Star Tracks compiles the most interesting new music from a broad range of established and emerging artists.
This week’s playlist features new music from Maylee Todd, Charli XCX and Rina Sawayama, Raveena, Grimes, Benny the Butcher and J. Cole, Tanya Tagaq, Japanese Breakfast and more.
Click here to listen along on the (new) Spotify playlist, which includes additional tracks we loved this week.
Maylee Todd: Show Me
On March 4, Toronto musician and performance artist Maylee Todd will release “Maloo,” a concept album of “science fiction lullabies” told from the perspective of a digital avatar living in “The Age of Energy.”
The first single, “Show Me,” arrived this month along with a trippy and somewhat unsettling video animated by Maylee herself. Over three minutes, our friend Maloo hangs out in an ultra-modern home, lounging on her bed and staring at floating crystals before being submerged in a lake of quicksilver. Soundtracked by trippy synths, a rubbery bass line and layered vocal harmonies, the clip has a mesmeric quality, as if beamed to your senses from another world.
But beneath the track’s futurism is an all too human sense of yearning, expressed through Maylee’s ethereal singing. “Show me your heart,” she coos with a subtle plaintiveness, grasping for emotional connection amid an alien landscape. – Richie Assaly
The soul-soothing Raveena Aurora has mesmerized listeners around the world with her acclaimed album “Lucid” and “Moonstone” EP. More recently, the artist showcased her musical range and creativity yet again with her single “Rush.”
Raveena’s influences power through the track, including Bollywood sounds and references mixed with psychedelic synths and smooth pop / R & B vocals.
Besides the recently released track, Raveena also dropped stunning visuals in both a music video and illustrations that she says were inspired by “by both Punjabi folklore and campy sci-fi films that have colored my imagination for years.”
At the end of the “Rush” video, the artist also teases a heavenly minuteof an unreleased song, which Raveena describes as a personal track she wrote about an abortion, stating that experience “was one of the turning points” of her adulthood. The full version – which will feature a new song with rapper Vince Staples – will be released on her new 15-track album titled “Asha’s Awakening” on Feb. 11. – Madi Wong
Benny the Butcher feat. J Cole: Johnny P’s Caddy
If Alchemist is producing a track, it’s bound to be a banger.
“Johnny P’s Caddy” is the first single off Benny the Butcher’s highly anticipated album “Tana Talk 4,” and it’s a total heater. Backed by a classic boom-bap, sample-laden track, Benny the Butcher falls back to his trademark raps, wondering, “Who knew that after drug dealin ‘I’d still be casually spending mil’ plus?” J Cole also offers an authoritatively mind-bending verse, one that draws on Albert Einstein, calculus and the theory of relativity to assure he has no equal in the game. – Demar Grant
Charli XCX feat. Rina Sawayama: Beg for You
“RIP hyperpop?Last summer, Charli XCX posed that question on Twitter, along with a screencap from the 1983 David Cronenberg film “Videodrome”: “To become new flesh, you first have to kill the old flesh.” The tweet sent Charli fans into a tizzy, suggesting that the English songwriter was planning to abandon the buzzy microgenre that she helped pioneer, perfect and carry to the brink of the mainstream with albums like “Pop 2,” “Charli” and “how i ‘m feeling now. ”
Those concerns turned out to be valid. In the months following the tweet, Charli released two new singles, “Good Ones” and “New Shapes,” both of which swapped the glitchy noise and AutoTune of her recent work for the pristine and glittery aesthetics of ’80s dance-pop.
Her most recent single, “Beg for You” – which features singer, actor and hyperpop dabbler Rina Sawayama – tilts to the 2000s, sampling the Swedish dance hit “Cry for You.” Charli and Rina find immediate chemistry here, fusing nostalgia with forward-looking hooks.
Charli’s new direction may be divisive, but it’s worth noting that it all might be a little tongue-in-cheek: “a thought: imagine if this entire album campaign was just a commentary on navigating the major label system and the sadistic nature of pop music as a whole, ” she tweeted earlier this month, perhaps a reference to the fact that her forthcoming album “Crash” will be her last release under her current contract with Atlantic Records. She added: “What if I just love pop music and wanna be super famous?”
My advice? Do not overthink it. Turn it up and just enjoy. – RA
Grimes: Shinigami Eyes
The longer an artist exists on the outskirts of the mainstream, the more likely the mainstream will come to them. “Shinigami Eyes” is an electro-pop dance bop that five years ago would have seemed niche to Grimes’ scene, but with the release of The Weeknd’s “After Hours” and “Dawn FM,” it sounds borderline pop centrist. The bubbling synths coupled with classic four-on-the-floor beat are right at home in 2022, where synth and dance pop are bubbling back to the surface. And with Grimes’ hollow voice and repetitive lyrics, “Shinigami Eyes” produces a trance just as fixating as the figure she mentions in her lyrics. – DG
Tanya Tagaq: Teeth Agape
Earlier this week, the chief of the Williams Lake First Nation in BC announced that the preliminary results of a geophysical investigation found a potential 93 unmarked graves near St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School. Investigators also detailed other atrocities, including sexual assault, committed against Indigenous children by staff at the school.
“Those that sanctioned and ran the schools under the guise of Christianity and education were monsters,” wrote Ojibwe author and journalist Tanya Talaga in a tweet.
The horrifying, if unsurprising, news comes days after Inuk artist and throat singer Tanya Tagaq released “Tongues,” a searing album based on her 2018 novel “Split Tooth.” Produced by the underground rapper and poet Saul Williams, the album directly tackles difficult topics of racism, genocide and child abuse in residential schools.
“Touch my children and my teeth will welcome your windpipe,” she snarls over a thumping rhythm, declaring her unwavering resistance to the ongoing power structures of the colonial state and the other monsters in our midst. – RA
Japanese Breakfast: Nobody Sees Me Like You Do
Not very often does a cover song match up to the original and exceedingly rare is the cover better. Somehow Japanese Breakfast achieved the latter. By stripping back the complexity of Yoko Ono’s “Nobody Sees Me Like You Do” the track is reduced to a few simple keys and Michelle Zauner’s serene vocals.
What was originally Ono’s voice leading the listener through a busy crowd has turned into Zauner offering a haven where only she and the listener exist. It’s a perfect example of expressing the same message with different imagery and yet Zauner’s is much more vivid. With such scant lyrics the accompanying emptiness sells a solitude that is easy to get lost in. – DG
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