Listen Up

From a two-sided trip-hop tune to an electro oddity, a few of our favorite tracks from this week

U.S. Girls: Overtime

Technically a rework of a 2013 release, “Overtime,” as it appears now, is a single from U.S. Girls’ forthcoming seventh album, Heavy Light, out 6 March via 4AD. The soulful experiment by the band (led by multi-disciplinary artist Meg Remy) employs choral vocals as instruments and incrementally introduces drums and saxophone until the song reaches its peak. Each of the highly anticipated album’s 13 tracks were recorded live by 20+ studio musicians and will be performed nearly nightly on a long list of 2020 tour dates beginning with Toronto on 15 February.

Thundercat, Steve Lacy + Steve Arrington: Black Qualls

By Thundercat (aka Stephen Lee Bruner), Steve Lacy (of The Internet) and the legendary Steve Arrington, “Black Qualls,” is smothered in funk. With familiar but contrasting vocals from Bruner and Arrington atop the rich, layered track, this song warrants repeat listens. The lyrics explore the mindset of many young black Americans at the moment, as Bruner explains, “What it feels like to be in this position right now… the weird ins and outs, we’re talking about those feelings.” This song is from It Is What It Is (out 3 April on Brainfeeder) which will also feature Childish Gambino, Louis Cole, Kamasi Washington and others.

Real Estate (feat. Amelia Meath): Paper Cup

From Real Estate’s forthcoming album, The Main Thing (out 28 February), “Paper Cup” features the band’s frontman Martin Courtney singing with Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath. The song, which has tinges of airy island rock, details Courtney’s bouts with career-based anxiety. “Paper Cup is a song about getting older and realizing that this thing that I fell into doing over 10 years ago—being a musician, writing songs, being a guy in a band—this may end up being my life’s work. Watching the people around me change and evolve, take on new challenges, and feeling sort of stuck in a rut, in a way,” he explains in a release. The accompanying video, which was directed by Nick Roney, centers on an animatronic squirrel named Chipper, an arcade performer with their own ups and downs—and short circuits.

dvsn: A Muse

New from Canadian duo dvsn (aka singer Daniel Daley and producer Nineteen85), “A Muse” is a slinky, sublime song. Beginning with the pared-back keys of Lonnie Liston’s “A Garden of Peace” (also sampled by Jay-Z on “Dead Presidents” and Mary J Blige on “Take Me As I Am”), the bass soon kicks in, along with plenty of ’90s R&B influences. A diversion from their somewhat-trademark sadboi aesthetic, “A Muse” begins as a love song but quickly grows suggestive and sultry.

DRAMA: Years

Aptly named duo DRAMA (aka producer Na’el Shehade and singer Via Rosa) just released the first song from their debut album, Dance Without Me. Starting off as a melancholy piano-led ballad, the song builds with a muffled drum break reminiscent of ’90s trip-hop, before new clarity appears. All the while, Rosa’s supple vocals elegantly command the song. The Chicago-based duo has been releasing music for five years, but this will be their first LP, and it’s out 14 February on Ghostly.

Dan Deacon: Become a Mountain

Dan Deacon’s “Become a Mountain” combines classical and airy indie, and references Deacon’s time spent creating music of both genres. (Deacon’s upcoming album Mystic Familiar will mark his return from four years of film scoring.) The sprawling song—beginning with keys and whispered vocals—builds over its four minutes, eventually turning into an ethereal piece that’s laden with strings. Deacon explains in an accompanying announcement that meditation guided him through making Mystic Familiar, both the album and the character of the same name. “When I would try to embrace having positive thoughts, they didn’t feel like my own, but rather another entity’s thoughts trying to speak to me. While writing, I began thinking of these thoughts as a Mystic Familiar (my own personal supernatural companion) trying to communicate with me. Externalizing the thoughts made them easier to fully realize and reflect upon,” he writes.

Ultraísta: Tin King

Upbeat and infectious, “Tin King” by experimental rock band Ultraísta leans into house and electro influences. The band—comprising of Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker, and Laura Bettinson—based the entirety of their forthcoming album, Sister, on improv sessions, recording bits and pieces and then addressing them in depth later. “Tin King” certainly feels like a product of improvisation, but the result is calculated chaos.

Soko: Being Sad Is Not a Crime

The first release from Soko’s forthcoming full-length, FEEL FEELINGS, “Being Sad is Not A Crime” channels emotional lyrics through the French singer’s signature croon. Directed by Gilbert Trejo, the music video features puppets from the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, where it was filmed. Soko’s son Indigo also plays an important role. It’s the first time Soko has not directed her own music video but Trejo certainly does the track justice.

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.