Phoenix Playlist Picks: February 2021

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Updated March 2, 2021 at 9:56 p.m. CT
Posted March 3, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. CT

The seventh installment of Phoenix Playlist Picks – a series of monthly articles where Phoenix editors create Spotify playlists of the best new music each month and then select some of their favorites to write – focuses on the new releases for February.

In a Phoenix Playlist Picks, this issue contains a recommendation for the soundtrack of a film, along with other usual debuts by the singer-songwriter Pink Sweat $ and the screamo band For Your Health as well as Julien Baker’s third album.

Pink Sweat $ – “PINK PLANET”

After releasing a few tracks here and there for two years, Pink Sweat $ (aka David Bowden) finally released his debut album, and it’s safe to say that it was worth the wait.

Growing up in a religious household clearly influenced him musically, and that shows through on this album. Organs and larger-than-life choruses support Bowden on the album’s 18 tracks.

The Philadelphia native has a knack for making some of the best new R&B music, thanks in large part to his singing and songwriting. Whether it is the commanding opener “PINK CITY” or the radio-friendly “At My Worst”, Bowden enchants the audience with his soulful voice.

Pink Sweat $ is far from producing and writing for artists like Tierra Whack and Florida Georgia Line. He is now his own artist and arguably surpasses most of the artists he had previously worked for with this stunning debut.

Mark Isham, Craig Harris – “Judas and the Black Messiah Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”

That blurb will not deal with the content of the film – which was phenomenal despite not being a “true” Fred Hampton biopic – but will focus on the score.

In terms of sound, the music couldn’t be better suited to every scene. A prime example of this are all three uses of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “The Inflated Tear” by Chicago jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk. The title starts the film with a noir feel to it, but is later used for an annoying recall – something almost developed for Kirk’s tendency to play multiple saxophones at the same time to create dissonant, unsettling sounds.

Worrying is a word that could describe much of the music in the entire film. Hair-raising jazz suitable for a horror movie creates fear in scenes that are visually calm but exude tension.

The soundtrack and film are fundamentally required media for Chicagoans. The story and music of the story are relevant to the city and can help viewers put more timely events like last summer’s protests in better context. Plus, you can see LaKeith Stanfield on the screen, which is worth it to begin with.

For your health – “defiance”

Columbus-based screamo band For Your Health made their debut on February 12 with their first full-length album. The 12-track record is a phenomenal debut and a reason for listeners to be on the lookout for future releases.

Music is as masterful as this where the guitar is often the cleanest sound on the recording. “Push the Fucking Rock, Sisy” is perhaps the best example of this, with shrinking vocals, hectic drums, and earthquake-inducing bass lines supporting bright guitar tones.

However, there are lighter songs where everything becomes a little quieter. Tracks like “Abscess Makes Your Heart Grow” are testament to the dynamic sounds the group can produce, especially when followed by some of the heaviest songs on the album.

“Defiance” is what everyone, regardless of their attitude towards screamo music, is after a long day of school, work or whatever else is stressful. Moshing in your car or bedroom for undressing is the perfect catharsis and one of the better ways to enjoy this album.

Julien Baker – “Little Oblivions”

In her first major release since working with the Boygenius supergroup, Julien Baker has returned with her third album, Little Oblivions.

The lead singles “Favor” and “Faith Healer” showed a slight shift in musical direction. Percussion used to have a tendency to fall by the wayside, although the drums now find their own flow higher in the mix, and it works when it brings back their haunted, layered vocals.

Even so, Baker is lyrically back in their comfort zone, although this time they have a different perspective. Much of the album is rooted in self-reflection after self-destruction – Baker himself mentioned that the album was inspired by her break from years of sobriety that followed years of drug abuse.

“Darkened on a weekday / Still something I try to avoid / Start asking forgiveness in advance / For all the future things I’ll destroy,” she sings to open the album.

The heavy lyrics distract from their vocals, which have been in the limelight on previous releases. Not to say her vocal performance isn’t as impressive as ever, and previous fans will find this album in line with their previous two, but it’s clear that Baker was trying to heal from something serious and this is her catharsis .

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