Listen Up

An introspective ode, alt-pop, indie, synth-saturated instrumentals and more new music

Vagabon: Carpenter

Cameroonian American recording artist Vagabon (aka Laetitia Tamko) returns with her first new solo music since 2019, the glorious “Carpenter.” Tamko co-produced the introspective track with Rostam, and says, it’s “about that humbling feeling when you desperately want to be knowledgeable, you want to be advanced, you want to be mature, forward thinking, and evolved. It’s about being confronted with your limitations. It’s about that A-HA moment, when a lesson from the past finally clicks and you want to run and tell someone who bore witness to the old you, ‘I finally get it now.'”

Debby Friday: SO HARD TO TELL

Debby Friday’s debut full-length album, GOOD LUCK, is set for release 24 March and follows the Nigerian-born, Toronto-based artist’s previous two EPs. An R&B track with electronic pop tinges, “SO HARD TO TELL” is layered, dramatic and just a little off-kilter. “I have a lower register and speak with vocal fry so I don’t know what came over me when I made this track,” she shares in a statement. “I have never in my life sung like this before and I had no idea I could even make these kinds of sounds with my voice. There’s no pitch effects on ‘SO HARD TO TELL,’ it’s all me.”

M83: Oceans Niagara

The first music video collaboration between critically acclaimed French multi-instrumentalist M83 (aka Anthony Gonzalez) and his filmmaker brother, Yann Gonzalez, the visuals for new single “Oceans Niagara” present a fantastical cinematic adventure. The sweeping, synth-saturated track will appear on M83’s forthcoming ninth full-length album, aptly entitled FANTASY. “‘Oceans Niagara’ is the perfect synthesis of M83’s music: a wall of sound and emotions that goes crescendo until it climaxes, with moments of pure melodic ecstasy that personally make me feel like I’m floating, loving and crying all at once, almost like being a teenager again,” Yann says in a statement. “This is the first time I’m directing a music video for Anthony and this was a great chance for us to share our common references and emotions from our own childhood and teenage years with hints of our favorite French-Japanese anime, horror films and kids’ strange TV shows from the ‘80s and ‘90s.”

Miss Grit: Lain (phone clone)

New from Margaret Sohn under the moniker Miss Grit, “Lain (phone clone)” is the third single from the upcoming debut album, Follow The Cyborg. Opening with a sparse and haunting sound, the track (inspired by Yasuyuki Ueda’s anime, Serial Experiments Lain) swiftly embraces soaring pop elements along with fuzzy and spacey effects. The artist says, “I feel like the divide between my inner and outer self can grow so big sometimes that it feels like I’m being eclipsed by this big cringey monster. I wanted to write this to mock the monster and remind myself I’m not powerless against it.”

Shalom: Happenstance

Despite opening with the lyrics, “I’m waiting for the day that I can finally walk away from all this bullshit,” Shalom’s “Happenstance” is an upbeat, perky and spirited alt-pop track. The first single from Shalom’s debut LP, Sublimation, made with producer Ryan Hemsworth, the track comes with a video directed by Alex Free.

Amtrac: Heard Me Right

Adorned with a cassette player and a portable coin-dispenser, electro-pop recording artist Amtrac (aka Caleb Cornett) heads to parking meters and the laundromat in the home-video-style visuals for his latest single, “Heard Me Right.” Though it’s a comedic concept with clever retro references, the underlying message is about buying more time to dance—and finding something to hold on to. The stellar synth-driven song will appear on the Kentucky-born, LA-based multi-instrumentalist and producer’s forthcoming third album, Extra Time (out 3 February).

Otra: Dream Machine

With “Dream Machine,” Bay Area electro-pop duo Otra (aka sisters Laura and Kara Malhotra) offers another melodic taste of their forthcoming debut album, I’m Not That Way (out 10 February), following December’s charming “Repercussion Concussion.” “This song was created in a late-night fever dream at home in Pacifica, where Laura cathartically wailed the chorus, reveling in a dream where people see everything she has to give,” Kara says. “But then the dream machine alarm clock wakes her up to the sobering reality that she is not magnificently bold and creative but frustrated and burnt out.”

The New Pornographers: Really Really Light

A welcome return from indie-pop legends The New Pornographers, “Really Really Light” is not only the first single from their forthcoming ninth studio album, Continue as a Guest, but also a refashioned track cut from their critically acclaimed 2014 album, Brill Bruisers. “Part of my process throughout the years has been messing with things I never finished,” founding member AC Newman says of the development of the song, which was co-written with Destroyer’s Dan Bejar. “I really liked Dan’s chorus, and for a while I was just trying to write something that I felt like belonged with it,” he adds. The track debuts with a clever music video directed by Christian Cerezo.

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 M83