11 Mar 2015

Weekly Listening: Toro Y Moi, Kelela, Cashmere Cat, Mary Briefcase

10:07 am on 11 March 2015

A revolving cast of contributors from the Music 101 and Wireless teams showcase some of the best new music releases from the past week.

Toro Y Moi

Toro Y Moi Photo: Unknown

Toro Y Moi – 'Buffalo'

Without exaggeration, 2013’s Anything in Return remains one of my favorite records of all time. So it was with equal parts excitement and trepidation that I waded into ‘Buffalo’, the second single off Toro Y Moi’s upcoming album What For?

Interviews during the Anything in Return tour had Chaz Bundwick looking to reclaim the guitar from rock’s aging grip and ‘Buffalo’ pulls this off in the most charming of ways. Guitars melt rather than grind and Bunwick’s warm bass fills punctuate the live drumming.

Where first single ‘Empty Nesters’ had me worried that Bundwick had finally succumbed to the kind of over-cooked pop he usually side-steps so well, ‘Buffalo’ continues the casual brilliance he’s been known for since chill-wave was a thing. - Ben Leonard

Kelela - 'A Message'

Remember when that person you thought was so great and could do no wrong suddenly dumped you like a day old Big Mac? The boxes of tissues, the sad movies, and days-upon-days of sweat pants and old t-shirts? I feel you.

The best part of any break up however, is when the rose-coloured glasses finally come off and you see the person (and the relationship) for what it really was - a steaming bag of poo and swear words.

Kelela’s new track (co-written with Arca) called ‘A Message’ from her upcoming EP Hallucinogen, is the song for those with who have just thrown their trashy pink sunnies in the bin. In what sounds like Prince, Bjork and Solange softly grinding on each other, Kelela’s ever-soulful vocals are layered both expertly and artistically over one another to create a mesmerising, shadowy, back-to-the-future sound.

With sparse background instruments, rolling bass-synth vibes, and strong I’m-moving-on lyrics, this track left me feeling empowered and even a little bit saucy. The Ethiopian American songstress with waist-long dreads (which she cut off dramatically in the music video) broke through with her mixtape Cut 4 Me in 2013, and her impending six-track EP Hallucinogen is due to be released on May 5. - Renee Iosefa

Cashmere Cat ft. Ariana Grande - 'Adore'

Given the 21-year-old’s back-to-back number one albums, the phrases “featuring” and  “Ariana Grande” might seem about as mutually exclusive as ‘slept on’ and ‘Kanye’. However, the truth is that as far as electronic music goes, Cashmere Cat (aka Norwegian producer Magnus Høiberg) is far from an underdog either.

His 2012 Mirror Maru EP garnered both critical acclaim and a slew of collaborations with super-producer Benny Blanco. Høiberg followed that with a killer couple of years, working with Grande on her 2014 chart-topper My Everything and with the aforementioned Kanye West on his new album So Help Me God.

That said, ‘Adore’ serves as a bit of a returning of the favour by Grande with the instrumental sitting comfortably in the background. Although the ‘feat.’ tag could easily have been reversed, that distinction seems irrelevant as the song breaks into a punchy chorus lifted from Johnny Gill’s 1990 classic ‘My My My’. The result is maybe a little predictable but proves that the Cashmere Cat/Ariana Grande relationship is not as one sided as you might think. - Ben Leonard

Mary Briefcase - Jupiter by Ridge (1980 reissue) / Whisper of the Sheba Dawn (1982 reissue) / Page Thirty Nine: The Fickle Nest Project (2015)

The relatively new NZ labels Epic Sweep and Lingering Sound have kindly remastered and released the retrospective and current bounty of forgotten underground kiwi legend, Mary Briefcase aka Malcolm Pickup.

From the pop song-length excerpts (offered here and here) of the three albums released, I thought them surprisingly digestible for noise music. For the most part, we’re given melodies we can hang on to, considerately slathered above almost-but-not-quite obnoxious electronics. But that’s my take... the Auckland Star in 1982 described 'Whisper of the Sheba Dawn' as “open heart surgery soundtrack music”. Proof that Mary Briefcase makes a pretty good Rorschach test.

All three albums work well together in contrast and should be snaffled up by all who enjoy a little aural jaunt every now and then. Plus, with some of these recordings having been made in Napier and Auckland, it’s nice to hear what someone other than Bruce Russell was up to in the ‘80s. - Sophie Wilson

Honourable mentions

LIDS - 'Blank Flag'
Joanna Gruesome - 'Honestly Do Yr Worst'
Death & The Maiden - Death & The Maiden
Cool Rainbows - 'Universe'
Action Bronson ft. Chance The Rapper - 'Baby Blue'
M.I.A. - 'Can See Can Do'
Kane Strang - 'Full Moon, Hungry Sun'

Did we miss something? Tell us about it in the comments section.