It’s officially spring! FINALLY. I don’t mind a bit of snow and cold, but by the end of March I’m more than ready to thaw a little bit. With Spring comes the promise of new flowers and natural beauty, sweatshirts instead of bulky coats, and a more temperate wait in line to get into the venue for a show. With the days longer and the temperature warmer, it also leads to the mood for music that’s brighter than our winter fare. Take 5 doesn’t particularly have a theme from week to week, but this week I tried to throw in some music that fit the bill for “bright,” either lyrically or sonically.

A quick programming note as well: with the holiday, my mom’s birthday (Happy early birthday, Mom!) and a few days away on the schedule for me this week, there will be no Take 5 next week. Don’t worry though, I’ll be right back on track starting April 9.

Jesse McCartney – Better With You

I always love seeing how artists evolve over the years. It’s fascinating to me to trace the influences of their early work and seeing it morph and grow over the years. It’s not hard to find the roots of Jesse McCartney’s pop heydays in the mid-2000s in new single “Better With You.” The musical hook in the chorus is as pop as it gets, and McCartney can still belt out an emotional bridge. It’s not the mid-2000s, though, and you can tell through some of the more subtle arrangements in “Better With You” how much McCartney has grown as a songwriter. McCartney’s been in the game for almost 20 years now, and he has the knowledge and musical chops to prove it.

Flatbush Zombies – U&I

If their first two singles are any indication, Flatbush Zombies are about to release one of the best albums of 2018 with Vacation In Hell. “U&I” has a great R&B sample and wonderfully laid-back hook, but as I said when the song first dropped, Meechy Darko is the star of the song. There’s an honesty and earnestness in his story about his struggles that makes this song shine. Darko lets us into his innermost sanctum, talking about his parents’ separation, having suicidal thoughts as early as five years old, and finally finding support through Erick Arc Elliott and Zombie Juice as part of the group. It’s some dark subject matter, but knowing that Darko came out the other side and is willing to talk about it in a real and engaging way is incredible.

Kississippi – Easier To Love

Are you ready for Kississippi to take over music and then take over the country and then take over the universe? I am, too. Good thing that day is coming very soon. “Easier to Love,” may be warm and full of synths and sounds like a warm blanket feels, but there’s some hard-hitting lyricism underneath it all. I think we’ve all felt pressure, either from someone else or from ourselves, to change ourselves in order to fit in or to make others happy. That feeling sucks a ton, and Zoe Reynolds perfectly captures that specific brand of hopeless hurt and resignation. It’s a tear-jerker of a song, and it sounds warm and cozy enough to comfort at the same time.

Shawn Mendes – In My Blood

Life is super hard, a fact you probably don’t need a reminder to remember. A better reminder to receive is that you are more than capable of kicking life’s butt and living your best life. If you want that reminder in musical form, you’re in luck this week. Shawn Mendes‘ new single “In My Blood” is a stirring release from the young artist, an anthem for persevering through hardship. “Sometimes I feel like giving up, But I just can’t/It isn’t in my blood” he sings on the chorus, and the strength of his determination is immediately evident. On the whole “In My Blood” is a quiet, introspective track, which makes the climactic delivery of the final chorus even more affecting.

Marian Hill – Differently

Here’s the part where we ditch the “bright” directive. There are a lot of things I love about Marian Hill. I love Jeremy Lloyd’s pointed, minimal, and looming production work. I love literally everything about vocalist Samantha Gongol. She’s a great singer, has a swaggering confidence in her delivery, and she’s made of titanium: self-assured, strong, and unbreakable. As shown on new single “Differently,” Gongol can also obliterate someone from the face of the Earth if they draw her ire. The casual ruthlessness with which she annihilates a scummy ex is extraordinary. “Tell me, are you missing me? Do you wish that we ended differently?” she sings, and she makes it abundantly clear over the gritty synths and bass that she has no regrets. Gongol is the kind of person I would love to have a friend, and based on “Differently” if you ever cross her you should just lie down on the ground and wait for the end. There’s no hope left for you.


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