The Song Crush team gush over new music by Aldous Harding, Chaka Khan, Weyes Blood, The Better Oblivion Community Centre and much more. Join host Kirsten Johnstone, Tony Stamp and Elliott Childs from RNZ Music, and special guest vocalist Lisa Tomlins for new music you'll love...
Aldous Harding - ‘The Barrel’
Aldous Harding’s new song ‘The Barrel’ has arrived, with news of an album Designer in April. The song is again produced by John Parish and clearly related to her 2017 album Party with the same shaker/clarinet/picked acoustic guitar instrumentation and childlike voices chiming in.
She sings typically cryptic lines, of dates being set, celebrations, ferrets, eggs and braids. It’s possibly a song about the trappings of commitment. But who knows, with Aldous, she’ll probably never tell the actual story behind it. It’s a great song, but it’s unlikely to be the standout track from the album. The music video is fantastic, it’s just Aldous as her magnetic self, revelling in her own silliness. KJ
Chaka Khan - 'Hello Happiness'
The Queen of Funk, Chaka Khan has released her first new music in 12 years - a new seven track album called Hello Happiness, produced by ex Major Lazer member Switch, alongside songwriter/producer Sarah Ruba.
We asked Wellington singer, DJ, and longtime Chaka Khan fan Lisa Tomlins to give it a spin. Here are her thoughts on the album:
“She’s still hitting all those notes that I’ve known and loved for so many years, I think there is a definite maturity there, like it’s more gritty and raw sounding. [You can hear that on] the track ‘Too Hot’ which is that raw bluesy sound.
“Each one of the songs is good… but there's not the stardom quality of something like ‘Ain’t No Body’ or ‘I Feel For You’. It’s definitely Chaka Khan though, and she’s trying out new things, which I’m totally not against … but I still feel like they’re searching for that hit.”
Better Oblivion Community Centre - ‘Dylan Thomas’
Better Oblivion Community Centre are a duo made up of singer/songwriter Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes). The two first worked together on Bridgers’ wonderful debut album Stranger In The Alps and apparently got along so well they decided to make a whole album together. It’s very much an indie rock record and possibly a bit more upbeat than you would expect from either of the artists involved, but the intriguing, melancholic anxiety that permeates both of their back catalogues is still on display here. EC
Weyes Blood - ‘Everyday’
On the second single from Natalie Merring’s fourth album as Weyes Blood, Titanic Rising, she continues to refract modern themes through a retro lens: yes there’s a comparison to be made with Karen Carpenter, and this time out, quite a bit of the Fab Four, but it’s all loaded with Merring’s distinctly millennial smirk. Kind of like how the accompanying video is an 80s slasher film homage, but the liner notes ask you to watch it in ultra-HD 4K. TS
Y La Bamba - ‘Una Letra’
Y La Bamba’s fifth album Mujeres is dedicated by its leader, Portland raised Mexican Luz Elena Mendoza, to her mother, and “to all women who were robbed of choice." It’s an album full of tangible anger and sadness, and yet I took huge pleasure in getting to know this album, with all of its complicated emotions, bilingual lyrics, and layers of lo-fi, mexican tinged psychedelia.
In ‘Una Letra’ Mendoza’s yearning voice reminds me of Angel Olsen’s, and it’s snugly cradled in acoustic guitar, with just a smattering of chimes, whistles, and south-of-the-border electric guitar. KJ
Flock of Dimes - ‘The Sisters’
Flock of Dimes is the solo project of Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak). Wasner is the sole producer, songwriter and musician on most Flock of Dimes recordings, including her 2016 album If You See Me Say Yes. This track ‘The Sisters’ comes from a split single with musician (and neuroscientist) Madeline Kenney, whose 2018 album Perfect Shapes was produced by Wasner. ‘The Sisters’ has an airy electronica feel to it with Wasner’s vocals sitting atop a bed of retro sounding synths and distorted guitar. EC
Gaijin Blues - 'Secret of Mana'
For the first few minutes here it’s tough to see where it’s all going - there’s a lot of clattering; some vocals pop in and out; the rhythm’s a bit skewiff… then suddenly everything smacks into place: the bass syncopates, a flute drops and we’re off to the races. A Polish duo homaging Japanese culture might seem like an odd fit - and this track doesn’t disprove that - but for a few minutes it transcends the sum of its parts and make it nigh impossible not to bop along. TS
Twin Talk - 'Weaver'
Could this be a jazz album for people who aren’t really into jazz? Instead of hours of noodling, showy solos, this trio make melodies and rhythms move like single primitive organisms. It’s understated, human, and warm, with Katie Ernst often doubling her bass lines with her voice. Recorded in Justin Vernon’s studio (reeds player Dustin Laurenzi often appears with Bon Iver) it’s an album with a neat arc, interesting enough to hold your attention, but comforting enough to soundtrack a board game and a glass of Chardonnay. KJ