Welcome to The Rotation, a roundup of the month’s key moments in music and why you should listen. Read Volume 19 below, or scroll to the end for playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. Previous instalments available here.
I haven’t managed to catch a gig since they’ve returned just yet, but it’s great to see our favourite artists, both new and established, announcing their tours. The releases have also been exciting with new acts like Snail Mail and Maxo Cream releasing exciting projects and big names like ABBA and Adele returning. Personally, I’m still following any lead on new music from Kendrick Lamar which seems to be getting closer.
This month’s selections include tracks that will hopefully make you want to do a deep dive into a new artist and tracks that will make you excited about what else is to come from other artists.
Songs of the Month
NoSo | ‘Suburbia’
NoSo grew up in the outskirts of Chicago in a suburb that the movie Mean Girls was based on, so it’s no surprise that her first major release deals with the narrow-minded nature of these environments.
Lyrically she makes fun of the “Rich kids and boutique drugs” but at the same time there is a sense of nostalgia, a feeling that she misses eating Oreos outside a pharmacy. It’s an impressive, poetically reflective release with full sounding yet spacious production. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on what is to come next.
NewDad | ‘Ladybird’
Taking inspiration from the Greta Gerwig film of the same name, Galway band NewDad release their new track. They are working with producer John Congleton who has worked with Lana Del Rey and Phoebe Bridgers in the past, and this level of ambition is reflected in the track. The atmospheric soundscape paired with the intimate lyrics make this one of their best releases to date.
Their new EP, Banshee, is out early next year and they have announced a number of tour dates including a big show in Whelan’s in April 2022.
Beach Bunny | ‘Oxygen’
Beach Bunny have gone from strength to strength with every release. Strangely, most of their releases have been during lockdown, which means they haven’t gotten to tour the records. Finally, they are heading out on tour and to celebrate they release this stand-alone track. The yearning vocals from lead singer Lily Trifilio and the stadium sounding production make this a major milestone in their discography.
Their tour is already sold out but hopefully this track is a sign of things to come.
James Lonergan |‘ohno’
It’s impossible to ignore the comparisons to James Blake with this new track from Dublin artist James Lonergan. That is by no means an insult, it is meant as a compliment of the highest order.
The haunting soundscape and dark tones mixed with twinkling guitars and warm vocals are reminiscent of Blake at his best. But the ability to mix these elements with the electronic beat is an impressive feat. It’s an incredible track that makes you want to hear more from the talented artist.
Mike Posner | ‘Amor Fati’
Mike Posner has been busy for the last few years, between walking across the entire United States in 2019 and climbing Mount Everest, but here he returns to music with a truly fascinating track.
‘Amor Fati’ translates as “Love of Faith” from Latin and the song itself is broken into a number of different segments. It starts as you might expect but halfway through it lifts off and transforms into some soulful, classic rock with horns and guitar solos.
It’s an admirable piece of music and is a good indication of where Posner is in his life, if he continues this kind of experimentation, his next album will be a fascinating listen.
Travi The Native | ‘Shambles’
Based in Belfast, Travi The Native released a few noteworthy singles in 2020, and here he returns with a new track looking to continue his impressive momentum.
Here, he’s describing the excitement at the start of a new relationship, he’s trying to play it cool and “not let your rapidly growing feelings be your downfall”. It’s a soulful song with elements reminiscent of The 1975.
As we await more music from Travi, his last project, the excellently titled God Only Calls The House Phone, is out now.
Caleb Kunle | ‘Could Be Good’
Born in Nigeria before moving to Laois, Caleb has impressed with his releases to date, and this latest track mixes jazz with some psychedelic elements. It’s reminiscent of some of Tame Impala’s work but still has a hip hop and folk edge to it.
This track shows real progression from a talented artist, and with more music expected in the coming months, it will be interesting to see where he brings his sound next.
Majid Jordan | ‘Forget About The Party’
Majid Jordan have a knack for making beautiful R&B songs and that’s what they deliver yet again with this track. Their earnest lyrics combined with the stripped-down guitars make this a particularly evocative and affecting pop song.
Their latest album Wildest Dreams is out now and shows how the duo have not only grown but are still creating their best music.
Cooks But We’re Chefs | ‘Kodama’
Cooks But We’re Chefs previously released their eclectic Sports Day EP in 2020, and here they return here with another intriguing track mixing soul, hip hop, and jazz. Their clever wordplay and exciting chord progressions make this a noteworthy release.
The 8-piece outfit from Dublin recently played an excellent set in the Cork Jazz Fest and are definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Mac Miller | ‘Here We Go’
Faces was a mixtape released by the late Mac Miller back in 2014, but this month it was finally released on streaming services. This track is a real standout, and will no doubt make you smile.
The track is essentially an excellent Drake impression, even as he brags about not needing a Drake feature to be successful. The amazing horns and soul sample provide a scenic backdrop for Mac to deliver some of his funniest lines, my personal favourite has to be, “if I’m not in your top 5, you’re a racist.”
While releases like this will make you smile, there is also a deep sadness associated with it as we realise more and more what Mac was capable of and how talented he was.
Aminé | ‘Charmander’
After the release of his last album, Limbo, Aminé spent some time experimenting and not making such a self-serious rap record. The result of this experimentation is this energetic track.
It’s a short song but Aminé packs plenty into it, with a high pitched catchy vocal sample, some musings on reclusion and some of the smoothest flows in his discography.
Aminé’s new project, TWOPOINTFIVE is out now and features more of his left field observations and edgy production.
ASAP Ferg | ‘Green Juice’
This song sounds like something terrible is about to happen. It sounds like Ferg and his crew are cornering you in a dark alley and things are not looking too good for you. Even Pharrell, the singer of ‘Happy’, sounds like he’s up to no good.
This is the latest track from Ferg since he joined Roc Nation. His rapping may be slower, but he still sounds incredible. The eerie production creates a dark atmosphere and both artists match the energy perfectly.
Ferg will no doubt have plenty of new music on the way after signing with Jay Z and if this is a sign of things to come, he’s not slowing down.
Lil Nas X | ‘VOID’
There are a lot of distractions around Lil Nas X, the controversies, the outfits, the outlandish personality, but he managed to release an album that somehow touched on all these things.
The album has the brash, headline grabbing songs, but the most surprising part of the project was the quieter songs such as this track where he hits a low point and reflects on some of his tougher moments. It may not hit number one, but it does give an interesting insight to the person rather than the celebrity.
His new album MONTERO is out now and regardless of what you think of Lil Nas X, chances are it will give you exactly what you expect while still surprising you in parts.
Pink Pantheress | ‘Reason’
Pink Pantheress shot to fame on TikTok with her unique take on the UK garage scene. Her tracks are short and digestible, and they recall a nostalgia for the early 2000s.
She clearly has a deep understanding of this genre and this era of music, and she interpolates samples and themes with ease. Her sharp voice then flows over this instrumental.
This track is an example of her more reflective side but still mixed with that garage style production. Her mixtape to hell with it is out now and is an excellent example of taking inspiration from the past but representing it in a modern way.
Hope Tala | ‘Tiptoeing’
Hope Tala featured here recently but her latest track is another impressive release. Working with Greg Kurstin, who also produced the latest track from Adele, Tala sings about being on the threshold of a new relationship over a vibrant and free flowing instrumental.
The track is reminiscent of Lily Allen in her early days with the fun production and witty lyrics. Tala is currently on tour in the States, but more new music is expected in the coming months.
Helen Murray | ‘Move Me’
Originally from Cork but based in Dublin Helen Murray returns with just her second single, and it’s a special record. The production is classic R&B with beautiful strings, but her voice is incredible. Written from the perspective of the other woman, Murray is clearly a talented songwriter.
Reminiscent of Lianne La Havas with hints of Erykah Badu, this is an impressive release from a talented Irish singer songwriter. It will be interesting to see what a full-length project sounds like.
Gracie Abrams | ‘Rockland’
If you are familiar with previous releases from Gracie Abrams, it should be no surprise that she links up here with Aaron Dessner of The National. On paper this is a match made in heaven and the music lives up to the expectations.
Abrams’ ability to describe her emotions following a tough break up is incredible. Admittedly many of the lyrics border on stalker-like behaviour but she balances this toxicity with her genuinely insecure confessions.
A full-length project is expected soon from the talented singer songwriter and no doubt it will tug at your heartstrings.
Taylor Lily | ‘Hazy Jane’
This is only the second single from the talented Taylor Lily from Cork, but it is an impressive release.
The ambient production and poetic lyrics add to the beauty of this track but Taylor’s delicate, yet powerful vocal performance steals the show. It’s a short track from an artist with a minimal discography that just leaves you wanting to hear what else she is working on.
Lana Del Rey | ‘Black Bathing Suit’
Lana Del Rey has really settled into her role as a storyteller, observing culture from afar. On her second album of the year, she muses about modern life over beautiful instrumentations. This track is a standout on the album as she reflects on lockdown and her personal life with her signature sense of ennui.
The production is luscious but similar to her more recent releases there is a looseness to the playing that is inviting and warm.
Her new album Blue Banisters is out now and features some of her best song writing and is sprinkled with some tracks recorded for earlier albums that didn’t quite fit at the time.
Album of the Month
The War on Drugs | I Don’t Live Here Anymore
I must admit I have never dived deep into The War on Drugs; I’ve always seen them as a musically talented band with esoteric lyrics that floated over the crisp production. But this new release is something special. This album is grounded both in terms of space and time.
Lead singer Adam Granduciel has had a child and is balancing his musical career with his home life. This leads to plenty of lyrics exploring how his life has changed what that means going forward.
The album cover is iconic. Chosen from a set of images from a friend, they had to crop out Granduciel’s face because he was smiling, and that obviously wouldn’t fit a rock record. But that shows where he is in his personal life, there is a sense that he has found peace.
The album starts slow with a drum beat that sounds like the start of a concert, building to a beautiful crescendo. The title track only comes halfway through the record and steals the show, Granduciel reminisces on times gone by at Bob Dylan shows, coming to terms with the fact that this isn’t his life anymore.
Then the album closer, ‘Occasional Rain’, is a beautifully evocative track that sets the scene by the old par three and allows Granduciel some space to reflect with a stream of consciousness summary of his lifestyle and end with a triumphant declaration of love.
He’s found a place that he’s happy in and has learnt to put up with the occasional rain rather than run away from it.
Recommendations: ‘Change’/‘I Don’t Live Here Anymore’/‘Occasional Rain’