Welcome back to The Abbreviator, a short, monthly breakdown of the musicians who are demanding our attention.
February is the shortest month of the year, and it’s also exhausting.
Pop culture is relentless during this tiny, miniature month—from the Super Bowl to the Grammys to the Oscars to National Pizza Day—which means there’s even less time to keep up with all of the new music.
But, as always, that’s what this column is here to do. So if you spent most of February complaining about the Patriots, or pretending you watched all of 2018’s Best Documentary nominees, or taking your grandparents to see Green Book, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
Short, sweet and to the point. No matter how short the month is, that’ll always be the motto here. So, without wasting any more time, let’s get into it.
Description: If Animal Collective made ’80s pop ballads.
Latest Material: Her sophomore album, In a Galaxy, came out February 15.
Why She Matters: There’s nothing that sounds like Rina Mushonga. The Indian-born, Zimbabwean-raised, London-based songwriter puts a piece of everywhere she’s ever been into her music, blending African rhythms with ’80s synth pop and modern electronica.
Must-Listen Track: “Atalanta”
Description: Bedroom pop love songs from a hopelessly funky hopeless romantic.
Latest Material: Apollo dropped a two-song single at the end of February.
Why He Matters: Sadness has never sounded groovier. Omar Apollo might write songs about heartbreaking and longing, but it’s hard to tell that from his basslines. The 21-year-old songwriter is skilled way beyond his age, and he uses his multi-instrumental talents to coat everything he does with an oozing, funky swagger.
Must-Listen Track: “Trouble”
girl in red
Description: Brutally, beautifully honest alt-rock from a 20-year-old punk wunderkind.
Latest Material: She’s released two singles, “watch you sleep” and “i need to be alone,” in the past month.
Why She Matters: Marie Ulven lives in simplicity. Her songs are short, her choruses are uncluttered and guitar riffs are straightforward. Her lyrics are just as unambiguous, laying out teenage love, queerness and anxiety with a fresh sense of pure honesty it feels impossible not to hang on every word.
Must-Listen Track: “girls”
Description: Dream pop disco anthems glazed with sugary sweet synth frosting.
Latest Material: His newest single, “kiss you better,” dropped February 14.
Why He Matters: Katzu Oso’s Spotify bio is a full three words long: “silly love songs.” It might sound oversimplified, but it’s also true. Oso knows exactly what he is —a gifted songwriter, a synth-strapped crooner and a tactful humorist—and that self-awareness is probably his biggest strength.
Must-Listen Track: “kiss you better”
Description: New wave indie hits a whiskey splash of country western.
Latest Material: Her second album, Crushing, came out at the end of February.
Why She Matters: Not sure if you’ve heard, but alt-country is sort of in right now. Julia Jacklin might be from Australia, but it’s clear she has a masterclass knowledge of American genres, which she uses dissect and distort each and every one of its traditions.
Must-Listen Track: “Pressure To Party”