Don’t press skip: Music highlights you might have missed in April

Photo of April 2021 music

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Spring is the time of new beginnings — and new music! This April, Lil Nas X’s deeply personal single soared to No. 1 on the charts, Olivia Rodrigo proved she wasn’t a one-hit wonder, Demi Lovato embraced her demons and Brockhampton searched for hope amid tragedy. Still, there were a few things that may have passed under your radar. Have no fear, dear reader! Music beat reporters Vincent Tran and Taila Lee are here to recommend a few highlights you might’ve missed in the music world this past month.

epic Ten, Sharon Van Etten

Ten years out, Sharon Van Etten’s third album Epic receives a glorious reissue with additional covers of the original seven tracks provided by a diverse list of guest musicians — from fellow indie rock artists and acts including Shamir, Courtney Barnett, Idles and Vagabon — to the more seasoned music heavyweights Fiona Apple and Lucinda Williams. From the smooth vocal-pop of St. Panther’s reimagining of “One Day” to the racing electric-rock interpretation of opener “A Crime” from recent Taylor Swift collaborators Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner, it turns out that Van Etten’s songs shimmer and shine no matter the form or the genre.

Finest of all is Apple’s version of “Love More,” the emotional showstopper at the heart of both the original and latest version of Epic. With the introduction of a percussive rhythm section, powerful harmonies and her signature sense of self-determination, Apple transforms Van Etten’s mantra from a graceful embrace of love into a ritual celebration of hope, healing and opening your heart back up to the world. It’s the year’s finest cover, a must-hear song that — just like Van Etten’s classic Epic — will stand the test of time. 

— Vincent Tran

Dua Lipa’s cover of Arlo Parks’ “Eugene” at BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge

Dua Lipa returned to the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge this month, bringing stunning, stripped versions of Future Nostalgia’s “Hallucinate” and “We’re Good.” Following live lounge tradition, Lipa also performed a special cover, turning to the beloved Arlo Parks song “Eugene” for her final performance. Effortlessly tapping into her mature lower range and coating each sultry lyric in heartache, Lipa’s intimate rendition of the love song is transcendent. Even though these lyrics aren’t penned by her, Lipa sings with such conviction that it’s easy to imagine Eugene is someone from her past.

Taila Lee

“Posing In Bondage,” Japanese Breakfast

Though it’s awash in warm synthesizers, Michelle Zauner’s latest single as Japanese Breakfast arrives like a cold wave. The bright, joyous cries for affection from previous single “Be Sweet” are dialed down to a gentle yearn on “Posing In Bondage,” a lonely ballad in which the singer finds herself craving a connection that will never be. As the song builds, the distance between Zauner and her desires continues to close, leading up to a final breakdown of drums, bells and booming echoes. Originally a demo for the Polyvinyl 4-Track Singles Series, the song’s revamped production has a newfound spacious and intimate feel, as passions rise while the intense feeling of longing is distilled into two words: closeness and proximity.

— Vincent Tran

“You,” Regard, Troye Sivan, Tate McRae

“You,” produced by the DJ Regard and performed by pop stars Troye Sivan and Tate McRae, is the perfect dancing-while-crying anthem. Like any song wallowing in the aftermath of a breakup, “You” is sorrowfully reminiscent; inescapable remnants of a past relationship follow Sivan and McRae around, making it a struggle for them to say goodbye. The singers’ voices complement each other wonderfully, and together, they wield a strangely infectious sadness that weaves its way through the song. However, what gives the track its striking edge is its dance-pop style — although “You” could have easily been a ballad, Regard’s echoey synth-pop elements brilliantly induce the all-consuming feeling of overthinking about someone.

Taila Lee

“Chosen Family,” Rina Sawayama, Elton John

Celebrating one year of her self-titled debut Sawayama, Rina Sawayama released a collaborative remix of “Chosen Family” featuring Elton John. A rosy love letter to the queer community, “Chosen Family” illustrates Sawayama’s dream safe space of open arms and open hearts. John is always a welcome featured guest, but on this emotional song, his words are especially poignant and comforting. The song’s soothing production diverges slightly from the original with its transient piano accompaniment, making it feel like even more of a ballad. The definition of vulnerable, Sawayama and John’s special duet is a heartwarming ode to the people who love and accept us for who we are.

Taila Lee

“Let’s Love!,” CHAI

While Wink — the next album from Chai — isn’t due for another month, the Japanese rock band has taken a small detour, offering up its latest one-off single to serve as the theme for the upcoming anime series “Dinosaur Biyori.” Boasting playful bass and guitar as well as xylophones that swell into a jubilant, colorful chorus of pure happiness, “Let’s Love!” is the rare rock song that embraces camp and actually ends up all the more successful for it. Accompanied by an absolutely iconic, psychedelic, dino-crazy visualizer from director Mirai Mizue, Chai continues to impress, coming through with an unashamedly bright and cheery banger that is every bit as exciting and fun as its title suggests.

— Vincent Tran

Other notable releases: “Gold City,” Iceage; NPR Music’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, Shelley FKA DRAM; “Send Me,” Tirzah

Vincent Tran and Taila Lee cover music. Contact Taila at [email protected] and Vincent at [email protected].