Depending on who you are, this week will include extra time for music. There’s college basketball this week, which means many of you will be calling in sick or emailing your professors and staying home on Thursday and Friday in order to enjoy a full day’s worth of watching sports. I have many fond memories of doing the same thing, and I’m envious of all of you who will still be able to do it this year. Our team here will still be bringing you all the features and news you need, and I will do my weekly part by offering you five songs to put on during the commercial breaks. Let’s dive into this week’s Take 5.

Nasty Cherry – Win

I was not exactly sure what I was expecting when I found out Charli XCX had helped form a band. I figured it would be fun because of course it would be, but sonically I was clueless. Gabby Bechtel, Chloe Chaidez, Georgia Somary, and Debbie Knox-Hewson have given my an answer with their first single “Win.” The result is a groovy, guitar-driven blend of rock and pop. Sections of the track sound like they could have come straight out of the mid-90s rock scene with simple but effective guitar progressions and drumming. In other parts, the track turns into a pop ballad with heavy production and echoing vocals. Both of these ideas coexist in harmony on “Win” to create a great listen, and the message of needing to excel and “win” is one the competitive nature in all of us can relate to. Now that I know what Nasty Cherry sounds like, I’m eager to hear more.

The Head and the Heart – Missed Connection

The Head and the Heart have returned, and their new single “Missed Connection” might take some getting used to for some listeners. The track continues to move the band in a direction that finds their folk taking on more pop elements, from a little more production work and melodies that hew closer to things you might hear on the radio. Personally, I’m a fan. The band still has the strong soul and foundation they’ve always had, and the anthemic group harmonies and the flashier musical flourishes work alongside the band’s sound without overpowering it. The rapid delivery and meaningful message of the lyrics when it comes to those moments where things just barely miss clicking are superb. The Head and the Heart may be changing, but they’re making music that’s as strong as ever.

Anderson .Paak – King James

There are large swaths of this world that are cold and cruel. To deny it would be pointless. To combat it takes hard work, but it can also be helped along by optimism. Anderson .Paak brings a bit of both on his jazzy new single “King James.” Paak does not shy away from the woes of the world in “King James.” He addresses the epidemic of police slaying black men, Colin Kaepernick’s exile from the NFL for peacefully protesting by taking a knee, and the pervasive inequality that still exists. Paak is working towards change though, and the warm horns and bright bounce of “King James” encompasses the more hopeful notes. The chorus finds him assuring listeners he’ll help them work towards equality, and the verses find him praising Kaepernick and the titular figure LeBron James, who has used his considerable platform and wealth for social advocacy and charitable endeavors. Things are rough, but “King James” is a joyful ray of hope delivered with the trademark exuberance of Anderson .Paak.

Tilsen – Hurts

It’s hard to believe “Hurts” is Tilsen’s first ever single. The vocal talent and poise she shows on “Hurts” would not be out of place many years into a successful pop career. The sing-song pre-chorus is a masterpiece, and there are so many small moments that make a pop song work. Percussion coming in and dropping out at just the right moment, the light and airy delivery when Tilsen sings the descending scales, and the powerful hit of synths during the last chorus all make for an enticing listen. Tilsen grabbed my attention with “Hurts,” and you’d be smart to follow her career as well.

MISSIO – I See You

Music can do a lot for us, and one of its greatest features is the ability to bring comfort in our darkest moments. MISSIO have nailed it with “I See You,” an incredibly comforting song. Matthew Brue’s lyrics are delivered without any judgement, acknowledging the struggle and the pain the subject of the song is going through. At the same time, he assures them they’re special, needed, and valued. His vocal range is incredible, as he hits all of the high notes without hesitation. Brue and David Butler have struck gold with the production, giving “I See You” the big triumphant moments it deserves while knowing when to pull back and let the seriousness of the subject matter take center stage. It’s a difficult balance to maintain, but MISSIO have found it on “I See You.”

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