Listen Up

Alternative R&B, slow-burning soul, piano-led indie-pop and a late-night banger from this week

Mara TK: Te Kete Aronui

From his debut solo album Bad Meditation, Mara TK’s “Te Kete Aronui” is a divinely slow-burning and soulful work. The Māori-Scottish singer (once the frontman for New Zealand outfit Electric Wire Hustle) wrote and produced the entire album and says, “Writing this album has been a form of therapy over the last few years trying to figure out what kind of music I wanted to make next.” The song’s Māori title references one of the three baskets of knowledge retrieved by the god Tāne; te kete aronui being the basket of love, peace and art. “Growing up poor, everything goes through our indigenous lens,” TK says. “Here in Aotearoa we have our own Gods, our own values our own ways of speaking that are different to the colonial/capitalist culture.”

MIIV: Umbra

The somewhat mysterious Brooklyn-based artist MIIV releases their EP Umbra on Friday. The title track (produced, written, mixed and performed by MIIV) is dark, cinematic and atmospheric—with metallic, industrial elements balancing a rich bass line and ethereal, layered vocals. “The song is a sadistic dance, you bend yourself to impress this one person to the point of unhappiness,” they tell High Clouds. “It’s tiring, but you can’t stop. Despite your frustration, you’re doing everything just so they might finally see you.”

Thee More Shallows: Boogie Woogie

After 14 years, three-piece indie-rock band Thee More Shallows returns with a new album, Dad Jams, out 28 May. From it, the fourth single “Boogie Woogie” further lays out sonic expectations with its harmonic and pop-forward exuberance. It’s the album’s themes (aptly represented in the title) that lend gravity to the catchy tracks, as they address the intervening years and the role fatherhood plays in the lives of musicians.

HARD FEELINGS: Holding On Too Long

HARD FEELINGS (aka Amy Douglas and Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard) came to existence after Goddard publicly tweeted at Douglas, “Amy, can we make a thing?” Now, the duos is signed to Domino Records and just released their debut single, “Holding On Too Long.” The late-night banger melds lyrics about the demise of a relationship with uplifting, nostalgia-tinged dance. Douglas says of the collaboration, “‘Holding On Too Long’ is the common denominator of the entire musical union of Amy and Joe. In this ‘opera of sad bangers’ here is its key aria, its ‘Un Bel Di’ from Madame Butterfly or the ‘Mad Scene’ from Lucia Di Lammermour, the unforgettable moment of the story wherein our heroine stands up defiantly and has her moment to wail, scream and cry her pain and fury centre stage to the world.”

Middle Child: Burn Out

LA-based indie-pop duo Middle Child (aka celebrated songwriter and vocalist Mikey Wax and producer Jacob Lee) debuts with “Burn Out,” a slow-burning lead single from their forthcoming EP, which will be released on Casual Jam Records. From its pretty, piano-led pop sensibilities to its anthemic conclusion (with the empowered refrain “and we dance away”), the heartfelt track is an ode to those in our life who bring balance.

SWIMM: Spring Breaking Your Heart

An intimate rumination on relationships, performance and connection, “Spring Breaking Your Heart” from LA-based indie-pop group SWIMM premieres by way of a thoughtful narrative music video. As the beautiful track progresses, two theatrical characters explore their own identity and their feelings for one another. It’s a pitch perfect pairing of audio and visual artistry.

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 courtesy of Hard Feelings