The Setlist is back! Now and forever.
Hawthorne, California’s Omar Banos — aka “Cuco” — is super sentimental. The self-taught, 21-year-old indie pop artist wears his heart on his sleeve through bilingual lyrics folded into bedroom-daydreamer ballads, but delivers his vocals with enough swag that his music doesn’t feel like oversweet teenage syrup. It’s earnest romanticism driven by elements of Chicano rap, reggaeton, and dream pop, and still Banos’ tracks flow like so many carefree hands riding the air out of open car windows. Cuco’s most recent release is 2019’s Para Mi, his debut solo album and first major label release, which features further evolution in this blossoming talent’s songwriting and production.
At first blush, Black Pumas’ sound evokes universally-loved and often mimicked elements of classic soul and R&B — both due to vocalist Eric Burton’s timeless voice and guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada’s twinkling style — but the more you dig the more you feel the influences of modern hip-hop production beneath the SXSW darling’s true artistry. The spaghetti western hook on “Fire” (off of the group’s eponymous debut album) recalls RZA, yet you could easily make the case that Black Pumas are simply a Motown duo who are lost somewhere in the space-time continuum.
Minimalist. Lush. Ambient. Or…Bouncy. Funky. Relentless. These seem like descriptors for two different artists, but they could all apply to electronic music producer Daniel Avery’s music, depending on the project. His most recent album, Song for Alpha, is much more the former, with dreamy soundscapes taking the long way home to the eccentric destinations he’s always preferred. Step back a few years to Avery’s DJ-Kicks entry or 2013’s Drone Logic and you’ll sense a much greater urgency. Whatever he’s playing, though, Avery is a decided and deliberate alternative to much of what the electronic dance scene has to offer.
Enigmatic storyteller Cass McCombs released his ninth album in 2019, Tip of the Sphere, which borrows a variety of guitar lick influences as well as any of his previous offerings, but still manages to make his recordings sound spontaneous. Although McCombs’ public mystique is a large part of his persona, it’s the indefinable quality of his brand of folk-rock that provides the greatest value, as well as the ability to draw the listener into his unique lyrical style. It’s the kind of music that grows with each listen, a creative task much more easily achieved by someone of McCombs’ rich experience.
From “Clembutt” to this year’s Stuffed & Ready, vocalist/guitarist Clementine Creevy has developed Cherry Glazerr’s sound from cheeky garage pop to a more powerful, confident form of fuzzy punk pop. Creevy can come at you like a lamb one minute and devour you like a lion in the next breath, but you’ll inevitably come back for more. Still, there’s a persistent element of playful humor — see the satirical and wild “Daddi”— that makes the noisiest moments and sharpest lyrics more approachable. But remember, for each helping of sugar, you’ll almost always get a mouthful of salt…in the best way!
Producers Chris Davids and Liam Ivory form the English electronic duo, Maribou State, whose most recent album — the uplifting Kingdoms in Colour — landed them on UK album charts and spread their reach to the global stage. As opposed to the pulsing drive of so many electronic artists, Maribou State lean more towards the soothing, melodic tendencies of synth pop, utilizing a blend of world music moments to create a sound that would welcome a broad audience with open arms. Imagine being trapped in the darkness for weeks before finally emerging to see the sun and feel it on your face.
Don’t miss out.