One of New Zealand’s great pop maestros returns, the rein (geddit?) of Lil Nas X continues, and sci-fi series Stranger Things inspires a superb single: welcome to The Spinoff Music’s best songs of June 2019.
‘Jealous’ by Ingrid Michaelson
Ingrid Michaelson’s new single hits on two obvious truths and subverts a third.
Truth the First: ‘Jealous’ is one of the most satisfying words in the English language. Just try saying it out loud, the way your mouth moves around the ‘jeal’ and slips seamlessly into the hiss of the ‘ous’, sounding very much like the snake. It’s a great word to build a song around, as Nick Jonas will tell you.
Truth The Second: Ingrid Michaelson knows her way around a hook, and even if this song sounds like pretty much nothing else she’s done, and her voice is produced to the other side of the 80s and back again, she has a lilt that catches in your brain.
Truth The Third: Albums ‘inspired by’ television or film are invariably bad. I had no idea this was from Stranger Songs, inspired by the Netflix show that you’re surprised to see get a third season. As such, some of the lyrics apparently reference Eleven (?) and her jealousy about Max (??) and Mike’s (???) relationship. Sure, why not! Not knowing this doesn’t stop the song from slapping, and I say that even though knowing the source of this song makes me like it a bit less. / Sam Brooks
‘DO YOU DOUBT ME TRAITOR’ by Lingua Ignota
Kin to witch-queens like Diamanda Galas, Chelsea Wolfe or our own i.e. crazy, Lingua Ignota’s harrowing work occupies a zone intersecting extreme metal, dark ambient and apocalyptic classical.
The second single off forthcoming album CALIGULA, ‘DO YOU DOUBT ME TRAITOR’ is a comparatively snappy nine minute triptych that makes full use of dynamics to slowly build from a rattling, reverberant lament repeating “How can you doubt me now?” before igniting into throat-shredding black metal wails of “I don’t eat / I don’t sleep / I don’t eat / I let it consume me” and “How do I break you before you break me?” over hypnotic, liturgical strings.
Her vocals seemingly contaminate the sedate music into swarms of distortion and a clanging piano that sounds like it’s been dropped into a mineshaft, then dawning into brightly queasy, droning harmonies and vocal flourishes: “When all this is ended / As cruel as I am / Remember how I loved you / But that nothing can stand / My friends all wear your colours / Your flag flies above every door”. / Stevie Kaye
‘自然 Natural’ by Cheesemind
The charmingly named Cheesemind hail from Wellington’s sister city of Xiamen in southeastern China, and their seaside locale bears an influence on their winsome, balmy indie-pop. There’s hints of shoegaze, Japanese city-pop, and even surf music on new E.P. Bay Park Serenade; tugging at the heart-strings without trying too hard, the yearning guitars are spackled with xylophone and organ while the plaintive vocals unspool the practises of everyday life that make up a seemingly endless winter by the seaside missing a lover – breakfasting alone, falling asleep to records, street lights in the evening rather than sunsets. They’re playing with Kiwi bands Womb and Strange Stains on July 2nd if you’re in Xiamen! / SK
‘Rodeo’ by Lil Nas X feat. Cardi B
Rodeo starts with a surf-country riff, almost Beastie Boys-inspired, and then just drops straight into sick beat you know Cardi B is gonna jump on. And she does! Cardi on the track with the most relatable verse in her career:
‘That’s a fact, dressed in black, my heart break, bones will crack /
I be chilling, watching Oxygen, my favourite show is Snapped.’
I love Snapped, I love reggaeton, I love country, I love this song. Like all Lil Nas X’s songs, this is short. It’s not even three minutes long, but every second of it makes me want to wear cowboy boots and slut drop on a cactus. ‘Rodeo’ sounds like a spinning lasso looks. That sounds weird, but give it a listen. / Josie Adams
‘Phone Down’ by Stefflon Don feat. Lil Baby
Stefflon Don has been not-so-quietly making the rounds with her brand of reggae-infused hip-hop for a few years now, but ‘Phone Down’ marks the first time that she’s taken off way up above the clouds. That post-chorus shines and glimmers like a Kylie Minogue song, honestly. How can you not love a couplet like:
“Why you always got your phone in your hand?
I swear it’s feeling like I ain’t got a man
I just want to take it, run it over with a van
But I can’t drive ‘cause I’m still on a ban”
A gem from someone who, mark my words, will be inescapable on your playlists in a few years. / SB
‘L.D.L.A’ by J.J. Mist
Our appetite for pastiches and period pieces goes more unremarked when dwelling on 70s folk or 60s garage rock – analogue fetishism rather than ersatz digital synthesis – so J.J. Mist’s note-perfect evocation of the gum-snapping, roller-rink-ready Latin freestyle produced by Jellybean Benitez for Madonna, Teena Marie, Sheena Easton et al is striking. There’s not a lot of local precedents for this sound, aside from the surely-due-a-revival Aishah & The Fan Club (who have a similarly acronymic title in ‘W.G.A.F.’), with more contemporary references to this vibe having tended to come from hip-hop artists like PNC circa Bazooka Kid or Coco Solid.
Neon guitar squiggles are squirted all over the track, and boilerplate lyrics reveling in the word ‘telephone’ are a feature-not-bug for both frictionless dancefloor compulsion and sonic time-travel. / SK
‘Jamboree’ by Ron Gallipolli
Like the Pet Shop Boys locked in an abandoned freezing works, ‘Jamboree’ initially registers as a meandering, sombre piano ballad, seeming more sonically straightforward than earlier industrial-tinged work on Agrokomplex or Ron Gallipoli Loves You All, but is gradually garnished with matchbox percussion and whistles as the track is consumed by squeals and a nerve-rattling steady increase in tempo.
Lyrically, it finds him in his mode of jaundiced provincial unease and petty violence: “Like country kids on the back of the bus / Speeding on the gravel with bald tires / Driven by a grieving widower on minimum wage” and “Somewhere out there there’s a poorly pasteurised carton of milk with your name on it” – rather than the messianic incantations of earlier songs like ‘Fonterra’. / SK
‘Make My Dreams Come True’ by Lontalius
This is the kind of song that transports me back to sitting in the passenger seat of some guy’s car in high school. It’d come on the radio, and while the guy in the driver’s seat wouldn’t understand the subtext, there’d be this full-gape mouth-scream inside my head that this song would be speaking to and amplifying. Which is to say, this is a lovely, sweet piece of lovelorn – hell, even lovestoned – pop that I hope is the soundtrack to some queer kid’s hopeless crush. / SB
Join The Spinoff Members for as little as $1 to help us hire more journalists and carry out more investigations. Or pay $8 a month and get a free Toby Morris-designed tea towel!
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.