Editor's note: This article quotes lyrics about suicidal ideation.
These days there's so much new music being released every week that it's impossible (for me) to digest everything. Besides, music should be refreshing—like taking a dip, but for your brain—not a chore one must drudge through. So here are three standout new music releases from locally based and widely acclaimed artists, which all dropped on May 21.
Crying On Holidays, Kingsley
On May 21, Portland-based artist Kingsley dropped her highly enjoyable sophomore project Crying On Holidays. Driven by Kingsley’s unique vocal tones—which are thin, but in a euphonic way—the album focuses on feelings of heartbreak, and took two years of writing and reworking. The whole album is a vibe that’s easy to cozy up to despite its overwhelmingly heartbreaky content. Highlights include but are not limited to “Changed,” “Therapy” (and its previously released music video set in an enchanted forest), and two versions of “All Me,” an upbeat and funky pop bopper that’s just begging for some dance choreography. There’s also an acoustic version of “You Didn’t,” and a remarkable live recording of “Life After You.” The “All Me” that features Haley Johnsen recently got a video treatment that was filmed on the Holocene stage. Check out it below:
Afrique Victime, Mdou Moctar
There’s something about music that’s either a) mostly instrumental, and b) in another language that makes listening to it less distracting and easier to focus on whatever it is you’re doing. So it’s lucky for us work-from-homers that prolific Tuareg guitarist and songwriter Mdou Moctar just released a new album, Afrique Victime, on May 21. On the 9-track project, the Niger-hailing artist melds Saharan music with rock, as well as acoustic guitar and ’80s influences. He also pays homage to legendary musician Abdallah Ag Oumbadagou, who was one of Tinariwen’s contemporaries. Whether you’re looking for a sonic adventure for sleeping, fucking, working, or doing yoga to, Afrique Victime will get the job done.
The album is all highlights, all the way through, and also gives his global fanbase something to look forward to when shows start happening again and the former Pickathon headliner will inevitably come to town. (As of now, Mdou Moctar will come as close as Seattle this September.) If you’re loving these sounds, make sure to check out Mdou Moctar on a recent edition of NPR’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert in which the band performs songs from the new album and you can get a look at the band’s hypnotizing rhythm section.
“SUN GOES DOWN,” Lil Nas X
Apparently May 21 was a popular day to release music, because Lil Nas X put out his new single “SUN GOES DOWN” that day, too. The somber song relates to anyone who might have experienced suicidal thoughts, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community. The chorus sees Lil Nas X singing “I wanna run away/Don't wanna lie, I don't want a life/Send me a gun and I'll see the sun.” And the song’s only verse sees the artist going into more detail about what he silently went through before reaching fame status with “Old Town Road,” including being self-conscious about his big lips, dark complexion, and queer identity: “These gay thoughts would always haunt me/I prayed God would take it from me/It's hard for you when you're fightin'/And nobody knows it when you're silent/I'd be by the phone/Stanning Nicki mornin' into dawn/Only place I felt like I belonged/Strangers make you feel so loved, you know?” At the end he adds that he’s happy now, and hopes to make his fans proud of him for getting through the dark times and becoming the person he was meant to be. The artist performed the song on Saturday Night Live over the weekend, after a wildly fierce and flamboyant rendition of “Montero: Call Me By Your Name.” Check it out below:
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.