The Mic Recommends...

Emerging back out from under the exams/assessment rock of the past few weeks, The Mic Recommends returns just in time for the summer! While the British sunshine seems, as always, to be unreliable, the team at The Mic have, as always, delved into the world of releases to round up the biggest and best new tunes from the past two weeks; including DaBaby’s newfound woodwind affinity, the solo endeavors of pop punk darling Luke Hemmings, and a re-imagining of Black Country, New Road in collaboration with Ethan P. Flynn.

again&again – Against the Current ft. guardin

Against The Current have released a new single titled again&again, featuring guardin, alongside the announcement of an upcoming seven-track EP fever – set to be released on July 23rd. The lyrics of again&again address the fact that mental health issues are equally as important as physical health problems, with vocalist Chrissy Costanza personifying her mental health struggles as “ghosts” and “monsters.” guardin contributes to the bridge of the track, speaking of similar themes through lyrics such as “Internal dialogue / Voice of the enemy.” Despite ‘cloudrap’ rapper/producer guardin and pop-rock outfit Against The Current being from completely different genres, the band have collaborated with similar artists in the past – take Costanza’s recent appearance on LiL Lotus’ latest single Romantic Disaster, for example. On again&again, collaboration with an emo-rap artist works successfully once again, with guardin showing off his singing vocals to fit the song perfectly. The singles from the EP so far show the band returning to their rock roots, suggesting that fever is a return to form for one of the most promising female-fronted rock bands of the past decade. Gemma Cockrell

Red Light Green Light – DaBaby

Quickly rising to fame from the relatively unassuming town of Charlotte, North Carolina with the infectious Rockstar, in collaboration with Roddy Rich, DaBaby has become one of the hottest American rappers at the moment, holding his own against other huge names, such as Dua Lipa, Polo G, Post Malone and Jack Harlow, with standout features. Although not known as being one to shy away from the spotlight, and even becoming something of an internet meme for not quite anything in particular, his latest single certainly serves as talking point in itself. Teaming up again with D.A Got That Dope on production, DaBaby lays down his bars over a looped beat featuring a flute, accompanied by snares – in what could possibly be described as borrowing from the Spongebob Squarepants opening, mildly reminiscent of a Medieval English tavern, a hint of the Angry Birds theme tune, or a similar feeling to the music of Legoland Windsor's Knight’s Kingdom. The track is accompanied by an equally playful music video, with a heavy 90s influence reflected in DaBaby's quintessential white t shirt emblazoned with ‘Boyz N Da Hood’, and his Oakland Raiders cap, drawing comparisons to the likes of Missy Elliot and Eminem - other rappers who reveled unabashedly in putting a comedic spin on the art of rap, often known for its seriousness and grit. Louise Dugan

How Beautiful Life Can Be – The Lathums

The Lathums’ new track How Beautiful Life Can Be continues the uplifting and optimistic acoustic guitar pop sound of their previous single Oh My Love. It is their first release since their live album from May’s Sefton Park pilot event, when they joined Zuzu and Blossoms in front of a 5000-person crowd in Liverpool to aid the government’s research into the return of live music in light of the pandemic. Lyrically, the new release encourages appreciation of the mundane. Vocalist Alex Moore explained that he used the track to highlight the things “that matter most.” It was written in the middle of the pandemic, with Moore managing to miraculously find beauty and hope amidst the darkness. Much like The Lathums previous releases, How Beautiful Life Can Be has a timeless appeal to it. It sees the Wigan band gearing up to their highly anticipated debut album, which does not yet have a title or release date. Gemma Cockrell

The Nearer The Fountain, The More The Stream Flows – Damon Albarn

A little further removed from the anthemic Brit-pop of Blur and the digital disruption of Gorillaz, indie-pop heavyweight Damon Albarn has released a new single from his recently announced solo album. Originally 'intended as an orchestral piece inspired by the landscapes of Iceland', the track weaves a delicate path, sparsely decorated with drifting synthesizer, ethereal piano notes, and, most importantly, Albarn's vocals: exploring the themes of ‘fragility, loss, emergence and rebirth’, which will serve as the central focus to the forthcoming album. There is little change in pace over the 5 minutes – neither the instruments nor vocals swell to a harmony, nor does one fade out to leave the other isolated, creating a panoramic magnificence in The Nearer The Fountain which captivates throughout. With the title drawn from the poem ‘Love and Memory’ by John Clare, there already seems little room for doubt that Albarn really is one of the most capable artists around. Louise Dugan

Television Show (Live) - Black Country, New Road, Ethan P. Flynn

Although experimental songwriter Ethan P. Flynn and post-rock septet Black Country, New Road have collaborated before, this version of Flynn’s Television Show (Live) is their first official release together. Ethan’s vocal style is somewhat similar to Black Country’s own Isaac Wood, so fans of the band will undoubtedly find his vulnerable delivery and cynical poetry a natural fit. However, the group chose to work on this particular track because of its potential to become something completely different to the original. 2016’s Television Show is a rare combination of electronic dance and miserable balladry, but this version instead takes on a lot of Black Country’s raw, dissonant sound. Synths, samples and percussion loops are substituted for live recorded drums, guitars and brass, and the transformation is spectacular. In the opening verses and choruses, Flynn’s beautiful, painful melody comes under attack from swelling trumpets and filthy, fuzzy guitars. The instrumentation slowly becomes more and more cacophonous, eventually reaching an ugly, hulking climax to accompany the hopeless mantra of “for my next trick” again and again. Having helped to produce yet another deeply emotive track, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that everything Black Country, New Road touches turns to gold. Elliot Fox

Pretender - The Maine

Pretender is the fourth teaser track for The Maine’s forthcoming album XOXO: From Love And Anxiety In Real Time, which will be released on 9th July. Lyrically, the track is about being unashamed of your true identity around others. It speaks of the desire for a significant other to feel entirely comfortable around you, communicated through the chorus “Show me the real you / Misunderstood can feel so good / You don’t have to hide yourself / Pretender, pretender,” before acknowledging that we are all guilty of playing roles and lying to ourselves. The track has an interesting and unpredictable instrumental, with sudden surges of aggressive drumming throughout the verses, until the drums disappear entirely in the pre-chorus and return for the anthemic and catchy chorus. Pretender adds to the strong sequence of singles that The Maine have released from XOXO, and it will only serve to further heighten fan’s anticipation of the album. Gemma Cockrell

LOST YOU - Snoh Aalegra

Returning with the first official release from the success of her sophomore effort Ugh Those Feels Again, Snoh Aalegra's LOST YOU is mesmerizing, pulsing with drum kicks and a dreamy bass line, spaced out in a dreamy blend of hip hop and R&B to compliment the easy glow of the Iranian/Swedish singer's vocals. She candidly explores the heartbreak and confusion of watching her lover, the person she thought she knew better than anyone else, become someone she no longer recognizes, “Didn't know that love could change ya / Then I woke up to a stranger” and wrestling with the love that still exists for them: “Although I've lost you / I'll always want you.” Due to arrive on July 9th, upcoming album, Temporary Highs In The Violet Skies' track list has been released in anticipation. Set to feature Tyler, The Creator on two tracks, and crediting James Fontleroy on a further track, it seems set to continue the critical acclaim received so far. Louise Dugan

Choose a Life - Wings of Desire

Wings of Desire have released a new single titled Choose A Life, alongside the announcement that they will be releasing their EP Amun-Ra on August 13th. Their previous single Better Late Than Never will also appear on the EP, along with the two currently unreleased tracks OUTTAMAMIND and Forgive & Forget. Lyrically, the song explores the ways that society expects us to live our lives. It motivates the listener to ignore these expectations and, instead, choose their own path. This is communicated through the chanted chorus “Choose your life / Get a job / Find a wife / Fuck it all.” It encourages the listener to seek joy in the mundane, and to enjoy the little things in life. This positive message is reflected in the feel-good, hazy, dream-pop instrumental of the track. Gemma Cockrell

I Believed It – dvsn & Ty Dollar $ign ft. Mac Miller

Posthumous releases are always delicate to navigate, but 2020’s Circles managed to capture the essence of Mac Miller's unique style. I Believed It serves as the first release featuring the Pittsburg rapper since, and, again, verse three is quintessential Miller: introspective yet playful lyricism, laid back delivery and melodic style. Swirling the sweet and sunny soul funk sample of The Continental IV’s (You’re Living) In A Dream World through an injection of modernity with rolling 808 beats, the track is a bittersweet one, both in lyrical content, as it explores the regret of believing a relationship built on lies and the painful realization that it was too good to be true, and in the reminder of Mac Miller’s art, but the heavy reality that we shouldn’t have to be remembering him, as he should still be here today. dvsn, made up of singer Daniel Daley and producer Nineteen85, and Ty Dollar $ign are set to team up on the release of a full-length collaboration landing ‘sooner than you think,’ with the track serving as its lead single. Louise Dugan

Hole In Yr Soul – Lovelorn

After the dissolution of previous project, Creepoid, husband and wife duo Patrick and Anna Troxell wade through its grungy shoegaze remains to arrive at what they have termed ‘drug-pop’ on new project Lovelorn. The track follows the comfort in chaos of noise pop, laced with electropop yearnings and a hazy heart of dissonance, released in anticipation of upcoming album What’s Yr Damage, out in August via 6131 Records. Opening with a twinkling and an almost hard rock sensibility, Hole in Yr Soul gives way to slurring, slouching vocals, which drag across fuzzed, angular guitars and darkened synth, slashed through with pulsing drumbeats. The juxtaposition between the duo’s rough, rasping tones and lighter, airy delivery, both repeating the droning hook ‘hole in yr soul’ deepen the texture of the track, lending a glimmer of light against the dark. Louise Dugan

Zodiac – Ydegirl

Copenhagen-based musician Andrea Novel, better known as Ydegirl, has released her latest single Zodiac. It follows her previous single breezing back and forth between, which was released back in May. The new track is a unique and genre-bending mixture of pop, R&B, and strings. She blends classical instruments such as clarinet, guitar and violin with a modern R&B pop sound, characterised by synths and electronic drum beats. The instrumental is often sparse, with brief moments of silence. This ensures that it does not overpower Ydegirl’s compelling and captivating voice, which is the main focus of the track. Zodiac tackles lyrical topics of dualism, coming to terms with emotions, and settling into the embrace of being “A woman, not a mono-thought.” This is communicated through lyrics such as “often I’m full of joy but I feel like crying” and “often I’m blue and I’m smiling,” which explore the dichotomy of emotions that are experienced simultaneously throughout life.

Starting Line – Luke Hemmings

Following in the footsteps of his 5 Seconds Of Summer bandmate Ashton Irwin’s solo album Superbloom last year, Luke Hemmings has released his first solo single Starting Line. The song is a pop-rock ballad, which will appear on his solo debut album When Facing the Things We Turn Away From, set to be released on 13th August. The song discusses the feelings of numbness that Hemmings has experienced since 5SOS rose to fame in the early 2010s. Hemmings has not felt entirely present during this time (“I wake up every morning with the years ticking by”) due to the fast-paced nature of the lifestyle he has been living. Much like Irwin, Hemmings described his album as “a project that grew out of a year of enforced stillness.” However, both bandmates have emphasized that their solo careers do not mean that 5SOS is coming to an end. Instead, they will balance their solo careers alongside their commitment to the band. Gemma Cockrell

BDE – Shygirl ft Slowthai

The swaggering, thumping bassline and fiercely sex-positive lyrics of South London rapper/DJ Shygirl’s latest release BDE suggests that Blane Muse is perhaps not as shy as her stage name would suggest, if you hadn’t figured that out yet since her rise to the forefront with 2020’s ALIAS EP. The glitched out electronic beats and frenetic pitched up vocals betray her association with ‘hyper-pop’ artists including the late SOPHIE, but despite genre boxes, Shygirl is clearly a force of disruption, disassembling the power balances of sex as a concept in today’s society. Northampton rapper Slowthai is the perfect accompanying feature, known for his uncompromising boldness and undeniable immediacy – together, the duo create a very fitting sonic Urban Dictionary definition for BDE (Big Dick Energy). Louise Dugan

Featured image courtesy of The Lathums via Facebook.