Top Ten Thursday: Rush Sturges, AMAARA, Mobile, Dillon & Diamond D, Big Leaf, Peach Cooler, Don Cody, Moodracer, Sea State, and Andy Kahrs

Welcome, music lovers, to another exciting edition of Top Ten Thursday on! As we do each week, we’re gearing up to dive headfirst into a collection of noteworthy tracks that have been stirring up the music scene. This carefully curated list features artists that are pushing boundaries, challenging norms, and creating soundscapes that captivate our hearts and minds. From the catchy hooks of promising indie artists to the compelling rhythms of established stars, our top ten is a testament to the infinite power and diversity of music. So, turn up the volume, let the outside world fade away, and allow these ten tunes to transport you to sonic realms you’ve never visited before. Without further ado, let’s get started!

Rush Sturges – “Capsized”

Rush Sturges’ single “Capsized” brims with an evocative blend of backwoods Americana and vintage hip-hop, amplifying his signature adventurous spirit that has won him acclaim both in the realm of whitewater kayaking and boundary-breaking film-making. The track’s magnetism, however, extends beyond Sturges’ thrilling lifestyle, it resides deeply in the lyrical universe he so candidly explores. The amalgamation of Steve Berlin’s jubilant, Grammy-award winning production and Sturges’ earnest delivery forms a sound which stands as a beacon for listeners who shy away from musical convention, proving itself to be a thought-provoking, instant underground classic.

Sturges’ lyrical prowess is in full display in “Capsized” as he lyrically navigates through a whirlwind of love and loss, self-doubt, and societal critique. The haunting refrain, “I am holding onto you for the last time,” evokes a profound sense of longing and surrender, amplifying the emotional depth of the track. His verses oscillate between self-deprecating introspection and striking commentary on societal ills – “Social dystopia. Big bro / Roaring twenties but it feels like eighty four”. The seamless transition between these themes illustrates Sturges’ unique ability to inject personal narratives into broader cultural discussions, adding another layer to his already multifaceted persona. In the end, “Capsized” emerges as a testament to the resilient spirit of an artist unafraid to bare his soul, challenge norms, and venture into the thrilling unknown.

AMAARA – “New Love’s Mortal Coil”

AMAARA, the brainchild of Canadian polymath Kaelen Ohm, thrives in the realm of ethereal dream pop, sculpting sonic landscapes that reflect the artist’s unerring knack for blending haunting vocals, reverberating guitars, soaring synths, and expansive percussion. Her newest offering, “New Love’s Mortal Coil,” from the much-anticipated full-length album ‘Child of Venus,’ presents a powerful testament to Ohm’s songwriting prowess and her uncanny ability to tap into the most profound layers of human experience. This track, echoing the acclaim of her prior works, solidifies AMAARA’s standing in the constellation of artistry, offering both aural and emotional depth.

“New Love’s Mortal Coil” is a poignant exploration of the ephemeral nature of relationships and the consequent fallout. Ohm’s ghostly vocals intone, “It’s gonna be a hard road baby when it falls apart / When all that you were feelin’ was a fresh start / Cause nothin’ lasts / It burns from fire to ash / And leaves you in the dark.” These words underscore the inherent transience of love, encapsulating the anguish and the disorientation that follows the dissolution of a relationship. Yet, with a subtle shift in tone and a hopeful shift in lyrics, “But it ain’t that bad / I’ll polish stone to glass / And make a new start,” AMAARA reminds the listener of the resilience that lies in the heart of every ending. With a perfectly balanced juxtaposition of despair and hope, “New Love’s Mortal Coil” establishes itself as a hauntingly beautiful testament to the human condition, marking AMAARA as a captivating beacon in the dream pop universe.

Mobile – “In My Heart”

“In My Heart,” the latest offering from Montreal-based alternative rock quintet Mobile, is a nostalgic voyage to the synthy dream-pop of the ’80s, deftly wrapped in the modern production aesthetics of our time. The band, known for their departure from Montreal’s indie scene to Toronto, eschews its alternative rock roots, trading in their guitar-driven soundscapes for resplendent synths and pulsating drumbeats. A simple, two-chord song born from an acoustic guitar is transformed into a dense, swirling anthem. The influence of the “Stranger Things” soundtrack is evident, with the band channeling the series’ distinct retro-futuristic sonic identity.

Frontman Mat Joly’s vocals soar effortlessly over the synth-laden arrangement, the reverb lending an ethereal quality that mirrors the dream-like state the band strives to create. There is an undeniable connection to the anthemic, grand soundscapes of bands like U2 and The Killers, but Mobile is not content with mere imitation. They’ve effectively incorporated these influences while preserving a sound that is undeniably their own. The song’s lyrics are not provided, yet the title alone suggests a theme of inner emotion and personal reflection. “In My Heart” serves as a shining example of Mobile’s capacity for genre-bending innovation and their fearless exploration of new musical territories, a testament to their continued evolution as a band.

Dillon & Diamond D – “Comin Out Swingin (feat. Elzhi)”

In the high-octane track, “Comin’ Out Swingin’,” Atlanta-based emcee Dillon pairs with Detroit’s lyrical heavyweight Elzhi, their spitfire verses effortlessly riding over a funk-infused, anthemic beat courtesy of the renowned Diamond D. The track, pulled from Dillon’s Uncut Gems LP—a project entirely produced by Diamond D—is a testament to the rapper’s eloquent wordplay and the legendary producer’s knack for battle-ready, infectious beats. With a backdrop that’s simultaneously nostalgic and progressive, “Comin’ Out Swingin'” lives up to its name, proving Dillon and Elzhi to be formidable opponents in the arena of lyricism.

The synergy between Dillon and Diamond D—the result of a 15-year friendship and shared appreciation for the art form—is palpable throughout the track. Their shared love for boom-bap and the timeless art of lyricism permeates “Comin’ Out Swingin’,” making it a standout track on Uncut Gems. Its appeal lies in Dillon’s commanding delivery, and Diamond D’s penchant for crafting beats that hit as hard as the verses that ride them. The track also carries the legacy of its predecessors, bearing similarities to the work of fellow lyricists like Royce Da 5’9″ and Large Professor. Whether you’re a dedicated hip-hop head or a casual listener, “Comin’ Out Swingin'” will grab you by the collar and pull you into its rhythmic vortex, leaving you reaching for the repeat button as soon as the last beat drops.

Big Leaf – “When I Wake Up” (feat. Muunjuun)

When the first notes of Big Leaf’s “When I Wake Up” featuring Muunjuun hit your ears, you’ll immediately recognize its distinct allure. The track boasts a unique ebb and flow anchored by a swinging bassline and a solid drumbeat, complimented by a cascading vocal melody that teases and enthralls as it progresses. What sets this tune apart is its funky instrumental interlude nestled within its structure – an unexpected but delightful detour that feels as spontaneous as it does organic, a testament to Big Leaf and Muunjuun’s studio synergy.

As a testament to the band’s multidisciplinary approach, the music transcends conventional boundaries, as seen in the nuanced blend of psychedelic jazz-pop and avant-garde progressive rock. The lyrics are just as eclectic, embodying a free-spirited approach to life: “When I wake up, I rise. When I stay up, I’m riding on my high.” This nonchalant mantra reinforces the buoyancy and dynamism of the track, ensuring listeners are locked into the tune’s hypnotic sway. Drawing comparisons to the playful inventiveness of bands like Tame Impala and the explorative nature of Pink Floyd, “When I Wake Up” is a sonic journey that is as much about introspection as it is about surrendering to the rhythm. The track unfolds like a vivid dreamscape—both unpredictable and inviting—immersing listeners in a melodic voyage they’ll want to take again and again.

Peach Cooler – “Move on Over”

Lush, sun-soaked, and sizzling with a festive spirit, Peach Cooler’s “Move on Over” is a delightful audio invitation to an ever-welcoming SoCal backyard gathering. The band’s female lead injects an infectious energy into the upbeat track that fittingly combines the familiar vibes of Alt Pop, Indie Pop, and a dash of Surf Rock. It’s an immediate mood booster, conjuring images of laid-back barbecues and friendly games of badminton amid a cool, inclusive crowd. What’s more, Peach Cooler ensures there’s enough depth beneath the feel-good surface to keep listeners engaged, offering a taste of introspection amid the revelry.

The lyrics in “Move on Over” channel a spirited yet insightful conversation, imploring listeners to reflect and challenge their perspectives: “STOP / Sit your ass down / and figure this out / you cannot find the answers / if you don’t know what you’re asking about”. It prompts an unexpected, reflective moment at this imaginary barbecue. In addition, the recurring call-to-action of “Move, move on over / Move on over, it’s time to make some room” is a catchy, anthemic chorus that underscores the song’s essence of inclusivity and change. In the realm of similar artists like Atta Boy and The Greeting Committee, Peach Cooler’s “Move on Over” is a refreshing tune, brimming with warmth and soul, and serves as a potent soundtrack for both a festive gathering and an introspective afternoon alike.

Don Cody – “Titanic” (feat. MAGNUS FERRELL)

Navigating the tumultuous seas of love and heartbreak, Don Cody’s “Titanic,” featuring Magnus Ferrell (yes that Magnus Ferrell, Will’s son), strikes a chord with its poignant lyricism and hip-pop sensibilities. This track, off Cody’s debut project “Thank You For Listening,” beautifully marries pop and rap to concoct a summer anthem filled with melancholic reflections and hopeful undertones. Cody’s emotionally drenched verses are met with a surprisingly hopeful chorus that lends the track its charm. Produced by Philipz and recorded between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, “Titanic” is a testament to the seamless blending of global talents.

The lyrics capture a raw honesty as Cody explores the pain of heartbreak and the strength that comes from self-reliance: “If you’re going to break my heart / I’m better off, I’m better off on my own.” The verses’ grit starkly contrasts the hook’s hopefulness, resulting in a cathartic anthem for the “hopeless romantics”. The song is layered with references to romantic struggles, personal growth, and an underlying message that while love can cause immense pain, akin to the sinking of the Titanic, life is “gigantic” with possibilities beyond heartbreak. Drawing on the influences of other artists on the project such as MOD SUN and Marty Grimes, Cody expertly navigates the intricate facets of love and loss, serving up a relatable narrative for anyone who has weathered the storms of love. As Cody’s self-proclaimed “most average rockstar,” he certainly shines above the average with “Titanic,” a track as mighty as the ship it’s named after.

Moodracer – “Enigmatic roads”

“Enigmatic Roads,” the latest offering from Moodracer, is a somber yet meditative journey through downtempo lo-fi terrain. Stripping away the lyrical clutter, the track invites listeners to engage in self-reflection and consider the oft-pondered, untraveled roads of life. This instrumental track, sitting comfortably in the Trip Hop genre, is a deliciously moody affair, packed with melancholic undertones that tug at your introspective senses. The producer’s ability to convey such potent sentiments without a single word is genuinely impressive and attests to their aptitude for storytelling through soundscapes alone.

The song radiates a sense of serenity mixed with pensiveness, like an evening spent alone with your thoughts as the city lights glimmer outside your window. Despite the song’s inherent sadness, it carries an undeniable beauty, echoing the artistry of artists like Quantic. With the hypnotic blend of slow-burning beats and atmospheric soundscapes, the track takes on a dreamlike quality, transporting listeners down the path of introspection and nostalgia. Just as its title suggests, “Enigmatic Roads” is a journey into the unknown, winding down the hidden alleyways of our consciousness. This isn’t a track to just listen to; it’s a track to immerse oneself in, a lush soundscape that beckons you to travel along its enigmatic roads and find your own meaning in its nuanced auditory layers.

Sea State – “Lost You There”

Sea State’s latest track, “Lost You There,” is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful love song that offers a raw examination of a 20-year marriage that narrowly escaped dissolution. Beginning with a simply strummed acoustic guitar and a haunting sample, the song blooms into a smoky, Sade-esque groove, accentuated by soulful electric guitars that drip with an undeniable richness of tone. It’s an intoxicating mix of moody, chill, and soulful, grounded by a melancholic vocal delivery that hits with profound sincerity, capturing the complexity of long-term love with the deftness of a seasoned scribe.

“Lost You There” is steeped in the introspective and self-examining lyrical theme that defines Sea State’s latest album, Falling Down. The Toronto-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist expertly encapsulates the tension and reconciliation that come with deep relationship reckonings. Lyrics like “I had all but lost you/All but lost you there” and “I will always stand by you and you will for me” resonate with a universal truth about love’s endurance amidst trials. Notably, the entire song is not only performed but also engineered, mixed, and produced by Sea State, which brings an added layer of intimacy and authenticity to the piece. It’s a song tailored for reflective moments, its sonic warmth cradling the listener in an embrace as comforting as it is emotionally charged. Sea State has crafted an exquisite anthem of resilience and love, reminding us all of the power of connection and the strength it takes to maintain it.

Andy Kahrs – “Can You Feel It?”

“Can You Feel It?” from Andy Kahrs is an ode to the ethereal, a gritty slow blues number that grapples with the spiritual realm’s unseen essence. It’s a spacey, evocative journey punctuated by Kahr’s potent lyricism and his distinct roots sound, heavily steeped in blues, soul, and classic country. This musical voyage is undeniably reflective, allowing listeners to feel the spiritual energy that Kahrs describes, an intangible but palpable sensation that transcends the earthly realm.

Kahrs, a Georgia-native and now Nashville-based artist, grounds the song in vivid imagery: “Azaleas in bloom singing low and sweet to the moon,” and “Grandma’s up, tending to the weeds in the mud.” His vocals echo with a genuine authenticity that does justice to his rich southern roots, effectively marrying his blues-infused past with the soul-leaning sounds promised in his future. His undeniable “vocal prowess” shines particularly in the recurring chorus, “Can you feel it like I can?” – a powerful, repeating question that invites the listener into a shared spiritual experience. Infused with a strong sense of place, this is an artist who knows where he comes from and uses this knowledge to weave a compelling musical tapestry. “Can You Feel It?” is an immersive exploration of the intangible, a testament to Kahrs’ ability to capture the nuances of the unseen world through his masterful blend of blues and soul.

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