Arts District

The Big Baltimore Playlist: January 2018

The top five local songs you should download right now.

In the latest iteration of The Big Baltimore Playlist, we found five local songs ranging from electric R&B and honey-coated indie to rabblerousing post-punk rock. Check back each month for new top songs of the moment, and follow our Spotify playlist as we continue to build a soundtrack for our city. 

More To Love” by Bobbi Rush

This is such a pretty song. It begins with a lush wave of synth that sweeps in as a violin lilts about and local singer-songwriter Bobbi Rush’s breathy voice seems to appear through some dream-like mist. Hushed and honey-coated, it is imbued with the familiar feelings of being lost in love—or having love lost. Produced by local musician Micah E. Wood, it is a piece of ’80s-infused R&B perfection, even as its brought into the 21st century with fuzzy layers of trap-style beats at the bridge and chorus. The melody, and Rush’s siren-esque vocals, fill your ears and consume your senses, leaving you, too, wanting more.

Dunce” by Ed Schrader’s Music Beat

It’s been four years since Ed Schrader’s Music Beat released their last full-length album, and boy, is the experimental punk-rock duo coming back with an aggressive bang. This lead single, off their upcoming March album, Riddles, is as raw as a razor’s edge, rolling at a race pace with Devlin Rice’s heavy bass and Ed Schrader’s haunting, visceral vocals akin to a sludgy punk Billy Idol. With in-your-face production by local legend Dan Deacon, this fearless track is a rollicking tour de force, densely packed with power and rever, that culminates in one clarity: Schrader has been doggedly performing in Baltimore for more than a decade now—and we think 2018 is finally going to be his year. 

Bad Dreams” by Hexgirlfriends*

We weren’t prepared for the impact that this song would have on us. Bewitching and boundless, it is such a gentle beautiful thing for how tough of a topic it tackles. In that sense, it’s hard to listen to, relishing in its beauty before realizing what it’s actually about. But maybe that’s the point. The “electro-femme un-pop” duo’s minimalist melody—a few plugs of bass, a touch of keys, a trill of electronics—is a rumination on the act of cutting and abusive relationships—on the ways in which we cope with emotional damage and their sometimes physical manifestations. What starts as faint lyrics pushed through tapping tonal pulses that fall like drops from a leaky faucet then builds into an echo chamber of rhythmic beats, swelling with emotion before finding a final watershed moment of peace. Keep your ears tuned to Sondra Boyle and Hannah Holt. Creating music as affecting as this—so simple yet complex—is no easy feat.

Baby I’m Bleeding” by JPEGMAFIA

It’s been almost two years since JPEGMAFIA released his politically ripe Black Ben Carson, and his just-dropped follow-up, Veteran, pushes all boundaries with equal zeal. The Baltimore-based rapper is a force to be reckoned with, and on this first new single, he captures the frustrated, distorted feel of the current social and political climate, filled with frenetic loops that dizzily ricochet between your ears as the artist unleashes a stream of loaded (and explicit) lyrics. JPEGMAFIA approaches everything he does with unbridled intensity, and this apocalyptic noise-rap track is as unnerving as it is infectious. The New York transplant has quickly become a fixture of the local music scene, and his bold music making has our (and the nation’s—see Spin, Paper, Paste, Noisey, etc.) attention.

Horror Movie” by Wildhoney*

Don’t let the title fool you—this track is anything but ominous. Instead, the indie-pop quintet returns after a two-year hiatus with a sweet, loud, shimmering shoegaze sound that reminds us how gorgeous unadulterated music can be. As a genre, “indie” music has become laden with digital touches—a sampled beat here, a drop of 808 there—but Wildhoney proves that less is more with its energetic guitar riffs, gated drums, and lead singer Lauren Shusterich’s weightless, golden pipes. This sunny DIY melody is a little bit ’60s girl group, a little bit ’80s punk, with a touch of psychedelia. Despite expert craftsmanship, it has an effortless feel. It makes your heart pang. And your toes tap along to the beat. It has us hopeful for a full new album in 2018.

*Not on Spotify. We’ll add it to the playlist when it becomes available.