Lauren Jauregui, formerly of Fifth Harmony, makes a soulful statement on the new debut single "Expectations." Joji, of Asian artist collective 88rising, paints a mood perfect for winter on "Attention" and his debut album. Indie rock group Beirut return after over three years with a new single that calls back to their earliest work, infused with a sense of place and history. And two more groups — boygenius, a collection of three indie artists working together, and Store Front, a new rock band — release songs in turn sweet and salty.
On his debut album BALLADS 1, Japanese-born singer and producer conjures a melancholy mood. Tracks like album opener "Attention" start out as acoustic piano plucks building to a staticky, aching climax, while hits like his blurry, melodic "Yeah Right" feel like soundtracks to the winter blues; other songs lean R&B in the vein of Post Malone. "When you cry you waste your time over boys you never liked," he shakes his head on "Attention," a line that sets the scene for his tone of muddled dispassion and pain. "I don't want to die so young; I've got so much to do. I don't smile for the camera; I only smile for you." His songs read like unedited diary entries, raw and unaffected, over unhurried beats. There's a strain of early The Weeknd's darkness, but Joji is sweeter and more resigned to fate, his songs a comforting existential sigh where other artists might scream.
Boygenius is the trio of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, a potent combination of individual indie rock acts who, together, hit a beautiful balance. They decided to start writing together after crossing paths on tours; the resulting sound of boygenius feels as natural as a casual hang among best friends. Acoustic ballad "Souvenir," off of their new EP out today, is a sweet, aching meditation over which all three deliver vivid verses, weaving back and forth. Each of these artists trades on their biting lyricism, yet as a trio their delivery is softened by a sense of solidarity and sisterhood. "When you cut a hole into my skull, do you hate what you see / Like I do?" Dacus asks at the end of "Souvenir." But then all three voices float together, humming a healing lullaby.
"Expectations," Lauren Jauregui
Former Fifth Harmony star Lauren Jauregui has taken her time as a solo artist ever since her group split in May, featuring on carefully chosen projects — a slinky electro-jazz collaboration with Marian Hill, a slow-burning Halsey duet, a Steve Aoki club track — and in each situation lending her smoky vocals, but letting the other artists dictate the vibe. On her first solo single, off of her upcoming debut album, Jauregui lays claim to a sound all her own. It's R&B mixed with rock 'n' roll, a voice-first single that swings and sashays at Jauregui's deliciously languorous pace, decorated with a guitar riff, a warm beat and lyrical delivery with plenty of punch.
It's been well over three years since Beirut, an indie rock group known for experimental instrument use and a retro sound, released any new music. "Gallipoli," the first song off their upcoming album of the same name, suggests their signature style hasn't changed. In fact, Beirut might even be getting weirder: the bulk of the four-minute track is made up of vocal-free instrumentation, blaring brass and bouncing drums that sound just a bit fuzzy and distorted, like the tune is coming through an old radio, before opening up into a sunny march. That texture — of warmth and history — echoes throughout Zach Condon's lyrics, too. The song was written after a visit to the Italian town after which it's named, and its evocative sense of place is a promise of what's to come.
"Go For Broke," Store Front
New rock band Store Front find a relatable groove on "Go For Broke," the first single from the Brooklyn-based fivesome of Amy Rose Spiegel, Peggy Wang, Bob Marshall, Brandon Louro and Chalky Edwards. "It's hard to go for broke, especially when you're broke," Spiegel sings sweetly — and, yes, she's got it right. The track is bright and calls out for toe-tapping, but with the wink of those darkly realistic lyrics. "You're convinced you're equipped, and even more so when you're slightly lit," she quips. "But honey at least we can split the rent." Real life woes have rarely sounded like so much fun.