A little bit of K-Pop, some local artists, and the return of pop music’s best twins: it’s The Spinoff Music’s best songs of April 2019.
‘Cellophane’ by FKA Twigs
Honestly, just click on that video and give it a watch. If it doesn’t win whatever award people give out to music videos, then it’ll be a goddamned shame. FKA Twigs is an electric performer – I still go back and watch the video for ‘Two Weeks’ and marvel – and she brings genuine, stirring energy to her dancing. I didn’t realise how much I missed Twig’s (or FKA’s?) dives into a scary, intimate darkness, but god I’m glad she’s back.
‘Cellophane’ is the story of a relationship on the rocks – maybe Twigs’ own relationship to Robert Pattinson – and it strips back the electronic surfaces of her previous work to just a sparse piano and her wavering voice. The song builds to that one killer line “All wrapped in cellophane/The feelings that we had” and unravels from there. It’s a stunning portrait of throwing yourself into a relationship that is coming apart at the seams, and the anxiety that comes with it. I love it! I’ll be listening to it all year, and replaying the video in my head too. / Sam Brooks
‘Old Town Road’ by Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus
The best country music is forward-facing while nodding backwards, and ‘Old Town Road’ is, quite easily, the most prominent example of that blend of old and new being wildly successful. The original song does that a bit more subtly than this remix, but it’s pretty hard to put Billy Ray Cyrus of Achy Breaky Heart fame on your song and keep it subtle. Cyrus’s sing-speak verses mix well with Lil Nas X’s original ones, and it’s proof that, if nothing else, a good hook knows no genre. / SB
‘Mikrokosmos’ by BTS
Until this song, I was a BTS agnostic. I’ve never been hugely into boybands, and the specific brand of pop-rap-hip-hop that BTS did aerobatics in didn’t really appeal to me. But then I heard ‘Mikrokosmos’, an album track off their new album Map of the Soul: Persona. It’s not the biggest or most popular song on the album, but it’s the one that goes the hardest while being so with exuberance that the result is electric bubblegum pop at its finest. This song is a shot of serotonin right to the pleasure centres, and it’s the Bangtan conglomerate at their genre-mashing finest. Why stick to a single genre when you can just do the hooks? / SB
‘Late Night Feelings’ by Mark Ronson and Lykke Li
Someone in our office called Mark Ronson ‘maudlin dross’, and while I can’t dispute that take for some of his work, he’s at his best when he finds a way to work that maudlin dross into something a little bit more upbeat, like here in ‘Late Night Feelings’. As with Miley Cyrus and ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’, Ronson finds a worthy instrument in Lykke Li. She’s a great fit for a song about pining, about the kind of feelings you have when the night is closer to the next day than this, and the chorus is enough of a earworm that you’ll want to play it again, rather than just hear it in your head. More maudlin dross swathed in disco beats, please! / SB
‘Think of Me’ by The Veronicas
Australia doesn’t deserve The Veronicas. While the country still presents as nationalist, conservative and in love with bland, beery rock the Veronicas are modern, inclusive and have produced a some of the best chart pop songs of the 21st century. In the grand tradition of Australian co-options of our cultural titans, I think New Zealand should make a play for the Veronicas, especially given that ‘Think of Me’ has stiffed in their own country, peaking at 70. It’s ridiculous, as the song is their best since the ‘Untouched’ era – a breathy, pulsing, jealous lament. It joins King Princess’s ‘Pussy is God’ and Doja Cat’s ‘Go Down’ in the recent mini-trend of mint cunnilingus-referencing pop and generally asserts that even if Australia seems ambivalent about the twins, their irresistible melodic abilities abide. / Duncan Greive
‘Talk to Me’ by Lydia Cole and Hailey Beavis
This intro, you guys:
“No one trembles here but me
Embroidered are the many memories
I hear your voice but your face I cannot see
We chose a path so complex
Both foolish and amazing to the rest
I want to talk, I want you to talk to me.”
Wrap me up in this song and cradle me to sleep in it. With just a guitar and some gorgeous interplay between Lydia Cole and Hailey Beavis’s vocals, ‘Talk To Me’ tells what feels like a universal story: two friends, or lovers, who can’t communicate but want so badly to. It’s a testament to Cole’s artistry that at under three minutes, the song doesn’t feel slight, but like a full retelling of the relationship. Smart, emotionally specific songwriting. / SB
‘The Girl With No Name’ by Lisa Crawley
What the world needs is more jangly, bittersweet indie pop, and Lisa Crawley provides that with ‘The Girl With No Name’, a song about moving past self-destructive thoughts. On the surface, the song’s quite cute and catchy, but barely hiding beneath that is Crawley’s wry smile of a vocal. / SB
‘Heaven is Empty’ by Aldous Harding
The entire Harding album is worth a listen or five but the track that is sticking with me most is the stark, minimalistic ‘Heaven is Empty’, Harding’s remarkably straightforward lament about an afterlife that isn’t, never was and never will be. There’s an almost Natalie Merchant (that’s a current reference for you!) vibe to the track, and while it’s not necessarily the most fun song to sit in, there’s something enveloping to it that is compelling. You know, like the rest of the album. / SB
‘FFWD’ by Maxwell Young
The second single from his Only Romantics EP, due mid-May, ‘FFWD’ finds Tāmaki-based bedroom pop artist Maxwell Young crafting a deeply contemporary take on a relatively timeless internal monologue. Over a charmingly loose bed of doo-wop piano, MIDI strings, and both clean and effect-buried guitars, Maxwell’s voice slips up and down through octaves both natural and plugin-assisted as he interrogates his own romantic shortcomings, relational anxieties and general feelings of self-pity. While the subject matter risks feeling overly familiar, Maxwell’s diaristic lyrics, his earnest delivery and his endearingly maximal approach to soundscaping mean that there’s more than enough to be excited about here. Fans of Lontalius, Clairo and Kevin Abstract should enquire within. / Matthew McCauley
‘Be Here Soon’ by Imugi 이무기 –
When we spoke to Imugi 이무기 – earlier this year, they explained how their gig-heavy 2018 had helped them to refine their sound and better realise the space that they wanted their music to occupy. Following the January release of aurally and psychically blunted hypno-heater ‘Greensmoke’, ‘Be Here Soon’ reflects a lighter, more upbeat side to the future-soul two piece. Carl Ruwhiu’s crisp drums and quasi-Balearic synth bells provide a lush setting for Yery Cho’s vocal, which slips Tinashe-style between effortless raps and buoyant R&B runs. On the second post-Vacasian release, it’s clear that the duo are much more aware of the nature and extent of their powers. / Matthew McCauley
Listen to all the songs right here:
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