20 May 2015

Weekly Listening: Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar, Mas Ysa, PCP Eagles, Sun Kil Moon and Georgia Anne Muldrow

10:43 am on 20 May 2015

A revolving cast of contributors from the Music 101 and Wireless teams showcase some of the best new music releases from the past week.

Taylor Swift ft Kenrick Lamar – ‘Bad Blood’

Kendrick Lamar is breaking fans’ hearts this week. Now, when we put on his entire catalogue there’ll be that one song with Taylor Swift. This is the woman who just paid the US Government to copyright “Party Like It’s 1989”, “This Sick Beat”, “Cause We never go out of style”, “Could show you incredible things” and other generic sugary phrases. According to Lamar’s last album, this is an act that seemingly goes against his position on the world. 

In the video - a Wonder Woman meets Kickass fantasy – Lamar plays a character called Welvin the Great, alongside a cast of Hollywood women like Jessica Alba, Serayah from Empire and Ellen Pompeo from Grey’s Anatomy. The song should make him a household name in middle America, but for fans it will be a “remember that time he made that song with Taylor Swift after releasing How To Pimp A Butterfly” moment. 

After an album that’s picked to be one of the most revolutionary and serious hip hop/rap albums of this generation - why Kendrick, why? - Aleyna Martinez

Mas Ysa - 'Margarita'

Mas Ysa is one alias of Thomas Arsenault, a Montreal-born, Sao Paolo-raised musician, composer, and visual artist (he also regularly performs under the moniker Ablehearts). “Margarita” is the second song to be released off his forthcoming sophomore album Seraph. It’s an evocative, optimistic track reminiscent of M83’s Hurry Up We’re Dreaming or Suren Unka’s “Early”.

Most of his last album, Worth, was written on an acoustic guitar before being transferred onto the electronic landscape, which may help explain the organic tinge to his synth-heavy tunes. Or perhaps it’s that he’s retreated into the woods of upstate New York these days, claiming “there’s not that much for me in cities anymore.” If I’d spent my teenage years raving in Brazil and weathered a decade in New York, I might want to hang out in a small town outside Woodstock, too.

Of “Margarita”, Arsenault says, "This is named for my mom, who's also on the cover art of everything I do. It deals with the trauma of becoming your own autonomous person and that person when you see your parent as a fallible person. It's a complicated thank you.” - Sarin Moddle

Sun Kil Moon - 'Garden of Lavender'

The new Sun Kil Moon song is long and retrospective, a day at the office for Mark Kozelek then. Last year’s Benji was like this, long-winded stories about childhood tragedies. However, unlike that album, Gardens of Lavender is genuinely really bitter.

A broody bass line pushes the track for most of its duration and we get early lots of choked vocals. For the most part it’s unclear why Kozelek is so down; there are some adorable lyrics about cats, a deer and his girlfriend’s car. Nobody is dying either, nothing near the carnage of ‘Carrissa’ or ‘Prayer for Newtown’ from Benji. Ah, but then - ‘I feel like I live so many lives I can’t put it all together’. That is a personal problem, not something to do with somebody he knew. And although he has expressed grief over tragedy before, a life crisis such as this might be having a bigger eaffect on him.

With the approaching new album, I wonder if the narrative will be less ‘fly on the wall’ and more confrontational and direct. I also wonder about the musical direction, this song has more structure to it, a greater emphasis on introduction, bridge etc. Regardless, if the new album is anything as personal or as moody as this, and I’m sure it will be, we should be looking at one of the year’s finest. - Alex Lyall

PCP Eagles - 'The Ballad of Stuart Young'

The Ballad of Stuart Young is a homage to the PCP Eagles couch-hopping drummer. “I live my life in a dinosaur bag. It ain’t that pretty, but it ain’t that bad,” screams the chorus.

The Auckland punk band’s’ new single comes two and a half years since their 14 minute long, seven track debut EP. Their first single, I Hate The Mall, hit every rebellious point you’d expect, with an almost satirical and relatable go at consumerism.

While not bagging a public shopping complex, The Ballad of Stuart Young follows the same feel.

They are still as frenzied as ever; driving, pulsating electric guitar and bass with fast drumming and angsty, gravelly vocals. It’s not a long trip, just two minutes, but you come out feeling as though you’ve spent that time in a wind tunnel and wanting to get a haircut to match. It is a short song, but it’ll stay in your head long after it’s finished. - Tom Furley

Georgia Anne Muldrow - 'Pop Iconz'

It’s sad to say that in 2015 there are very few prominent female rappers, and almost none who haven’t had to sacrifice their art, in one way or another, to gain notoriety and fame.

We only have to look to the recent video for ‘Feeling Myself’ by Nicki Minaj and Beyonce for a prime example of how the industry corrupts it’s finest talents. Two powerhouses of hip hop and RnB reduced to portraying themselves as sex objects and people of wealth over substance. It’s not a bad tune, but they’re both capable of so much more. 

In stark contrast to the glossification of hip hop lies Georgia Anne Muldrow, the 31-year-old soulstress who has been burning away on the underground for the past decade, releasing great album after great album and never straying from her clearly defined musical path. She is the epitome of keeping it real. Yesterday saw the release of her first out-and-out rap album, A Thoughtiverse Unmarred, and her spirit soars though every track with the same piercing, beautiful consciousness that envelops everything she’s ever touched.

Pop Iconz is the eighth track from the album and it delivers a cutting critique of the kind of female hip hop and RnB stars typified by Minaj and Beyonce. Over a simple yet hard-hitting beat, Muldrow addresses the issues contained within such complete prostitution of art and self, from the direct influence it has on the younger generation to the broader concern of race and submission to the white man’s machine and the puppeteers behind the industry.

One can only hope that such a sincere and important message is capable of reaching a small percentage of the people for whom it is intended. It may only be a tiny splash in an ocean of imitation and fakery, but it’s an essential splash worth fighting for. – Luke Owen Smith

What's your pick? Tell us about it in the comments section.