There’s a lot of music out there. To help you cut through all the noise, every week The A.V. Club is rounding up A-Sides, with some recent releases we think are worth your time. You can listen to these and more on our Spotify playlist, and if you like what you hear, we encourage you to purchase featured artists’ music directly at the links provided below.
There is a moment that occurs after a monumental break-up—romantic or otherwise—where the proverbial dark clouds crack and a tiny sunbeam illuminates your possibilities. Shamir’s anthemic indie-rock celebration “On My Own” perfectly encapsulates that triumphant instant, lacing newfound independence with sturdy guitar riffs and synths. The Ratchet artist’s latest signals a strong appreciation for ’90s power-pop/rock while injecting a more current, highly relatable appreciation for individualism and introversion. It’s also just an honest reflection of love and one’s refusal to settle for less than what they’re worth—a sentiment that’s hard not to belt along to, even with the guidance of Shamir’s smooth, lilting vocals. The track’s thoroughly addictive chorus is just another example of Shamir’s consistent ability to craft a good hook (as if “Call It Off” wasn’t enough evidence of this). “On My Own” is a vibrant earworm and a timely celebration about finding solace in momentary solitude. [Shannon Miller]
One of the most impressive things about Failures, Katie Malco’s debut LP, is how effortlessly it flows between styles. The UK singer-songwriter has released a number of singles over the years of mostly sparse, minimalist songs, but here she tackles full-throated indie rock, haunting Americana, melancholy country, and Julien Baker-esque guitar barnburners, all of it with equally potent results. From the slow build of “Brooklyn” to the piano-and-voice balladry of “Peckham,” the record conveys a feeling of lush grandeur while still delivering heartfelt and emotionally resonant lyrics about loss, love, and all the other thematic mainstays of music, with her distinctive voice—strong and soulful, but always sounding like she just might be on the verge of breaking into tears. It’s an album tailor-made for rainy days and lonely nights, but with such a facility for moving between genres, there’s a song to soundtrack just about everything in your life. [Alex McLevy]
Gia Margaret hadn’t intended for Mia Gargaret’s crawl of synth-forward ambience to serve as the follow-up to the lovely electro-folk of 2018’s There’s Always Glimmer, but the Chicago songwriter had little choice after losing her voice to illness for the better part of a year. These compositions, spare and rhythmic, reflect Margaret’s search for comfort during this period, and will likely offer achy listeners the same. Piano and acoustic guitar float alongside the album’s unobtrusive synths, as do familiar field recordings: footsteps, ringing bells, and rolling waves—constants in a tumultuous world. Margaret’s album doubles as a chronicle of healing; opening track “apathy” includes excerpts from her vocal therapy exercises, while closing track “lesson” features the album’s sole vocal performance, a brave, impactful emergence following a period of recovery. It’s one to celebrate. [Randall Colburn]
Revolutions are fueled by hope as much as they are by anger, and Wyatt Waddell is here to lift up the Black Lives Matter movement with his latest single, “FIGHT!” The Chicago songwriter and multi-instrumentalist cites Nina Simone as his inspiration for the track, but the joyful spirit of Stevie Wonder also permeates “FIGHT!”—especially in the ebullient keyboard breakdown midway through. The whole song reverberates with the funky, poppy, gospel-influenced soul sound of the late ’60s and early ’70s, which only serves to underline the parallels between that era in history and our current moment. “There’s already so much pain,” Waddell sings, referring to the state-sanctioned persecution that Black people have endured over the last 400 years. But while “FIGHT!” is laden with sorrow, it isn’t crushed by it, ending with an inspiring call to action: “Even if it takes all you have/ Just fight/ We’ve been down for too long/ And it’s time/ For revolution.” [Katie Rife]