Written by Imani Wj Wright
Melodies are great. Voices are great. Rhythms are phenomenal. But do you know what I truly enjoy in my music? Artistic command.
I'm sure we've all listened to a song or been to a show where the art was great, but there were just a few idiosyncrasies that happened to be missing. One unfortunate issue I see with artists is their lack of confidence or understanding of strengths. While constructing Volume 2 of SWANO's 10, I highlighted and prioritized those who not only have self-awareness as musicians, but take an approach to their art in a fearless and unapologetic manner. These people have developed their own styles and are solidly showcasing them for the world to see.
You'll find that styles differ on this list, but some of these pieces are unassumingly similar. Take A-Homi's, "9 < 10" and Nolan Garrett's, "Control Freak" for example. Homi's track would fall under Hip-Hop, as Garrett's would identify with Indie-Pop. Nonetheless, both of their engineering tactics are minimal and raw. Traits that some may classify as Lo-fi. Everyone isn't capable of pulling off minimal engineering, as it takes a performer who's either stylistically gifted, and/or possesses an undeniable vocal quality. With Homi and Garrett's abilities, it bears no issues. In fact, their Lo-fi approach works to their benefit.
Speaking of minimal engineering, Mikayla Geier's composition, "the sorry song" contains nothing but gorgeously strummed strings, and tranquil vocals provided by Mikayla. Though, that's not what we'll be honing in on here with Ms. Geier. The vulnerability, transparency, and equanimity in her voice is unavoidable. However, do not misconstrue Mikayla's compositional approach as a lack of confidence, it's actually the contrary. She seamlessly takes the audience on a sonic journey, pulling us into her soundscape and forcing us to feel what she feels. Mikayla may be a self proclaimed "hopeless romantic," but her sound holds emotive strength.
Hopeless... Hopelessly... Hopelessness. That theme makes two appearances on Volume 2. In a much more somber and solemn tone, Aron Bloom's, "Six Years," intimately details his process of losing a best friend. "You're hopelessly broken, and perfectly scarred." Aron's voice is piercingly chilling throughout this piece. His vocal timbre and expression are beyond professional. Mikayla and Aron truly made me think. Is that what we fear or lose sight of as human beings? Hope. No concept of a better tomorrow? No change in the status quo? Maybe that's why their voices permeate with such unbended tones. Stagnation can be frightening. In POMAGRANITE's case, another artist on Volume 2's list, he makes it known that he "can't get behind anyone who's been holding out." Showing us that being in a dormant position is not what any of us desire. But- it doesn't stop there. What is the antithesis of stillness? You guessed it. Movement. With Bela Pierce's single, New Ground, she delves into "taking a leap and starting a new." Her beautiful vocal control and sense of lyrical characterization bring that concept to life.
Well, I haven't been the only person thinking. John Mason has been engaging in the act of critically analyzing his environment. In the opening moments of his composition, Time to Think, John sings: ""I turn off the news and ask if there is a God." John isn't referring to the type of "love war" that River Iris refers to on her track, War, but he does describe the turmoil that our world has been seeing lately, and does it in a very inviting manner. But if you're just trying to lighten the mood a bit, there are pieces on Volume 2 like Lxst's melodically driven cut, UPSET, and Audrie Powell's, Going Through It (feat. Gabriel Baker). Both well written songs that contain a lot of relatability.
Check out SWANO's 10 [Volume 2]: