Six tracks to keep you cool, calm and collected while we wait: your Press Play-list for “election week”

Bart Carmody, Arts Editor

With the next few days in the U.S. bound to be full of uncertainty and noise, it’s nice to tune out for a minute with some soothing new music. So, we’ve curated another six-track playlist to keep your anxieties at bay for at least a short while.

With pop sensation Ariana Grande making a grand return with the blissful yet playful “positions,” indie rockstar Bakar dropping his smooth new single “1st time,” and the debut release of Clairo’s new indie band Shelly, this week is full of tracks to keep you cool, calm and collected before any final results. Here’s your Press Play-list for what has seemingly turned into “election week.”

Shelly – “Steeeam”

Despite the consequences of COVID-19 on entertainment industry, bedroom pop superstar Clairo has certainly not lost hold on her recently-gained traction. Since her 2019 debut album “Immunity,” she has secured several acclaims under her belt, including a hit collaborative song with U.K. DJ Mura Masa, and a headline spot on PC music sensation AG Cook’s online music festival, “Appleville.” Now, in an unexpected 2020 mass-collab, Clairo has teamed up with Phoebe-Bridgers-signed indie artist Claud and their two friends Josh Mehling and Noa Frances Getzug to form the lo-fi rockband, Shelly. One of their debut singles, “Steeeam,” captures the innately relatable subject of wanting to be desired within a two minute, beach pop-rock jam. It’s incredibly encouraged that within this wavy tune we can all fall in love with ourselves over and over again, since lately, overwhelming lonesomeness is as a feeling as tangible as ever. Paired with the accompanying single “Natural,” Shelly flawlessly stuck the landing on their collaborative debut, and we’re excited to see what’s to come next.

Bakar – “1st Time”

“The first time/I saw the fire in your eyes/I’d never really been tongue-tied/Until I fell into you,” Bakar sings on the opening lines of his lovestruck new single, “1st Time.” The track is the alternative rockstar’s first official release of 2020, and with the weather turning colder and colder, his sweetly-serenading vocals and beachy production provide one more taste of sunshine for the month of November. The bass-and-drum-led beat leads a futuristic-rock anthem that encapsulates an unrequited story of romance, as Bakar delivers Grouplove-esque lyrics that act as a bashful love letter. The artist hasn’t had a phone for two years now, and has been separated from all social media, providing an isolated, longing tone to his recent works – and “1st Time” is no exception. “‘1st Time’ is a perfect example of his unique approach,” his management said of the song, “bursting with originality and uninhibited by nostalgia.”

Ariana Grande – “six thirty”

Ariana Grande’s new album “positions” is simultaneously one of the most theatrical, seductive and overall most peace-pursuing pieces of music from the artist yet. With songs like “shut up” being a spiteful f-you to any overt criticizers of her career decisions, and “pov” being an endearing love song similar to Grande’s earlier works, “six thirty” is the perfect in-between, as Grande smoothly glides over a transcendent bass-heavy beat, complete with her trademark self-aware and unapologetically lovesick lyrics. “I know I be on some bullshit,” Grande sings in the opening lines, “Know I be driving you crazy.” The concept of being cutely contrite about her actions done out of love-craziness is nothing new to the artist (see: “needy” and “NASA”), but it’s in the song’s hook where it’s separated from the rest. Her voice swings from high to low over reverberating pop-bass-and-snare, as she cleverly asks her lover if they’re “down like six thirty,” i.e., two hands facing downwards on a clock. This is right before the song breaks into a full-blown orchestra refrain complimented by fluttering, harmonious violins that only propel Grande’s unmistakably melodious voice. While it isn’t the “hit” on Grande’s new record, as “34+35” has been gaining mass popularity and “off the table” includes a Weeknd feature, it’s definitely a track you don’t want to miss.

Tierra Whack – “Dora”

In her solo work, Tierra Whack has been relatively quiet for the majority of 2020 – and yet somehow, she still hasn’t lost her spot at the top of her class. In this year alone, she’s landed collaborations with A$AP Rocky, Tyler, the Creator, Lil Yachty and Melanie Martinez, and in 2019, she had the pleasure to work alongside Beyoncé on “The Lion King: The Gift.” So with all of these not-so-small achievements so early on into one’s career, people were waiting to see if Whack would ever bless the world with more of her effortlessly eccentric work. But Whack stans fret no longer – the singer/rapper is back with her new single “Dora,” and it captures the same colorfulness and playfulness that the artist has always managed to deliver since her first and only full-length release “Whack World.” “Dora” is a vibrant bop that features Whack executing blissfully braggadocious verses over a beat that sounds sampled right out of a kid’s show – and the music video, directed by Alex Da Corte, plays into that aesthetic perfectly. Whack is surrounded by several familiar furry faces, such as Kermit the Frog and Garfield, and she cunningly plays upon kids toys to match up to her not-so-kids-show lyrics. Watch the music video for yourself to get a sample of the enigmatic and ever-expanding world of Whack’s mind.

BENEE – “Plain” (feat. Lily Allen & Flo Milli)

In a year where unexpected collabs seem to be released week after week, it’s almost impossible for any collab to surprise listeners anymore. Yet somehow, the new BENEE track “Plain,” featuring Lily Allen and Flo Milli, still managed to take the world by surprise. The odd trio surprisingly complement each other wonderfully, with BENEE’s melancholy vocals, Allen’s catchy and sassy post-chorus and a vigorous yet smooth verse from Flo Milli, are all perfectly laid over a beat that sounds like a mesh of trap and bedroom pop. The single comes from BENEE’s forthcoming debut album “Hey u x,” and for a debut, has gathered quite the impressive audience waiting in anticipation. Not only has her song “Supalonely” with Gus Dapperton become a TikTok sensation, but the tracklist is fairly stacked, with features from Grimes, Kenny Beats and Bakar, as well. Keep an eye out for “Hey u x” dropping on Nov. 13.

Pretty Sick – “Superstar”

Finishing strong on this week’s list of calming tracks is NYC-based rock band Pretty Sick, with their most recent EP “Deep Divine.” The project is a front-to-back collection of post-punk anthems, complete with several instances of roaring guitars and thundering drum sections. “Superstar,” however, is a standout in its own way, as it’s far gloomier than any of the other cuts on this record. In fact, with its moody bassline and longsome lyrics, it might be the group’s most somber track yet. Similar to how lead singer Sabrina Fuentes dishes out biblical references on this project (perhaps inspired by her time spent in Catholic school in her youth), the track soars like an angel into a wailing guitar solo, an ethereal experience that keeps the track short yet impossibly sweet. And when this week’s anxieties have passed and you need to reinvigorate, be sure to check out the remaining tracks on “Deep Devine,” as they’re sure to jolt you out of any rut and back into the swing of things.