Happy May! We’re getting deeper and deeper into the year and the good music keeps stacking up. The first Take 5 of May also means this is the first Take 5 since my birthday. Getting older does provide some perspective, especially when it comes to working in writing. I know how fortunate I am to have all of you as an audience, especially considering how young I still am (26, if you’d like to know). I’m thankful every single day that people want to read my writing, and I’m especially thankful for everyone who comes back week after week to read this column. It’s truly a joy to write for all of you. With the sentimental stuff out of the way, lets get to the music.

Judah & the Lion, Jon Bellion – Passion Fashion

We all have our cynical moments. It happens. But living your entire life like nothing affects you is not the way to do things. Showing emotion and how much you care is what makes life fun. Take it from Judah & the Lion and Jon Bellion on “Passion Fashion.” Taken from Judah & the Lion’s new album Pep Talks, “Passion Fashion” is indeed an uplifting and upbeat track. Heavily modified vocals and bright, poppy sound combine with the band’s usual acoustic sound to create a song that sounds as happy as its message feels. That message is to fully embrace yourself and let your passions free in order to pursue what makes you the most fulfilled you can be. The track is earnest without being corny, fueled entirely by the sincerity with which Bellion and Judah Akers deliver the lyrics. It’s okay to get excited by things, and I’m personally excited about “Passion Fashion.”

Joy Williams – Hotel St. Cecelia

If you want to listen to some good folk music, you listen to Joy Williams. She’s been in top songwriting form for two decades at this point, and her latest album Front Porch is yet another great entry into her stellar catalogue. There are a lot of great tracks to choose from on the album, but I love the simplicity of “Hotel St. Cecelia.” This is simply the magnetism of Williams at work. The guitar is plucked gently, the entreaties to meet at the hotel to re-spark love are delivered with the utmost softness, and there’s a deep care and attention to craft throughout the track. Williams is flawless in her performance, but the casual heartfelt nature of her sound makes it feel like the music is being conceived as you listen to it. “Hotel St. Cecelia” is everything listeners love about Joy Williams, all wrapped into one song.

Brolly – Ghost Town (Alternate Version)

Brolly’s new mixtape Shadow and Light is a case study in duality. From the title of the project down to every detail in the tracks, he explores how two sides of something can come together into something far less clear. “Ghost Town” resides in the middle of the five-track EP and represents this idea the best on the project. The music combines piano with very deliberate and slow claps to create a march into the unknown. Brolly takes his time in the lyrics exploring the connections between the physical and emotional worlds, how they intersect, and how they veer apart. The song seems to stretch out into nothingness, inhabiting the lonely spaces in the “Ghost Town” where there aren’t any clear answers for the questions we have about life. Shadow and Light is set up smartly and constructed thoughtfully, and “Ghost Town” is its best track.

Ari Lennox – Up Late

I’m writing this column pretty late at night, which makes this track especially relevant. Ari Lennox brings the passion and the tenderness in equal measure on “Up Late,” her latest release. This is the smoothest R&B you could ever ask for, as Lennox describes what she hopes happens in the late hours of the night (“We can fake watch the news/If you like it” is an extraordinary lyric). The writing here is smart and playful, as enticing as it is easy to listen to. The instrumental is low and smooth, the horns and minimal percussion setting the scene in which she can showcase her vocal talents. From the higher thrills of the chorus to the lower register intonations of the bridge, Lennox nails every single note. If you need some music for your next late night, “Up Late” is your jam.

BANKS – Gimme

It’s been a minute since we last heard from BANKS. This could only mean one thing, as fans of her previous music know: she would not be fucking around upon on her return. Low and behold, her new single “Gimme” lands with the force of a sledgehammer to the chest. The staccato delivery of the lyrics, the growling delivery of “you can call me that bitch,” the explosions of electronic influence, all of it combines into a fearsome and thrilling listen. I like her softer songs too, but BANKS clearing everyone out and powering a track through massive power of will and ironclad confidence will always be my favorite version of BANKS. “Gimme” is all of that and more, which makes her return especially exciting.

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