Lucy Dacus – ‘Thumbs’
There are some stories only Lucy Dacus can tell. ‘Thumbs’ is one of them: not simply a murder fantasy but a brutally beautiful depiction of blind rage and the desire to protect someone you love. Her poetry isn’t elaborate – comprised mostly of snatched dialogue and throwaway touches – but it leaves you with staggeringly intimate portraits as though witnessing her memories first hand. Somehow written in just a 15-minute car journey, the release of this long-time live favourite was teased over a series of weeks via a handmade VHS tape roll-out. Dacus’ rich, textured vocals are accompanied only by sparse synth and mellotron in this deeply lonely track. She imagines destroying the eyes of a friend’s abusive dad in true Game of Thrones fashion but with those same thumbs, she winds the tape back and carefully holds her friend’s face: “You two are connected by a pure coincidence / Bound to him by blood, but baby, it’s all relative.” It’s a Friday night in the middle of a pandemic – what better time to feel utterly devastated.
Sarah Kinsley – ‘Karma’
‘Karma’ kicks off with a classic drum fill straight out of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ but the polychromatic influences that follow are an exhilarating and unique mix: Beach House synthscapes, a Maggie Rogers sensibility and even flecks of disco. New York’s Sarah Kinsley, still a music student at Columbia University, has already ticked the TikTok box thanks to a video showing off her production skills, and this knack for music on both sides of the recording booth is on full show here. Like all of the best inventions, ‘Karma’ was an accident, composed feverishly after a bout of writer’s block, and it speaks of the inevitability and absurdity of falling in love, where even fortune-tellers and gods are ill-equipped to help. If this dreamy number is any indication, her karma’s all good from now on.
Allison Ponthier – ‘Cowboy’
3 years after Mitski told us all to ‘Be The Cowboy’, the fruits of her labour are finally ripe for picking. “It took New York to make me a cowboy” sings Interscope’s latest signing, Allison Ponthier, on the opening to her beautiful slice of introspective country-pop that evokes the familiarity of Kacey Musgraves and classic country legends, as well as exploring unchartered territory: “Familiar but strange / Like an android”. Ponthier reflects on growing up in Texas and what that meant in terms of her queerness – “I didn’t know I could come out” – and the brilliantly camp music video sees her bathed in the neon light of a UFO, transforming into a literal Space Cowboy. Halfway through the track, the music drops out completely only to return again with a softer coda, harmonies floating across a quiet desert. “Not the only one of my kind / This is how I felt in the Bible Belt / Wanna be that girl for someone else”. It’s a beautiful sentiment to close with and keep in sight – the idea of new friends out there, so far unseen.
Kasai – ‘Drunk Diary, Weed and Liquor’
It’s been three years since West London’s Kasai dropped debut single ‘Pretty Boys’, featuring a huge verse from Joey Bada$$, and now, newly signed to Dirty Hit, she’s just as candid on the intoxicating ‘Drunk Diary, Weed and Liqour’. A heady blend of 808 bass, twinkling keys and soulful guitars, the backing track floats in and out of focus but Kasai always has her eye deadset on the target: “Show me you can love me better”. She switches from sweet vocal runs to indignant call outs – “Thought me and you came a long, long way / but you always find a way to curse my name” – and back again with nimble ease, admonishing men for using alcohol as an excuse for their behaviour as she goes. Her debut EP ‘Not That Normal Pt. 1’ is set for release in May this year.
Jorja Smith – ‘Addicted’
Jorja Smith’s first single of 2021 is a great one. A slight departure in style from her most recent releases, ‘Addicted’ is a dark and hazy track that strips back the instrumentation to leave acres of space for Jorja’s luxurious voice. The lyrics cover a love that is not quite unrequited, but still leaves her feeling bereft: “You’re the only thing that I need / You should be addicted to me“. Accompanying the single is a playful music video that was shot via webcams from Jorja’s home, complete with midnight horse rides and a fireworks display that you might not see on every Zoom call.
Listen to all these tracks and more on our BRAND NEW playlist.