Listen Up

Heady teases of psychedelia, glittering synths, celebratory reggae and more music from the week

Toots & The Maytals: Funky Kingston

Singer-songwriter for Toots & The Maytals, multi-instrumentalist and reggae pioneer Frederick “Toots” Hibbert has passed away in Kingston, Jamaica—the birthplace of the music he helped create. His 1968 song “Do The Reggay” remains widely believed to be the first to namecheck reggae (at the time a fledgling genre influenced by mento—Jamaican folk music that combines elements from Africa and Europe—as well as jazz and R&B, calypso, ska and rocksteady). Hibbert’s parents were preachers and he grew up singing at church before meeting future bandmates Nathaniel “Jerry” Matthias and Henry “Raleigh” Gordon at a barbershop in Kingston in the early ’60s. Known as The Maytals, the trio released ska music and won the 1966 Jamaica Festival Song Competition for “Bam Bam.” After an 18-month prison sentence for marijuana possession, Hibbert returned and wrote “54-46 (That’s My Number)” about his time incarcerated. It became one of the first reggae songs to garner attention and affection outside Jamaica. On 1975’s “Funky Kingston,” his sometimes gritty, always striking voice—tinged with elements of gospel, soul and R&B—calls out his message: “Music is what I’ve got to give, and I’ve got to find some way to make it… Funky Kingston is what I’ve got for you.” He leaves behind an undeniably influential, special and joyful legacy.

Pynkie: Love Theme

The second single from Pynkie’s album #37 (out 16 October), “Love Theme” tells the tale of wistful romance. Over subdued percussion, glittering synths and sporadic abstract sound effects, Pynkie (aka Lindsey Radice) sings breathily, “Some day you’ll give me the time and I’ll blow your mind / Some day you’ll give me the time and I’ll call you mine.” A hook consisting of pretty ad-libs leads to lilting harmonies, and the gauzy song finishes as effortlessly as it begins.

Still Woozy: BS

Still Woozy’s new self-produced single “BS” proves short and sweet but layered. Soft digital drums and synths form the song’s foundation, while distorted echoes, breathy harmonies and ad-libs add to the overall breezy feel. It’s another genre-blending release from Still Woozy (aka Sven Gamsky) who also self-directed the song’s off-kilter visual treatment.

Andy Bell: I Was Alone

A meditation on loneliness, with heady teases of psychedelia, Andy Bell’s “I Was Alone” follows up his debut solo single “Love Comes in Waves” from earlier this year. Both songs will appear on Bell’s debut solo album, The View From Halfway Down, out 9 October. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Bell, a founding member of the British shoegaze group Ride (and an Oasis bassist for several years), says lockdown gave him the impetus to finish this solo album, which he’s been working on for four years.

United Shapes: Fractalvision

From Austin’s oddball indie-pop duo United Shapes comes “Fractalvision,” another mind-bending invitation to their forthcoming “first-ever studio album” (but ninth album overall), Compound Shapes (out 16 October). “We didn’t want the album to be about the compound words in the titles in a literal sense,” singer/multi-instrumentalist Joseph Devens explains about the concept album in a statement. “We decided to let the word inspire the song and its lyrics in an abstract way.” Abstract certainly defines “Fractalvision,” but it also happens to be fun from start to finish.

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 Pynkie