The gift of music is always the best and I was recently gifted a vinyl remastered copy of Sign ‘O’ The Times by Prince. And it is the best.
Originally released on March 30, 1987, the re-release on September 25, 2020, was a much-anticipated balm for this year of canceled live tours and shows. The songs on Sign ‘O’ The Times sound as fresh as they felt to audiences 30 years ago. Prince created a tour de force with wide-ranging genres, rock-solid vocals, and lyrics that stand the test of time.
Although “Sign ‘O’ The Times” and “U Got The Look” were the two singles off the album that got the most attention, there are so many more choices that will become favorites on your playlists. “Play In The Sunshine” and “Housequake” are back-to-back songs designed to get you moving. “If I Were Your Girlfriend” also never disappoints.
I have discovered my own new favorites – “Starfish and Coffee” is one of those. Written by Prince with Susannah Melvoin, it sparkles with fun lyrics and bright beats. It’s catchy and surprising. Additionally, Prince performed it with The Muppets in 2016, which makes it that much better!
I have played Side B of Album number Two three times now while I write and I see a fourth play in my future. “The Cross”, “It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night” and “Adore” are the three songs on this side. They are completely different from each other, but each one is brilliant.
Sign ‘O’ The Times is becoming one of my favorite albums in my collection. Although I was aware of, and heard, all of these songs over the years, I had never purchased the album to listen to in its entirety . Now that I have it, I will make up for lost time.
Hannah Grace has been praised by music legends like Lady Gaga, and you only have to press play on her new album, Remedy, to understand why. From top to bottom, this album is the story of finding and losing love, and in the end, becoming sure of yourself. Tracks like “Feels Like Home” and “Different Kind of Love” are the optimistic phase of falling in love. Both songs reflect on the past with the hope to move forward in what could be a safe and loving relationship. Grace does little to shy away from the more heartbreaking parts about falling in love, however. “Missing the Show” details the struggle of saying goodbye to a lover but recognizing that the back and forth has proven to be unsuccessful and therefore, it is time to move on. The more celebratory pieces like “Blue”, “How True Is Your Love”, and the darker layered “Live Like Love” represent the freedom and openness that we all long for in our lives.
With the help of radiant choirs, powerhouse vocals, and dance breaks when needed, Grace’s Remedy covers important ground when it comes to falling in and out of love. Not only does she give insights on how to love, but she also gives us an idea on how to heal.
Alt-pop artist Kat Saul’s newest EP, Made in the 90s, has been released, and is the perfect way to celebrate being human. “Alright”, a track about how hard it is to get somebody off your mind when you’re into them, starts off the celebration with an intro that sounds like it comes from a basement rock concert. “X2” is a catchy hit-worthy bop about moving on, or actually being tired of trying to move on. In all honesty, this should be in regular rotation at all Top 40 stations. Saul slows it down a bit with “Monsters”, where the celebrations are toned down in a search for inner peace and serenity. Not to worry, “I Love To Hate You” speeds everything back up with a sobering story of mutual frustration at the end of a relationship. Appropriately, the last song celebrates that person that is always by your side at the end of the day. This is the feeling of floating on “Cloud 9”.
Made in the 90s may have actually been made in 2020 or shortly before, but the music lives up to the name. A perfect blend of 90s rock and modern pop, Saul proves that you don’t have to escape older sounds to create new ones. She explains of the EP: “It’s me reflecting on who I am and what I’ve been through as I transition into adult life so that I can process how the past has made me who I am…because that’s what art is right?”
Solo Chilean artist Dadalú has a lot to say and uncover through her new album El mapa de los días. While her tracks dive into themes like women’s issues and neoliberalism within Chile, her creative process for making music amplifies the commitment and passion Dadalú has for her craft. Born and raised in Santiago, Daniela Saldías has been making music since she was 15 years old. A member of other musical groups like the female duo, Chica Kingkong and rap collective, Colectivo Etéreo, Daniela shows no boundaries for creativity or curiosity in her repertoire.
The album blends alternative hip hop and indie pop with quirky Casiotone, defying genre definitions and spotlighting the incredible talents of this latinx artist. It opens with a melancholic guitar on “En el campo”, a track that speaks about the nature of the Chilean countryside. Singing about her love of the native trees and mixed landscapes, Dadalú also explains the grounding effect of nature, and how the modern social media landscapes people usually trap themselves should never be more important. Track two “Por qué hay que ser sexi?” pairs a groovy beat with a lyrical anthem exploring the music industry’s tactics of selling female artist’s music through seduction. In “Monopolio” she tells of the money driven ideals of Chile, and how money segregates most independent artists from being successful. This theme is continued in the last track “Aquí”, which speaks out for the artists who are on their bedroom floors creating important art that doesn’t have the platform it deserves.
The eclectic sound and feel throughout this album is emphasized through Dadalú’s creative processes. Her instagram account showcases her new adopted COVID hobby – creating animations that depict mini song ideas to explore for a new record. Imperfect Fifth asked Dadalú to tell us about her process for El mapa de los días. She tells us:
“In 2018 I won a musical residency in Paris called The Gonservatory through musician/pianist/entertainer Chilly Gonzales, and that experience helped me a lot. I discovered other ways of composing through discipline and believing in my initial ideas. Eventually I mixed these learnings with a song a day idea from my boyfriend, musician Oso el Roto. I started composing one song per day with some set rules – no more than three hours to record a whole song, and I must trust and finish my first idea no matter what. I ended up making thirty songs and fell in love with that experience. I fell in love with discipline – it felt so nice and so surprising to discover what was inside of my head. El mapa de los días is a reflection about the calendar. It’s a curation of my songwriting exercises, rap and hip hop influences with my friend Martín Pérez Roa who helped record, and some embedded skits within the songs to talk about the lockdown and pandemic feelings”.
Fans and new listeners can stream El mapa de los días on Spotify. Check out the music video for “Tú crees que es normal?”, made by Juegos Artificiales. The limited edition cassette and digital download is also available for purchase from the LA label Cudighi Records bandcamp page.
From Kansas City comes pop-punk outfit The Way Way Back, and from them comes their album, Baggage or You’re Never Going to Leave it All Behind. This is a monumental expression of pain and bravery packed into seven tracks. “Baggage” may come without lyrics, but acts as a brilliant introduction to the saga. Opening with a shuffling of people in a crowded place before venturing into just the right punk melody at just the right time, the track welcomes you to the beautiful chaos. This transitions directly into the second track, “I Am Not Afraid to Walk This World Alone”, a heavy rocker dedicated to a former flame, perhaps from a place of discontent or even anger. The more stripped back “Kintsugi” has the acoustic guitar to thank for the perfect runaway song, which happens to be the subject of this ballad. The band keeps it relatively slow for “Bad Star”, the story of someone who is down in their luck and unable to get out of a dark place. The final track is “Waste Away”, which one could consider the optimistic song of the album. This is where we are asked what we’ll do with ourselves as life moves so fast. Perhaps, we don’t have an answer.
The Way Way Back may have included many elements of pain with this release, but what stands out more is the overwhelming elements of wonder and hope that are buried within each song.
Nomadic Firs was hard at work on another project when he decided to change course with the onset of the pandemic. That new project became his album, Memory Weeks, a glimpse of hope amongst all the hopelessness. “Captain Hammock” starts out with a simple guitar and lyrics about longing for something better. About halfway through, the guitar fades away as a sort of electronic interlude takes its place, perhaps as a transition to this better place. Moving on to “William”, we hear less melody and more of a narrative about seeking security and safety in turbulent times. It has sentiments of thankfulness for the ability to take a pause from life and just breathe, a departure from the previous track.
The electrifying “Planes in the Dark” sets a new tone for the album, offering listeners a chance to question their own perceptions. The seemingly endless synthesizers effectively suck you right into the world of the song. As the record carries on, the tones shift, including with “Ok Sleep In”, which brings you to a dreamland, perhaps one you would find when getting that needed extra rest. The final track, “DJ Preesh”, is a far contrast from the earlier tracks. Bringing the album and all of its pieces full circle, it takes us to the “something better” that we were longing for in the opener. Now, we are set free.