Listen Up

Hazy alt-folk, buoyant pop, atmospheric country and more new music

CHAI: Surprise

Japanese group CHAI have released the buoyant track “Surprise” along with an equally colorful and vibrant Yoshio Nakaiso-directed video. The clip is a nod to when the band’s trailer was stolen during their North American tour, “We were able to continue our shows because of the overwhelming support and love from all of you. We never forget how much we appreciate you, and we want to continue to give back to our fans through music, forever and ever. This music video was shot under the blue skies of Los Angeles, with gratitude,” they say in a statement. Carried by house-inflected piano, uplifting vocals and an overarching perky, uplifting energy, the song works as a useful antidote to doom and gloom. “We all have that precious ‘something’ that we can’t express in words,” the statement continues. “We want to feel and love that ‘surprise.’ Those become the surprises of our lives, and I become a brand new me. That’s what we had in mind when we wrote ‘Surprise.'”

Kóboykex: Midnight Gale

With an alt-country atmosphere and a gentle electronic undercurrent, “Midnight Gale” is the debut single of duo Kóboykex (tenured Faroese recording artists Sigmund Zachariassen and Heiðrik á Heygum). A lyrical look at lonely fisherman, the track upends traditional country music narratives. á Heygum directed and edited the music video, which furthers their subversive twist to the popular genre.

Mykki Blanco feat. Diana Gordon and Sam Buck: Your Love Was A Gift

“Your Love Was A Gift,” the second single from Mykki Blanco’s upcoming album (following their recently released duet with R.E.M. frontman Micheal Stipe), sees the artist taking a backseat to featured vocalists Diana Gordon and Sam Buck. It’s a stirring, heartrending track that shifts between vulnerable and powerful vocals and sermon-style spoken word. “‘Your Love Was a Gift’ is for me, if not the most honest, it’s the most beautiful song I’ve ever written,” Blanco says. “The idea for the song comes from my own wins and losses in the game of love and it’s a story of coming of age as much as coming to terms in adulthood with feeling unloved, yearning to be loved and yearning to be understood.”

Lampland: Flowers in the Rain

From Lampland (aka New York-based singer-songwriter Tommy Bazarian), the hazy alt-folk track “Flowers in the Rain” features vivid, visceral storytelling charged with currents of emotion. It’s the second single Bazarian’s shared from the forthcoming album Dry Heat, out 20 May on Park the Van. “This is one of my favorite songs off of the new record, and it was hands down the hardest to make,” Bazarian says. “I wrote this chorus in the summer of 2019, and loved it right away, and it was one of those things where you like the chorus too much and can’t find a verse that matches it. I finally got the verse after like three months and 80 attempts. I think I was aiming for one of those big dramatic Elliott Smith songs on XO, like ‘Sweet Adeline’ or ‘Waltz #2.'”

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 CHAI/Yoshio Nakaiso