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Kelela, Hallucinogen EP (Self-released)
It might not be an entire album, but LA-based R&B goddess Kelela certainly packs a whole lot of punch into the six tracks here on her new EP. Reportedly inspired by past relationships, the songs on Hallucinogen span the wide range of emotions one experiences from a crush: think longing, rejection, lust, disappointment, recovery, and so many more. Just like any complicated relationship, this is an EP with layers, and it’s one that requires multiple listens to fully digest each track. If the producer Arca is any indication (the genius behind previous releases from FKA Twigs, Bjork, and Kanye West), Kelela’s got a bonafide hit on her hands in her new single “A Message.” This slow-burning banger sounds like a sensual fusion of Aaliyah, FKA Twigs, and SZA — a winning combination, if you ask us. Luckily for fans, the genre-skipping artist is only getting started. She said to consider this EP “a bridge” between her debut mixtape Cut 4 Meand her forthcoming album, out this fall. — LIZA DARWIN
Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp (Merge Records)
When she debuted as Waxahatchee on 2012’s American Weekend, Katie Crutchfield revealed herself as the female successor to Bright Eyes’ DIY idol Conor Oberst. Home-recording raw, confessional pop songs that seemed to come straight from the ether, Crutchfield quickly followed American Weekend with the more collaborative Cerulean Salt, topping polls in 2013 and attaining the status of neo-grunge luminary. Now on Ivy Tripp, Crutchfield sounds like the most musically self-assured and emotionally self-lacerating 26-year-old on the planet. With plaintive lyricism and haunting melodies, the tone-setting “Air” documents Waxahatchee’s dizzying rise from the inside. While the sweet nostalgia of “Summer of Love” swings to the brutal honesty of “Half Moon,” the album’s even keel is likely best summed up by a line from the song “Grey Hair”: “Maybe you’ll learn to live onstage/ Rambling in a staggering haze.” However she learns to do it, she’ll have no shortage of others wanting to join her. — ILANA KAPLAN
Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)
With one truly fantastic song— “Constant Gardener,” a lo-fi ode to being a lazy, asthmatic stoner—and two often brilliant EPs, this shambolic Aussie might be the first “Next Big Thing” since Vampire Weekend to fully deliver on a debut album. The sheer existence of Barnett is a win for fans of all things ’90s rock. She marries Steve Malkmus’s louche style and wit with Cobain’s guitar crunch and pop smarts on the lyrically loquacious first single, “Pedestrian at Best,” and compares swimming to jogging on the upbeat pop-punk number “Aqua Profunda!” On the screeching but melodic “Dead Fox,” Barnett draws the most beautiful picture of roadkill ever—“a possum Jackson Pollock painted on the tar”—and over the fuzz-toned guitar squall of “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party,” she dissects one of life’s biggest conundrums: “I wanna go out, but I wanna stay home.” Barnett is spilling her brilliance and quirk all over her debut with melodic force. Sometimes you gotta believe the hype. — WILLIAM GOODMAN
Will Butler, Policy (Merge Records)
If you’re Will Butler, Arcade Fire’s notoriously spazzy multi-instrumentalist and kid brother to lead singer Win, what kind of music do you make on your first solo album? A little bit of everything, it turns out. Butler’s Policy, which he recorded in Jimi Hendrix’s onetime living room upstairs at New York’s Electric Lady Studios over a single week, is the product of a musical mind with a million and one ideas, and perhaps a million and two influences. The album kicks off with a bit of twitchy, warm American rock ’n’ roll with lead single “Take My Side,” before sliding into “Anna,” a new wave-ish dance number that already sounds iconic. On “Finish What I Started,” Butler sounds like a slicked-up Leonard Cohen, while on “Witness,” he channels Frank N. Furter, complete with awestruck swooning background vocals. Butler’s scattershot method works: There’s a little White Stripes, a little Talking Heads, a little Magnetic Fields, and a lot of Will Butler. You can feel him stretching his solo limbs, indulging every inclination he’s had over the past decade. While this album is unequivocally good, the next one promises greatness. — EMILY TEMPLE