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PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

PopMatters Picks is the new Spotify playlist curated by me, the editor-in-chief of PopMatters. Every day I seek out the best new songs to share with PopMatters readers, and in this little mini-column, I'll provide a bit of background on the artists and songs featured. My aim is as wide as my genre tastes, with forward-looking music my primary focus, but that shall nestle cozily alongside tracks rooted in older styles and music performed with the utmost virtuosity also key to the mix. So, get that finger ready to hit play as we feature the PopMatters Picks of the day.

Bamboo Smoke - "Hold Me Briefly"

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

South London's Bamboo Smoke create a gorgeous form of electro that bridges pop and R&B, and with "Hold Me Briefly", they have a stellar single on their hands. The track has a soul-pop vibe as vocalist Louise Wellby sings the verses with soulful confidence before opening up into a shimmering chorus with multi-tracked vocals imploring "don't hold back", and synths bubbling warmly underneath. Bamboo Smoke have found previous support from BBC Introducing and BBC 6 Music, and they look primed for greater success with this song.

Wellby says, "'Hold Me Briefly' is about skidding across the city, making shapes in crowded rooms, and losing your senses in a brief embrace. We stepped out of our comfort zone with this track. Having played it live and experimented with the tone, we nailed the sound when we agreed on a start-to-finish pumping bass groove."

Bamboo Smoke are Wellby, producer Tom Hollis, and percussionist Mark Gilyead, and "Hold Me Briefly" is out now via Sweden's Something Beautiful imprint.

LIA ICES - "Young on the Mountain"

Indie folk's LIA ICES now resides in Northern California, and the stunning location played a role in the creation of her latest single, "Young on the Mountain". The song is a true beauty of rich and complex dream folk, featuring a delicately layered sound and ICES' emotive and expressive voice. Somehow, she manages to capture the heady feeling of being high in the mountains, surrounded by nature's healing embrace.

"I wrote 'Young on the Mountain' to crystallize the feelings I had right after we moved to Moon Mountain in Sonoma — I had a sense of freedom I'd never felt before, like I could really create my own reality and a way of life that I hadn't even dreamt of yet. Living amongst towering oaks and fruit trees, reading the California naturalist poets, being so close to the birds and sky. The mountain changed me and my songwriting, and reinforced the notion that the more real life gets, the more mystical it feels," says ICES.

SOUNDQ - "Bad Lot"

Kuba Kubica, aka SOUNDQ, is a Polish producer that aims to tell distinctly Eastern European stories through his music. "[Stories] that don't always offer a positive spin. Instead, they speak of accepting failure, struggling to adapt, living in two worlds, and finding treasure in another man's garbage." "Bad Lot" is his latest song, and it features kinetic, movement-inducing techno beats that pound and skitter about, while processed vocals speak to society's outsiders who never quite belong, but are capable of bold originality too.

SOUNDQ says the song is "for those, who struggle to find their place. Sometimes they get lucky and find one another at the peripherals of society. One with the universe, free from boundaries, determined to take what is theirs, they set out to create something no one else has."

The song is boldly original sounding, possessing harsh synth clashes, alongside propulsive beats and dream-like vocals. we eagerly await SOUNDQ's next move.

Pylon Heights - "Midsummer"

England's Pylon Heights share their brilliant new indie-folk/synthpop tune "Midsummer" today, and if you haven't heard this group's delicate and beautiful folktronica, then you're in for a treat. "Midsummer" lures you in instantly with its warm, harmony vocals, shimmering synths, and wistful nostalgia that has them "regretfully dreaming about time travel". Who isn't thinking that way now with all of the troubles we face. Pylon Heights bring you a moment of reverie where you can lose yourself for a moment in their music. That's the only kind of time travel we're likely to get in our lifetimes.

The band tell us that "'Midsummer' is about hindsight, when you can pinpoint the precise moment when you made a really bad decision. Like, 'f**k me, why did I do that?' We think everybody can relate."

Exit Kid - "Bleary Eyed"

Years & Years' Emre Turkmen has launched a new side project called Exit Kid, and as such he releases the brilliant take-down of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and (other dictators and "strongmen" of the moment) via "Bleary Eyed". The song is loaded with punk rage and disgust at the world's sad state of affairs, but you really have to experience the song via the video. Shots of the above-mentioned clueless politicians doing ridiculous stuff intersperse with messages of being in "overload" and shouting "stay home".

Natalie McCool - "Devils"

Photo: Robin Clewley / Courtesy of the artist

Natalie McCool writes infectious alternative pop draped with sumptuous melodies and emotionally revealing lyrics. Back in 2016, she released her debut album, The Great Unknown, and received praise from Q, the Sunday Times, and others. "Devils" is her new song co-written with Daniel Haggis of the Wombats, and it's even more catchy than her last single, "Closure". McCool gives us an uptempo number that speaks to our bad days and negative thought where we might just be a "devil" to others and ourselves. But she urges that this is OK because it's just a natural part of being human.

"'Devils' is essentially about allowing yourself every once in a while to give into emotions that are traditionally seen as negative, and that's okay, because we are only human and need to experience and accept these feelings to be whole. I think giving someone the space and support to say anything and everything they are experiencing or thinking, and for that also to be ok, is an amazing way to accept and move on. In a way it's taking away the stigma and shame of these feelings and turning the experience into something positive that will make you stronger."

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