Let’s hear it for the thrill of new music!
But not just any old “new” music, grabbed just because it happens to be close and within downloadable reach.
Rather as we throw out the old, the tired and the has-been, purging our iPods of songs that have had their day, let’s gather up music that is distinctive, different, that says something worthwhile and insightful in amongst the beguiling melodies and innovative artistry.
I’ve found five artists with utterly compelling, one-of-a-kind visions who are proving once again that it is possible to remain very much your own artistic animal while still finding favour and acceptance among people looking for new music that makes them move and think in equal measure …
“L O N E R” by Marz Leon
LA-based Marz Leon is a one amazing artist.
With just one song, the hauntingly synth-drenched, deliciously moody “L O N E R” which swaggers and sways and pounds along with emotionally frank intent and the heavy bass sound beloved by fellow singers like Lorde and Banks, Marz Leon seems to have sprung forth fully formed as an artist.
Armed with both something worthwhile to say, and an arrestingly distinctive visual (see her Instagram and tumblr accounts) and musical style with which to say it, the multi-talented singer/songwriter/producer gives the impression from the word go that she knows who’s she is, what she wants to say and how she wants to say it.
It is an impressive way to say hello to the world and it’s understandably garnering her lots of attention from pop fans who are all too used to artists looking like they have leapt in all their prefab glory from the cookie-cutter minds of their publicists rather then depths of their own talent and sense of self.
Marz Leon is very clearly her own woman, having this to say about what drives the creation of her music and what she wants people to get out of it:
“My EP is all based on real life emotions and situations that I have been through over the years. I want people to connect to the rawness of how life really is instead of what people fabricate it to be.” (source: Pigeons and Planes)
As debut singles go this is impressive beyond measure, raising expectations that the EP which is due to hit the airwaves later this northern summer, and which includes the luminously ethereal and beautiful delights of “Fire”, will be every bit as unforgettable, musically rich and memorable as Marz Leon herself.
“Strange Enough” by VÉRITÉ
Another debut song from a wholly distinctive female voice of New York-based VÉRITÉ.
There is a lush, otherworldly beauty to the track “Strangely Enough”, which possesses the sort of emotional literary that pop stars twice her age are still struggling to articulate.
Here is someone who has clearly given the sometime ephemeral nature of love, connection and relationships more than a little thought, and who has found a way to seductively and powerfully fold them into a song that is all anthemic chorus, delicate vocals that somehow manage to simultaneously convey an emotional rawness than speaks of a soul that thinks and feels deeply, and hook-laden melody that is as profoundly addictive as the rumination that accompanies it is deep.
She is quoted on The Line of Best Fit as having this to say about this extraordinarily affecting, magnetic song:
“’Strange Enough’ is a contemplation of all the questions I’d ask myself about my relationship, and why we bother ourselves to try to make things work sometimes.”
And further spoke about the song on Pigeons and Planes:
“[‘Strange Enough’] goes back and forth between the nostalgia of what was, the reality of how things shift as time moves on, and how ultimately we romanticize moments that are fleeting.”
It is a rare thing indeed to find a new artist with this much insight into the nature of life and love who is also armed with the ability to sing so eloquently and compellingly about it and bodes well for a bright future for this remarkable young lady.
“Oya” by Ibeyi
There is an almost pleasingly high church choral-like sound to the chillingly beautiful harmonies that open “Oya” from French Cuban twins Ibeyi, (pronounced ‘ee-bey-ee’) Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Diaz, the latest signing to the impressively prescient label XL Recordings.
The song, which is all minimalist melodies, tribal beats and goosebump-inducingly gorgeous harmonies, is the debut single for Ibeyi, whose name means “twins”, appropriately enough, in the ancestral language of their father, who is descended from the Yoruba slaves taken from west Africa to Cuba in the 1700s, where this ancestral culture mixed with the indigenous latin sounds of the island and which is now infused into every last strand of the musical DNA of this beguiling track.
Accompanied by a black and white clip that is as stripped back and haunting as the song itself, it is the sort of song that defies you to lazily characterise the music of Ibeyi as “world music”, their songs a seamless blend of pop and traditional sounds, of English and Yoruba lyrics, a reflection of the importance their cultural background understandably has for the 19 year old twins.
Currently at work on their debut long player with label boss Richard Russell, Ibeyi are a wholly unique entry into the increasingly diverse realms of pop music, a sign that you do not need to throw out what defines you as a person, both personally and culturally, in order to make divinely attractive art that will appeal to a great many people.
While factory-created pop music may still rule the charts to a large degree, fans are now beginning to realise that the full length and breadth of the musical world does not reside between the numbers 1 and 40, and that if they search hard enough, they will find gems like Ibeyi who are creating songs on their own terms and with their own artistic signature still very much in place.
“Dangerous Days” by Zola Jesus
I remember the first time I first heard Zola Jesus.
Nika Roza Danilova, as she is known to her Russian-American parents, had just released Stridulum II (2010), an album whose cover showed the face of an unemotional Jesus, half-covered in dark grey metallic mesh, calmly staring out at would-be record buyers, a withdrawn visual sensibility that was matched by the lo-fi offerings contained within.
But whatever the reticent elements of the album’s cover or sound, one thing was for certain as I listened to her songs while browsing in the record shop – Zola Jesus possessed a voice of magnificent power and force that for all its attractively imposing in-your-face qualities also possessed an ability to express the full gamut of emotions with nuance and subtlety.
It was clear from just one listen that Jesus was an uncommonly talented artist of limitless breadth and vision, an impression that has remained throughout the intervening years and has been only strengthened by the lead single “Dangerous Days” from upcoming album Taiga, which drops 6 october 2014.
“Dangerous Days” is a boisterously upbeat affair that Pitchfork rather poetically says “recasts an archetypical Zola Jesus song as an electro-pop banger of gothic grandeur”, a song that bounces and pushes and soars with dark-tinged synth beats, anchored by a voice that could sing a jingle for breakfast cereal and still leave a lasting and utterly unforgettable impression on you.
It is remarkably, un-missably unique, a song that gives the usual dance floor sound substance and gravitas while trading away none of the compulsive beat-driven vibe that makes a night out in a club such an escapist, almost hedonistic affair.
“Dangerous Days” is proof that you can have your pop cake and eat it too, a musical statement of singularly rich vision and melody beauty that is a reminder of just how awesome an artist Zola Jesus was, and still very much is.
“Buffalo Bill” by Moxia Raia
My lord but this is a feel-good song that will have you bouncing along like a happy kid in a musical candy shop within seconds of its hook-rich opening.
Celebrating one of those special nights out where everything is going as as perfectly well as you could hope for, helped along by a healthy love of life, and taking things as they come (and yes, some help from drugs and alcohol although the artist has been at pains to point out the song is an overwhelming affirmation of the simple joy of being alive, whatever form it takes), “Buffalo Bill” has all the hallmarks of a top 40 hit mixed in with the serious sensibilities of an indie track, something noted by Pigeons and Planes:
“It feels like there’s something new developing in modern music—a sweet spot between radio-friendly pop anthems and the aesthetic that has brought new meaning to the word “indie.” This is where MOXIE’s “Buffalo Bill” lives. It’s a feel-good pop hit that flaunts a huge chorus and polished production without feeling mechanical.”
As debut singles go, it’s a standout stand that combines a hypnotically addictive chorus, organic production, booming trumpet interludes, anthemic beats and winsome but emotive, insistent vocals to create a song that should be the anthem for anyone who loves life in all its varied forms.
It’s clear that the New Jersey, NYC-schooled and now LA-resident artist is going to be around for the long run – her debut album lands later this year – having an absolute ball every step of the way.
Don’t be surprised if you willingly go along with her for the feel-good ride of your life.
NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!
It’s clear that Pharrell Williams isn’t content with simply making us deliriously “Happy”, now he wants to convince the women of the world that they are BAEs, which stands rather romantically for “Before Anyone Else”, a substitute apparently for “baby, boo or sweetie” according to Mashable’s post on this wonderful clip for the song “Come Get it Bae”.
It is a joyous dance-filled celebration of womanhood, commitment and love and an absolute pleasure to watch.
To my everlasting delight, and simultaneous great impatience since I have to wait till October 14 this year to get my hands on it, Kele, the frontman for endlessly creative indie group Bloc Party, is back with his second solo album Trick.
He has released an amazing sampler that gives you a tantalising insight into what one fragments alone sounds like it could well be one of the most innovative, intoxicatingly good albums of the year.
This is what Paste Magazine had to say about the musical direction of the album:
“Now, he’s returning with his second solo venture, and it seems that this time, Okereke is heading deeper down the dance-house rabbit hole. His newly announced Trick comes with a teaser video, which showcases a richer attention to shadowy club sounds and delicate R&B.”
Trick tracklist :
1 – First Impressions
2 – Coasting
3 – Doubt
4 – Closer
5 – Like We Used To
6 – Humour Me
7 – Year Zero
8 – My Hotel Room
9 – Silver And Gold
10 – Stay The Night