Peyton Stotelmyre / Daily Nexus

Artsweek staff’s top tracks from February. 

“Deeper Well” by Kacey Musgraves 

Kacey Musgraves teased the March 15 release of her sixth studio album, “Deeper Well,” at the 66th Annual Academy Awards on Feb. 4. Though quickly overshadowed by Taylor Swift’s own album announcement, Musgraves released the lead single on Feb. 8. Title track “Deeper Well,” a quiet and introspective song, unearths a new side of the country artist. It leans into the acoustic aspects of country music, with complex fingerpicking patterns playing over melodies. The lyrics are written by Musgraves and tell a tale of self-discovery and self-care through the metaphor of a well. Her voice, unique in its ability to make the listener feel like they are listening to warm honey, combined with the lyricism and instrumentation creates a track that is unassuming in its greatness. From her critically acclaimed 2018 album “Golden Hour” to her chart-topping collaborations, Musgraves has been continually influential for female country music in the modern era. And yet it seems that with this album, Musgraves may have found her deeper well. 

— Lucy Dixon


“Older” by Lizzy McAlpine 

Lizzy McAlpine became Generation Z’s patron saint of yearning in 2022 with her standout single “ceilings,” a soaring, cinematic number that cemented McAlpine’s prowess as a storyteller. On the title track and opening single for her highly anticipated upcoming album “Older,” the Berklee-educated singer-songwriter delivers a somber, meandering melody about the uncertainties of growing out of, growing up and growing old. On “Older,” McAlpine comments on the cyclical nature of time and anxiety as she sings “Sick to my stomach, can’t find the ground / Stuck in a loop, watch the curtain come down,” her voice imparting a gentle frankness that perfectly cradles the lyrics’ wrought emotions. The piano ballad is a testament to both her maturity and consistency as an artist: gone are the bedroom-pop instrumentals and youthful naivete present on her most recent album “five seconds flat.” What remains, however, is McAlpine’s ability to deliver deceptively simple, biting lyrics atop a memorably melancholy refrain, earning her yet another spot on the playlists of countless listeners — and undoubtedly, many accolades in the near future.  

— Emily Yoon


“Mulholland’s Dinner and Wine” by Declan McKenna

British singer-songwriter Declan McKenna released his third studio album “What Happened to the Beach?” featuring the standout song “Mulholland’s Dinner and Wine.” “Mulholland’s Dinner and Wine” encapsulates the eccentric mix of indie rock and psychedelia that defines the sound of McKenna’s new album. While clearly an ode to the time that McKenna has spent writing in Los Angelas, “Mulholland’s Dinner and Wine” also weaves in numerous references to his hometown London. With lyrics like “I got a boring apartment and all of the drugs/ I’m f*cking dangerous, I get what I want,” McKenna seems to imply that making it big and acquiring wealth has not made him happy. Rather he has “found love for the little things in life.” In both this song and the album in general, McKenna steps away from explicitly political songs, his forté, instead centering on his personal experiences and journey to self-acceptance.

— Caitlin Scialla


“Forever” by Noah Kahan

Academy Award nominee and folk star Noah Kahan premiered the newest track on his “Stick Season (Forever)” album, titled “Forever,” on Feb. 9. Kahan’s “Forever” is a beautiful love ballad, emulating feelings of warmth and connection. The song portrays the belief that he will be able to find a genuine relationship and beautifully describes the feeling of being completely enthralled by the person you love. The chorus is an immediate ear-catcher as Kahan belts, “I won’t be alone for the rest of my life / I’ll build a boat for when the river gets high / And I’ll meet a girl in the heat of July.” Kahan uses the imagery of summer – heat, waves and passion – to portray an idyllic scene of meeting someone who could become your soulmate.  One of the most prominent lines from the song echoes, “So, when I hold her close / I might loosen my grip, but I won’t ever let her go / I won’t ever let her go.” Here, Kahan is not singing to an audience, but directly to the love of his life as he tells her that they will be together forever.  This passionate folk ballad is a must-listen that blends seamlessly into the rest of Kahan’s “Stick Season (Forever)”

— Avery Stanley


“TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” by Beyoncé

During the 2024 Super Bowl, singer-songwriter and pop culture icon Beyoncé teased new music in an advertisement for Verizon, before announcing that she would be releasing an album tentatively titled “Act II” on March 29 via Instagram. The first single, “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM,” was released as the Super Bowl continued, marking a stark genre shift for the previously pop and R&B artist. The track is country at its finest – set to a southern-esque instrumental with lyrics like “It’s a real-life boogie and a real-life hoedown / Don’t be a bitch, come take it to the floor now.” Not only is it an incredibly catchy tune, but the track also pays homage to Beyoncé’s hometown of Houston, reconnecting the singer with her roots and fully committing to the country influences sprinkled in her past music. “TEXAS HOLD ‘EM” also hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs list, which makes Beyoncé the first Black woman in history to do so.

— Lauren Chiou



TWICE released their long-awaited mini album “With YOU-th” on Feb. 23, with the track “ONE SPARK.” The album deeply resonates with TWICE and their fans as it documents the growth of the members through their nine-year-long journey to achieving global fame. In contrast to the pre-released English track, “I GOT YOU,” which celebrated TWICE’s friendship with an ambient sound, the song “ONE SPARK” is a passionate drum-and-bass track with a dynamic beat and catchy tune. The song mirrors TWICE’s everlasting “spark” as they have reached peak after peak with their music career and draws nostalgic references to their past releases, cementing their place in K-pop as timeless icons. 

— Na Huang


“Kirkland” by Max Leone 

Portland native and indie music artist Max Leone released his new single “Kirkland” on Feb. 9, 2024. The single is about his childhood memories of his hometown. It’s emotional and nostalgic, providing a flashback to the early 2000s. As the song progresses, Leone talks about how the town has changed so much from when he was a kid and now he doesn’t know his way around anymore: “Used to do it with my eyes closed / And now I can’t find my way home.” With lyrics like “And they got rid of the pawnshop / And now everything is Kirkland,” it’s a song that discusses urbanization and how it ruins a city and the memories stored in it. Through this song, Leone once again provides nostalgic and relatable lyrics for college students and their relationships with their hometowns. 

— Diana Mateescu


“HISS” by Megan Thee Stallion 

If you have been off the grid, it’s understandable if you haven’t heard of Megan Thee Stallion’s new song “HISS,” but anyone with access to eduroam on campus should be aware of the bombshell single and related drama. Causing a stir with just the line “These hoes don’t be mad at Megan, these hoes mad at Megan’s Law” and a subsequent feud with fellow rapper Nicki Minaj, “HISS” represents the artist at her most fiery and venomous yet.  With powerful bars and a vicious, unceasing flow, “HISS” cements Thee Stallion as a prominent figure in rap and an artist to keep an eye on. However, this is more than a simple diss track. It represents an artist pulling themselves back up and coming back stronger than ever, making it a must-listen. Striking like a snake seen on her cover, the three-time Academy Award winner bites back at all those she views did her wrong.

— Zachery Kramer


“Strawberry Sweet” by Sydney DeFranco 

Sydney DeFranco’s latest single “Strawberry Sweet” dropped on Feb. 14 – a fitting release date for the heartwarming love song. DeFranco’s dulcet voice accompanied by the jazzy, laidback beat captures the theme of a soft, simple love. The lyrics from the chorus, “You bring me higher when I’m feeling down / I hope you understand / You got my heart in your hands” truly encapsulates the feeling of being utterly in love with someone. The sweet, melodic tone of this new song is sonically reminiscent of DeFranco’s other singles, which are great listens for jazz fans. With only a few tracks under her belt, it will be exciting to see what other music DeFranco releases in the future.

— Kendra Martinez


This appeared in the Feb. 29 printed version of the Daily Nexus.