Composite image of six album covers featured in this month's roundup.

Local Music Singles Roundup: August 2023

Local Music Reviews

School is coming back, and it’s hot on our trail! Savor every last moment of vacation heat by checking out our August Local Music Singles Roundup! Sunbathe by the pool with Emily Hicks’ “Canned Wine,” or take over the final few nights of the summer while blaring No Jure’s “Judgement Day.” Whatever you’re doing to wrap up the summer season, you can rely on SLUG to keep your soundtrack company.

Christian Harris

Street: 06.04
Christian Harris = J. Cole + Frank Ocean x Warren G

With “Afeni,” the first single off a newly released EP, Christian Harris reminds me why I loved Mac Miller so much. It was never about how fast MM could throw rhymes but instead about creating a tasteful and jazzy sonic space where he could mumble his lyrics that speak to exhaustion and suffering. Harris touches on this hushed, tortured-artist rap with “Afeni.” A shiny jazz piano floats above the lyrics while dominant seventh chords and a leisurely, punchy beat hold everything up from below. Harris, a buttery baritone vocalist, speaks about what could be the life of rap legend Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur. In that context and perspective, Harris’ lyrics pack a meaningful punch. “Afeni” could easily yield hours of research and entertainment for young listeners; it’s a track that would do Tupac proud.–Mary Culbertson


Emily Hicks
“Canned Wine”

Street: 06.02
Emily Hicks = ’90s Garth Brooks + Fearless-era Taylor Swift

Akin to a Christmas ham or a birthday cake, Emily Hicks posits canned wine—the latest white-girl-wasted alcohol craze after we burned ourselves out on seltzers—as a metonymic stand-in for sartorial ceremonies. To Hicks, these dangerously yummy aluminum tins are liquid harbingers of summer shenanigans. “Raise it up, pink red or white / If you’re ready for a real good time / All you need is one / To get a special kind of drunk,” she sings in ode on the chorus. She extols its virtues—fancier than beer, easier than mixing a cocktail, the perfect companion to “talk[ing] shit from the couch”—over a country-pop instrumental as lackadaisical as her lyrical preoccupations. The trend of young musicians proclaiming to have concocted the “song of the summer” has become an eye roll–worthy TikTok meme, but Emily Hicks might actually be on to something with this breezy, poolside rallying cry.–Audrey Lockie


Jack and the Fun-Guys
“Water Song”

Street: 05.01
Jack and the Fun-Guys = Beach Boys + Grateful Dead

If you haven’t listened to Jack and the Fun-Guys before, you’re really missing out. Right off the bat, “Water Song” lives up to its name by transporting you to a picturesque beach in July, complete with clear waters and a light breeze. I was mesmerized by the complete harmony between the many moving parts in this song. The surf-rock bass line and saxophone work in tandem to create a complex, relaxed musical flow perfect for catching waves. The plunky keyboard and tinny production quality bring me back to live recordings of Grateful Dead shows. “Water Song” is a total playlist essential for any summertime event. If you love your bands more jammy with a hint of brass, I’d highly recommend listening to this single and trying to catch Jack and the Fun-Guys live. You won’t be disappointed! –Elle Cowley


Little Moon
“wonder eye”

Street: 05.16
Little Moon = Charity Rose Thielen + Sylvan Esso

From the artist who won this year’s NPR Tiny Desk Contest, “wonder eye” is the latest installment in the unique discography of Little Moon. The musical project of artist Emma Hardyman, Little Moon has found a niche in the indie-folk world that is relatively unexplored. “wonder eye” continues to set the band apart, showcasing Hardyman’s aching, emotion-packed vocals. A buzzing chorus of hums floats in and out of the song like a bee caught in your hair, invoking a sense of anxious anticipation. The climax hits around one minute in: Shifting from finger-picked guitar, harp-like melody and other string instruments, the song explodes with the pounding of drums and a series of electronic beeps and boops. Hardyman’s belted vibrato accompanies the mechanical cacophony, creating a sound that actually works. Lyrics are kept to a minimum, making the song intentionally vague and allowing the music to offer meaning in itself—for me, it was heart-wrenching nostalgia. –Katie Hatzfeld


“Save Myself”

Dark Audio
Street: 05.12
Malixe = Flume + Chromatics

“Save Myself,” the new single from artist Malixe, is like remembering a dream. With its floating vocals and synths that are sliced into electronic shards, the track’s dichotomy of sounds reflects the cover art of clouds exuding power through contrasting light and dark. Malixe sings “I don’t know why I’m here / Wish I could tell you all the reasons I got swept away,” while the rhythmic, light wubs scratch the ambient surface. The song is disorienting and surprising in a way that entices listeners. While the beginning softly builds, the first drop still feels like a shock. After that, the sound ebbs and flows along itself, maintaining a rhythm that makes it impossible to retreat until it eventually closes out in the same haunting way it began. The song comes together in pieces to create a disjointed vision of confusion, wistfulness and journey. –Harper Haase


No Jure
“Judgement Day”

Street: 05.05
No Jure = Sick Puppies – Rise Against + Early 2000s Hot Topic

The soaking-wet beginning of No Jure’s “Judgement Day” sets the mood for the song: brutal, hydraulic limb-boxing in some rainy alleyway where the cyberpunk, neon cityscape casts a peach spotlight. The single reflects a gothic, sci-fi sound that can be heard in similar tracks such as Classic Jack’s earlier work. Their bassy guitar twang complements Taegen Kehr’s Jabberwocky screech paired with brutish drums that will make you headbang yourself into a whiplash. It’s an industrial/metal cement mixer that’s only heightened by an eerie echo effect throughout the track. You could easily close your eyes on a quick listen, visualizing the chicken scratch, Polka-trash wordplay that the band has accomplished (even if you can’t quite understand what Kehr is saying). It’s the type of black-and-white, straight-edge rock that doesn’t quite reinvent the wheel, but its heavy drone rock chords and hollowed-out percussion deserve a listen. –Alton Barnhart

Read more Local Music Singles Roundups here:
Local Music Singles Roundup: July 2023
Local Music Singles Roundup: June 2023