The queen of 2019 combining with the queen of a generation, a New Zealand band with the new teen-dance classic, a local artist breaking the floor with a new banger. These are the songs of the month – seven international, three local – as picked by The Spinoff’s culture editor Sam Brooks.
‘Quiet Company’ by Brendan Maclean
This ode to attending a kind of shitty party with all the people you call friends but who are really Facebook friends is clear standout, for me, from Maclean’s album And The Boyfriends. Maclean has the kind of relentlessly charming voice that sticks in your brain, and the middle-eight which bursts into an ‘Under Pressure’-esque build, anchors it even more.
Bonus points for working the phrase ‘eschews obfuscation’ flawlessly into a chorus.
‘Mu’ by Rinne Yoshida
This technically came out in February, but has four thousand streams on Spotify, so I feel like I can comfortably introduce this one to you. Your tolerance for this song depends on how much you can tolerate pitched-up vocals, but it’s worth it for the double house piano drop in the chorus, which as close to pure euphoria as I can imagine in music.
This sounds like a Wednesday Campenella song for the most part, but it’s that second drop with its homosexual Flipper-the-Dolphin vocals that sets it apart. It’s the kind of drop that makes you feel like your brain is doing a Bourne Ultimatum-style camera shake, and your vision is altered by the time Yoshida goes straight into the next verse.
Calvin Harris is shaking, y’all.
‘Grade School Games’ by Dessa
I’ve been a fan of Dessa for a long, long time. She’s been a part of DOOM Collective for ages, which puts out what I would loosely describe as spoken-word metal, though her solo stuff leads her towards a sound that’s more reminiscent of Florence + The Machine than you know, a SoundCloud rapper. She can spit and sing with the best of them, and flips between them better than you’d expect, thanks to a smoky weariness in her voice.
Her latest stuff has been dipping the toe into more accessible places, but she displays her gift for turning a phrase throughout. Take the opening salvo of ‘Grade School Games’:
“Love, drugs, sex, pain
Those are just grade schools games, nothing major
Nothing changes but the names and dates”
Too real, Dessa.
‘Sight of You’ by Sigrid
Yes, it’s another Sigrid song. No, I’m not sorry. Sigrid is the Robyn of this decade (although in reality, Robyn is the Robyn of this decade too). She’s making songs that make you cry in the club, but make sure you don’t stop dancing while you’re flooding the basement with your tears.
This is less of a club song and more of a triumphant start to your run show – it captures what you feel when you’re on that first flush of new love, with the synth strings building and building. The rest of Sigrid’s (amazing) debut LP is about broken love, but this song is red-cheeked, full-hearted and determined to pass Sigrid’s joy onto the reader.
‘Tempo’ by Lizzo feat. Missy Elliot
It’s a Missy Elliot song in 2019! With Lizzo! Count your blessings.
In all seriousness, this is a bass-heavy banger where Lizzo shows she can hold her own against the defining talent of a generation, a defining talent who can rhyme tongue trills without missing a note. Lizzo’s more recent stuff has been closer to her pop side than her harder, rockier roots, and this is a welcome return to that side of Lizzo. She has the range, you guys.
In the words of the queen of 2019, ‘thick thighs save lives’.
‘The King’ by Conan Gray
Holy shit, if this song had existed when I was in high school! A song about a sexually fluid guy telling a guy that he needs to tell him he has a crush on him, and that he’s not only worth having a crush on but the absolute right person to have a crush on? Absolutely yes.
This song sounds like a pre-Melodrama Lorde in the best way. The production is beautifully lush, the lyrics are specific, and the interplay is the best kind of personal diary shrugging that I love. Conan Gray is going to be our next Shawn Mendes, and I cannot wait.
‘About Work The Dancefloor’ by Georgia
A song that sounds like Silent Shout-era The Knife, but with all the heart of Saint Etienne in their prime? My veins are pretty full with Lizzo, Conan Grey, and the song below this one, but overfill my veins. The chorus is absolutely nonsense (‘I was just thinking about work the dancefloor’) but it doesn’t matter – this is pure lovelorn joy. Get it into your veins, too.
‘Waiting for Love’ by Openside
Nobody in New Zealand is doing pop music like Openside is, and we’re the worse for it. But we’re lucky we’ve got Openside doing the most for bubblegum-pop-punk.
Case in point: ‘Waiting for Love’. The chorus begs to be screamed out in an arena, or played in the background of some teen film dance, or in my own rewritten memories of a misspent teenagehood. An obvious touchstone here is Paramore, but there’s a little Gwen Stefani here, a little Sixpence None The Richer, and when it gets to that breathy middle-eight, more than a little Carly Rae Jepsen.
DJs hired for high school dances, do your due diligence and get this song on your playlist.
‘Faster’ by Reb Fountain
Reb Fountain is an absolute tremendous vocalist – she can go from an intimate whisper to a full-bodied wail and they both sound as authentic as a wood-fired pizza. ‘Faster’ allows Fountain to run the gamut of her range, and it wraps her up in a lush, mournful arrangement. More songs could use a lengthy mid-song bridge to stand up, sway around to, and then fall down to.
“Some men pluck roses, some take to the sky” is a truth hard learned, but Fountain sings it off with a wry smile, and gentle bass guitar.
‘Digebasse (enough)’ by CHAII
If you’re in a club that isn’t playing this song, then you should (kindly) go up to them, tap them on the shoulder and introduce them to this absolute slammer song.
CHAII is an incredible local Persian-Kiwi talent, and this is as strong a debut as any I’ve heard from a local artist. Her flows are strong, the beats are scale-breakingly heavy, and the song builds and shatters in a way that few song under three minutes get the chance to do. If a Fast and Furious film hasn’t picked this up in the next few months (and I say this with nothing but admiration for those films and their music choices) then they’re absolutely nuts.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.