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KCSU welcomes Declan McKenna and The Last Dinner Party into our charts this week!

With new releases from both this month, that’s no surprise! Meanwhile, other staple artists like The Drums and Tennis maintain their leads so far!
KCSU welcomes Declan McKenna and The Last Dinner Party into our charts this week!

“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. Declan McKenna – pop – 8 spins – highlighted hit: “Nothing Works” 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 “Zeros” 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, and in an interview with NME before its release he described the record as “hella weird” and “as different as it could be from [his] previous albums.”

In another 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, “Nothing Works” is one of the album’s leading singles!

9. Slow Caves – alt/indie – 10 spins – highlighted hit: “Girlfriend” off of the 2019 release “Falling,” 

An indie rock band formed in 2014, Slow Caves formed in our very own Fort Collins! They worked on their sound in the Denver music scene for a few years before releasing 2017’s debut EP, “Desert Minded”, and went on to open for bands like Cake, DIIV, Cold War Kids, and more.

Their first full length album, “Falling,” came out in 2019, and since then they’ve released a handful of other singles, the last being 2021’s “Before I Leave.” Our highlighted track this week is “Girlfriend” off of “Falling.”

8. Sarah Kinsley – pop – 11 spins – highlighted hit: “Black Horse” off of the 2023 release “Ascension”

Sarah Kinsley has only been releasing music since 2019’s debut, “The Fall,” but she’s already amassed 700,000 monthly listeners on spotify alone, each release tracking millions of streams (with “The King” at 46 million alone). With a childhood studying classical music (eventually taking her to Columbia University.

Kinsley’s latest release, 2023’s “Ascension” came out in June of 2023. On the EP’s inspiration she said: “Ascension is about this unknown, ethereal place—the islands we create with people we have loved, where our phrases with them live, where our conversations outlast us, where every moment we have experienced lives again and again. It’s an eternal paradise. This is the center of this EP: the treasure, the collection of shining memories I carry, I ascend to.”

Our highlighted hit this week is “Black Horse.”

7. Paris Texas – rap/hip-hop – 11 spins – highlighted hit: “NüWhip” off of the 2023 release “Mid Air” 

Founded in 2018 in Las Angeles, the hip-hop duo Paris Texas is formed by Louie Pastel and Felix, both rappers and producers of the act. Their name is inspired by the 1984 Wim Winders movie of the same name, a cult classic that I, DJ Fruit Bat, am a massive fan of. Their debut EP, “I’ll Get My Revenge in Hell,” was released only six months after they got together. In 2021 they reapproached their sound, scrapping most of their other material on the internet and focusing on their 2021 record, “Boy Anonymous.”

Their newest record, last July’s “Mid Air,” is as chaotic as Paris Texas can get, though with a calm in the chaos that speaks to their experience creating music over the past five years, an instant classic in the internet’s alternative hip-hop circles that both brought in new fans and reminded ogs why they love this act so much to begin with. We’re featuring the track “NüWhip” this week, which has been getting tons of love from our DJs lately.

6. Noah Kahan & Hozier – folk – 12 spins – highlighted hit: “Northern Attitude,” released in 2023

Currently having more than a moment in contemporary music, Noah Kahan’s career began in 2017 with his song (and EP) “Hurt Somebody,’ and he’s released three records since, all to massive acclaim and popularity beyond just the folk, pop, and singer-songwriter circles he comes from. 2019’s “Busyhead” preceded 2021’s “I Was / I Am,” and 2022’s “Stick Season” was a particular breakout, now certified platinum and a staple on college campuses, especially here in Colorado.

Singles like “Stick Season,” “Dial Drunk,” and of course “Northern Attitude,” have all been massive hits for the artist, and he’s been releasing a steady stream of collaborative versions of some of his songs with artists like Kacey Musgraves, Gregory Alan Isokov, Brandi Carlisle, and Hozier, who’s the feature we’re playing today! 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 last year 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.

On their collaborative version of “Northern Attitude,” the combination of these two folk druids together is particularly effective, adding even more emotion to the track. Hozier warned on TikTok he might ‘frighten your dog’ because of all the howling.

5. Mitski – alt/indie – 12 spins – highlighted hit: “Nobody” off of the 2018 release “Be The Cowboy”

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, but we’ve exhausted it on gems of late and decided to play “Nobody” off of “Be The Cowboy” as a little throwback!

4. Tennis – pop – 13 spins – highlighted hit: “My Emotions Are Blinding” 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 “My Emotions are Blinding,” another off of “Yours Conditionally.”

3. The Last Dinner Party – alt/indie – 13 spins – highlighted hit: “Nothing Matters” 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 Black Midi, 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! Their leading single “Nothing Matters,” is what the band is particularly known for, so we’re stoked to play it this week.

2. The Drums – alt/indie – 14 spins – highlighted hit: “I’m Still Scared” off of the 2023 release “Jonny”

Debuting with 2010’s self-titled “The Drums,” The Drums have been part of the indie-pop scene since the early 2010s, and their sound reflects that. With a revolving door of members until 2016, the only remaining member is frontman Jonathan Pierce, whose voice is the one you’ll hear when you turn on any Drums track. Most known for 2011’s “Portamento” (which I loved in middle school), The Drums have more to offer than just tracks like “Money” and “I Don’t Know How to Love,” which comes through clearly on their new release, “Jonny.”

“Jonny” is described on Spotify as capturing the “work of healing from childhood trauma and the shadow it casts over adulthood.” These tracks took longer to write than Pierce’s usual, bang-it-out method, which allows for an introspection and nuance that’s an interesting new direction for The Drums. Our highlighted track is “I’m Still Scared”

1. hemlocke springs – pop – 15 spins – highlighted hit: “Enknee1” 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 last September, already with millions of streams online. Our highlighted track, “Enknee1,” is a perfect soundtrack to listen to while yearning for…anyone!