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Essential Listening: This week's best new music

The shortest month of the year has now come to an end, the sun has started to arrive for the first time in months and the early thoughts of summer are on the horizon. Still, we have a little while longer locked inside our homes as the pandemic rumbles on and we must continue to search for anything to fill the void. One thing, however, that has the ability to snap us out of the mundane homogenous nature of everyday lockdown life is the sound of new music. The only constant throughout the year so far is the stream of blissful new sounds that have offered a fine way to stay sane and get those dopamine receptors active.

Even though playing live for an audience is an impossible dream for musicians right now, that hasn’t stopped artists from continuing to offer up fresh and exciting music. Some of the new releases to have come out in 2021 alludes to a special year for music, even if the world doesn’t quite have the same bright immediate future in store. In turbulent times, music can be a release and that feeling of discovering a new artist, one who you connect with straight away, is one that is hard to replicate.

Whether it is a song by an artist that you’ve never heard of before – or an old favourite that somehow you have allowed to fall off your radar – we’ve got you covered here. This week has witnessed some fine musical moments from artists both new and old who are gearing up to release new projects, with the return of St. Vincent being the stand-out release of the past few days.

Elsewhere, there’s been an exciting release from Girl In Red and Deap Vally teamed up with Warpaint’s Jennylee. Let’s get stuck into this week’s freshest new tracks then, shall we?

This week’s best new music:

Baby Queen – ‘These Drugs’

Baby Queen has shared her emotional new single, ‘These Drugs’, which examines the harsh reality of the morning after rather than celebrating the highs that came from the night before. It was only last May when Baby Queen released her debut single, ‘Internet Religion’, which solidified an emphatic arrival and made people quickly take notice.

Since then, she has continued to go from strength to strength with each release, starting 2021 with the sizzling new single ‘Raw Thoughts’. However, ‘These Drugs’ sees the singer take things down a few notches and offers a slice of momentary reflection from Baby Queen, who continues to show that there are many facets to her character with her latest track.

She commented on the track: “I wrote this song when I was in a really bad place which was characterised mostly by this idea that I wasn’t a good person and didn’t deserve good things. I think for so long, there were so many parts of myself that I was refusing to acknowledge or pay attention to, and when you ignore your own pain or refuse to face up to your mistakes, you can get yourself into a self-destructive cycle, which is ultimately what ended up happening. I think escapism is necessary, and we all find our escape in different places, but some are just healthier than others.”

Deap Vally ft. jennylee – ‘Look Away’

Deap Vally has shared their brand new hazy single, ‘Look Away’, which sees the band join forces with Jennylee from Warpaint. The track is lifted from their brand new EP, Digital Dream, the first release under the Deap Vally moniker since their last full-length album in the form of 2016’s Femejism. They also teamed up in 2019 for a collaborative record with The Flaming Lips as Deap Lips. That record has given the pair a taste for collaboration with their four-track EP, which also features collaborations with Jamie Hince from The Kills, KT Tunstall and Soko.

There’s something that feels necessary about ‘Look Away’ right now. The track alludes to a bright future, and Jennylee brings in a lighter dimension to the Deap Vally sound as she provides a smattering of that positive energy that exudes out of Warpaint’s work. If Deap Vally wants to create another collaborative record like their 2019 effort with Flaming Lips, the idea of a full-record of tracks with Jennylee is a mouth-watering prospect judging from ‘Look Away’.

Japanese Breakfast – ‘Be Sweet’

Japanese Breakfast has shared her illuminating new single, ‘Be Sweet’, her first slice of new music since 2019. The track seeds Japanese Breakfast, AKA Michelle Zauner, lean into more uplifting territory both from a lyrical and a sonic perspective than ever before. ‘Be Sweet’ balances a nostalgic ’80s synth-heavy sound with contemporary production techniques that sound crisp and current whilst borrowing from the past.

There’s a real zing that flows out of the chorus of the new material, one which sounds as though Zauner is having the time of her life as she bellows it out. The single is a stark contrast from the beautiful grief-stricken world in which her first two records existed, a world created following the tragic loss of her mother from pancreatic cancer in 2014. ‘Be Sweet’ is the first taste of her upcoming third album, Jubilee, released on June 4th through Dead Oceans.

Touching about the process behind making the album, Zauner boasted how she “never wanted to rest on any laurels. I wanted to push it as far as it could go, inviting more people in and pushing myself as a composer, a producer, an arranger.”

Pale Waves – ‘You Don’t Own Me’

Pale Waves have offered up visuals for their latest single, ‘You Don’t Own Me’, taken from their recent second album. The Manchester natives last month shared Who Am I?, the follow up to 2018’s My Mind Makes Noises and is the fifth single they’ve shared from their debut’s pop-punk infused younger sibling. The record landed at number three in the charts missing out on top-spot to Slowthai’s TYRON, with Foo Fighters’ Medicine at Midnight sandwiched between the pair of them.

“‘You Don’t Own Me’ is a song for women about what it’s like to be a woman in this world. How society depicts, judges and criticises women on a daily basis,” singer Heather Baron-Gracie previously said of the song. “This song is incredibly important to me and I wanted to represent my own experiences. I also wanted to say a fuck you to everyone that plays by these fake delusional rules that women and gender need to fit inside a specific box.”

Middle Kids – ‘Stacking Chairs’

Middle Kids have shared their optimistic and sparkling brand new single, ‘Stacking Chairs’, which exuberates happiness from start to finish. The track is the latest single from the Australian three-piece, who shared their debut album, Lost Friends, in 2018. Middle Kids’ second childToday We’re The Greatest, is to be born into the world on March 19th.

Their latest single is a celebration of lead singer Hannah Joy’s marriage to bandmate Tim Fitz and a thank-you for the jubilation they have given each other, whilst wistfully looking back upon how life has changed. In times like these where everything can feel dour whilst we are stuck inside, ‘Stacking Chairs’ offers up a slice of momentarily bliss. The track is also a reminder that essential things in life are often the smallest, like those willing to stack chairs with you once the party is over.

St. Vincent – ‘Pay Your Way In Pain’

St. Vincent, AKA Annie Clark, has announced a brand new album is on the way after a few days of teasing. It’s been announced with a brand new single, ‘Pay Your Way In Pain’. The new record, Daddy’s Home, is the sixth album from the artist who looks set for another barnstormer.

One of the more musically gifted artists around St. Vincent has always been a dab hand at merging sounds in the most unusual ways and, judging by the latest single, this album will be another masterclass in musicianship. 

Landing somewhere near to a hyper-polished Peaches, St. Vincent has always benefitted from her singular standpoint and ‘Pay Your Way In Pain’ is yet another unique sound from the singer-songwriter — one which she has perfected over the years. It reeks of yesterday’s perfume and whiskey and feels as close to a night out on the tiles as we’ve got to in the last 12 months.

Girl In Red – ‘Serotonin’

Girl In Red has shared her emotional new single, ‘Serotonin’, following the announcement of her highly-anticipated new album. The new one has seen the Norwegian singer-songwriter team up with Billie Eilish’s brother and collaborator, Finneas, who took up production duties on the formidable effort. ‘Serotonin’ sees Marie Ulven, AKA Girl In Red, open up about her darkest thoughts, which juxtapose with the endorphin boosting production on the chorus that is a world away from the pair’s bedroom pop backgrounds.

The track was written when Ulven was in therapy last year and that mind space she was in at the time of creating ‘Serotonin’ completely translates to the heartwrenching song. The Norwegian artist has been one of the most hyped upcoming artists over the last couple of years, and with her debut, If I Could Make It Go Quiet, arriving on April 30th — there’s a weight of expectation on her shoulders. ‘Serotonin’ is a track that is a step-up from the lo-fi songs that helped make her name, and it’s also her most personal song yet, with this taboo-breaking anthem.