“SULA (Paperback),” Jamila Woods
For her most recent release, LEGACY! LEGACY!, Chicago R&B artist Jamila Woods highlights artists of color who have inspired her: Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Frida Kahlo. “SULA (Paperback)” is her tribute to the late Toni Morrison, based on the author’s 1974 novel about two black women who navigate society’s rules about gender roles and respectability. Sula was the first Morisson novel Woods read, and it inspired her first chapbook of poems. “Returning to the story several years later,” Woods wrote in a press release about the song, “it gave me permission to reject confining ideas about my identity designed to shrink my spirit. … This song is a mantra to allow myself space to experience my gender, love, intimacy and sexuality on my own terms.”
“Melatonezone,” illuminati hotties
“It feels weird to be nostalgic for anything that happened post-2016,” Sarah Tudzin joked to Stereogum in early July, but the woman behind pop-punk outfit Illuminati Hotties has good reason to feel maudlin. After two years of steady critical acclaim for IH, 2020 found Tudzin buying her way out of her own record contract with Tiny Engines after the indie label was found in breach of contract with numerous artists. Despite years worth of inconsistent accounting, withheld royalties, and a lack of communication from Tiny Engines, contracts still legally bound artists like Tudzin to the bankrupt label. Tudzin wouldn’t let the bastards grind her down: The new IH mixtape, Free I.H., (“leaked” online several weeks ago as Occult Classic) is a snarling, cathartic response to her situation. “What do you do when you wake up goopy from a melatoney engine?” Tudzin asks in “Melatonezone,” bubbly guitar riffs belying her anger. “Barely keeping you chugging with all the wrong intentions.” Samba-style whistles and playful language hide our greatest collective fear: Will 2020’s reign of terror never end?
“Corner Of My Sky,” Kelly Lee Owens, featuring John Cale
Kelly Lee Owens told Rolling Stone she wanted to connect with her roots for her upcoming album, Inner Song (due out Aug. 28), “and therefore having the Welsh language on the record felt very important to me.” So she teamed up with fellow Wales-native John Cale for this “gentle drift” of a song, as Cale called it, and he added English and Welsh vocals to Owens’ minimal arrangement. “The rain, the rain, the rain, thank god, the rain,” Cale chants, vocalizing the metaphorical cleansing deluge so many of us have hoped for all year.