Listen Up

An unearthed Prince original, Friendly Fires goes tropical, a soulful duet, surf rock and more music

serpentwithfeet feat. Ty Dolla $ign: Receipts

serpentwithfeet (aka Josiah Wise) and Ty Dolla $ign (Tyrone William Griffin Jr) team up for “Receipts,” a sparse and stirring song—which consists of plucked strings, piano, deep bass and delicate vocals. The result is a glorious fusion of serpentwithfeet’s mystical gospel-inflected style and Ty Dolla $ign’s caramel, contemporary R&B. Minimal, but richly layered with emotion, it’s a song that begs to be played over and over—offering listeners more each time. Wise says, “I played an early demo for Ty Dolla $ign and he asked to join me on the track. This song carries a lot of weight for me because it’s a snapshot of two brothers rhapsodizing about unforeseen romance.”

Prince: Manic Monday

While it’s fairly common pop knowledge that Prince wrote “Manic Monday”—which ended up being a breakout tune for The Bangles—almost nobody (except the band) had heard his 1984 demo, until now. Along with archival footage of Prince rehearsing for his Purple Rain tour (which occurred the same year he wrote “Manic Monday,” and countless other songs), the original version has been released—some 35 years later. This song, along with more tracks Prince penned for other artists (including “Jungle Love” for The Time, “Love… Thy Will Be Done” for Martika and many more) is on Originals which is available on limited edition white vinyl.

Friendly Fires: Silhouettes

Their third release this year, “Silhouettes” solidifies the very welcome return of UK band Friendly Fires—aka Ed Macfarlane, Edd Gibson and Jack Savidge. The song, from their upcoming LP Inflorescent (their first in eight years), is upbeat and full of tropical vibes. With bongoes and a nod to Brazilian disco, this is a summery jam that will surely incite sweaty, poolside dance parties.

Brittany Howard: History Repeats

This track is the first single from Alabama Shakes vocalist Brittany Howard’s new solo venture and forthcoming album, Jaime, due out 20 September. Howard is best known for the soulful and bellowing persona she embodies on the band’s tracks, but here her style is more experimental and expressive. “It’s about me. I’m pretty candid about myself and who I am and what I believe. Which is why I needed to do it on my own,” she tells NPR. There’s funk influence, an undeniable sense of joy and the consistent pattering of feverish drums.

Freddie Gibbs + Madlib feat. Yasiin Bey and Black Thought: Education

From Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s collaborative album, Bandana, “Education” is a star-studded track that harks back to the golden era of hip-hop. Gibbs, Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) and Black Thought (frontman of The Roots) lend verses, with Bey taking lead and setting the tone. He speaks of justice, the perils of wealth, the private prison system, gun violence and much more. And, as expected with Madlib-made beats, the instrumental is a soulful, smooth-moving bop.

Jonah Yano feat. Nono: Perfume

Slipping into a genre of its own that could perhaps be dubbed digital jazz, Toronto-based Jonah Yano and Vancouver-based producer Nono’s “Perfume” (from Yano’s debut EP Nervous) is delightfully of-the-internet, yet undeniably jazzy. “I know you’re not around / you fled to solid ground / but you’re in my head, safe and sound / like perfume,” Yano sings. There’s longing in his voice and, as the song burns on, a sense of desperation surfaces.

Moto Bandit: Keanu: Weaponized

Spirited and a little silly, Nashville-based Moto Bandit (aka Ben Merlotti and Dennis Pickett) has just released their debut, “Keanu: Weaponized.” The track is intoxicatingly upbeat and anchored by surf rock and pop-punk influences. From the duo’s off-beat lyrics (“Skinny dipping to the rhythm / I need a burger and a side of fries”) to the track’s steady crescendo, it’s a brief but infectious ride that leaves listeners yearning for more.

Blood Cultures: Best For You

Blending together glitchy vocal samples and dark electronic, Blood Culture’s “Best For You” is a triumphant second single from the band’s forthcoming album, Oh Uncertainty! A Universe Despairs. The group has been relatively absent since their 2017 debut record, Happy Birthday, but they’ve been teasing a return since the release of “Flowers For All Occasions” earlier this year. As mysterious as the band may be, it’s safe to predict big things from them.

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.