Music is always downstream from what’s happening in society–and there’s a lot happening right, both in terms of events and raw emotion. Could the theme running through most of this week’s picks be an indication what’s going on out there?
1. Sufjan Stevens, America
The Ascension (Asthmatic Kitty Records)
Recommended If You Like: Current events in America
Stevens’ eight solo album (due September 25) is heralded by a song he says is a “protest song against the sickness of American culture.” Although was written long before the troubles of 2020—it dates back to at least 2014, long before the Trump Administration—it feels like it could have been conceived last week. Fun fact: Most of the material on this album was recorded on a computer using a handful of synths.
2. Judah & the Lion, Beautiful Anyway
RIYL: Coming face to face with your anxieties
The good news is that more people are willing to shatter the stigmas of mental illness by talking about what they’re going through. Nate Zuercher, the banjo player for Judah & The Lion, has had a tough go of things recently—a broken engagement, depression, even suicidal thoughts—which is why he really identifies with the message in this new single. He found help, had therapy, and is anxious to share his experiences with others who may be going through the same thing.
3. Gus Dapperton, Post-Humorous
RIYL: Confessional bedroom pop
Gus—real name: Brendan Patrick Rice—is an indie-pop dude and sometime model (note the green bowl cut, the flood pants, and the makeup) who is still in university but sometimes takes time off to tour. He’s also had mental health issues and encounters with controlled substances that have left him unbalanced. This song deals with some of the vulnerabilities he had to deal with.
4. Little Hurt, Alaska
Single (Another Cent./The Orchard)
RIYL: Depression pop
Under his real name, Colin Dieden, he was the frontman for LA’s The Mowgli’s. He’s now trying something different until the moniker Little Hurt, a name he earned as a kid playing baseball. Like most of the other songs on this week’s list, it’s an attempt to normalize conversations about mental health.
5. The Dirty Nil, Done with Drugs
Single (Dine Alone)
RIYL: Hammer rock
Quick: name another internationally known band out of Dundas, Ontario, besides Caribou? That would be The Dirty Nil who have carved out a nice following through their first two albums. Done with Drugs was written while in quarantine after seeing a series of Facebook posts from people promising to clean up from years of drugs and alcohol. If you need some encouragement for self-improvement, this is the song for you.
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