Now Hear This: New music from Taylor Swift, Kylie Minogue, DijahSB, Drake and Headie One, plus spotlight artist Mai Kino

In her weekly column, our music correspondent goes through the best new tracks and albums

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 24 July 2020 16:37 BST
Portuguese artist Mai Kino
Portuguese artist Mai Kino

It’s actually a not-horrible day to be on Twitter, as Independent critic Fiona Sturges pointed out (please read her excellent review of Nick Cave’s gig at Alexandra Palace in London). We can thank Taylor Swift for this, given everyone – at least on my timeline – is busy discussing her phenomenal new album, Folklore.

While I’ve had plenty of fun covering the colourful, easter egg-loaded album campaigns of Swift’s earlier albums, including Reputation and Lover, this release is my favourite. It’s Swift being confident and assertive enough about her art to just say: “Here’s some music. Enjoy.” I wish I’d put some kind of disclaimer in my review over the star rating – at The Independent we give a rating out of five, which, with albums like this, makes things very difficult. Five stars implies perfection, or no real room for improvement. Personally, I felt there were just one or two songs that made the album drag by a fraction, a problem she had (on a bigger scale) with the still-excellent Lover. So it’s four stars, but really, 99 per cent out of 100. Read the full review here.

It’s turned out to be a fantastic week (dare I say year?) for pop, as Kylie Minogue released her new disco banger “Say Something” on Thursday 23 July. It’s all grinding guitar licks and funky beats, I love it and cannot wait for her new album, titled DISCO (what else?), out 6 November. US artist and pop songwriter extraordinaire LP has dropped a dramatic new single, “The One That You Love”, which is full of sweeping, spaghetti western flourishes and her signature vocal belts. Little Mix have released an absolute bop in the shape of “Holiday”, suggesting a (hopefully) glittery and upbeat sound for a forthcoming album.

Charlotte Lawrence takes a subtler approach on her beautiful song “Slow Motion”, while Sylvan Esso make a return on the typically glitchy “Ferris Wheel”. Drake and Headie One caused a (justifiable) stir with the “Only You Freestyle”, the best thing Drake’s done in 2020 so far. Compared to other more disappointing cuts, he sounds hyper-focused as he dives back into the UK drill scene. There are better-qualified critics than me who have gone into more detail – check out the Complex breakdown by JP and crew here. I stumbled on rapper DijahSB while I was updating this week's Spotify playlist, and flipped out a little bit. They're a non-binary artist based in Toronto, and counts Lupe Fiasco and Pusha T among their influences. They just dropped 2020 The Album, which is full of whipsmart bars and looping, glitchy beats. You can definitely hear those aforementioned influences, but I'm also really reminded of Rapsody and her funk and groove-heavy jams, not to mention her joyful, breezy confidence. Ooft! Keep an eye on them. Listen to the album.

Gorillaz have released one of their best tracks in years with the help of ScHoolboy Q. “Song Machine: Pac Man” harks back to that slightly sinister, creeping sound they did so well on Demon Days, melding hip hop influences with electronic blips and whoops. I love Irish singer and rapper Biig Piig’s sampling of “Love for the Sake of Love” by Claudja Barry (you’ll likely know it from Montell Jordan’s “Get It On Tonite”) for her track “Don’t Turn Around”. Jamaican star Chronixx has released “COOL AS THE BREEZE/FRIDAY” along with an accompanying video that will make you wish you were on a beach sipping a rum cocktail.

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Band-wise, there’s another great single from up and comers BLOXX, “Off My Mind”. Irish band Inhaler have offered a very impressive and respectful-of-the-original cover of Mazzy Star’s “Fade into You”. I like the droll tone and twangy guitars in “Fixer Upper”, from Leeds-based band, Yard Act, and the ominous, spacey sounds of “Wherever You Go”, a collaboration with The Avalanches, Jamie xx, Neneh Cherry and CLYPSO. Cub Sport have an album out, LIKE NIRVANA. It’s very good – favourites of mine so far are “Be Your Man” and the visceral “Confessions”. I never fib about my opinions, but especially not in this column, so I’ll admit I’ve always had reservations about Creeper. BUT, I really really love their latest single, “Poisoned Heart”, from their forthcoming album, Sex, Death and the Infinite Void. It’s just the right side of melodrama, with a gorgeous chorus built on soaring harmonies.

My spotlight artist this week is Portuguese, London-based artist Mai Kino. She just released her debut EP, Dopamine, which is four excellent tracks built around her mesmerising voice.

Check out my Q&A with her below and make sure you give the EP a spin.

– Hey Mai, tell me a bit about yourself

Hey. I grew up in Lisbon, Portugal, feeling like an alien.

I used to steal my older brother's guitar and records, lock myself up in my bedroom and get lost in a music bubble, away from the world.

I later went on to explore dance and multimedia art but music found me I ended up in London, where I am now, sharing parts of myself through songs and images and talking to you.

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– What was the inspiration behind this EP, did you find yourself exploring any particular themes?

I heard caterpillars turn into liquid before rebuilding themselves as butterflies and these last couple years have felt a bit like that for me... I dived deeper into everything and let it change me.

These songs are snapshots of those internal states, the joy and euphoria of a new life and moments of wanting to escape it all together... dissociation, transcendence...they talk about feeling too much and not enough.

– How have you been dealing with lockdown?

I'm an introvert so these last few months have been an opportunity to reset and align, but also ask myself questions about my place and purpose in the world.

Entropy is scary but can be an agent for positive change and I feel that.

– What else do you have lined up for the rest of the year?

I'm working on new music and visuals that I'm very excited about and have been collaborating with some really great people too, so there's a lot more to come... I miss playing live and can't wait to get back on stage.

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