Listen Up

Music born of sultry samples, gospel influences, bold verses and creeping melodies

Amber Mark: Softly

From Amber Mark’s upcoming debut album, Three Dimensions Deep (out January 2022), “Softly” is a sultry, languid tune that samples Craig David’s “Rendezvous” from Born To Do It, released in 2000—an era of R&B that Mark often expertly emulates. With syncopated percussion, strings and more, the song combines plenty of genres. The album promises “a musical journey of what questions you begin to ask yourself when you start looking to the universe for answers,” says the NYC-based singer, songwriter and producer.

SIPHO: Beady Eyes

New from Birmingham-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist SIPHO, “Beady Eyes” brims with emotion. Replete with gospel tinges, a thudding bass line, glistening synths and impeccable percussion by Freddy Sheed, the song soars with SIPHO’s wounded but powerful vocals.

Haviah Mighty feat. Dai Burger: So So

Toronto artist Haviah Mighty teamed up with NYC’s Dai Burger for a catchy rap bop, “So So,” that’s bolstered by smooth hooks served over creeping melodies. It’s the final track from Mighty’s latest mixtape, Stock Exchange, which expertly addresses systemic inequality, racism and personal growth. The track—produced by the artist, Devontée and Weird Mahdi—sees the two rappers trading bold verses, delivered with meticulously controlled vocals.

Hope Tala: Tiptoeing

From London-based singer-songwriter Hope Tala comes a bossa nova-tinged R&B track, “Tiptoeing.” The buoyant, layered tune (produced in collaboration with Greg Kurstin) is “about the dance we do when we’re at the threshold of romance,” Tala says. “It’s about treading carefully when you’re not quite sure what the other person is feeling, but desperately wanting to take a risk because you’re young and life is short.”

Field Guide feat. Begonia: Parachutes

An epic, emotional undertaking, Winnipeg-based recording artist Field Guide (aka Dylan MacDonald) will honor Coldplay’s seminal album Parachutes from 2000 with a complete reimagining of all 10 tracks. The second single to be released from this series of covers, “Parachutes,” features harmonies from Canadian pop singer-songwriter Begonia. The entrancing song barely reaches one minute in length, but its beauty stretches far beyond. “A lot of the melodic and chordal choices have greatly impacted the direction in which my ear leans,” MacDonald tells us. “Having the opportunity to dive in and immerse myself in ‘Parachutes’ has been super-interesting—lots of ‘Ah, that’s probably where that tendency comes from’ and then also new little tricks that are popping up in new songs I’m writing now.” He adds, “I generally gravitate to more intimate/close-sounding recordings as opposed to the more rocking/loud production of the original album versions, so that also helped to take the songs in a quite different but neat direction right off the hop.” This riveting release follows MacDonald’s cover of “Yellow,” where he was joined by singer-songwriter Lizzy McAlpine.

Blake Morgan: Down Below or Up Above

Recording artist, producer and multi-instrumentalist Blake Morgan—a renowned music advocate, educator and the founder and president of the independent label ECR Music Group—returns with “Down Below or Up Above,” the first release from his forthcoming album Violent Delights (out 20 May 2022). The finessed alt-rock track reflects the NYC-based singer-songwriter’s performance-honed capabilities. Morgan, who’s produced music for Lenny Kravitz, among many other highly-awarded musicians, recently made headlines once gain for his continued crusade for fair pay for musicians from music broadcasters.

Listen Up is published every Sunday and rounds up the new music we found throughout the week. Hear the year so far on our Spotify channel. Hero image courtesy of Haviah Mighty