Listen Up

Fast-paced dance, reflective hip-hop, a sublime rework and more in our weekly musical wrap-up

Empress Of: Love For Me

Empress Of (aka Lorely Rodriguez) is preparing to release her second full-length album Us—the follow-up to 2015’s Me—and has just dropped the super-catchy “Love For Me.” The track, co-produced by the duo DJDS (Jerome Potter and Sam Griesemer), is sweet and dreamy. And, like most Empress Of tunes, it’s infectious—warranting repeat listens. Her new album will be out 19 October on Terrible Records.

MØ: Imaginary Friend

Ahead of her sophomore album Forever Neverland (out 19 October on Columbia Records), singer/songwriter (and frequent Major Lazer and Cashmere Cat collaborator)  released a fast-paced single titled “Imaginary Friend.” The track, produced by Illangelo, is sure-fire proof that MØ can turn any track into a solidified, unique dance tune. Her voice, at times more an instrument than an accompaniment, resonates emotionally and seems more irreplaceable than most electro-vocalists. On this one she sings, “Just watch me / watch me with your hands / let my body be your brail / I’ll be your imaginary friend,” while the sounds of a harp, a ticking clock and rhythmic bass embody the background.

Brockhampton: Tonya

Brockhampton, a multi-member rap group forged from the chatroom of a Kanye West fan site, just released their major label debut, Iridescence. After dropping a string of album-like mixtapes, this work comes amidst a turning point. Their most outward-facing member was dropped amidst abuse allegations; they signed to RCA Records; they battled with promising to hopeful fans about whether an album on a major label could carry the same youthful, and at times rootless, energy that their early releases did; they grappled with the fact that with the departure of their (arguably) most talented member, sonic space needed to be filled. “Tonya,” the second-to-last track on the album is a wonderfully woeful, piano-backed track about regret, self-worth and letting down those closest to you. In the first minute of the track, a direct reference to the tale of Tonya Harding, group member bearface raps: “There’s no money on my mind, but my money or my mind, what’s the first to fall?”

St Vincent: Slow Slow Disco

Stripping away all the original synths to effortlessly morph her track into a piano-led ballad, St Vincent has offered up yet another version of her glorious “Slow Disco.” The song—from 2017’s MASSEDUCATION—has been renamed “Slow Slow Disco” and it’s a seductively melancholic take. St Vincent (aka Annie Clark) says, of her rework, “Songs are living things. They grow, they evolve, they change their moods and personalities over time.”

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Listen Up

A delicate tune, "tiny desk" concert, bass-line heavy bop and more new music this week

Dahlia Sleeps: Storm

Dahlia Sleeps, a London-based four-piece band, shared the first single, “Storm,” off their Love, Lost EP set to be released later this year on Beatnik Creative. The single, anchored by lead singer Lucy Hill’s delicate vocals, sounds like poetry—echoing lines and heavy strings make this one last well beyond its closing notes. “I know I’m not your only one,” she calls, “but I want to be the one you keep.” It’s less pleading than it is self-reflection—like a journal entry for only her to recount. The song is beautiful, boundless and bold (in its admissions).

Hobo Johnson and The Lovemakers: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest entrant Hobo Johnson and The Lovemakers rose to internet stardom with the viral performance of their jubilant, spoken-word-like track “Peach Scone.” The music from the five-piece act, which was selected to be featured on NPR, is both kindhearted and youthful, but no line is lost in any one of their tracks. They weave clever connections between Romeo and Juliet and the unfortunately high divorce rate, biblical references, loud calls pleading for happy endings and recollections of lost love that pack punches resonating well beyond one humorous moment. Nothing is perfect here—but, nothing is wrong about it either. It’s raw, real and a welcome break from more serious songs discussing similar topics.

Jon Hopkins: Singularity

To begin with, Jon Hopkins’ track “Singularity,” which leads this year’s album of the same name, plunges listeners into a frenzy. It escalates, ensnaring and entwining emotions and human energy. And the just-released music video somehow matches it all. Directed by Sebastian Edwards, the visuals track a woman and man as they dance—or battle—through a dark, abandoned property. It’s pretty bonkers—like the song throbbing behind it.

jives: Your Reality

Tom Rose, known by his moniker jives, released the Strawberry Girl EP yesterday, 17 September, on More Creativity Records. A standout from the three track drop is “Your Reality.” It’s hypnotic—and a mysterious interlude divides the track, with the first half possessing an otherworldly delicacy and the latter functioning as a well of dark beats. The rhythm of the second portion is infectious and attention-grabbing—especially for a song with, aside from its two sentence interlude, no lyrics.

Maribou State feat. Holly Walker: Nervous Tics

English electronic duo Maribou State, comprised of Chris Davids and Liam Ivory, enlist the help of London-based singer Holly Walker for “Nervous Tics.” It’s a single off the duo’s album Kingdoms in Colour which released 7 September on Counter Records. An accompanying video for the steady, sultry tune is a technicolor loop of nervous tics—though, most of them appear as dance moves, carrying a diverse cast of characters up and down, along with the song’s riffing bass line. The video, directed by Hugo Jenkins, gives the standout an even stronger push post-release.

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Neil Frances: Coming Back Around

From the opening percussion onward, “Coming Back Around” makes its intention clear: deliver danceability. By LA-based duo Neil Frances, the track pulsates, bouncing the vocals on. It will appear on the upcoming Took A While EP.