Kanye West can’t monopolize all the attention this week. There’s gotta be something else that we should be paying attention to, right?
Fortunately, there is. But first …
1. Kanye West, Ye vs. the People featuring T.I.
Whenever new Kanye West music leaks into this universe, reality becomes distorted and the world is forced to pay attention. First, Kanye trolled us with the whoopity-poopity-scoop nonsense of “Lift Yourself,” a song that served as an opening act to the first proper single from what we’re told will be two albums later this year. It features shout-outs to both Barack Obama and Donald Trump and even foretells of a run for president in 2024. Please, no.
2. Christina Aguilera, Accelerate
Still at the Kanye desk, we have the first single from Aguilera’s new album, Liberation, which was co-produced by Kanye (he also is credited as a co-writer and co-lyricist) and features Ty Dolla $ign and 2 Chainz. The Kanye and Christina collaboration began shortly after The Life of Pablo came out at Rick Rubin’s studio in Malibu. The album, which is coming June 15, also features another Yeezy-assisted track called Maria which references both The Sound of Music and Michael Jackson.
3. Frank Turner, Be More Kind
After his first act in post-hardcore band Million Dead, Turner has spent much of the last 15 years working as an acoustic-based singer-songwriter, often veering into the same lyrical territory as Billy Bragg and Morrissey. In the past, he’s been happy to bash position on both the left and the right, but with the way the world has turned in the last couple of years, he’s reinvented himself as a “classic liberal” (his description). He rails against racism, Brexit and, of course, Donald Trump. This track worries about an environmental disaster that sees the electricity grid fail.
4. Matt & Kim, Almost Everyday
The adorable, cute-as-a-button Brooklyn duo is back with a sixth album that got derailed slightly when Kim tore an ACL while jumping off her drum kit in Mexico. (If you’ve seen the band, you’ll know that she jumps like a flea.) Recovery was hard, leading Kim into a period of depression, something that does make itself felt on this album. However, with help from friends like Mark Hoppus (blink-182), Kevin Ray (Walk the Moon), Dave Monks (Tokyo Police Club) and Santigold, the overall effect is uplifting.
5. Reuben and the Dark, Arms of a Dream
Calgary’s Reuben Bullock shifted to a band format earlier in the decade. The group’s second album features the multi-instrumentalist abilities of all five members (including his brother, whose name is Distance. Really.) It feels much more personal than anything they’ve released so far. This single was written in LA while Reuben was hallucinating with a fever, and while he felt awful, he believes that his condition helped him achieve some kind of clarity with the lyrics.
London Calling: LOCKS, Bodies
LOCKS (yes, ALL CAPS, please) bills themselves as “a skeletal blues band” from North London. When pressed, they’ll tell you that they came up with that description when “they found themselves in a rehearsal room together, writing parts for a murder ballad involving burying bodies, strange creatures, and dark family secrets.” Mumford and Sons they are not, then. SPOILER: I don’t think things turn out well in this short film built around the first single from the album, Skeletal Blues.
Undiscovered Gem: Mattiel
Mattiel is originally from rural Georgia but is now based in Atlanta where she’s worked as an illustrator, an ad designer and someone who builds sets for theatre productions. Adding “singer-songwriter” to her resume, she cranked out this track that screams to be included on the soundtrack of a Quentin Tarantino film.
Throwback Thursday Track: The Specials, Concrete Jungle
After ska was born in Jamaica in the late 1940s and early 1950s, it was transported to the UK via waves of immigrants. In the late 1970s, the infectious energy of this music was adopted by some post-punk kids, including a Coventry music fan named Jerry Dammers. He formed both The Specials and the 2 Tone records label, which kickstarted what’s known as Second Wave Ska. Both the band and the label burned hard and bright before everything fell apart. But for a while, everyone was skankin’ to tracks like this.
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.