8 Apr 2015

Weekly Listening: Janelle Monae, Metz, Samo Sound Boy, Sufjan Stevens and more

10:08 am on 8 April 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.

Janelle Monae.

Janelle Monae. Photo: Unknown

Janelle Monae and Jidenna - 'Yoga'

Finally – a dance craze song for the unoffical activity – no, the unoffical WAY OF LIFE for anyone under 40 and within 50 kilometers of a pressed juice bar. The song to play when you put on your leggings and walk to the juice shop and pretend you do yoga at all (let’s be honest: you tried it once watching some girl on YouTube do it). It's alternately an empowerment anthem ("you cannot police me, so get off my areola") and a slightly fractured summer hit that got lost in the mail. It's a sex song by way of Kool Keith yet with a slick pop sensibility and a chorus that lures you into dancing to it.

More importantly, this is undoubtedly the greatest dance craze single since Suzanne Paul released 'Blue Monkey', and that’s some achievement. I never thought there'd be a song to top Paul's, surely NZ's greatest pop auteur, but perhaps this is it. I will now wait patiently for the Monae x Paul reboot of 'Blue Monkey'. - Eden Bradfield

Metz - 'Spit You Out'

Metz, the incredible Toronto three-piece have just released the second track from their upcoming sophomore album, cleverly titled II. It’s good to see they haven’t messed with the chemistry that made their debut so enjoyable – it’s a loud, condensed and colourful mess of fuzzed up guitar, screaming hooks, hard drumming and distorted bass, that leaves you wanting more.

'Spit You Out' is just another banger added to Metz’ already impressive back catalogue of songs that you'll want to listen to over and over again, and songs you have to see performed live before you die. Their new music feels like a no man’s land, where hardcore meets post-punk meets no wave in a baron, post-apocalyptic Canadian Tundra. II is set to be one of the best albums of 2015. My neck is already sore in anticipation. – Jack Riddell

Samo Sound Boy - 'What Can I Do'

If you see me dancing while crying in the club, it’s probably to a track from Body High boss, Samo Sound Boy. The LA club imprint specialises in all shades of bittersweet bangers. Those ones played when the sun might be rising, and complexities of the real world aren’t too far away … so you’d better make the bloody most of it.

This style truly manifests with 'What Can I Do' – a single from Samo’s forthcoming debut LP, Begging Please.  It combines the goodness of a hedonistic slow jam with the magic of an undeniable vocal sample dripping with raw emotion, without being trite or corny.

It’s also a dance rarity: a biographical exploration of the producer’s life in love of late.  A brave move that’s difficult to execute in any genre, and a testament to Body High being one of the more emotionally intelligent labels to emerge in recent times. - Sophie Wilson

!!! - 'All U Writers'

Should we feel sorry for !!!? I'm torn. On the one hand their latest track ‘All U Writers’ is jammed tight with an undeniably funky bass line and brittle 4/4 drum combo that keeps you listening for the 5:30 duration. The deep pitched down vocal samples are definitely a draw card (I’m aware that it’s telling writers to write…) and then there’s synth/guitar thrown in for atmos. But on the other hand ‘All U Writers’ isn’t new and it feels pretty familiar to a lot of their back catalogue. Should we poo poo this familiarity? I still haven’t made my mind up, maybe a few more listens and I will find my answer. – Zac Arnold

Sufjan Stevens - ‘Fourth Of July’

Sufjan Stevens is known for his concept albums, but they’ve never been so personal. Carrie And Lowell, Stevens’ seventh studio album, is named after his mother and his stepfather, and mainly deals with his relationship with Carrie, who was diagnosed schizophrenic, and struggled with substance abuse and depression. Feeling herself ill-equipped to raise children, she left when Sufjan was one, leaving he and his siblings with their father. Lowell Brams was married to Carrie for just five years in the early 80s, but he seems to have provided some stability for her, allowing Sufjan and his siblings to spend time in Oregon with their mother during summer holidays. Other than those few years, his mother was largely absent. Pitchfork has a great interview with Sufjan here, if you’re intrigued. It was Carrie’s death from stomach cancer in 2012, and Sufjan’s subsequent grief that sparked these songs.

Musically, the album veers away from the exultant electronic outbursts and experimentation of 2010’s Age Of Adz, avoids the intricate orchestral scoring of Illinoise and Michigan, but returns to the acoustic plucks and hushed choruses of 2004’s Seven Swans, leaving Sufjan's whispered words space to weave his story.

Packing an emotional punch In the middle of the album is ‘Fourth Of July’, an arrestingly tender song, with its ambient shimmer, minimalist pendulum-like piano line, and lilting melody. The lyrics imagine a death-bed scene, with mother and son trading lines like “did you get enough love, my little dove, why do you cry?” She apologises for her absence: “And I’m sorry I left, but it was for the best, though it never felt right” and ends with an admission of mortality - “We’re all gonna die”. - Kirsten Johnstone

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