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Weekly Bullet Reviews

March 3, 2024 – Weekly Bullet Reviews

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Let’s finish out February out on a high note! This special edition of our Weekly Bullet Review series has double the amount of releases on it to make up for the last two weeks. Check ’em out! -Li-Wei

Special thanks to Justin Ricafort for contributing this week.

Some ground rules:

  • These songs are listed in no particular order.
  • Anything released from the past 3 weeks/month is eligible for a bullet review.
  • NEW: Songs with new, recent music video releases will also be considered for a weekly bullet review.

Mei Semones – “Inaka”

Justin: A mesmerizing blend of grunge, country, emo, and violin. Four delectable side dishes foregrounding a meal of emotionally rich genres all lovingly woven around lyrics that signal a densely patient and layered life. Mei Semones is a full force of nature already.

Li-Wei: Mei Semones’ Tsukino was one of our favorite EPs of 2022, and her recent song “Inaka” shows that she’s always been ahead of the game. “Inaka” feels like it’s extremely timely for this moment (see the convergence of the coquette aesthetic and cottagecore that’s apparently a thing on TikTok that Mei Semones rocks imo) — especially with its florid, old-school charm that’s sung so sweetly that it’d be easy to miss Semones’ flight to the countryside just to be with someone. If you’re a fan of Snail Mail, Luna Li, and innovative jazz/indie pop, Mei Semones might be your newest musical obsession.

IU – “Holssi”

Justin: Floating, feathery, ascendant. As sentimental as a balloon floating into the atmosphere. Great for naked dancing solo when the weekend hits.

Li-Wei: I don’t think IU’s latest THE WINNING EP quite matches the highs of her previous albums, but the effortlessly cool, bass-blasting “Holssi” might be the project’s best bid for a smooth R&B song to stroll down the boulevard to. Cue the dance montages. Also… is the music video giving anyone else Junji Ito vibes? Scary.

TOMMY PIXELS – “LIFEISM”

Justin: Serious stepping music. Pounding, melodic scrapes, and Electroplankton xerox sounds. Makes me feel like an NPC looping my own lil choreography on the dance floor. I humbly pray at the church of LIFEISM. Shout out to that weird, warbly alien phone epilogue.

Li-Wei: I really want to see a TOMMY PIXELS DJ set, and “LIFEISM” exists to turn that want into a need. The musician is so great at distilling pop music down to the fundamentals that he can turn a barking voice shouting “LIFISM LI-LIFEISM” at you into a good time.

Koven Wei – “ROADRUNNER”

Justin: Top-down PCH coasting type of sound in under two minutes. Koven Wei breezily earns the merit badge for instant summer favorite with an infectious bass and vocals that melt into each other. Bring the burgers and we’ll meet up in Venice.

Li-Wei: Koven Wei’s “ROADRUNNER” is just under two minutes long, but that’s all the time he needs to bring the heat. If you’re a fan of any of the swaggering hip-hop artists under the 88Rising umbrella, this is one of those songs you can add to your playlists to crank the heat up. We’ll be seeing him on the Head in the Clouds stage soon, I reckon.  

Jailyn Duong – “god isn’t talking to me”

Justin: Obsessed with this music video my god. Jailyn Duong’s songwriting lives in league with Lauryn Hill and Dido. Downcast, cryptic metaphors with a spiraling spirit. Recommended for your next cloud watching session.

Li-Wei: How have we gone this far as a civilization without a song as brilliantly named as “god isn’t talking to me?” Jailyn Duong’s lonely pop song is an anthem for the ones who are freshly out of a relationship… or even one for those who spend a lot of their time alone. There’s a wonderful hook here (albeit sad and relatable) and a build-up to an explosive chorus-read that’ll stick in your mind. Not to mention, the melodic way that she sings “I’m stumbling down” and “I need a friend” is such earworms that I feel bad listening to her say those specific lines on repeat. When even the big G up there isn’t responding, know that you can definitely turn to this song to lend an ear to your solitude.

Heems – “I’m Pretty Cool”

Justin: Heems giving us a rap tour around his neighborhood. It’s easy to imagine days and nights of Heems walking down the sidewalk waving at his locals and eating curry goat, goat biryani, donuts, pasta, and kielbasa. Definitely made me hungry. Listen if you want to smell a song out loud. Favorite verse: “I’ve been a savage since they used to call us savages.”

Li-Wei: Heems has always been pretty cool. As a rapper who’s been in the game for years now via various rap groups and his own projects, he’s kind of a big deal when it comes to setting the stage for Asian Americans in rap. Yes, Heems doesn’t need to tell us about his awesomeness, but “I’m Pretty Cool” serves to reinforce that fact through slinky wordplay and culturally specific references that feel second nature. Heems spits bars with such deadpanned precision that it feels like it’s just another average day for him — never mind that this one song has more flashy, memorable lines on it than most have on an album. (This is also my pitch for you to go check out LAFANDAR, his latest album with Lapgan.)  

ako – “planet”

Justin: Cutely celestial bop beaming in from your local interstellar satellite. Ako’s whispered vocals add a satisfying texture on track brimming with personality.

Li-Wei: The new Ako era sounds like it’s going to be explosive! Ako’s whispery singing blends well with pop sensibilities to bring you an endorphin rush.

Lightning Bug – “December Song”

Justin: Lightning Bug’s spread open, embracing voice bathes warmth on “December Song’s” palpable romance of the self. This song is about openness, like a body unmooring itself toward greater freedom all while employing the tender trinity of acoustic guitar, violins, and piano. It is impossible to feel nothing after listening to this. “I wish the gods would turn me into a tree / But keep my mind distinct, alive, and free /My trunk will thicken with ring after ring / My fingertips will blossom in the spring.” Lightning Bug knows something we don’t, saw the sights, and still lovingly calls us back.

Li-Wei: Lightning Bug is back! “December Song” brings in a tight spotlight on lead singer’s Audrey Kang’s poetic words, fueling a magical spark that feels comforting and timeless.

BIBI – “SUGAR RUSH”

Justin: Your mandatory “headphones on” track for the month. Part ASMR, part Fergie tribute, part candy propaganda campaign, BIBI takes an unapologetically sugary, lusty track straight to your cavities. Who’s gonna be the first to do a Willy Wonka fan cam to this track? (Alternatively, Sugar Rush from Wreck-It-Ralph.) Special shout out to the dancing rats in the music video.

Li-Wei: The crisp ASMR feels are strong in this slinking R&B jam from BIBI.

Maya Kuriel – “Hostile”

Justin: Send this song to your enemies to keep their heads on a swivel. Joins “If He Cheats” and “Kill Bill” on the threat-mantic playlist. Just a crumb repetitive for my tastes, but maybe not the best song to make that comment about. *panic sweat*

Li-Wei: Maya Kuriel makes quite the entrance on “Hostile” with the first few lines alone: “Maybe I had a bad day at work / Forgot all the good things I learned from my therapist / God, I miss that bitch!” A thumping, pop-R&B song, “Hostile” inadvertently implies a fuck-all-y’all energy on the track when it’s really a thoughtful apology for her actions. We’ve all had those days where we’ve snapped at someone or chewed someone out for no reason, and Kuriel has turned that guilt into a sing-along song to jam out on.

Kaleah Lee – “The Same”

Justin: Kaleah Lee’s off-kilter, dread-plucked “The Same” regaled a fog laden dream fated to repeat. Lonely looping chords and ghostly vocal layers invite us into a tale that feels too familiar. Is it love? Is it mediocrity? Is it both? Chilling questions inspired by Kaleah Lee, the oracle.

Li-Wei: The last time I was so enamored by an acoustic folk project was with Haley Heynderickx’s I Need to Start A Garden back in 2018. Kaleah Lee seeks to raise the stakes with “The Same,” a wintery acoustic song that chills with its intimacy. Released on the day right before Valentine’s, she spins a web of solitude with icy precision. Her first project Birdwatcher EP is out on March 22nd, and I can’t wait to hear it.

Saya Gray – “AA BOUQUET FOR YOUR 180 FACE”

Justin: Saya Gray pilots us into a funky epic with delectably mysterious lyrics, a focused pattering drum machine, and a bass overflowing with rizz. This track constantly unlocks more feeling as it goes on, graduating into a gorgeous final tango of sitars and harps. Like seeing stars as the night grows darker.

Li-Wei: Saya Gray is back at it with the off-kilter, strange song titles, but I’m willing to overlook it because of how fascinating “AA BOUQUET FOR YOUR 180 FACE” is. It’s hard to make out what exactly is going on here — like many of her songs, this one feels like a sound collage with many moving parts tied neatly up into a beguiling package. But on every repeat listen I find something new to focus on, and I guess you could say that I’m on-board with the cult-like imagery that she used in her latest video. I guess I’ve been properly hypnotized by her ways… there’s no better way to describe it. 

GRMLN – “Paradise”

Justin: Sway-worthy tune to clock out and drive home to thanks to GRMLN’s signature shimmery guitar and laid back vocals. Can’t help thinking of OK GO’s “This Too Shall Pass” with that drum intro.

Li-Wei: How does GRMLN keep doing it? Between “Paradise” and “Yoko,” is shaping up to be another great album from the expansive singer-songwriter. This is one song that I’ve caught myself singing to myself over and over again this week.

Nolo Grace – “Alone in My Dreams”

Justin: Nolo Grace courses ethereal, driving data through your circuits. Digital stuttering, angelic echoes, and a jaw-dropping orchestral crescendo. I hear deified Tron, Mirror’s Edge, and Empire of the Sun. “Alone in My Dreams” is unforgettable, front-running my electronic track of the year so far.

Li-Wei: This is the first I’ve heard of Korean American singer Nolo Grace (yes, those Instagram ads really do help), but if all her music is like the shimmering scifi synthpop that “Alone in My Dreams” is, I’m hooked. Here’s a track that feels cinematic and otherworldly — perfect for soundtracking a feature like Blade Runner.


Header photo taken from IU – “Holssi.”

Check out our other Weekly Bullet Reviews here.

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