Listen Up

A spin on '90s boy bands, haunting electronics, live performances and more music from the week

NIKI: Split

Jakarta-born, LA-based artist NIKI (aka Nicole Zefanya) has released her gorgeously languid, retro-tinged “Split” on 88rising. With soft percussion and a bluesy energy, the song chronicles the feeling of living away from home—splitting time and life between two places. “I wrote it about having to split myself between Indonesia and LA and feeling like I have to constantly ‘split the difference,’ adapt, assimilate all the time,” she says. “It’s a song about home and identity, or maybe the struggle to find either. It’s very, very personal and I hope you guys love it as much as I do.”

Sevdaliza: The Great Hope Design

Iranian Dutch singer-songwriter Sevdaliza announced her upcoming Raving Dahlia EP (out 25 February) with “The Great Hope Design,” an ominous and bewitching track she wrote and produced with Mucky (aka Reynard Bargmann). The song comes along with the reveal of Sevdaliza’s robot—a Femmenoid named Dahlia which was created “to convey the harsh truth about navigating in the music industry as a woman who does not conform to an industry standard—sonically, physically and mentally. Dahlia represents the perfect artist.” The Netherlands-based artist explains that the song is tied to tech, truth and the future too, “‘The Great Hope Design’ is a conceptual song about the feasibility of everything in our existence, which can be from the perception of your own truth to appearance to AI. In this song I question the truth and play with a futuristic universe.”

Ama Lou: Talk Quiet

British artist Ama Lou puts a Drill-inspired spin on her latest four-track EP, AT LEAST WE HAVE THIS, from which the last song, “Talk Quiet,” stands out. Across strong 808s and creeping keys, the singer and songwriter flexes her varied vocal tones, flowing to effortless rhythm. In her live performance, the track gets an acoustic, stripped-back rendition where her potent voice and instrumentals are even more effective.

Miles Francis: The Call

With their brand new two-track EP, B.O.Y., recording artist Miles Francis offers two upturned, unexpected renditions of famous boy band hits. Francis reworked *NSYNC’s “I Want You Back” from 1996 along with (our personal favorite) Backstreet Boys’ “The Call” from 2000. The singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s gripping take brings new dimension to the tracks. “Boy band music dominated my life when I was young,” they tells us. “The walls of my childhood bedroom were lined—literally floor to ceiling—with posters ripped from magazines like J-14 and Tiger Beat. I will love that era of pop music forever, but upon returning to those songs throughout the years, they’ve become more problematic and sinister… Written by grown men and sung by boys asking for forgiveness despite [listeners not knowing] whatever they did. The goal of the B.O.Y. project was to unearth the darker energy within the songs and put it front and center. What if an *NSYNC song was sung by a man’s dark subconscious? What if a Backstreet Boys song was reframed to score a suspense film?” Francis will host an Instagram Live at 8PM on 2 December, dubbed “The B.O.Y. Show,” with a performance of the two covers, along with dramatic readings and surprise guests.

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 Sevdaliza