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Pop CultureFebruary 9, 2018

Best Songs Ever: Attn Pavement fans, a new Malkmus classic just rode into town


Our regular round-up of new songs and singles, featuring Tommy Genesis, Stephen Malkmus, Rhye, Transistor, Kehlani and more…


Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – ‘Middle America’

An instant Malkmus classic

Only Malkmus things: rhyming ‘nerve’ with ‘nerve’; following that with a line that goes “open the door and piss if you need to”; releasing this new song accompanied by a press photo of himself riding a horse. Cryptic crossword lyrics, sneaky hooks, inscrutable scrapbook cover art – in other words, an instant Malkmus classic. It reminded me of this tweet from 2015: “Seriously: gonna ride my skateboard to Moda Center for NCAAs #48andlovingit”. This is that tweet in song form, the sound of a 48-year-old Malkmus skating down to a college basketball playoff on an easy spring afternoon, somehow still the coolest man in indie rock. / Calum Henderson

It is hard to believe, but Stephen Malkmus has released six records since the disbandment of Pavement (who released five), and it appears a seventh is on the way if new single ‘Middle America’ is any indication. Malkmus has grown comfortable in his middle age, taking the laid-back vibes of later day Pavement and marrying them to the guitar jamming potential that his backing band The Jicks afford him (something the beautiful near car-wreck of Pavement never quite could), always sounding familiar but not quite complacent. ‘Middle America’ pushes this avoidance of schlubby Dad-rock to its breaking point. It’s a sunny pop number which shuffles by lazily, with the sharpness coming to save the day courtesy of Malkmus’ mischievous wordplay: “Men are scum, I won’t deny / May you be shit-faced, the day you die”. / Pete Douglas


Tommy Genesis – ‘Lucky’

Less ‘fetish rap’ more pop-tinged reggae

Hailing from Atlanta’s Awful Records (a collective of unorthodox rap/R&B ring-led by rapper Father), Tommy Genesis makes music for outcasts with no desire to be ‘ladylike’. Tommy is an elusive, explicit force oozing unapologetic sexuality without conforming to what the world expects of a young woman – particularly in hip-hop. Just when you think you have her all figured out, she’ll leave you bewildered and wanting more.

On latest single ‘Lucky’, the rapper switches up her flow from the usual foul-mouthed, self-professed ‘fetish rap’ she’s known for, dipping her fingers in pop-inflected reggae. Swapping the hardcore raps for a soft-sung hook, ‘Lucky’ is an unapologetic ode to self-confidence: “Look at my face / Only thing more pretty is my pussy”. We can expect to see the Awful Records vixen expand into unexplored directions with the arrival of her imminent sophomore album Genesis. As she explained to Noisey, “Every song on the album is a different genre. This is my No Doubt album. There’s no rules.” / Laura McInnes

Kehlani – ‘Again’

Last year’s R&B’s princess is back

Last year Kehlani stole hearts on her acclaimed female duality-focused debut SweetSexySavage – a record brimming with bop after bop of ’90s-style R&B, landing her a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Performance on ‘Distraction’. It established her spot as modern R&B’s young princess, but the immense 18 tracks almost drowned each other out in their abundance. In recent months the Oakland musician has been dropping gems at a steady pace: October’s sweet ‘Honey’, December’s triumphant ‘Already Won’, and now a new surprise SoundCloud release, ‘Again’.

Stripped-back acoustics have ruled Kehlani’s recent work, giving her vulnerable, raw vocals a chance to shine above the beats. ‘Again’ is a heart stirring ballad that showcases the delicacy of her vocal range, letting us deep into her heart with caution and sincerity. “Unmixed, just how I like it,” is how she recently described the love song on Instagram. “Imperfect and honest.” / LM

Keepsakes – ‘Mind Your Manners Munted Millennial’

The less you’re given, the more you’re left to read into what you have. And in the tradition of almost-anonymous techno 12″s, you’re often, consciously or not, letting the track names do a lot of the heavy lifting into where the music’s coming from. So, with Keepsakes’ 12″ on Haven (the new record label born out of the Auckland ‘outsider dance music’ club night), the title ‘Mind Your Manners Munted Millennial’ adds significantly to the experience. The everything-to-eleven four-to-the-floor beat with over-driven synth lines take on an ironically pissed-off tone, like it’s a little bit funny, but a little bit nasty too. A track that will laugh at your jokes but you wouldn’t want to cross. / Henry Oliver

Transistor – ‘All You Remember’

Wellington psychedelia falls a little too close to the tree

Transistor is a psych-rock outfit from Wellington, and based on a bit of personal research they are definitely not the same band as Christchurch’s Transistors (with an s). As psych-rock groups are wont to do, the band’s latest single ‘All You Remember’ uses runny guitar lines and post-John Lennon vocals. It’s a thoroughly pleasant listen, but in its eagerness to replicate familiar psych-rock staples it has surrendered any element of innovation. In the band’s defence though, this tends to come with the psychedelic territory – it’s a style that tends to replicate the past more than open up new horizons. And on ‘All You Remember’ the band have cooked up a lovely vocal melody, like a really chilled out Liam Gallagher. / Alex Lyall

Trendees – ‘How Many Masterpieces etc’

When your song is exactly two minutes long, why not spend a quarter of that on the introduction? Trendees have the energy of youth, fuelling it through an old 1980s Dunedin funnel (i.e. it sounds like a lost Toy Love demo). The song itself is genuinely enjoyable, loaded with fuzzy riffs and car-crash vocals. Yes, it is as short as all get-up, but it really doesn’t need any more than a minute and a half. / Alex Lyall

Rhye – ‘Sinful’

Sad, sensual, synth indie RnB

After a five year break following their debut album Woman back in 2013, Rhye are back with a record that is emotional, romantic and thought-provoking. Rhye consists of two men, something of a shock considering how much the androgynous vocals of lead singer Milosh sound like Sade, with a bit of Jessie Ware thrown in. ‘Sinful’ is a stand out track here, thanks to its sophisticated production and the combination of strings and whispered-in-you-ear lyrics, describing Milosh’s own divorce. It’s the perfect break up soundtrack, a blissful melancholy. / Bridie Chetwin-Kelly

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