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Dreampop takes over our charts for February with The Japanese House and Tennis

Most of our gems this week are pop, but we also have a little room for alt/indie and folk w/ Big Thief and Mitski!
Dreampop takes over our charts for February with The Japanese House and Tennis

“KCSU’s Weekly Gems Countdown” is written by the KCSU Music Directors and describes the top artists that your local 90.5 FM DJs are playing this week! This article is posted weekly on Wednesday morning and discussed on the show “KCSU Weekly Gem Countdown” which airs every Friday from 10-11. During the show, you can tune in to hear the countdown, learn more about each artist behind the songs topping KCSU’s charts, and listen to DJ Fruit-Bat and Lady J break down the sound and feel of each song!

10. Hozier – folk – 6 spins – highlighted hit: “Unknown / Nth” off of the 2023 release “Unreal Unearth”

Hozier (aka Andrew Hozier-Byrne) is a singer-songwriter from Ireland who skyrocketed to fame after his 2013 song, “Take Me To Church” became one of the most popular songs of the year (now with over 2 billion streams on spotify). His bluesy, folk-oriented music explores love, politics, religion, nature, and everything else one might expect from an Irish wordsmith whose songs reference everything from the bible to Dante’s Inferno to his favorite jazz songs and poems.

Hozier’s most recent release, “Unreal Unearth,” was released a few months ago on August 18th! It’s based upon Dante’s Inferno, with each song representing one of the circles of hell that Dante journeys through in the famous poem. Hozier wrote this album partially as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, telling “As a structure, I did want to acknowledge something in my experiences of [that] two, three year period, and what I was processing. I [wanted] to find a way that nods to that, and the significance of that — albeit, not necessarily in a way that was a lockdown album or a pandemic album, or songs that focus on the nuances of that experience, but at least acknowledge the journey. And it’s taking the structure of that journey as imagined by Dante, these Nine Circles he walks through and then he comes out the other side.”
The record is a hit with Hozier fans who waited patiently for its release, and Hozier’s two Red Rocks shows last October were phenomenal. Our highlighted hit is one of DJ Fruit Bat’s favorites: “Unknown / Nth”

9. Almost Monday – pop – 7 spins – highlighted hit: 2022’s single “Sunburn”
Almost Monday is a Californian indie pop trio formed from highschool friends Dawson Daugherty (vocals), Cole Clisby (guitar), and Luke Fabry (bass). The band’s first single, “Broken People,” was released in 2019, and their debut EP, “Don’t Say You’re Ordinary,” came out in 2020. Their single, “Sunburn,” came out in 2022 and took off, currently sitting at close to 28 million streams on Spotify.

Building a huge fanbase just from their singles, Almost Monday have yet to release a full-length LP, though it looks like one could be on the horizon considering their popularity at festivals and online. They seem to be getting plenty of play here at the station, so we’re going to feature “Sunburn” on our gems this week!

8. Olivia Rodrigo – pop – 7 spins – highlighted hit: “pretty isn’t pretty” off of the 2023 release “GUTS”

No longer just an up-and-comer in the world of pop music, Olivia Rodrigo is the world of modern pop music, a leading figure in shaping the sounds and aesthetics of modern pop music. Her debut record, “SOUR,” was a massive pop-cultural moment, the fastest album in history to have all of its songs certified RIAA Platinum for higher. Rodrigo got her start as an actress, featuring on shows like “Bizaardvark” and “High School Musical: The Musical: The Show,” but her passion for music led her to the career she has now.

Rodrigo’s second release, “GUTS,” came out in September to more praise and hype, currently putting her at the spot of the 22nd most-streamed artist in the entire world on Spotify. The album has a pop-rock/pop-punk inspired approach, edgier and more honest than Rodrigo was able to be on “SOUR.”
Our highlighted hit this week is “pretty isn’t pretty,” another slower Olivia track with lyrics worth paying attention to.

7. Mitski – alt/indie – 8 spins – highlighted hit: “Me & My Husband” off of the 2023 release “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We”
Mitsuki Miyawaki, known simply as Mitski, is a singer-songwriter who’s been releasing music since her first few self-released records, “Lush” (2012), and “Retired From Sad, New Career in Business” (2013), which she originally made while still in college. Mitski’s cult status among indie fans only grew after her subsequent releases “Bury Me At Makeout Creek” (2014) and “Puberty 2” (2016). Mitski achieved more mainstream success following 2018’s “Be the Cowboy” with tracks like “Nobody” and “Washing Machine Heart” going viral on TikTok and Twitter.Mitski’s music is associated with many online niches: sad Kendall Roy edits, sad edits in general, what’s often called “sad girl” music, but Mitski rejects the idea that her music has to be defined by sadness, saying in a video for Crack Magazine that “The sad girl thing was reductive and tired like 5-10 years ago, and it still is today…let’s retire the sad girl shtick.”

Her newest album, “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We,” was released September 15th to massive acclaim from critics and fans. Mitski describes this on her Spotify as her most “American album,” and our highlighted track this week is an older one off of “Be The Cowboy,” one that we surprisingly haven’t played before on Gems: “Me & My Husband”

6. Hemlocke Springs – pop – 9 spins – highlighted hit: “Going…Going…GONE!” off of the 2023 release “Going…Going…GONE!”
Isimeme “Naomi” Udu, aka hemlocke springs, is a testament to the internet’s power to skyrocket the careers of young musicians who use the platform to share music that challenges mainstream sounds. The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Springs grew up listening to pop and electronic music, experimenting on Garage Band with her own self-produced songs.

Springs posted her first song, “Gimme All Ur Love,” on her TikTok page spring of last year, immediately going viral. Her eclectic, sugary electric-pop speaks to the DIY, bedroom-pop approach that’s coming to define the new generation of pop stars. Her debut EP, “Going…Going…GONE!” came out this September, already with millions of streams online. Our highlighted track, “Going…Going…GONE!” is the one the EP takes its name from.
5. The Japanese House – alt/indie – 9 spins – highlighted hit: “Boyhood” off of the 2023 release “In The End It Always Does”

Amber Mary Bain (known musically as The Japanese House) is an indie-pop singer from England, known for her dreamy vocals and production. Swimming from synthpop to rock to folk-pop, Bain’s sound is as elusive as she is. Her androgynous vocals and lyrics have cemented her as a popular figure in the world of queer music, and her most streamed release, 2017’s “Saw You In a Dream” is a particularly popular cult hit in this regard.

The Japanese House’s most recent release was June of 2023, her second-ever LP entitled “In The End It Always Does”. The album has been a bit of a slow burn at the station, but it’s great to see it finally in our gems! Bain describes the album as exploring all of the relationships she’s lost over the years, as well as the experience of growing up queer, which is explored in our highlighted track this week, “Boyhood.”

4. Chappell Roan – pop – 10 spins – highlighted hit: “Picture You” off the 2023 release “The Rise & Fall of a Midwest Princess”

Chappell Roan has been writing and releasing her own music since she got her start on YouTube as a teenager in 2017, an internet-led “dark pop” princess whose word-of-mouth success began with her track, “Pink Pony Club,” going viral on TikTok in 2021. Building a further following from accompanying artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Fletcher on tour, Roan became known for her camp (self-made) outfits and unapologetically glittery pop music.

Her debut record, “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess,” sees Roan really coming into her own sonically and aesthetically, met with praise from critics and fans alike. This week we’re featuring the track “Picture You”

3. Big Thief – alt/indie – 11 spins – highlighted hit: “Simulation Swarm” off of the 2023 release “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You”
Big Thief are one of the defining acts of alternative, folk-inspired singer-songwriter music, though it feels wrong to put them into any sort of box; they’re always adapting, always finding new, unexpected ways to pull together their increasingly heart-wrenching records. With songwriting from Adrianne Lenker that’s somehow both incredibly complex yet sparse, almost inevitable in its profundity, their music has a universality that has ensured their popularity since their 2016 debut, “Masterpiece.”

Big Thief is also formed from Lenker’s ex-husband, Buck Meek (who has excellent country-folk music of his own), Max Oleartchik, and James Krivchenia. Their fifth album, “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You” came out in 2022, but their reached new levels of popularity after the vitality of their 2023 single, “Vampire Empire,” which took off on TikTok before an actual recording of the track had even come out—just the live performance was enough. It’s a stunning example of Lenker’s songwriting ability, a toxic relationship described through the beauty you force yourself to find in the midst of miscommunication and heartbreak. We’re more than excited to play it on Gems! We’re playing “Simulation Swarm” this week, another big single from last year!

2. Tennis – pop – 12 spins – highlighted hit: “Marathon” off of the 2011 release “Cape Dory”
One of the most exciting musical acts coming out of Colorado right now, Tennis are formed by husband-and-wife duo Alaina Moore (keys, vocals), and Patrick Riley (guitar, keys), who met while students right here in Colorado. Frequently out on sailing excursions, their music often takes inspiration from the boating trips the pair have been taking since the early days of their relationship.

Inspired by 50s doo-wop with a soft psych-pop twist, Tennis are a favorite at the station (especially because of their Colorado origins). “Yours Conditionally” is a record in constant rotation here, as is the rest of their stuff! Their most recent venture, February’s “Pollen,” was written on a four-month sailing trip. Our highlighted track, “Marathon” is an oldie, from 2011, but still a goodie! (And still pretty popular here).

1. Beabadoobee – pop – 14 spins – highlighted hit: “you’re here that’s the thing” off of the 2022 release “Beatopia”
Bea Kristi, known musically as Beabadoobee, was born in the Philippines and raised in London. She began her music career in 2017 with the single “Coffee,” which took off almost immediately. Another coffee themed track, “death bed (coffee for your head)” by Powfu featuring Bea, went viral on TikTok in 2020, currently sitting at over a billion streams on Spotify.

Bea’s steady release of bedroom pop eps and records has built her a consistent presence in the indie music scene, and sugary-sweet tracks like “glue song” give her a ubiquitous presence in romantic playlists everywhere. Her newest record, Beatopia, came out in 2022. It’s inspired by the made-up world she retreated into as a child, The album is full of features, from Jockstrap’s Georgia Ellery to Pinkpantheress. Our highlighted track, “You’re here that’s the thing” is her most played this week!