saying so- but it would simply be a disservice to this masterful work of art to just give it a standard review.
This record is a dance floor album- with the track list seamlessly arranged to feel like a DJ set in the greatest club on the planet. Celebrating both the Black and Queer communities who helmed the disco and house music movements, Beyoncé’s successfully crafted a work of art that feels like healing. Now let’s break down some of the best moments!
In true Beyoncé fashion, the album begins on an empowering moment with tracks “I’m That Girl” and “Cozy”, setting the tone perfectly for what is to come. Ms. Sasha Fierce has built her entire career around a discography meant to exude confidence, so there really isn’t anything astoundingly different here- yet these opening tracks still hit just as hard. The production choices and melodies are unlike anything Queen Bey has ever released and are instantly memorable in an album full of standout tracks. “Cozy” specifically is the kind of track you instantly wish you knew every word to so you can blast it and sing along in the car. It’s that good.
In my eyes (and thankfully in my ears too) the album would be all that much lesser if not for “Alien Superstar” which is definitely a candidate for song of the year for me. It’s futuristic, while keeping one eye on the past- inherently euphoric and transportive into a galaxy all her own. Somehow fierce, sexy, confident and feminine- the song represents the multitudes of Beyoncé. “I’m too classy for this world, forever I’m that girl, Feed you diamonds and pearls, ooh baby, I’m too classy to be touched, I paid them all in dust, I’m stingy with my love,” she interpolates Right Said Fred’s song “I’m Too Sexy” in the chorus- still somehow making it her own and unlike any music being released today.
Now there’s a reason why people are absolutely devouring “Cuff It” online, crafting their own choreography which simply insights joy upon every watch and listen. The song feels so classic, like an older track I would’ve heard my parents reminiscing about during my childhood. And that’s not to say it’s outdated, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The chorus is infectious, making you feel invincible like only a night out with your best friends can do. “Bet you you’ll see far, Bet you you’ll see stars, Bet you you’ll elevate, Bet you you’ll meet God, ‘Cause I feel like fallin’ in love,” the post chorus is the true standout here- both addictive and vocally powerful. It’s peak Beyoncé.
Now we can’t talk about this album without addressing the lead single- “Break My Soul”. Admittedly, it was not my favorite on the first listen. I found it a bit abrasive and not quite the comeback single I’d hoped for. I will however say that it is very much a grower as it has gotten better with every single listen- both empowering and joyous as the production continues to build until the end where a choir accompanies Beyoncé on a gorgeous pulled back note. I’m very happy to report that I was quite wrong about this track and while it still isn’t my favorite on the record, I do think it was the perfect lead single to bring us all back into the BCU (Beyoncé Cinematic Universe).
“Plastic Off The Sofa” is vocal heaven- sonically ethereal and another timeless track that could’ve been released in the 1970’s (but thankfully we get to be the ones to discover it today). Her vocal delivery is light and airy here, with every single one of her choices placed perfectly. If this song had been somehow placed in the wrong hands, it could’ve gone oh so wrong. A lesser singer might have overdone the runs and made it tasteless with senseless vocal acrobatics- in case you need an example of this, I highly recommend checking out the “Plastic Off The Sofa Challenge” which has gone viral on TikTok. But when you listen to Beyoncé sing her absolute ass off here, you just completely understand why she is exactly where she is today. Being the only drastic change of pace on this dance heavy album, it’s a true standout and is reminiscent of Beyoncé’s early solo work.
Now I could sit here and talk about this album until I’m blue in the face, or rather until Act II comes out, but I highly recommend that you simply check it out for yourself. Any review or remarks from me will just fail to capture the magic of it all- so do yourself a favor and whether you’re out on a drive, cleaning around the house, or relaxing on your couch- blast this album as loud as you possibly can.
Beyoncé succeeds in every aspect with Renaissance, the first Act of her new trilogy, an album that grants its listeners an ounce of the confidence and empowerment that Beyoncé exudes. It’s just enough to keep us going, giving us exactly what we need in order to move on from what isn’t working in our lives and go on to not only live a better life, but to thrive.
Renaissance isn’t just an album, it’s an experience. It’s an hour-long dance party with your best friends, the much-needed night out after a difficult week, the escape we can all use from the ugliness in this world. And we have THE Beyoncé to thank for that.
If anybody asks where I am, just assume I’m experiencing the feral joy that only a brand-new Maggie Rogers album can inflict on me. With her new album Surrender, Maggie tells stories about seeking escape through allowing herself to let go and just feel everything. It’s a gorgeous album, transcendent in both its production and its storytelling as Maggie waves the white flag above her heard for all of us.
Since the release of her critically acclaimed debut album Heard It in a Past Life in 2019, Rogers has been quite busy- having just graduated with her Masters in Religion and Public Life from Harvard’s Divinity School while simultaneously writing and producing her sophomore album. There’s a certain level of authenticity that Maggie continues to bring not only to her art but to her life as well that makes people gravitate towards her and root for her in every endeavor. And I truly believe that this authenticity bleeds through into her lyrics and her production as well. Let’s break it all down now!
Album opener “Overdrive” feels like an open road song- that start of a road trip kinda banger that sets the mood for what’s to come and feels like the utter freedom of the open highway before you. Rogers’ voice feels massive right from the first note, deepening her register on this record in ways we have never heard prior- in fact it’s almost reminiscent of Florence Welch at times in her ability to flip from her head to chest voice. “I don’t wanna do this again if you’re gon’ break my heart, I’m tearing at the seams, can’t believe that it’s gotta be this hard, you told me that I was all you could see, but you kept me in the dark,” she belts out on the bridge of a broken relationship as the production intensifies. “Overdrive” is an evolutionary piece, bridging the gap between the folk influenced sounds of her past and leading us into the liberation to come.
“Anywhere With You” is an absolute standout and is quite possibly a contender for my Top 10 Songs of 2022 so far- both raw and exuberant in its storytelling and production. Maggie’s vocals are absolute perfection here as she tries to help her companion out of their lowest point in search of something bigger than themselves. “You tell me that forever couldn’t come too soon, If I’m gonna lose my mind, I’m gonna lose it with you, You tell me you want everything, you want it fast, but all I’ve ever wanted is to make something fucking last,” their outlooks on what’s to come may differ but she makes it clear that what’s most important is experiencing this journey together. The song’s crescendo is truly breathtaking, and the production choices made here by Del Water Gap, Kid Harpoon, and Maggie herself are, to put it quite plainly, fucking phenomenal.
Channeling the grunginess of 90s rock and almost Springsteen-esque in the feeling it evokes comes “Shatter”, another incredible feat brought to us through the magical collaboration of Rogers and Kid Harpoon. It somehow encapsulates a handful of emotions- love, joy, fear, anger and confusion, all mixed into one song with a chaotic production to match it and a vocal so raw, it feels ethereal. Her authenticity continues to bleed through here with the adorable cracks in her voice bringing such character to her performance that it leaves me begging for more with every single listen. “I don’t really care if it nearly kills me, I’d give you the world if you asked me to, I could break a glass just to watch it shatter, I’d do anything just to feel with you“. She’s on an entirely different level.
Maggie’s lyrics read like gorgeous prose in pieces like “Begging For Rain”, which tells the story of that feeling of being in a dark place and focusing on what could have been different while begging for what could bring you relief. “You work all day to find religion, and end up standing in your kitchen, wondering ’bout the way it’s always been, I’m a firefighter and I can’t stop it, they fan the flames higher than rockets, and leave you standing on an open plane, begging for rain,” that feeling of grief is difficult to shake and can cause you to miss out on moments and people in your life that become casualties in the wake of your pain. It’s quite solemn but that’s what makes it all that much more poignant. Sonically, this track is more stripped back and a welcome reprieve from the string of bangers surrounding it in the tracklist.
As the album heads towards its conclusion, we reach “Symphony”, which truly feels like an exhale from the rising tension that comes before it. It’s a moment of liberation, of transcendence, and a reminder to grasp onto that feeling as we continue on with our lives. “So just be here with me, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be, and there’s a symphony every time you look my way, I know we’re under slept and life’s a promise that never ends, but you can handle it. Take a breath,” she urges her partner to surrender to this feeling of peace that she has found for herself in their relationship. It’s a moment for us to take that breath as well- to take in what we’ve experienced and surrender to our emotions as Maggie transitions into the album’s final track.
What Maggie Rogers has done with Surrender is what most artists merely dream of- capturing the overwhelming mess of emotions that one experiences in life and refusing to let it take her under. Instead, she uses all of the pain as a lesson, finding her own motivation to continue on and in surrendering to all that she’s faced- she found true liberation.
“Backburner” by Niki was an automatic standout from her fantastic new album Nicole– recalling the feeling of neglect she’d become used to when in love with her partner. “I’ll always be in your corner, ’cause I don’t feel alive ’til I’m burnin’ on your backburner,” the feelings of neglect are almost okay as long as her partner still comes to her eventually, even if pushed aside for the time being. That feeling of waiting to be prioritized by the one you love is heartbreaking, and unfortunately quite relatable for many listeners. The Indonesian singer songwriter even wonders if it was her upbringing and her father’s “wandering eyes” that have instilled this feeling in her. It’s a gorgeously written song and Niki’s storytelling ability really shines through here in a poignant way that makes me want to hear way more going forward!
Ruel’s newest single “YOU AGAINST YOURSELF” is the first single from the Australian singer’s debut album and another fantastic release. Starting the album cycle off with a sense of introspection, he offers up an anthem about overcoming self-sabotage- begging his loved one to let him be there for them in their time of need. “I can’t save you now, Oh, why’s it always you against yourself,” he sings on the chorus- beginning to lose hope that he can break down this barrier between them. Sonically, it’s a synth heavy pop banger with great listenability and the production by Sammy Witte and M-Phazes is so smooth that Ruel’s vocals lay perfectly on top of it. The 19-year-old singer’s voice has never sounded better, showcasing the gravel in his tone along with a falsetto in the chorus that solidify him as one of the most talented male vocalists in music right now. I for one, cannot wait to see what his debut album sounds like when it’s finally released!
Check out the rest of the songs featured on Fresh Brewed #15 below!
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So being away for a bit means one major thing: Lots of new music has been released in the last several weeks so we have plenty to catch up on. Grab your morning coffee and let’s get rolling!
Dublin based rock band Inhaler’s newest single “These Are The Days” is the anthemic summer single ready to rock an arena near you. Over the years, Inhaler have proven themselves to be one of the most exhilarating new bands to emerge in years and continue their winning streak here with this newest release. “These are the days that follow you home, these are the days that kiss you on your broken nose, these are the days I don’t miss the feeling of being alone, thеse are the days,” the chorus feels nostalgic in that “Glory Days” kinda way. It’s the cliche that these are the best days of their lives together as a band- and yet they make it feel so fresh and cool. The production, like all of their releases so far, is top notch- carrying the sound of the bands that have come before them and making it modern. If Inhaler is the future of rock, we are in damn good hands.
“In The Kitchen” by Reneé Rapp is a stunningly haunting piece of music that focuses on a moment from her relationship that has now ended and how alone she now feels. “So I’ll dance with your ghost in the living room and I’ll play the piano alone, but I’m too scared to delete all our videos, ’cause it’s real once everyone knows, you could’ve at least shown me some decency, done me a favor and packed up your clothes, falling in love, no, it ain’t for the weak, so don’t try this at home,” the chorus punches a hole into your chest and rips your heart out before you can even catch a breath. Her vocal performance is raw and gritty, an absolutely unforgettable performance that stays with you long after the first listen as she struggles to move past the memory of their love in fear of making the loneliness that much more real. It’s heartbreakingly relatable and Rapp uses her acting chops to heighten the emotions even more so in the gorgeously shot music video below.
The Lost Youth’s newest single “Headfirst” is a raging pop banger that grabbed me from the first 10 seconds- and frankly if you don’t feel the same, I highly suggest getting your hearing checked. The production is slick, reminiscent of the past and yet so perfectly modern. The lyrics are sharp, about the vulnerable early stages of a relationship when you’re afraid of ruining things. “I play my part and I don’t play games, what if I go too far, could I lose everything,” the chorus is anthemic, ready to be screamed at their concerts and sure to be a fan favorite. With “Headfirst” only being their second release, they have an incredible potential to become an absolute sensation around the world. I’m so excited to see what this duo have in store for us next!
Check out the rest of the songs featured on Fresh Brewed #14 below!
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After a bit of a hiatus, Brew Music Friday is finally back and today- I bring you the next edition of “Scalding Hot”! On today’s segment I bring you the newest release from an up-and-coming singer songwriter and producer named David Alexander, whose newest release “Her” is his most promising yet.
I first discovered David’s work on TikTok quite a few months ago when he began to tease all of the newest music he had been working on in his World Domination series. Each tease was so damn good that it made me constantly come back to see if he had posted more. I went back- over and over- waiting very impatiently for when I could blast these songs in my car. And now the first of what is to come has finally been released- so let’s break it down!
“Her” is an absolute bop- the kind of song that makes you want to jump around your room while screaming it at the top of your lungs. Alexander, who wrote and produced the track along with Benzi, does an incredible job building tension with the production which finally releases in the explosive chorus. “You’ve been calling me up, late night reminding me of everything we don’t have, it’s so embarrassing, I can’t hеlp but call it what it is, you’re just somebody I kissed last night, looking for somеthing to shut off my mind, all I’ve been thinking about is her, and you’ll never be her,” David sings on the chorus, his voice carrying a grit to it.
While the production is definitely joy ride worthy, the lyrics have an emotional depth to them that place you right in David’s shoes. The song tells the story of someone heartbroken over a girl and unable to move on, so he goes out to be with someone else who is nothing more than a rebound for him. He recognizes the toxicity of his actions, but he can’t help it- and like all of the best kinds of art, it is extremely personal.
“Her” is David Alexander’s first release since November 2021’s “Dreams Cost Cash”- having taken some time for himself in his first year of college to just allow himself to write and discover the sound he was searching for. Between this song and the others that he has teased along the way- it definitely sounds like he’s found it. He knows exactly how to use his voice, at times smooth as hell and yet gritty when he needs it to be. I’m automatically reminded of Luke Hemmings’ voice when trying to think of who I could possibly compare him too.
With the release of “Her” also comes Alexander’s announcement that he will take time off from school to fully pursue his music, so if you are looking to follow an artist from the beginning of their journey through the time their art finally blows up- now is the time to get on board with David Alexander. Make sure to follow his socials below to stay up to date on more music news!
“Her” is out now on all streaming platforms!
Are there any other artists you’d like to see featured on the next “Scalding Hot”? Send me your recommendations on Instagram today!