Welcome to The Rotation, a roundup of the week’s key moments in music and why you should listen. Read Volume 15 below, or scroll to the end for playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. Previous instalments available here.
It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for music releases. Headline grabbers such as Ed Sheeran have returned and, on the other hand, the mysterious group Sault also popped up again with their excellent new album NINE, which will only be available for ninety-nine days.
Between these releases and the emotional scenes as James Vincent McMorrow restarted live concerts in this country, it really has felt like a great couple of weeks for music. The fine weather facilitating drinks and meals outdoors with friends has definitely helped too.
This week’s selections feature a couple of much anticipated returns from artists we’ve missed, as well as some emerging new artists. Enjoy!
Gang of Youths | ‘the angel of 8th ave.’
Australian band Gang of Youths received worldwide critical acclaim for their incredible last album Go Farther in Lightness in 2016 and here they return with their first new track since that album.
Lead singer David Le’Aupepe is known for his earnest, poetic lyrics yet he has noted that he wanted their new material to expose the beauty and elegance of conversational language, the result is still poetic while also being intensely real. The lyrics describe the night he met his wife and his devotion to their marriage. Musically this track picks up where the last album left off, with sweeping grandeur and energetic guitar riffs made for arenas, but you can hear hints of their new direction in the hypnotic groove or the luminous synths.
The band are working on their new album in London and have said that this is the only track that sounds like their previous work, which is only building anticipation for what is to come next.
Yves Tumor | ‘Jackie’
Yves Tumor continues to be one of the most fascinating new artists testing the boundaries of contemporary art and culture. They released one of the best albums of last year, Heaven to a Tortured Mind, and now provide a glimpse of what is to come as they transform into a fully-fledged glam rock star.
No one conveys raw, frenzied emotion quite like Yves Tumor. Here they are lamenting the anguish of love as they describe a relationship in purgatory. Duelling guitars push and pull in the chorus while each word in punctuated with a heavy kick drum. The result is more nuanced than a typical psych rock song, the textures in the production and the spiralling sound giving this their authentic signature.
It’s an electrifying return, just as they announce tour dates for next year. They will be playing in Whelan’s on March 7, 2022, and you can imagine how incredible tracks like this will sound live.
Tyler, the Creator | ‘SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE’
Following his last few albums, we’ve all learned to expect the unexpected when Tyler releases a new record. That being said, a Gangsta Grillz style mixtape hosted by DJ Drama still caught everyone off guard.
This record finds Tyler mixing his technicolour IGOR persona with his earlier, grittier Goblin persona. This track in particular is the centrepiece of the album, at a sprawling 10 minutes, and finds Tyler serenading his love in the first half and then questioning whether this love was the right choice in the second half. This mix of passion and overthinking is the central theme of the album. The beautiful samples and lush production are mainstays in Tyler’s music but his use of Drama’s adlibs here brings another layer of texture to these tracks. The appearances of Brent Faiyaz and newcomer Fana Hues fit perfectly in Tyler’s universe.
The album, CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is out now and is a fascinating deep dive into the mind of a creative genius. It manages to be his most personal album to date while also providing enough bravado that people may miss the sincerity.
Rejjie Snow | ‘Disco Pantz’
The consistency of output from Rejjie Snow is ensuring that he is getting much deserved attention both in the UK and in the States. You only need to look at the artists that he’s collaborating with to see the respect that he’s getting, from the late MF DOOM to Snoh Aalegra. Here he returns with another impressive collaboration with Tinashe and grouptherapy.
This track finds Snow deep in his comfort zone embracing this mix of funk, indie and electronica. This is colourful music; he’s described it as a feelgood record for the old heads. Tinashe still doesn’t get the acclaim she deserves for experimenting with new genres and being at the forefront of the modern R&B movement. Her honeyed vocals sound incredible here.
Snow’s new album Baw Baw Black Sheep will be released on July 9. He has described how he thought of the record as the soundtrack for Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and tested the album by playing it over the movie with no sound. Snow is clearly in a good place, making music that reflects his state of mind, and an album full of these funky beats sounds perfect to soundtrack the summer.
Arthur Valentine | ‘Track 3’
Arthur Valentine, the stage name of Luke Aston from Cork, is a founding member of the label HAUSU, an exciting collective of musicians, filmmakers, designers and programmers working together and pooling resources. Valentine has described how he wrote this track on the bus on the way home, getting funny looks from other commuters as he worked out the melody.
Lyrically Valentine is exploring the beginning of a relationship and all the nerves associated with that. Both sides are trying to figure out the other’s mindset and their intentions. The production is captivating, with the airy synths, minimal percussion and high energy beat switches providing the perfect backdrop for Valentine’s sharp songwriting. There are similarities to be drawn with Frank Ocean, which is high praise for a new artist. The auto tuned harmonies and augmented vocal experiments add layers of texture to the sound.
His new EP, Splitscreen, is out now and is an impressive offering from the Cork artist. Interestingly the collective also created a playable PS1 style racing game to accompany the EP. It will be interesting to see what comes next from both Valentine and HAUSU.
Mykki Blanco | ‘It’s Not My Choice (feat. Blood Orange)’
Mykki Blanco has always been a difficult artist to define or to categorise, and by their own admission they have taken the longer road to get to where they are now. But here they return with a soulful offering featuring Blood Orange, a.k.a. Devonté Hynes.
The track explores the tug of war that is a dysfunctional relationship. Blanco’s unique delivery is reminiscent of old school rappers from the ’80s, but their sincerity is clear; the emotive lyrics feel personal and direct. The production here is beautiful, the smooth saxophone, the lively synths and understated percussion provide a stunning backdrop for the track. Blood Orange is always a highlight when he pops up on a record. His voice is so distinctive, and his style resonates whether it’s a solo track or a guest appearance.
The track is from Blanco’s new album Broken Hearts and Beauty Sleep, which is out now and is a fascinating collection of songs reflecting their unique personality. Hynes has also been busy—he’s been creating the scores for two TV shows and was recently featured on Paul McCartney’s new album.
Rachel Mae Hannon | ‘Alright’
Monaghan-born, Dublin-based artist Rachel Mae Hannon is making intriguing music at the intersection of pop and new soul. Her latest track is a great example, with the catchiness of a pop tune, as well as rhythm and soul reminiscent of artists like Erykah Badu.
The cheeky guitar line that runs throughout, alongside the groovy drums and layered vocals in the verses, creates a jazzy backdrop for Hannon to deliver her honey-toned vocals. Lyrically she is advocating for recovery and moving on with a focus on our ability to rediscover ourselves. Her refrain in the chorus is warm and reassuring.
This is cocktail bar music you might expect to hear in a lavish establishment. Her new EP, Like It Is, will be released shortly and promises to be more neo soul delivered in her unique way.
Smoothboi Ezra | ‘Stuck’
Based in Greystones in Wicklow, multi-instrumentalist and producer Smoothboi Ezra just released their new EP and this is the title track. Despite not having an abundance of material available, Ezra has already proven that they have an amazing turn of phrase. Their earnest, emotive lyrics elevate their music and any of their one liners will make the listener stop and think.
On this track they are tackling the idea of being in a relationship with someone you care about but knowing that it’s not going to work—both parties are just waiting on the other person to end it. It’s a heavy subject matter and they are clearly not afraid to delve into the intricacies of relationships. Warm guitar and elegant instrumentation form an ambient soundscape as the backdrop for the story to unfold. The production creates a cosy sense of comfort while the lyrics break your heart.
Ezra identifies as gender non-binary and is on the autism spectrum. They are moving the needle on what it means to write a love song as someone that doesn’t see themselves represented in the media. Ezra’s new EP Stuck is out now and is well worth a listen.