Listen Up

Fiona Apple's masterful new album, a timeless funk cover, psychedelic-inflected tunes and more

Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Fiona Apple returns with Fetch the Bolt Cutters, her first album since 2012’s The Idler Wheel. 13 powerful, percussive tracks coalesce around Apple’s pliant, emotion-baring alto. The title track, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters,” carries much of the album’s lyrical urgency. Apple punctuates the work with a meticulous smattering of personal, DIY sounds—through to its satisfying canine conclusion. It’s a standout song, but so are the other 12.

Joji: Gimme Love

Joji’s newest song is the energetic “Gimme Love,” which will appear on the artist’s upcoming album, Nectar. The track starts off fast-paced—emphasized by the frenetic music video—but at the halfway mark, it turns into a gentle but cinematic string-led tune. Again, the video follows suit, with Joji’s dramatic ascension into outer space. The follow-up to 2018’s BALLADS 1 (which earned him the milestone of being the first Asian-born artist to top Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart), Nectar is out 10 July.

Naeem feat. Justin Vernon + Swamp Dogg: Simulation

LA-based Naeem (aka Naeem Juwan, formerly known as Spank Rock) is just one of the many artists in Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon’s 37d03d collective. The rapper returns with an industrial, deconstructed new single, “Simulation,” featuring production and vocal contributions from Vernon and singer Swamp Dogg. The combination results in a hip-hop track with a distinct and intriguing instrumental, and lyrics worth listening to a little more closely. “I wrote this song to remind myself, and hopefully everyone that hears it, that nothing is real and our greatest defense in this life is our own creativity and finding great faith in whatever sigils and icons we choose to guide us,” he says in a statement. The song is set to appear on the artist’s forthcoming album, Startishaout 12 June.

Brittany Howard: You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks (Funkadelic Cover)

Alabama Shakes frontwoman, Brittany Howard covers Funkadelic’s “You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks” from 1971’s pinnacle Maggot Brain for Spotify Singles. A faithful but refreshing take on the funk classic, Howard’s rendition starts off mellow but steamy before progressing to its ferocious, chaotic and spectacular climax. The lyrics “and if in our tears, we don’t learn to share with your brother/ you know that hate is gonna keep on multiplying/ and you know that man is gonna keep right on dying” remain as relevant now as they did almost 50 years ago.

STRFKR: Dear Stranger

Mellow and satisfying, “Dear Stranger” by STRFKR (Joshua Hodges, Shawn Glassford, Keil Corcoran and Arian Jalali) appears on the Portland, Oregon-based outfit’s fifth studio album, Future Past Life. Beginning with a familiar indie sound, the tune progresses to a psychedelic-inflected chorus and a sweeping, swirling, fluid outro that fully embraces the style.

Ambrosia Parsley: The Kindness of Strangers

In hopes of drawing attention to No Kid Hungry (an organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America), singer/songwriter Ambrosia Parsley released the video for her ode to generosity, “The Kindness of Strangers.” Produced by and featuring the backing vocals of Holly Miranda, the track radiates love and warmth. The stop-motion video, created by husband-and-wife duo Mark Lerner and Nancy Howell, amplifies the benevolent message.

Florence + the Machine: Light Of Love

Originally recorded for Florence + the Machine’s 2018 album, High As Hope, “Light Of Love” didn’t end up making the cut despite its transformative structure: gentle beauty amasses orchestral and choral support. From lockdown in south London, vocalist and songwriter Florence Welch released the track to raise awareness for the UK’s Intensive Care Society COVID-19, a charity organization where she’ll donate her proceeds from the track.

Lena Hall: Piece of My Heart

Very few possess the vocal chops necessary to cover a Janis Joplin song; even fewer can imbue such a cover with the fire of the late icon. Actor and singer Lena Hall—Tony-winner and cast member of TNT’s Snowpiercer TV show—demonstrates both in her ferocious take on “Piece of My Heart.” Off her new covers album, The Villa Satori: Growing up Haight Ashbury (which she refers to as from a cabaret show about her childhood), the Joplin number falls among impassioned versions of songs by The Beatles, Radiohead and Alanis Morissette.

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.