space fish’s “ringtone” is impressive for a band still finding themselves

space fish’s “ringtone” is impressive for a band still finding themselves

Part of the fun of having a job like this is being able to write about tiny local bands you know personally or might have a friend or two in. It gives you the opportunity to give their work some exposure and you also get to count it as part of your hours. This brings me to Newport News’ own indie rock band Space Fish (or “Spish” for short), who recently released their new single “Ringtone”, which came out just this April. 

The band comprises Alex Arena (lead guitarist/vocalist), Joey Bartoo (rhythm guitar), Kemari Effiong (keyboards, backup vocalist), Lauren Tudahl (bass), and Matthew Conner (drums), each of whom met while studying at Christopher Newport University. They have been releasing music since 2020, with “Ringtone” being their third single after 2020’s “It’s Never the Same” and 2021’s “The Warm Up Legend”.

In a way, “Ringtone” is a new beginning for the band as it’s the first single with its current lineup. With two years between this single and the previous one, there are immediate signs of improvement. The lead vocals are stronger and more confident, the already strong guitar work is even better, and it just has a fuller sound overall with clearer bass and drum fills. Space Fish’s sound was already built out of folk and indie rock, and here it’s a perfect blend as a focus on driving guitars and drums doesn’t overpower the emotions and confessional storytelling present in the lyrics.

It’s a good song, especially for a young band still finding their voice. As of now, the band is working on a new single and eventually plan to release an EP containing “Ringtone” and other new tracks.

“heaven” by culture wars: a raw and intimate musical embrace

“heaven” by culture wars: a raw and intimate musical embrace

With their latest single, “Heaven,” Austin-based trio Culture Wars plunges listeners into the dizzying rapture of all-consuming love. Blending raw energy with heartfelt intimacy, the track’s smooth guitars, propulsive basslines, and pulsing rhythms mirror love’s intoxicating rush.

“All I have is your love,” frontman Alex Dugan chants over a hypnotic bassline, his voice—reminiscent of Julian Casablancas and Matt Berninger—carrying both desperation and reverence. This refrain becomes the song’s heartbeat, a mantra born from Dugan’s real-life period of isolation while living abroad, where these words took on literal significance.

Lyrically, “Heaven” reads like fevered journal entries, snapshots of a heart so full it might burst. “Fill my head up / Cold and broken down (I need it now) / Heat my heart and / Heat my heartache out,” Dugan pleads, framing love not just as desire, but as a salve for deep wounds. It’s a sentiment that hits even harder when contrasted with the band’s earlier, more detached writing. Here, vulnerability isn’t just on display—it’s a force of nature.

The beauty of “Heaven” lies in its ability to immerse you in the feeling of being utterly consumed by love. The outside world fades away, replaced by a swirling vortex of you and your person. Verses simmer with restrained longing before exploding into choruses that swell with tidal waves of affection. Dynamic shifts aren’t just heard; they’re felt, carrying the listener through love’s peaks and valleys. A bridge near the song’s end strips things back to little more than voice and heartbeat-like percussion—a musical inhale before the final, cathartic release.

While “Heaven” explores well-worn thematic territory, Culture Wars avoids cliché by grounding universal feelings in vivid specificity. The result is at once highly personal and widely resonant. It’s a track that feels vitally current in an era of digital disconnection as the band reminds us how earth-shattering human connection can be.

Don’t just listen to “Heaven.” Let it envelop you. Let Alex Dugan’s lovesick pleas unlock your own memories of consuming passion. Let the pulsing instrumentals sweep you off your feet until you, too, are standing in that transcendent place where love is all that exists. Then, once you’ve caught your breath, join the growing chorus of voices eager to see where Culture Wars heads next. Because if “Heaven” is any indication, this ascent is just beginning!

arto vaun’s “build my own fever” is the perspective we need

arto vaun’s “build my own fever” is the perspective we need

Today, Boston-bred singer/songwriter Arto Vaun releases the third single from his upcoming July debut release Stuck Inside a Map. If the singles so far are any indication, Vaun’s solo project is bound to take flight, on the wings of self-awareness and a proclivity for word magic.

“Build My Own Fever” is a mid-tempo track, incorporating Vaun’s dreamy vocals over shimmery guitar. Explains Vaun, “I wrote ‘Build My Own Fever’ partly as a response to feeling overwhelmed by all the uncertainty in the world lately, and the sensory overload we’re all dealing with. It’s about trying to stay grounded even when things feel untethered and chaotic, and finding perspective to see the universality and connectedness between and around us all”.

If you can relate, you’ll want to get a listen to this relatable – and, honestly, beautiful – track below.

embracing punk’s raw energy with the lookout’s “i know the future”

embracing punk’s raw energy with the lookout’s “i know the future”

Get ready to be blown away by The Lookout’s latest single, “I Know the Future,” an exhilarating ride through the heart of Montreal’s punk scene. Masterfully channeling decades of punk influence, “I Know the Future” is a track set to ignite your senses and keep you hooked from the very first chord riff. 

Led by powerhouse frontwoman Martha ‘Rockhard’ Rodriguez, whose vocals embrace the raw, gritty spirit of Joan Jett, The Lookout brings a fresh, yet familiar energy to the punk genre. “I Know the Future” features fast-paced, energetic guitar riffs and driving rhythms that embody the essence of classic punk while infusing a modern, urban edge unique to Montreal’s vibrant music scene. 

The song cleverly disguises its heavier themes with a fast-paced, energetic sound, making the emotional gut punch of its message all the more surprising. At first listen, the song is a thrilling and fun anthem that makes you want to move and shout along. But as the infectious energy pulls you in, the deeper meaning of the lyrics begins to resonate. 

“I Know the Future” captures the frustration of knowing the outcome of one’s actions yet feeling compelled to repeat them, a theme that most of us can relate to. The line “It’s all so simple” highlights the paradox of life’s complexities; just “Try, try, and try again.” But the relentless pursuit produces only the same, known, less than desirable outcome, making this track not just a musical experience, but an emotional journey. 

The Lookout’s connection to Montreal’s diverse punk community shines through in their authentic sound and poignant storytelling. Whether you’re a longtime punk aficionado or new to the scene, “I Know the Future” offers something for everyone: high-energy music, compelling vocals, and lyrics that linger long after the last note fades.

amber riley’s cover of “macarthur park” by donna summer honors the queer roots of disco

amber riley’s cover of “macarthur park” by donna summer honors the queer roots of disco

It’s the start of pride month, and there’s only one form of music most synonymous with the queer experience: disco! The genre’s resurgence in popularity has only been growing in recent years, likely helped by pride’s more mainstream acceptance (well, by form of rainbow capitalism or not) and the fact that so many of those original disco hits are just that good.

When making dance music inspired by the golden ages of disco and house music, it’s important to acknowledge the genre’s origins to show you’re respectful of its history and creators. This is something Amber Riley and Micah McLaurin hit the mark perfectly on in their new cover of “MacArthur Park”, originally by disco goddess Donna Summer in 1978.

…well, okay, technically not originally. It was first performed in a more baroque style by Richard Harris and written by Jimmy Webb in 1968, then covered by Summer ten years later on her Live and More album.

Their version is obviously indebted to Summer’s cover by its disco flavorings, but it also captures the melodrama of Harris’ original by way of the theatricality of Riley’s voice. If you don’t know, Amber Riley (of Glee and several screen/stage musical productions, including Dreamgirls) is a monstrously talented performer, and I went into the single expecting a quality performance. Yet she goes full broadway on the track and sings her heart out, creating a dramatic buildup to when the song transitions from a modest but soulful rendition of heartbreak into a breathtaking blast of disco excess.

If the opening captures the icy cabaret of Harris’ original, the rest of the song recreates the loose and free-spirited energy that the best of Donna Summer’s singles had. Micah McLaurin’s mixture of dance-pop and orchestral music (by way of members of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) is the perfect complement to Riley’s vocals. McLaurin provides a dreamy piano solo in the second half, and the other musicians provide a sweeping string and horn section and a thumping four-on-the-floor disco beat that never lets up.

It works really well as a great way to kick off pride month, successfully honoring queer history by way of a killer dance party. Amber Riley and Micah McLaurin’s cover is available now, in both a 3-minute radio edit and a 6-minute full version.

big hassle’s new playlist highlights their lgbtq+ artists – and sets the soundtrack for june

big hassle’s new playlist highlights their lgbtq+ artists – and sets the soundtrack for june

It’s already June, and if no one tells you how they can barely believe it in the next few days, then you got away with murder, essentially.

That said, it is June. And with June comes PRIDE. Big Hassle – one of our favorite companies in the otherwise questionable and interestingly chaotic music industry – has curated a playlist featuring some of their most prominent talents. We got our hands on it so that you can get to know the Big Hassle roster… and party down all month long.

imperfect Fifth really is committed to celebrating LGBTQ+ joy and rights every month of the year, and will do what we can to uplift marginalized voices where we can. Please email meredith@imperfectfifth.com if you have any brands or talent you’d like us to highlight, projects to talk about, or something else that can help us support and uplift our community!