Under the Radar: Issue 24

At the Highlander, we consistently review and analyze music by more famous artists. However, there are many musicians who receive less attention so here is the first of our series on artists that are flying a little “under the radar.”

Julien Baker – “Sprained Ankle”

Courtesy of 6131 Records
Courtesy of 6131 Records

I found Julien Baker while listening to NPR. The first line from her titular “Sprained Ankle” — “Wish I could write songs about anything other than death” sets the tone for the rest of her first album and her music in general. A one-person act, her Telecaster warbles while she sings, the light airiness of her voice contrasting the melancholy of her words. I doubt she will ever have mass appeal, but some of you out there may be at a time or place in your lives when you need music like this. I almost want to break up with my girlfriend just so she can sing to my soul even more. -Robert Lees, RADAR Editor

Watch the video for the title track off of “Sprained Ankle” below:

 

Anna Wise – “BitchSlut”

Courtesy of Anna Wise
Courtesy of Anna Wise

You’re likely to have heard of Anna Wise, though whether you can immediately connect the name to the voice is a bit more dubious. The Brooklyn-based songstress has just recently earned a Grammy for her vocals on “These Walls” (one of her numerous Kendrick Lamar collaborations). If her single “BitchSlut” — the second release off her soon-to-drop EP, “The Feminine: Act 1” — is any indication, Wise will soon demand your attention. The track is a two-and-a-half minute upheaval of sexist double standards and the power of the message all the more accentuated as Wise rap-sings lines like “You think I wanna fuck cause I combed my hair / cause I’m at the bar next to an open chair” over floating synths and booming drum breaks. While she may be on this list of overlooked artists now, Wise’s captivating vocals and charisma give one the sense she’ll transcend above it in due time. –Myles Andrews-Duve, Sports Editor

Watch the video for “BitchSlut” below:

 

Fantastic Negrito – “Fantastic Negrito EP”

Courtesy of Black Ball Universe
Courtesy of Black Ball Universe

As someone who considers blues to be their favorite genre, it’s not very often I hear any modern musician do anything interesting within it. Most contemporary blues albums are hackneyed caricatures of the once-great genre. However, the first time I heard “An Honest Man” by Oakland-based musician Fantastic Negrito, I was shocked by the duality of the classic blues feel and the genuine novelty of this song. With a call-and-response rhythm and a simple clapping rhythm interspersed with the sound of a chain. The songs in this EP are all structurally diverse cuts that really take up the mantle of pure blues left by BB King. -Faraz Rizvi, Assistant Radar Editor

Check out Fantastic Negrito’s powerful NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert below:

 

Tokyo Jihen — “Dai Hakken”

Courtesy of EMI Music Japan
Courtesy of EMI Music Japan

I wasn’t sure what to think when my mom popped in Tokyo Jihen’s “Dai Hakken” into the CD player and hummed along to the ambient sounds of drums that soon haunted the insides of our minivan. Three songs later, the sounds smoothed into a jazzy lounge song I found myself tapping my fingers to. Before that, we tuned out a rock ballad.
The Japanese five-member band took risks to experiment with each song, treating each like an individual work instead of a piece to a whole. So, you’re not going to love the album, but you will find yourself murmuring lyrics of a particular song even if you don’t speak Japanese. -Jessica Baker, Opinions Editor

Listen to Tokyo Jihen’s “Denpa Tsuushin” below:

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