Let me take you inside my mind when I’m choosing songs for Take 5. There’s always a balance I’m trying to find. On one side of things, there are big songs from big artists that are both good and absolutely going to be part of the conversation. On the other side of things, there are songs that might not get the initial coverage of the megastars, but are every bit as good. I try to bring a blend of both into the mix. The exact column may tip further one way or the other from week to week, but on the whole I want it to balance out. That’s why, for instance, there are no Jonas Brothers tracks on the list. Happiness Begins is very good, but I’ve included them in the column recently and you obviously know the album is out. You don’t need me to tell you it’s out. Instead, their spot will be taken by a band or artist that doesn’t have that built-in star power. No matter what, I always strive to bring you five incredible tracks every week. Let’s get into it.

Anna Akana – Alone Together

The multi-talented Anna Akana has been up to a little bit of everything in 2019. Most recently, she’s been preparing for the release of her debut album Casualty later this year. The rollout for that continued this week with the release of her new single, “Alone Together,” and you can add music to the list of things Akana can totally crush. With a mix of a melodic guitar riff and cool synths, she creates a captivating instrumental that echos and mirrors the isolation in Akana’s writing. There are a variety of nice touches and nuances to the production, especially in the chorus. The lyrics do a great job of capturing the complexity of wishing a person well after they leave you, but still desperately wanting them back and feeling saddened by their absence. With “Alone Together” as a taste of her talent, rest assured Anna Akana is a great musician alongside her other endeavors.

K.Flay – Sister

K.Flay has always been an artist who has done exactly what she wanted to and has fascinating ideas we should all be listening to. Case in point, I was moved by what she said about new track “Sister” upon its release this week. As an only child I’ve never had a sister, but I have had that strong connection and protectiveness she describes in her quotes and in “Sister” itself. The sweetness of the track shines through brightly, and the music is as fun and thrilling as the lyrics. The beat is light and energetic, and I love the kazoo-like whirs later in the track. The sincerity really sells everything here, especially on the more over-the-top lines like “if somebody hurts you then I’m gonna kill somebody for you.” You know K.Flay means every word of it. That’s the kind of sister you want, and it’s the kind of truth that makes her a special musician.

MUNA – Number One Fan

No one does self-empowerment like MUNA. The trio have made their return with “Number One Fan,” and it’s safe to say they want you to be a fan of yourself, too. The ’80s techno vibes are strong as Katie Gavin details the ways in which society tells us that we won’t be successful or what’s wrong with this. The best way to combat that is with self-love and fun, and “Number One Fan” provides a strong blast of both. Gavin’s delivery is cool and encouraging over an incredibly danceable chorus. While she’s singing about talking to herself in a mirror, the special connection MUNA shares with their fans also makes it clear she’s talking to the listener as well. The way different elements of the production drop in and out throughout the repetitions of the chorus ensures there’s always new wrinkle to draw you in when listening. And while this column is about the music more than the videos, if you know me you know that I dig the ’80s horror vibes the video puts out. If you’re feeling a little down today, let MUNA be your “Number One Fan.”

Saint Slumber – Mantra

Making a series of musical projects is tough work. Making the connections thematically and musically while still differentiating each project is not easy. With the release of new single “Mantra,” Saint Slumber show they’re up to the task. The single serves as our introduction to EP Youth//3, the conclusion of the group’s Youth trilogy. In our interview last year, frontman Joshua Perna envisioned Youth//3 as an album about the end of youth, and that comes through here. The sound is less whimsical than previous tracks, delving more into the rock side of Saint Slumber’s sound. Guitars and drums are the driving force here, and while it’s still upbeat, “Mantra” has a much darker complexion in its sound. As Perna clings to the subject of the song as his grounding in life, the music crashes and builds around him. Listening to “Mantra,” it’s clear Saint Slumber are still evolving as they reach the end of this particular story.

Tei Shi – A Kiss Goodbye

It’s summer, which means “smooth” and “refreshing” are high on the list of qualities I want everything to have this season, from drinks to music. To that end, Tei Shi’s “A Kiss Goodbye” is a perfect addition to my listening this summer. Built on a serene vocal loop and jazzy drums, “A Kiss Goodbye” floats along like a dream. Tei Shi handles the vocals gently, being careful not to disturb this calming sound she’s created. The lyrics are about leaving love to yourself and pursuing people and things for pure pleasure, which is a liberating idea. The beat switching up on the bridge introduces just enough variance into the track to make listeners appreciate the soothing sounds through the rest of the runtime, and sounds great on its own. If you want to sink into a song and relax, Tei Shi’s “A Kiss Goodbye” is a good choice this week.

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