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Gems is full of newcomers this week, from Idles to L’Rain to The Last Dinner Party

Other artists like Fleetwood Mac and Buck Meek are also welcome surprises this week!
Gems is full of newcomers this week, from Idles to LRain to The Last Dinner Party

“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. Idles – rock – 6 spins – highlighted hit: “Gift Horse” off of the February release “Tangk”

Formed in Bristol in 2009, Idles is made up of Joe Talbot (vocals), Mark Bowen (guitar), Lee Kiernan (guitar), Jon Beavis (drums), and Adam Devonshire (bass). Performing live shows exclusively for almost eight years, the band debuted with 2017’s “Brutalism,” followed by 2018’s “Joy As An Act of Resistance,” both of which cemented their spot as one of the defining acts in today’s British punk scene. Their 2020 release “Ultra Mono” went #1 in the UK, with the track “Ne Touch Pas Moi” becoming a consent anthem.

Idles most recent release, “Tangk,” came out this February! Singles like “Dancer” (feat. LCD Soundsytem) and “Gift Horse” have been leading singles leading up to the record’s release.The title “Tangk” is an a onomatopoeiac that they chose because of “the lashing way the band imagined the guitars sounding, that has grown into a sigil for living in love.” — This political, love-centered approach is a vital part of both this album and the band’s current ethos. Our highlighted hit this week is “Gift Horse.”

9. Fleetwood Mac – rock – 11 spins – highlighted hit: “Dreams” off of the 1977 release “Rumours”
One of the defining acts of the 70s, Fleetwood Mac are still just as popular now as they were then, occasionally creeping out of the woodwork for reunion shows and collaborations with artists like Harry Styles. Their tumultuous time as a band is the stuff of music legend, recently inspiring the Amazon Prime show “Daisy Jones & The Six,” about a 70s band breaking up at the height of their fame. Tracks from their “Rumours” and “Fleetwood Mac” records are particularly inescapable.

It’s always rad when an older band makes it to the top of our gems! As a bit of a contrast with the more romantic couple-y duo of Tennis, we’re picking the track “Dreams” off of “Rumours”

8. Clairo – pop – 7 spins – highlighted hit: “Sinking” off of the 2019 release “Immunity”

Claire Elizabeth Cottrill, also known as Clairo, has been making music since she was 13 and posting her DIY music to the internet. This lo-fi approach has helped define her as a mainstay of the bedroom pop sound that now feels so quintessentially 2010s. Her single “Pretty Girl,” released in 2017, went viral, earning her a record deal and the chance to drop her debut album “Immunity” in 2019. “Bags” and “Sofia” were singles that more than took off from this debut, huge on TikTok and within Sapphic circles.

Our highlighted hit this week is also off of “Sinking” is also off of “Immunity,” surprisingly the Clairo song that was spun the most this week (and gave her her first spot in our Gems!)

7. Benet – pop – 7 spins – highlighted hit: “Overpowering” off of the 2023 release “Can I Go Again?”

Richond, VA-based singer Benét released his debut album in 2023, “Can I go again?” described on his site as “ a diverse collection of contemplative, tightly-crafted indie-pop, rock, and soul tracks as emotionally resonant as they are immediate and infectious. These tracks are equally worthy of processing heart break, gaming with your friends, or finding strength in solitude—growth in time requires an embrace of seriousness as well as unbridled, shameless joy.” This follows his 2021 EP “Game Over!” where he was still settling on the pop sound that he’s really come into with this new release.

Our highlighted track is “Overpowering” is one of the record’s lead singles, and it’s unexpected spot in our gems is the first time Benet has made it to gems since September, when “Can I Go Again” released!

6. Buck Meek – folk/country 9 spins – highlighted hit: “Secret Side” off of the 2023 release “Haunted Mountain”

Known for his position as guitarist and backing vocalist in the alt-folk band Big Thief (as well as the ex-husband to lead vocalist Adrianne Lenker), Buck Meek made into our gems this week with his solo music, folk with a hint of the rocky, western, Texas twang he grew up with. Buck Meek’s debut record, the self-titled “Buck Meek,” has twee tracks like “Joe By The Book” and “Ruby” that give a pretty solid look at the folksy songwriting that Meek is known for.

Buck Meek’s most recent release, August’s “Haunted Mountain,” is all about love and home, made up of stories from childhood and onward. His lushest record, there’s an earnest kind of sweetness to Meek’s vocals and lyrics that feel singular to him. On the love songs making up the record, Meek says on his Bandcamp: “Not break-up songs, but an actual love song written in earnest? That is taboo now…Sometimes it can feel like all the great love songs have already been written.” Our highlighted track this week embodies this sentiment: “Secret Side”

5. L’Rain – r&b/soul – 9 spins – highlighted hit: “I Hate My Best Friends” off of the 2023 release “I Killed Your Dog”
Taja Cheek, known by her stage persona “L’Rain,” is an experimental composer, producer, and vocalist. Her music has a bit of an ‘if-you-know-you-know’ status, indie and just-left-of-center enough that its popularity in niche critical circles speaks for itself; her second release, “Fatigue,” was named album of the year by The Wire, and she’s toured with artists like Animal Collective, Big Thief, and Black Midi—she’s in good company.

Her most recent release, “I Killed Your Dog,” is just as envelope-pushing as its name suggests. An album exploring what it means to hurt the people you love, on her Bandcamp Cheek says this of the record: “I’m envisioning a world of contradictions, as always…Sensual, maybe even sexy, but terrifying, and strange.”

Our highlighted track, “I Hate My Best Friends,” is another example of Cheek’s ability to pick a particularly evocative title.

4. Declan McKenna – pop – 8 spins – highlighted hit: “Mulholland’s Dinner and Wine” off of the 2024 release “What Happened to the Beach?”

Declan McKenna is a 25 year old British singer-songwriter who released his first single at the age of 16, a critique of the 2014 FIFA World Cup held in Brazil called “Brazil,” and his music since has been similarly precocious and political. His debut record, “What Do You Think About the Car?” was more indie-rock focused, while the 2020 album “Zeroes” has an electronic, glam-rock inspiration and sound. Never one to stay in a box for too long, McKenna’s third album, “What Happened to the Beach?” is a groovy, guitar-heavy pop record that McKenna says was inspired by artists like St. Vincent. 

In an interview for Far Out, McKenna emphasizes that he wanted to distance himself slightly from the political punch his other records have had: “I wanted to open up and not worry about things so much. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself in the past when I just needed to drop the intensity a bit and have some fun.” This approach makes for a subdued-yet-complex psych-pop record where he seems more confident in his songwriting and exploration. Our highlighted hit, “Mulholland’s Dinner and Wine” was the first single to drop from the record, and we had to feature it because of how catchy it is!

3. Beabadoobee – pop – 14 spins – highlighted hit: “The Perfect Pair” 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, and the album is full of features, from Jockstrap’s Georgia Ellery to Pinkpantheress. Our highlighted track this week is Lady J’s favorite, “The Perfect Pair,” a song with a poppy, bossa nova-influenced sound that belies the sad twinge to its lyrics.

2. The Last Dinner Party – alt/indie – 13 spins – highlighted hit: “On Your Side” off of their 2024 release “Prelude to Ecstacy”
Formed in London 2021, The Last Dinner Party’s hype is currently inescapable. Formed by Abigail Morris (vocals), Lizzie Mayland (vocals, guitar), Emily Roberts (lead guitar, mandolin, flute), Georgia Davies (bass), and Aurora Nishevci (keyboards, vocals). The band spent time in the London music scene—particularly the legendary Windmill Scene, known for acts like Black Midi and Black Country, New Road—before putting themselves out there, watching the other acts to find what direction they wanted to go in—it’s why their aesthetic and music already feel so curated and time-honed—the corsets, the lace, the drama!

Inspired by acts ranging from Kate Bush to Bowie to Queen to Florence + The Machine, The Last Dinner Party’s sound is theatrical, avante-garde art-pop that feels as decadent and debauched as their name and aesthetic suggests. The band have taken off over the past year, opening for Hozier over the summer (and in good company with his own frequent references to literature and religion in his lyrics!)
Their debut record, “Prelude to Ecstacy,” was released February of this year and has been massively popular at the station! Our highlighted track this week is one of the record’s slower b-sides, but it feels fitting for the gloomy weather (and tone of this week’s gems!) — “On Your Side.”

1. Tennis – pop – 13 spins – highlighted hit: “Please Don’t Ruin This For Me” off of the 2017 release “Yours Conditionally”
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 of 2023’s “Pollen,” was written on a four-month sailing trip. Our highlighted track is “Please Don’t Ruin This For Me,” yet another off of “Yours Conditionally.”