Throughout our lives there are musicians whose work shapes us and is there to guide us through confusing times. Whether that musician is someone who you grew up listening to because your mom loved them, or an artist whose album helped you through a tough breakup, music has the power to comfort us when life seems uncertain. Here is a collection of musicians that hold a special place in the hearts of our team and past contributors. – Joana Meurkens (Artistic Director)

  1. Labi Siffre

Labi Siffre is a British singer/songwriter who is responsible for many cathartic moments I’ve had in the past year. If there is one thing this man knows how to do it is to write a damn emotional song. Here is a highlight of a few of my favorites. 

Top Tracks:

  1. Cannock Chase
  2. Bless the Telephone
  3. I Got the…
  4. My Song

Let’s start with Cannock Chase, this song instantly transports you to a mountain range someplace where the air is crisp and leaves are lusciously green. The wave of beautiful strings carries Siffre’s voice who sings a beautifully innocent melody.

Long story short, this is the ultimate feel good song. I discovered this tune during the depths of quarantine and it really brought such joy to be able to take a walk outside and listen to this.

Now Bless the Telephone is a song that feels like it could’ve been written in the clusterfuck year that was 2020. This song is an ode to those you love, and how even a small phone call with someone you hold close to your heart can completely change your day. It is a reminder to call someone you miss or someone who is always on your mind.

I Got The… walks away from Siffre’s romantic guitar and brings us somewhere slightly groovier. This song serves the 1975 fantasy that our clouded minds deserve a break to run away to. My Song makes me feel like a suburban dad who is embarrassing his daughter as he carpools her friends back from soccer practice by blasting this song and really feeling all of the lyrics, but hey, you would too if it were you. -Joana Meurkens (Artistic Director)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

2. Otis Redding

Top Tracks:

  1. For Your Precious Love
  2. Try a Little Tenderness
  3. Cigarettes and Coffee
  4. Gone Again

I am a lover of sad songs and big romantic songs. No matter what mood I’m in, I’m always down to listen to something dramatic filled with soul, love and heartbreak. Otis Redding is all of that for me.

He has one of the most beautiful soulful voices, that moves and comforts me whenever I put him on. Listening to the four songs I listed makes me want to lay in bed in a candle lit room on a rainy day with a lover just taking in the sounds as we drink wine, kiss, share secrets or (to be dramatic) just look lovingly into each other eyes, both of us taking in the beauty of the other. The soul put into his songs is so warm and beautiful I could cry. (A honorable mention for this category is Miss Nina Simone) – Maya Renee Castro (TV/Film/Theater Editor)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

3. Knxledge

Top Tracks:

  1. Listen
  2. Don_tgottabe
  3. Droogs (w/ anderson .Paak)
  4. Jstfriends

I have this ongoing conspiracy theory. Freestyling isn’t that much different from prayer, when you think about it.

The feeling of a foreign force enrapturing you to the point where a release is required, it has to flow from somewhere and so the mouth unhinges. What I’m saying is that the magic of 16 bars is not that the words were pulled from thin air but the vision of the rapper talking in the dark without pause, hoping he hears something meaningful in the echoes. My pastor called this faith. 

And so, if freestyle is like prayer, then imagine the art of sample akin to sermon. Producer knxwledge is a reserved pastor, only coming alive when he reinterprets the wisdom of long ago, like the dark velvet of 90s rnb. Or the brashness of Meek Mill over smooth drum breaks. Or some obscure gospel sample. It’s the range for me. I’ve been listening to Knxwledges’ scatterbrained and addictively grooved instrumental since 2013 then I discovered him as a high school sophomore. Over a decade later, he is one of my go to grounding techniques, an instant way to calm me down when I’m feeling anxious. It’s hard to explain but as soon as you hit play? Praise God.Tayo Omisore (Poetry Editor)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

4. Sarah Vaughan

Top Tracks:

  1. Tenderly (1958)
  2. East of the Sun (1955)
  3. April In Paris (1954)

When I was twenty, I took a year off school and lived at home in New York City where I got a job waitressing at an East Village jazz bar. As the daughter of a jazz musician, I always loved the genre, its origins and the stories it told of our country’s past.

In between shifts, I started picking up the mic and singing jazz… it was one of the most beautiful and freeing moments in my life thus far. I became even more obsessed with listening to the greats, discovering new albums and recordings of standards. Sarah Vaughan quickly became my go-to vocalist when it came to learning and mastering a standard. Her voice was like no other, with its operatic like range and magnificent depth. When I’m nostalgic of a time I never experienced, I put on a Youtube recording of one of her live performances near the end of her career… where she breaks away from the band and hypnotizes the audience as she accompanies herself effortlessly on the piano. Her interpretations of my favorite standards get me through the most difficult of days and bring me hope that music can get us through anything. – Carolina Meurkens (Editor-In-Chief)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

5. Lianne La Havas

Top Tracks:

  1. Say A Little Prayer (cover) 
  2. Toyko 
  3. Elusive
  4. Sour Flower
  5. Unstoppable

I remember discovering Lianne La Havas back in 2013, the summer before my freshman year of college and the year after she released her first album “Is Your Love Big Enough”.

Her voice is so soulful and I remember how her lyrics created this quiet yet powerful impact on me immediately. Elusive was listened to as I walked home from classes, feeling alone and scared as any college freshman does. From there on, I created a habit of listening to Miss La Havas when I was feeling the urge to be still or quiet my brain. She’s not overwhelming, yet she is strong and present and that’s what inspires me.

Also PLEASE listen to her Say A Little Prayer cover, *the one on SOUNDCLOUD* is better than the one on Spotify/Apple Music in my opinion. – Kimber Tai Monroe (Director of Operations)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

6. Luna Luna

Top Tracks:

  1. Commitment 
  2. Daydream 
  3. Fierra

I first heard Luna Luna on Tiktok! I remember their video popping up on my For You Page and immediately hearing the soft and melodic harmonies of their song “Commitment”.

I  remember getting this overwhelming feeling that I wanted to dance. I went on a deep dive into all their platforms, Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube. They are a Latinx band from Dallas, Texas making Spanglish indie music. It’s a scene that has so much potential and history, especially in Texas. And although there has always been a Spanish rock or indie scene, hearing the melting of two worlds in their music is inspiring. In each song, you can tell they love to love! They look and sound like the people I know and I can always find comfort in their music, I especially like to drive with the windows down to their songs! As someone who has navigated the world of English and Spanish, having a band like Luna Luna makes me appreciate the fluidity of who I am and the people I can communicate with. – Brittany Zendejas (Intern)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

7. Corinne Bailey Rae

The feeling of comfort is an understatement when I revisit Corinne Bailey Rae’s discography. The gifts she has offered us through her vocals, lyricism, and instrumentation feel like the warmest of hugs from a forever friend. A friend who, no matter how much time has passed, knows you at your core and knows you through your soul. 

Top Tracks:

  1. Put Your Records On
  2. Till It Happens to You
  3. I’d Do It All Again
  4. Paris Nights/New York Mornings

Put Your Records On: Please put this song in my coming of age film. This was one of my favorite songs to sing as I discovered my voice. 

Till It Happens to You: This song introduced me to my own fear of vulnerability in love. My fear of something beautiful ending. I’d Do It All Again: After being introduced to my fear of vulnerability in love, I was welcomed into the idea that it is always worth it. That love is always worth it. “Someone to love is bigger than your pride’s worth.” Paris Nights/New York Mornings: Again, coming of age film please. I used to blast this one in my headphones while strolling through Paris when I would visit family, as well as on my way to my 9AMs in New York City. This song has travelled with me through so many of my phases.- Murielle (Issue 3 Feature):

(Honorable Mentions: Like A Star, Tell Me, Closer, and her phenomenal cover of Bob Marley & the Wailers Is This Love)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

8. Ambar Lucid

Top Tracks:

  1. A letter to my younger self
  2. Fantasmas
  3. Story to Tell
  4. Universe

Ambar’s symphonic melodies meticulously serenade. Lucid’s vocal dexterity and acoustic etheriality immediately transports the listener to the frontier of her mind’s eye. From her breakout track, ‘A letter to my younger self’, to her more contemporary project, ‘Garden of Lucid,’ the artist’s continued evolution showcases a unique mix of dark magic and eerie candor.

Lucid hails from New Jersey, but, born to a Dominican mother and a Mexican father, her family’s struggles with immigration are a salient and autobiographical feature of her work. I hold Ambar Lucid’s music in a special place close to my heart because of the unique way in which she is able to capture the universal truth’s of grappling with belonging, grief, and her autonomy. – Zoe Ervolino (Issue 1,2 and 3 contributor)

Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

Check out more staff picks from previous issues: Issue 5 “Best Albums of 2020”

Listen to the playlist made by Artistic Director Joana Meurkens, “To Soothe Your Soul”

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