Listen Up

Playful psych-pop, laidback R&B, a mesmerizing cover version and a farewell to an icon of house music

Paul Johnson: Music’s in Me

Paul Johnson, a pioneer and champion of house music, has passed away at 50 years old. He began DJing at just 13 in Chicago, eventually making infectious dance anthems that remain beloved all over the world. Best known for 1999’s “Get Get Down” (which landed in the top 10 in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the UK), Johnson was an instinctive, self-taught DJ and producer. A wheelchair user since he was 16 (when a stray bullet left him paralyzed from the waist), Johnson later became an amputee due to ongoing pain from the injury, and again years after because of a car accident. In 2014, he said, “I never think about me when I’m spinning—just the people who are dancing… The crappy life I’ve had health-wise, that’s been nothing, man. That’s just been a shadow to what I’ve been doing, I don’t even see it, nobody sees it. It’s all about the music.” His track “Music’s in Me” samples Rare Pleasure’s “Let Me Down Easy” and Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and creates a blissful mixture of joy, sleaze and triumph. His masterful, uplifting songs will forever have dance floors full, sweaty and smiley.

Liv.e: _21

Liv.e shares CWTTY+, an EP of six previously unreleased songs, as an extension of her debut album, Couldn’t Wait To Tell You. One of the tracks, the opener, “_21” combines neo-soul, R&B and even a little country for a laidback, effortless tune. Her soft vocals, with plenty of ad-libs, float along the gentle beat. “I’m so glad I get to reveal with you the true ending of this project along with some live versions showcasing the ever-evolving energies of the songs,” she says.

The Blow: I’m Not In Love (10cc Cover)

“We’ve both been obsessed with this song, ever since we discovered how it was made,” The Blow’s Khaela Maricich says in a statement about the American electro-pop duo’s cover of the 10cc classic, “I’m Not In Love.” “Even though it sounds like an ’80s song, it was actually made in 1975, by a rock band, before electronic pop really existed (at least on a mainstream level). 10cc produced it using a crazy and elaborate process, recording their voices in layers for weeks, taking a big risk on an experiment that ended up being a huge hit.” The Blow’s version is just as mellow and equally mesmerizing.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra: That Life

In June Unknown Mortal Orchestra released their first new single since their 2018 album Sex & Food, and today ushers in “That Life,” a song that’s immediately recognizable as the Auckland-founded, Portland-based outfit. Equal parts fuzzy and shiny, the track comes accompanied by a video directed by Lydia Fine and Tony Blahd. Artist and fabricator Laura Manns (who works frequently with the Jim Henson Company) created the puppets and set. Unknown Mortal Orchestra frontman and mastermind Ruban Nielson says, “I saw this painting by Hieronymus Bosch called ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ and in the painting there was a mixture of crazy stuff going on, representing heaven, earth and hell. When I was writing this song, ‘That Life,’ I was imaging the same kind of ‘Where’s Waldo’ (or ‘Where’s Wally’ as we call it in New Zealand, Australia and the UK) of contrasting scenes and multiple characters all engaged in that same perverse mixture of luxury, reverie, damnation, in the landscape of America. Somewhere on holiday under a vengeful sun.”

Oberhofer: What Does It Mean To Me?

LA-based multi-instrumentalist Brad Oberhofer returns under the solo moniker Oberhofer for the first time since 2017’s Table 19. Since then, he has collaborated with various artists from Rostam to Moses Sumney and Katy Perry. Now, he’s released an R&B-tinged, psychedelic-leaning dream pop track, “What Does It Mean To Me?” The sweeping song, he says in a statement, is “a reminder that not much really matters. If something feels like it matters too much, you just have to ask yourself, ‘What does it really mean to me?’ That form of questioning has often enabled me to set my spirit free.”

CHVRCHES: Good Girls (John Carpenter Remix)

Legendary horror filmmaker and composer John Carpenter remixes “Good Girls,” a recent single from synth-pop act CHVRCHES off their forthcoming album Screen Violence. Carpenter lends an eerie undercurrent to the soaring song. CHVRCHES also reworked John Carpenter’s “Turning The Bones” from the director’s recently released album, Lost Themes III: Alive After Death. In addition to their digital debut today, both tracks will appear on a seven-inch vinyl out 10 December.

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 Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Laura Manns