Listen Up

Shape-shifting songs, daydreamy alt-folk, infectious house and more music from the week

Kara Jackson: Pawnshop

After sharing several new tracks, Chicago-based poet, musician and singer-songwriter Kara Jackson announces her debut full-length album, Why Does The Earth Give Us People To Love?, with the single “Pawnshop.” Featuring Western-tinged guitar, soft percussion and lyrics abounding in open-ended questions, the track blends and bends genres. The artist explains, it’s “about uncovering how worth is subjective. It’s taking ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ and reveling in that sentiment, taking pride in the fact that even if people can’t understand your value, only you know how priceless you are.”

Nappy Nina feat. Moor Mother: Stone Soup

Sparse, atmospheric production opens “Stone Soup,” the sixth track from Mourning Due, the new LP from Oakland-born rapper Nappy Nina. As the artist trades lyrical, relaxed raps with musician and activist Moor Mother, drums burst midway through the song which ends in elegant keys. The result is shape-shifting and poetic, a prime example of an artist forging their own lane.

Adanowsky + Karen O: When The Angel Comes

Adanowsky (the musical alter ego of French Mexican recording artist and producer Adán Jodorowsky) is joined by Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ front-woman Karen O for “When The Angel Comes,” a daydreamy alt-folk song with pleasing notes of impending doom. It debuts alongside a black and white music video—directed by Jodorowsky and featuring brother Brontis and nephew Dante—that heightens the eerie, eccentric sensibilities of the single. The softly euphoric track is the first to be released from Jodorowsky’s forthcoming 10th studio album, The Fool.

Ric Wilson, Chromeo + A-Trak: Pay It No Mind

When musician and activist Ric Wilson got together with DJ and producer A-Trak as well electric-funk duo Chromeo—aka David “Dave 1” Macklovitch (who happens to be A-Trak’s brother) and Patrick “P-Thugg” Gemayel—their jam sessions included discussions on people’s movements, communism and socialism. The result is the groovy, glistening “Pay It No Mind.” Fusing Chicago soul, hip-hop and funky bars, the single is immediately infectious and fun. It accompanies an equally lush music video directed by Robert Salazar.

Madison McFerrin: (Please Don’t) Leave Me Now

Independent artist and producer Madison McFerrin announces her debut album, I Hope You Can Forgive Me, with the single “(Please Don’t) Leave Me Now.” The jazzy, funk- and soul-inflected track comes accompanied by a video directed by directed by Kemp Baldwin, where McFerrin appears in a grave—and as a mourner—reflecting an experience from her past. She explains, “Being able to walk away from a near-death experience without physical harm is one of the greatest blessings I’ve received in this life. It reaffirmed my purpose as an artist. Writing ‘(Please Don’t) Leave Me Now’ became an incredibly therapeutic and cathartic experience. Being able to express that kind of fear while still creating a fun environment was key to making this song… For the video, we wanted to capture the feeling of not being prepared to die. I’m talking to myself both above and within the grave, grieving both who I was and who I could be. I didn’t expect being in a grave for multiple hours in a day would affect me, but it definitely contributed to my journey in processing a near-death experience. This song and video are a manifestation of my own personal growth as not only a musician, but as a human.”

Jayda G: Circle Back Around

Canadian producer and DJ Jayda G shares the emotional, uplifting first single, “Circle Back Around,” from her upcoming album, Guy—a record that explores and celebrates her relationship with her father, William Richard Guy, who passed away when she was just 10 years old. She was left with 11 hours of video footage of her dad, some of which is used in the accompanying music video. In the video, between the energetic house track, her father explains an encounter with the police, repeating the phrase “circle back around” as he describes escaping them. “I wanted the album to be a blend of storytelling, about the African American experience, death, grief, and understanding,” Jayda G shares in a statement. “It’s about my dad and his story, and naturally in part my story, too, but it’s also about so many people who wanted more for themselves and went on a search to find that. This album is just so much for people who have been oppressed and who have not had easy lives.”

Anna Rose: Whatever Gets You Through The Night

From Nashville-based, New York- and LA-raised independent recording artist Anna Rose comes a second single for 2023, the emotionally engrossing “Whatever Gets You Through The Night.” Within the continuously unfolding track, the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist probes the intoxicating effects of a stranger who has observed something inside her that she thought no one else could see. Rose’s bold, nuanced vocals draw the song from its ethereal beginning to its powerful conclusion.

Neutral Milk Hotel: Naomi

From Neutral Milk Hotel’s acclaimed 1996 album, On Avery Island, the track “Naomi” was inspired by and named after rock band Galaxie 500’s bassist and vocalist Naomi Yang. Now, 26 years later, and to commemorate today’s release of The Collected Works of Neutral Milk Hotel, Yang has debuted her own visual interpretation of the track. “I was charmed by the album and by the band in all its raucous joy, but wasn’t sure about the namesake song,” Yang shares in a statement. “The lyrics seemed sweet but disquieting—a fan letter with a dark edge. Then, years later, in anticipation of a retrospective box set release, I made a music video for ‘Naomi’ with the blessing of the band.” Though supported, it’s still an unofficial video, as Neutral Milk Hotel has never created visuals for their songs.

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 Nappy Nina