Top Ten Thursday: Buck St. Thomas, Derde Verde, Cherise, Youth Sector, Citizen Cope, Hannah Kae, 7th Grade Girl Fight, viisi & Kayla DiVenere, Big Girl, and Meltt

Welcome to “Top Ten Thursday” on B-Side Guys, your weekly deep dive into the freshest tracks from up-and-coming artists around the globe! Every Thursday, we curate a lineup of ten outstanding tracks, handpicked for their unique sound, compelling lyrics, and the raw talent of the artists behind them. This is the place where music lovers meet the trailblazers of tomorrow’s sound. From haunting ballads to dance-inducing grooves, these songs represent the incredible diversity and creativity of the current music scene. Join us as we embark on this sonic journey, showcasing the very best that the B-Side of the music industry has to offer. So sit back, tune in, and let the music play—it’s “Top Ten Thursday”!

Buck St. Thomas – “Quiet Thrills”

In “Quiet Thrills,” Buck St. Thomas crafts a buoyant, yet contemplative soundscape that weaves threads of nostalgia through its energetic riffs and tight percussive elements. The tune feels like a musical see-saw, balancing on the thin line between joy and melancholy, the oscillating energy reminiscent of works by artists like Dr. Dog and Elliott Smith. The choice of instrumentation adds a layer of richness to the arrangement— the strumming acoustic guitar riff blending seamlessly with the drum machine while a piano, bass, and violin create a resonant backdrop. The full-bodied chorus brings a tangible feeling of communal catharsis, a characteristic nod to the grandeur of The Smashing Pumpkins.

The lyrics in “Quiet Thrills” provide a beautiful counterpoint to the upbeat instrumental composition. They tell a story of the protagonist’s existential journey — running away from life’s hurdles, getting lost in the ethereal cloud of confusion, and then finding a path to freedom. This introspective narrative carries the listener along on a rollercoaster of emotions, encompassing thrill, loneliness, and ultimately, relief. St. Thomas displays a unique talent for turning personal narratives into universally relatable themes, subtly reflecting elements of Neutral Milk Hotel’s lyrical depth. With its rich tapestry of emotional introspection and musical vitality, “Quiet Thrills” establishes Buck St. Thomas as a strong emerging voice in the modern folk-rock scene.

Derde Verde – “Child of Spring”

“Child of Spring,” the latest single from Los Angeles-based indie rock band Derde Verde, offers an unexpectedly gentle and introspective moment amid the anticipated dynamism of their forthcoming album ‘Tug of War.’ Recorded primarily in a Brussels apartment by singer/guitarist Dylan McKenzie, the song imbues a serene folk ambiance, marking a stark contrast to their tenacious previous single, “Don’t Look Away.” The track delicately captures the sense of innocence and isolation during the pandemic’s early days, with McKenzie expertly translating his observations of the suddenly stilled world and the emergence of an ‘odd calm’ into a lyrical exploration of childlike wonder and groundlessness.

Derde Verde, consisting of Dylan McKenzie, bassist Jonathan Schwarz, and recently added drummer Colin Woodford, continues to build on their reputation for crafting melodic soundscapes and poignant songwriting, grounded by driving rhythms. “Child of Spring,” although a stylistic outlier on their new album, encapsulates the band’s evolution, reflecting their willingness to embrace different sonic territories. Recorded live on 2-inch tape and mixed on an analog console, the single also reveals the band’s affinity for authenticity and rawness in their music. As we anticipate their album release show on June 16th at Gold Diggers, it is clear that Derde Verde is not just a band that makes music; they manifest feelings and experiences through song, and “Child of Spring” stands as a testament to this singular talent.

Cherise – “2 Steppin”

Cherise’s “2 Steppin” is an invigorating burst of summer-ready funk, crafted as an homage to her late grandfather and the characteristic swagger that marked his slow walks down Ridley Road in East London. The UK-based soul artist deftly transposes his unapologetic swag into a groove-laden anthem that calls listeners to transcend their worries and lose themselves in the rhythm of life. The track also pays tribute to the Windrush generation, as Cherise muses on the significance of the 75th anniversary of their journey to England, expressing gratitude for her heritage and the desire to define and empower her own identity as a second-generation descendant.

Cherise is no newcomer to the scene, with a dedicated fanbase trailing her journey from the London Jazz circuit to her debut album ‘Calling’, set to release in July 2023. Her previous releases, including the critically acclaimed single ‘Secrets’, have solidified her place as a soul sensation, showcasing her unique blend of R&B and honest, storytelling lyricism. Her artistic prowess extends beyond music, as evidenced by her multifaceted endeavors in fashion, yoga, teaching, and acting. Having already shared stages with artists like Michael Kiwanuka and Jamie Cullum, and collaborated with the likes of Gregory Porter, Cherise is carving out an impressive niche in the global music scene. “2 Steppin” is just another step in her remarkable journey, with her vocal charm and soulful songwriting style promising an exhilarating musical summer for her fans and beyond.

Youth Sector – “Free Parking”

Brighton art-rock outfit Youth Sector demonstrates their knack for transforming the mundane into the extraordinary with their new single, “Free Parking”. Taking an otherwise dull discourse about parking woes and turning it into a vivid and surreal narrative, the band serves an engaging metaphor for fears of aging and the onset of monotony. The lyrics cleverly weave a tale of plastic people in a toy village grappling with parking logistics, eliciting smiles and nods with their everyday angst underpinned by an existential dread. Influenced by the likes of DEVO and Talking Heads, Youth Sector’s effervescent energy is palpable as they manage to spin a catchy, chorale hook out of the often-expressed lament, “Four miles, five miles for free parking.”

The track showcases Youth Sector’s unique ability to reflect the confounding aspects of modern adult life with a cathartic twist. Borrowing from the vivid narrative landscape of the lyrics, the musical arrangement is dynamic, full of spontaneous energy, and undeniably danceable, imbued with a sense of joyous urgency that takes the listener on an unexpected ride. A palpable tension emerges between the upbeat musical arrangement and the looming anxieties the lyrics explore, creating an intriguing contrast that truly sets the band apart. With their upcoming EP ‘Quarrels’ on the horizon, Youth Sector continue to cement themselves as purveyors of art-rock that is as thought-provoking as it is exhilarating, offering listeners a thrilling ride through the parking lots of life.

Citizen Cope – “Close To You”

Citizen Cope, the long-standing artist known for his soulful sonic landscapes, presents his latest single, “Close To You,” a preview to his upcoming album, “The Victory March,” set for release on June 30th. Drawing on musicians from The Roots and Paul McCartney’s backing band, the single is an exalted composition, blending classic Cope traits with a notable layer of ambition. “Close To You” showcases Cope’s innate ability to craft poignant intimacy, with his mellow delivery layered over ambient acoustic guitars and the stirring call of horns.

The lyrics in “Close To You” reflect a longing and a relentless quest for connection, painting a picture of a winless battle and the willing sacrifice of treasures in the pursuit of closeness. The repeated phrase, “I found a place where the planets move to get close to you,” underscores the cosmic scale of his yearning, his poetic expression lending an ethereal quality to the song’s narrative. Cope’s repeated waking call, a mix of self-awareness and determination, underscores the depth of his conviction. With its languid cadence and richly textured musical arrangement, the song exemplifies Citizen Cope’s creative evolution. Fusing his established sound with newfound elements, “Close To You” sets an exciting precedent for the upcoming “The Victory March” album.

Hanne Kah – “Trick Me”

German indie folk act Hanne Kah makes a forceful statement with their newest hit, “Trick Me”. Drawing comparisons to the mesmerizing harmonies of Fleetwood Mac, Hanne Kah pairs robust lyrics with radio-friendly melodies. The song, which is built around the famous saying “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” reflects on the lead singer’s unfortunate past experiences and her determination to prevent their recurrence. It grapples with the distinctive challenges faced by women in the music industry, and recounts her encounters with condescension and unprofessional behavior from former collaborators. Not just a cathartic piece, “Trick Me” is also a testament to Hanne Kah’s growth and resilience as she has found a circle of collaborators she values.

Hanne Kah’s music is an impressive blend of timeless quality with a unique, modern twist, mirroring the band’s ambition to establish German artists on an equal footing with international ones. The song “Trick Me” serves as a compelling demonstration of this goal. Its lyrics, which include lines like “Trick me once and I will change my course from you to wise, Trick me twice and I will turn away from your black and white,” emphasize the band’s desire for respect and equality in the industry. Hanne Kah’s charismatic presence, combined with her wish for more self-confident women to rise in the music industry, infuses the track with a resonant and empowering message. With their undeniable talent and determined outlook, Hanne Kah’s musical journey is a testament to the strength of women in music and a beacon of inspiration for the German pop music scene.

7th Grade Girl Fight – “Santa Cruz”

7th Grade Girl Fight has a knack for making the seemingly ordinary feel strikingly intimate, as seen in their track “Santa Cruz”. Hailing from Charlottesville, Virginia, this garage pop and indie rock outfit uses powerful storytelling to create a song that feels as comforting as a familiar memory. The song recalls a series of events—riding a skyride by the ocean, forgetting a hat on an airplane, dancing at a wedding—forming a poignant narrative about the struggle of remembering and the ease of forgetting. Lead singer Debra Guy crafts an emotional soundscape with both the band’s infectious hooks and her own arresting lyrics, resulting in an intimate conversation set to a catchy post-punk beat.

“Santa Cruz” feels like a patchwork quilt of shared experiences, piecing together moments of tenderness, nostalgia, and fleeting joy. The lyrics, “Remembering is trying / It’s too easy to forget all these times,” form a recurrent theme of the song, capturing the struggle of holding onto memories in the face of passing time. This elegy of forgotten moments is brought to life by 7th Grade Girl Fight’s engaging blend of garage pop and indie rock, all while grounding their sound in an authenticity that is utterly captivating. With their tightly-executed brand of post-punk, they tap into a nostalgia that feels both modern and timeless, drawing listeners into their world with each verse. All these elements culminate in an anthemic track that leaves a lasting impression and reinforces 7th Grade Girl Fight’s prowess as a compelling voice in the indie rock scene.

viisi & Kayla DiVenere – “one day”

“one day,” the opening track from viisi’s ‘Liiminal’ series, featuring Kayla DiVenere, is a nostalgic exploration of the fleeting nature of time and the bitter-sweetness of achieving one’s dreams. The saccharine melodies, wrapped in viisi’s raw passion, provide a dreamlike backdrop for the introspective lyrics. From the opening lines, “I don’t feel the same way / The same way that I once did / When we would whip that Hyundai / And talk about that one day,” the song pulls listeners into a world of the past and the regret that comes with growth and change. DiVenere’s voice complements viisi’s poignantly, embodying the song’s sense of yearning and loss.

Matthew Borley, a.k.a. viisi, has always been an artist who doesn’t shy away from the personal, drawing inspiration from the likes of Eminem and Tupac. His lyrics in “one day” resonate with the raw honesty that has become his trademark, with verses like “It’s not really fun yeah / Things get kinda numb when / You get everything you ever wanted in abundance,” reflecting his complex feelings towards success. He embodies a journey of self-discovery, of grappling with change, and of facing the ironic dissatisfaction that can come with realizing one’s dreams. This thoughtful exploration of growth, coupled with his visceral storytelling, marks viisi as a compelling voice in the world of hip hop, with “one day” promising a ‘Liiminal’ series that will further test the boundaries of the genre.

Big Girl – “Instructions 2 Say Sorry”

“Instructions 2 Say Sorry,” the opening track of Brooklyn-based band Big Girl’s debut album, “Big Girl vs. God,” is an explosive anthem of refusal and liberation. Produced by Justin Pizzoferrato and fronted by lead singer and songwriter Kaitlin Pelkey, the track unleashes a potent blend of rock’n’roll energy. It’s punctuated by intricate guitar patterns, authoritative vocals, and an unyielding drum beat that breathes life into this fiery tune. Pelkey’s vocals oscillate between the tone of a mocking schoolgirl and the commanding voice of a divine entity, delivering a clear message – Big Girl isn’t waiting for any apologies.

Big Girl, a queer-fronted, audacious rock & roll outfit, is known for their harmonically rich songs, exceptional guitar work, and powerful vocal performances. “Instructions 2 Say Sorry” is no exception, providing an energetic stage for their confrontational musical storytelling. The song, imbued with emotions ranging from empowerment and freedom to joy and rage, serves as an engaging conduit for “danceable rage,” questioning, “Do you really need instructions to say sorry?” With a stage presence that alternates between hilarious and heart-wrenching, Big Girl’s music is likely to evoke a gamut of reactions, from dancing and crying to reaching out to an old flame. This track sets the tone for their forthcoming album, promising an enthralling exploration of gender norms, capitalism, and the profound corners of grief.

Meltt – “Soak My Head”

Vancouver’s alternative psych-rock outfit Meltt returns with their latest single, “Soak My Head,” a robust and introspective exploration of social media anxiety and technology addiction. The track impressively juxtaposes strumming autoharps and guitars against a driving beat, culminating in a compelling, string-enhanced chorus. Lead vocalist Chris Smith’s confession about the entrapment and addiction of digital life serves as a candid backdrop to the song, grounding the lyrics in a universally relatable struggle.

Meltt – composed of Chris Smith [lead vocals, guitar, bass, keys], Jamie Turner [drums, percussion], James Porter [guitar, keys, bass, vocals], and Ian Winkler [bass, keys, guitar] – is known for their seamless fusion of rock, alternative, and psychedelia. This stylistic blend is evident in “Soak My Head,” where the foursome utilizes their deft instrumentation and songcrafting skills to craft a soundscape that’s both alluring and thought-provoking. Lines like “Soak my head in ocean breeze / Receive / Psyche symmetry” evoke an urge for digital detox and the restoration of mental balance, a sentiment echoed in the singer’s yearning to cleanse his perception and rediscover his sense of self.

Set to feature on their upcoming album, “Soak My Head” exemplifies Meltt’s ability to transform personal experiences into universal narratives through music. Just as life continuously cycles through birth, death, and rebirth, their music transcends the boundaries of conventional genres, offering listeners a cathartic space to confront and understand their own experiences. As Meltt continues to evolve, their unflinching honesty and musical versatility promise an engaging sonic journey in their forthcoming release.

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