This past week was an especially exciting one here at Substream for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, our contributors put together a number of great pieces. That means this week’s introduction for Take 5 is not my usual musings, but another trip through some of the reading material you can check out this morning. Oleva Berard just started contributing this week, but has already hit it out of the park with her talk with Preston Lovinggood. Logan White spoke with Marianas Trench’s Ian Casselman about the band’s career and future. The Rocket Summer opened up to Molly Hudelson, who asked a number of great questions. To top it off, Eric Riley walked us through an unusual concert experience he went through. That’s just a taste of what we have going on, with all of our contributors putting out strong material every day. Now let’s get into this week’s Take 5.

Shura – religion (u can lay your hands on me)

After Nothing’s Real was one of my favorite albums of 2016, the announcement of Shura’s followup forevher dropping later this year was a highlight of my week. Shura has taken her synth-filled sound from her first album and made it even better on new single “religion (u can lay your hands on me).” Built on a funk-inspired guitar riff and a plethora of production techniques straight out of the ’80s, “religion” shimmies and glides into the listener’s ears. The entire new album was inspired by Shura’s relationship with her girlfriend, and the singer brilliantly incorporates religious iconography into the lyrics about her infatuation. On a deeper level, the light sounds and lyrics combine to create an overall feeling of reverence, in this case for the love the two have for each other. “religion” is a welcome return for Shura (and that music video is brilliant).

Anna Of The North – Thank Me Later

Love doesn’t have to be grandiose to be special. Sometimes the smallest moments mean the most. Anna Of The North explains this in the sweetest terms on her new track “Thank Me Later.” Starting with a simple, happy piano introduction, she wants to treat the listener to a little moment of bliss. The production here is clean and unobtrusive, letting her shower the object of her affection in compliments and affirmations of her love. There’s no big gesture in the lyrics or even big musical flair to the track, but love doesn’t need those things. A small act of paying for dinner or constructing a happy little tune is more than enough to sustain true love. The group vocals that come through in spurts and ratchet up in the outro give “Thank Me Later” a celebratory vibe. Anna Of The North is also showcasing her versatility this year, as the simplicity of “Thank Me Later” stands apart from the intricacy of her previous releases this year. Whether crafting complex tunes or a simple love song, Anna Of The North is brightening 2019 one song at a time.

Joji – Sanctuary

When it comes to introspective, atmospheric tracks, there are few doing it better right now than Joji. He proved that last year with his debut album BALLADS 1, and “Sanctuary,” his first track of 2019, picks up right where he left off. As the title might imply, “Sanctuary” finds Joji exploring the idea of affection as a shelter against the harsh reality of the world. He invites us in, letting us know he has already fallen in love on the chorus. The switch between the lower range of his voice on the verses and the higher notes on the chorus showcase his technical ability and provide a sonic contrast in the soothing song. Producer Justin Raisen understands how to bring out the best in Joji with his sounds, giving the singer ample room to work with in the cavernous, expressive instrumental he constructs. “Sanctuary” might help you feel better if you need a break from all of your stresses, which seems to be exactly what Joji intends here.

Dermot Kennedy – Outnumbered

Dermot Kennedy has been so prolific in the last year and half that it’s hard to believe he doesn’t have an album out yet. That’s going to change soon, with the Irish songwriter announcing his debut Without Fear last week. What’s not going to change is his penchant for writing beautifully crafted songs that will make an emotional beeline for our hearts, if new track “Outnumbered” serves as an indicator. Producer KOZ combines Kennedy’s songwriting skill with pop-like melodic through-lines and sensibilities, and Kennedy pours his heart out over them. The track serves as both a retrospective of Kennedy looking over mistakes he’s made in love and an affirmation that he still cares even after those mistakes were made. Lines like “I’m in love with how your soul’s a mix of chaos and art and how you never try to keep ’em apart” showcase the poetic writing he’s known for, and his delivery sells the swirling mix of emotions he’s feeling. If you’re in the mood to feel a lot of feelings today, this is your track.

Sleater-Kinney – The Future Is Here

New Sleater-Kinney is always a cause for celebration. While it’s not the ten year wait we had to go through for 2015’s No Cities To Love, four years is still a long time. We got “Hurry On Home” a few weeks ago, and now we have another new track to celebrate again. If “The Future Is Here” was just Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker, and Janet Weiss reuniting once again, I would be sold. It’s even better than that, though. “The Future Is Here” is produced by St. Vincent, instantly making it one of my favorite tracks of the year. St. Vincent’s influence is immediately felt in the brilliant mixing of the vocal harmonies and the droning dread that builds in this song about how we navigate intimacy and connections in 2019. Brownstein and Tucker turn in fantastic dual guitar riffs that are just grimy enough, and Weiss keeps the whole thing anchored with her drum set. Now I’m just waiting for the future to really be here in August when new album The Center Won’t Hold drops.

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