Welcome to The Rotation, a roundup of the week’s key moments in music and why you should listen. Read Volume 6 below, or scroll to the end for playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. Previous instalments available here.
Valentine’s Day always means a number of different things to different people. Great artists have always found a way to dissect and examine love from different perspectives. This week’s selection feature some of these interpretations of love, from learning to love yourself, to the tragedy and grief of lost love, to the love of your mates during tough times. Enjoy.
Pink Sweat$ | ‘Heaven’
Previous releases from David Bowden have featured pared back production, focusing on his voice and an acoustic guitar, here he embraces an instant vintage sound and classic R&B production, but his voice still shines. Bowden serenades his significant other over lush production.
Lyrically, Bowden reflects on being in a relationship where the other person accepts and loves you for who you are. Comparing it to past relationships where people have pieces they won’t reveal, he rejoices at being in a relationship that feels like heaven. Bowden’s vocal sounds so smooth over the laidback guitar, organ and drums. The beautiful guitar solo towards the end of the track is a welcome addition, reminiscent of some John Mayer solo work.
It makes sense that this track arrived just in time for Valentine’s Day, it has the feel of a classic R&B love song. Bowden sounds in his element with this sound and explores it fully on the new album, Pink Planet, released last week.
Tai Verdes | ‘BAD BAD News’
As soon as the opening notes of the guitar hit here, you are reminded of classic blues songs and the impact they had on society. This can be dangerous territory for new artists, but Verdes doesn’t shy away and delivers an instant vintage performance.
Although the production is familiar, it is executed with a modern sound, the softness of the guitar during the verses transitions seamlessly to the cinematic electric guitar in the chorus. As Verdes reflects on the ending of a relationship, he digs deep as he delivers every note and makes the listener believe what he is saying.
Verdes has only released a handful of tracks, and they have covered a lot of ground, but this is certainly deeper territory than his previous releases and builds anticipation for his upcoming album.
Dreamer Boy | ‘Easier Said Than Done’
Attempting to write an encouraging song during these strange times is certainly easier said than done. Nashville singer-songwriter Zack Taylor has done just that, and managed to execute it with sophistication and relatability.
Lyrically, Taylor describes seeking out the comfort of loved ones during tough times. Talking about the track, he described how he was at a low point and needed this kind of encouragement from his friends. Sonically, Taylor delivers a washed-out waterfall of guitars but manages to make it sound nostalgic, reminiscent of production from the ’60s or ’70s.
This track continues his impressive musicianship from his first album, but showcases progression in his storytelling and songwriting abilities. His second album, All the Ways We Are Together, is out in April, and promises to be an intriguing listen.
THEO | ‘Jealous’
The feeling of jealousy towards the successes of others in your life is a common emotion, particularly in these times. London-based Irish artist, THEO, tackles this subject matter with smooth R&B production.
Lyrically, THEO acknowledges that jealousy is possibly our worst tendency but explains that sometimes it is difficult to avoid. There is a soulful aspect to her voice that makes the listener believe what she is saying and relate to her inner conflict.
The production borrows from hip hop and R&B, but the hard-hitting drums in the chorus steal the show. The production is interesting in how it changes shape throughout the song to follow THEO’s voice. It’s another strong release from the Irish singer, building anticipation for her first full-length release.
MICHELLE | ‘FYO’
Dressed up as a breezy pop song, the central message on the latest release from MICHELLE is clear—don’t let other people tell you what you are.
The lyrics here relate to the idea of self-identity; all four singers in the band grew up with mixed race identities and they are using music to share their experiences. The production is crisp and buoyant, the R&B elements add to the carefree vibe that the song portrays.
The song has a clear groove and will push people to move, but the lyrics delve into an important topic and give us more of an insight into this exciting band.
FRANK LEONE & Teardrop Estates | ‘BAD THINGS’
Frank Leone wrestles with his conscience here as he outlines all of the bad things that he wants and his conscience reminds him what is and isn’t too far.
Leone exudes a swagger throughout the track, flowing over the production with ease. The beat is dark with a consistent guitar line that meshes genres and creates a brooding atmosphere.
The song will feature on a collaborative tape between Leone and Teardrop Estates, who provides the production. The tape thematically focusses on a tale of burning passion with songs about ego and lust. The collaborative effort, SUNDROP, is out March 5.
Carrie Baxter | ‘Pray’
Based in London, but originally from Waterford, Baxter seeks a sense of closure on this track. She has described how the lyrics were inspired by a tragic love affair, and you can feel the emotion in her soulful delivery.
The laidback energy of the song is clearly inspired by a hip-hop sound, the nodding drums and hints of jazz creating a backdrop for Baxter’s trademark vocal palette. The clever samples throughout add another layer of texture to the track.
For Those I Love | ‘Birthday / The Pain’
David Balfe appeared on The Tommy Tiernan Show over the weekend and performed this track after an emotional and engaging interview with the host. In a short period, Balfe has become known for delivering poignant and deeply personal snapshots of his life through music.
This track describes a harrowing scene from Balfe’s childhood as he examines his issues surrounding growing older. Balfe’s poetic verses flow over lush production featuring uplifting strings and horns, which act as a joyful distraction.
The accompanying stop motion video is itself a beautiful piece of art that strikes a chord during lockdown especially. Balfe’s debut album, For Those I Love, is out on March 26 and will no doubt be worth carving out some time to digest and appreciate.