Ashnikko, "Panic Attacks In Paradise"
Of the two new tracks that Ashnikko unveiled on Friday, "Panic Attacks in Paradise" is the one that hits the hardest. Taking a step back from the cutting, tongue-in-cheek lyricism that made her a star, Ashnikko gets vulnerable over the sounds of a strumming acoustic guitar as she confesses that rising to fame hasn't fixed any of her struggles with mental health. With honesty -- and, of course, the occasional witticisms that fans have come to love -- Ashnikko paints a crystal-clear portrait of a young artist still struggling to come to terms with her new reality: "Panic attacks in paradise/ Hyperventilating under candy skies," she sings, her voice echoing over the streamlined production. "Telling myself that this is fine/ I'm having the best time of my life."
Brandi Carlile, In These Silent Days
Many albums written in the isolation of a global pandemic have been insightful as well as somewhat sad. For Brandi Carlile, In These Silent Days is certainly wise (as all of her work tends to be), but it's hardly ever downbeat. The 10 tracks of the album take on some difficult topics, ranging from letters to her younger self about the difficulties she'll face ("Letter to the Past") to an exploration of her growth from those difficulties ("Broken Horses"). But throughout this project, the emotion that Carlile projects is unbridled, unfettered joy in the face of hard times — and it's the exact boost of positivity that will make you want to listen again and again.
Elton John & Stevie Wonder, "Finish Line"
Despite being two of the biggest pop music stars of the last half-century, Elton John and Stevie Wonder had never properly collaborated until this week. On "Finish Line," the pair come together for a beautiful soul single, singing about overcoming hard times with the help of a friend. Wonder offers his trademark piano and harmonica stylings while also lending his vocals to John's: "I've been down the darkest alleys/ Been to the bottom where the angels cry," the two sing on the chorus. "Thought it had all been, all for nothin'/ Until I saw you at the finish line."
Years & Years, "Crave"
If you (for some reason) hadn't already been hearing Years & Years playing at your local LGBTQ club, get ready for that to change. "Crave," the newest single from Olly Alexander's solo project, pulses with a French house-style beat and shimmering synths as he turns the sex appeal all the way up to 11. Crooning over a hypnotic melody, Alexander leans into a submissive role and revels in his own obedience. "The only thing I crave is the pain from you," he wails in the song's chorus. "I'll do anything to stay if you want me to."
Jake Wesley Rogers, Pluto
Since he rose to prominence earlier this year, Jake Wesley Rogers has made a habit of singing about his complicated relationship with love. Naturally, his new EP Pluto puts a period on the sentence he's been writing, as he takes six songs to examine not only himself but the nature of love itself. Whether he's empathizing with his haters ("Pluto") or wondering why loving someone else so much is hurting him ("Middle of Love"), Rogers populates the excellent new project with expert-level songwriting, gorgeous production and astounding vocals, to the point where he'll have you interrogating your own relationship with love after 20 minutes.
Remi Wolf, "Anthony Kiedis"
"I fit my family dynamics/ Like a Red Hot Chili Pepper," Remi Wolf sings at the outset of her funky new single. "I love my family intrinsically/ Like Anthony Kiedis." As per usual, Wolf brings the party — however unhinged it may be — to her music, with the song's echoing guitars and fluid bass line transforming "Anthony Kiedis" into a certified bop just seconds in. The self-harmonizing vocals pair perfectly with the lo-fi style she embraces on the lighthearted track, as she talks about pretty much whatever is on her mind — the pandemic, derealization, exercise, and yes, the RHCP's lead vocalist.