Listens for the Week #30: Magdalena Bay, Mos Def, Garden of Ash
Updated: May 14
Every week, I offer three recommendations: something new, something classic, and something I love. The past few weeks, my music listening has been at an all-time low, to the point I had to scrap last week’s article entirely because my university assignments were eating up all my time. Thankfully, with my second year at university now complete, I’ll have plenty of time to dedicate to my novel-writing, my website-running, and of course, my music-listening. Here were three incredible records I had the chance to listen to this past week.
Magdalena Bay – mini mix vol. 3 (2023) [Synthpop]
The latest project from Magdalena Bay was a pleasant surprise that dropped in the middle of the week. It may not be as grand and cohesive as their 2021 masterpiece Mercurial World, but it isn’t trying to be. The latest mini mix is no more than a neat compilation of tracks that further prove the duo’s inability to produce a bad song. The production is bright and glamorous, full of triumphant horns like on the powerful opener “Slug Song”, glittering synth-work, and earworm hooks as heard on my favourite track, “EXO”. Mica’s vocals are as charming and addictive as ever, contrasting the bombastic synthpop production with her soft, elegant performance. The songs weave into one another nicely, and each one leaves an impact despite no track making it to the three-minute mark. Mini mix vol. 3 is the catchy dose of Magdalena Bay I needed while I patiently wait for their next album.
Mos Def / Yasiin Bey – Black On Both Sides (1999) [East Coast & Conscious Hip Hop]
I was lucky enough to see De La Soul live this month, and to my surprise, Posdnuos brought out Yasiin Bey (as well as Dres from Black Sheep) to help out for the entire show. It was such a brilliant moment when Bey popped out of nowhere, performing with the same vigour and energy he exuded on 1999’s Black On Both Sides. From front to back, his debut is immaculate. Mos Def has such a sharp sense of lyricism, using complex concepts and intricate wordplay to create some of the most engaging and creative social commentary hip hop has ever seen. Brilliant examples include “New World Water” where he uses the symbol of water and the right to drink it to criticise commodification in modern society. “Mathematics” is another obvious highlight, with Mos listing all the problems in society, using mathematical wordplay to tie it all together with genius cohesion. Thanks to the diverse list of producers credited, the album has such a varied and exciting sound, with each track embodying its own unique energy and atmosphere. From Ali Shaheed Muhammed’s hypnotic synth-work on “Got” to DJ Premier’s golden touch on “Mathematics”, Black On Both Sides is hip hop at its finest.
Something I Love
Garden of Ash – Garden of Ash (2023) [Hard Rock & Metal]
Garden of Ash are an Edmonton-based rock band whose self-titled debut has been climbing up my list of favourites this year. The lead vocalist Kristina Hunszinger has such a despairing yet powerful voice, giving each song a sinister tone as she flexes her haunting high notes over a range of gritty rock instrumentals. Despite having such a crestfallen sound, Garden of Ash is full of memorable riffs and catchy hooks, with “Roses” offering the perfect balance between the band’s bleak subject matter and pop sensibility. Other standouts include the growling guitar and crunching drums on “Amnesia”, with the agonised vocals from Kristina making for one of the most impactful moments on the album. “World on Fire” is another brilliant song, casting aside the bleaker tone of the surrounding tracks in favour of a more danceable sound, with backing vocalist Levon Vokins truly shining. If you’re a fan of rock music, or if you simply want to support some indie music, give Garden of Ash a listen.