Forget the groundhog. I saw my First Robin of Spring this week, and it was an announcement of a South by Southwest showcase. (Likewise, I see my first Robyn of Spring in March at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom.) These next few months, the thawing ground will become impossibly fertile with press releases and links to new signees and debut EPs. It’s my favorite time of year for new music, and we have a mostly fresh, one-month old slate for 2019 so far. Let ‘er rip!
Mallrat and Basenji: “Nobody’s Home”
20-year-old Australian Grace “Mallrat” Shaw has been around for a handful of years, but she’s been picking up a lot of attention in the past half-year for her armful of slick and danceable but still lo-fi feeling pop tracks. Her songs feel like a continuation of the wave acts such as Flume, and later Mura Masa, rode in the middle of the decade. Is it rude to compare new Australian acts to Flume? Oh well. Her latest, the Basenji collab “Nobody’s Home,” is great. And not to give too much credit to Dua Lipa, but this song doesn’t only remind me of “New Rules” because of its colorful, tightly choreographed music video.
And The Kids: “Butterfingers”
The lead guitar is way up in the mix on And The Kids’ great new single “Butterfingers.” It might have been too much if its melody didn’t keep so much space open for the rest of the track to shine through. “Butterfingers” makes me think of Beach House played at 1.5x speed. And as has been the case with the unfortunately named band’s other recent singles, it sounds really unambiguously fun even while handling themes of uncertainty and underconfidence. I am very amped for this one, and thankfully we don’t have to wait much longer: When This Life is Over, the band’s third album, is out Feb. 22.
Jamila Woods: “ZORA”
You maybe first heard Jamila Woods singing the “Sunday Candy” hook, but her career deserves a whole lot more credit if that’s where your familiarity ends. Jamila is part of a Chicago poetry and music scene that’s home to artists like Chance and Noname, but more importantly Young Chicago Authors and Louder Than a Bomb. Both are essential and influential outlets for countless young creatives in the Chicago area and beyond. So it should be no surprise that her forthcoming follow-up to her 2015 debut HEAVN is an ambitious work.
Legacy! Legacy! is a concept album, with each track named for a different black or brown cultural icon. Some names are more recognizable than others, and shifting that awareness is implicitly one of the goals of the project. With a setup like this, each track promises to be bold — a dedication to knowing and celebrating her and our inspirations. Only two singles have been released so far, but it may be fun to compare the complete album with the similarly (if less elegantly) themed 2016 Young Thug mixtape Jeffery. Jamila’s “ZORA” (for author Zora Neale-Hurston) contextualizes her trademark melodic approach over a live band with some fairly straight-ahead Philip Selway drums and an ambient keys loop. It’s an ode to dynamic existence and understanding how everyone always has more to learn. Legacy! Legacy! arrives May 10.