“I want to live in a world where all your exes are dead,” Julia Michaels admits on her new single, “I want to kill all the memories that you save in your head.” As a singular songwriter in modern pop, Michaels has a tendency to throttle her listeners with her pen — and on the muscular, virtuosic “All Your Exes,” she makes sure that your attention is focused entirely on her seething jealousy.
Reiley, “Let It Ring”
Fresh off a deal with Atlantic, TikTok star Reiley makes a confident major label debut with “Let It Ring,” filling every crevice of the sugary pop track with his oversized personality. If that chiming hook sounds familiar, you’re probably an Apple user — “Let It Ring” features a licensed sample of the iPhone ringtone.
Anna Fox Rochinski, “Party Lines”
After spending several years as a member of the psych-rock collective Quilt, Anna Fox Rochinski has unveiled her solo debut album, Cherry, that combines pop hooks with wiry, funk-influenced guitar riffs. “Party Lines” opens the LP, and effectively bottles the strongest qualities of the full project.
Grace Gaustad, “Freedom”
After recently appearing in this space thanks to “No You To Me,” 19-year-old Grace Gaustad continues to flaunt her sterling vocals on “Freedom,” a yearning anthem about missing the simplicity of childhood. Along with Gaustad’s vocal take, the drums are heavy enough to convince you that teenagers really can have pangs of nostalgia.
Goth Babe, “Laurelhurst”
The indie-rock project of Griff Washburn, Goth Babe has delivered a beguiling pop track with “Laurelhurst,” the highlight of his new Protect Our Winters EP. After opening with a simple guitar lick and the sound of Washburn’s heavy exhalation, “Laurelhurst” adopts an intricate, gorgeous arrangement that takes a few listens to unpack.
RoseeLu, “Playing Alone”
Danish upstart RoseeLu’s powerhouse vocals are impressively refined for a 19-year-old, and her first single of 2021 is instantly memorable, as she asks, ”Now, oh, where did you go?/ Hiding somewhere inside my old home now/ Oh, I would not know/ Are you still out there in the backyard playing alone?” RoseeLu might be hanging solo, but expect her to sing in front of thousands very soon.
Glass Animals feat. Iann Dior, “Heat Waves (Remix)”
Pop expert Jason Lipshutz (ed. note: thanks Gab) recently predicted that UK quartet Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves” just might impact the 2021 Song of the Summer race. As the sticky tune continues to climb the Hot 100, an assist from “Mood” star Iann Dior, who adds a slinky new verse about a dream life that sadly won’t work out in reality, certainly doesn’t hurt its chances.
Cork, Ireland-based pop singer Lenii brings playful vocals and an outrageously catchy melody with “Straitjacket,” a clever meditation on our judgmental society: “Tripping over opinions/ It’s a pity everybody is a witness!”
Sad Night Dynamite, “Krunk”
Sad Night Dynamite’s Josh Greacen and Archie Blagden are lifelong pals and bandmates, and their symmetry glows on “Krunk,” a zany alt-rap cut from the UK duo’s new self-titled debut mixtape. The video is Chernobyl-meets-Trainspotting, and we’ll be damned if these Sad Night Dynamite lads don’t blow up (sorry) before the year is out.
The Knocks, Mallrat, “R U High”
A simple, and simply hypnotizing, team-up between NYC producer duo The Knocks and Australian indie pop singer Mallrat (aka Grace Shaw). “Are you there? I’m just double-checkin’/ Do you care? Why you keep forgettin’?/ I was there when you weren’t expectin’/ I was there, I was there,” Shaw sings with a wink.