Listen Up

Spoken-word, space jazz, '90s-style R&B and more new music

Kate Tempest: Unholy Elixir

In June 2019, British spoken-word artist Kate Tempest released The Book Of Traps and Lessons, an album featuring the sharp, powerful single “Holy Elixir.” After extensive touring, Tempest returns with “Unholy Elixir,” an even more enrapturing rendition that incorporates things she learned about the song while on the road. The video comes with an official visualizer, illustrated by Natalya Lobanova. It’s a powerful companion piece to a track that cuts deep with its lyrics.

Little Dragon: Hold On

Prolific Swedish four-piece, Little Dragon (Yukimi Nagano, Erik Bodin, Fredrik Wallin and Håkan Wirenstrand) has just released the lead single from their upcoming album, New Me, Same Us, set for release late March. Buoyant and infectious—with elements of funk, house and unconventional soul—”Hold On” blends genres and morphs into a sound that’s undoubtedly Little Dragon.

Desert Sessions: Easier Said Than Done

“Easier Said Than Done” from Desert Sessions (Josh Homme’s ongoing collective series) has Homme guiding listeners through the avant-garde song and video. Highlighted by solemn vocals, grand piano, an electric Wurlitzer, drum rolls and “little tiny baby claps,” the tune is from Arrivederci Despair—which was released late last year. Sometimes humorous (with  Homme peeing on a man dressed in a Nazi uniform) and sometimes disturbing (as a security guard is set on fire), the Chapman Baehler-directed video complements the elegant but erratic track.

ATTLAS: More Than That

Canadian musician ATTLAS (aka Jeff Hartford) has released his debut album, Lavender Godafter years of one-off tunes. Out via Mau5trap (a label run by Deadmau5), the album features tracks that highlight Hartford’s talent as a producer and multi-instrumentalist—piano, trumpet, electronic keys (all influenced by a stint as an intern with a classical composer). “More Than That” is an acid jazz performance entangled with starry synth arrangements and bellowing notes that give way to live drum rolls and brushes. Hartford’s freestyling continues until the instrumental crescendoes into a euphoric house track that’s akin to the rest of the album. But then it teeters off again into a vast, repeating roar contrasted by recordings reminiscent of nighttime at Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario (where Hartford spent long nights conceptualizing the 10-track release).

Braids: Young Buck

An energized, electronic ode to anticipation and seduction, Braids’ new single “Young Buck” channels the magnetism of attraction. Singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s sonic delivery powers the personal narrative. The track is a taste of the Montreal-based band’s forthcoming album, Shadow Offering, produced by Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla.

Leven Kali feat. Smino + Topaz Jones: Homegirl

From Dutch singer Leven Kali’s upcoming EP, High Tide, “Homegirl” is influenced by ’90s R&B and hip-hop, but tweaked for the current day. Highlighted by feature spots from Smino and Topaz Jones, the track is lighthearted and fun, despite the complicated relationships each vocalist details in their lyrics. Atop piano chords, a deep bass line and funky drums, each artist offers their personal style without breaking the track’s flow.

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.