Over the weekend I ushered for a local event in my town (I live in a small Midwest town of 7000, not any of the major music cities, for context). It’s been quite awhile since I had done anything like that, and seeing the joy and the togetherness of the performers and the community was a great reminder: support those around you. Shop at the small places around you. Lend a helping hand to those you see who need it. This extends to art, as well. Go visit local art exhibits, support the local musicians in your area, and immerse yourself in the community around you. Not only does this help out a lot of people, it’ll make you feel good and happy and introduce you to new things. I promise! Now, let’s dive into this week’s Take 5.

DRAM, H.E.R., and WATT – The Lay Down

We’re going tender for the first song in this week’s Take 5. And who better to deliver tenderness for us than DRAM? Channeling decades of R&B ballads in both the music and the visuals, DRAM delivers the love like only he can on new single “The Lay Down.” DRAM croons softly about his feelings alongside beautifully crafted keys and guitars, letting us know he’s here to care for us. H.E.R. is the perfect duet partner for DRAM, her vocals shining through both her harmonies and her turn with a verse. WATT’s lengthly guitar solo is also perfect, spanning enough time that it essentially serves as his “verse” on the track. DRAM and H.E.R.’s ad-libs over the solo keep all three involved at the same time, which is enough talent acting at once to impress anyone. “The Lay Down” is simply love, and DRAM knows how to provide that.

Mallrat – Charlie

Mallrat captured me from the beginning just from the details surrounding her new track “Charlie.” If you name your track after your dog and then put a picture of said dog as the track art, I’m already in. The track has a lived-in, homey vibe. Producer Big Taste does a good job of adding just a bit of fuzz into the music when Mallrat recalls the family history that brought her to this point. When she looks forward and finds what she’s looking for, that fuzz clears and the piano and numerous fingers snaps and percussion tricks ring through splendidly. The track builds alongside the lyrics, mirroring the emotional journey Mallrat is on as she grows from her past and attempts to live the life she wants to live. Trying to live a life that makes us happy is something we all strive for, and Mallrat gives us an anthem for it on “Charlie.”

R.LUM.R – Boys Should Never Cry

You may know R.LUM.R from his hugely popular 2016 track “Frustrated.” That song showcased his excellent R&B songwriting and truly incredible vocal range, and he’s been steadily releasing new tracks in the three years since then. This week he dropped the moving new track “Boys Should Never Cry,” and it’s going to make you emotional. With his voice doused in stylized Auto-Tuning, R.LUM.R addresses the toxic ideas about emotion and vulnerability society tells boys as they grow up. Obviously the idea that boys should suppress all their emotions is hugely damaging, and the pain and expression in his voice as he sings about the harm this mindset inflicts is incredibly moving. Production by The Gifted is mournful and soft, which combined with R.LUM.R’s vocals go to show that it is absolutely fine to express vulnerability no matter who you are. R.LUM.R has enormous talent, and “Boys Should Never Cry” shows he’s a thoughtful artist, as well.

half•alive, Kimbra – ice cold.

This week was an exciting time for half•alive fans. The group’s highly anticipated debut album Now, Not Yet is finally here, and it’s a gem. There are a lot of solid tracks on the record, but one of my absolute favorites is “ice cold.,” which finds Josh Taylor teaming up with New Zealand artist Kimbra to deliver a dose of optimism into the world. Based around an acoustic guitar hook and a stellar pop beat, “ice cold.” wastes no time showcasing both Taylor and Kimbra’s mastery of pop. The song zooms along at a rapid pace with a mission to make you smile. Both artists’ lyrics revolve around acknowledging the tough times you’ve been through, but not letting them weigh you down. There’s a focus on remembering the good times too, and using those to give yourself a brighter, happier future. It’s impossible to listen to the track and not grin, and it bops along with an infectious energy and danceability. half•alive fans are already happy this week, and “ice cold.” is going to make a lot of other people happy, as well.

Cousin Stizz, Freddie Gibbs – Toast 2 That

We end Take 5 this week with a celebration. Cousin Stizz is one of the best out there right now, but he’s not taking his success for granted. “Toast 2 That” is Stizz’s way of surveying all he has and expressing gratitude for it. Over a deliberate and cool beat produced by Tedd Boyd and Lil Rich, he explains all the work he’s put in and takes a moment to admire it. It’s not all celebration of the finer things, though. He also expresses thanks for the small things in life, even the simple act of making it home every day and continuing to live his life. Freddie Gibbs turns in a spectacular verse as well, going even bigger and more extravagant with all the things that he wants to celebrate and toast to. If you’re looking to raise a glass this week for anything, big or small, Cousin Stizz and Freddie Gibbs have your back with “Toast 2 That.”

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