Listens for the Week #51: yeule, Pete Rock, Tinashe, Olivia Dean, Cystic, Dope Sean, Young Fathers
Caught up with several writing projects, the past few months I’ve not listened to as much new music as I would have liked, but this week I’ve made up for it. Diving into the new yeule record, falling in love with the latest LP from Tinashe, and discovering hidden gems like the new Olivia Dean album, with each project I listen to, I’m more convinced that 2023 is the strongest year for music this decade so far.
My Favourite Albums This Week
yeule – softscars (2023) [Dream Pop]
Pop singer yeule first caught my eye back in 2022, when I saw them perform live as a support act for Charli XCX. Instantly, I was hooked by their bizarre blend of ambient textures and electronic sounds, crafting pop songs more focussed on haunting vocals and chilling atmosphere than catchy choruses. After the ambient, synth-lathered mania of Glitch Princess last year, I had high expectations for yeule’s next record, and they delivered in every regard. Stripping away the electronic foundations of their sound, softscars is the furthest thing from ambient, with chanted choruses, roaring guitar riffs and thundering drum-work throughout. Tackling rock music, softscars maintains the dreamy core of what makes yeule’s music so unique, only now with an added punch and more engaging instrumentation than ever before. The LP is a testament to yeule’s boundless creativity and versatility, and leaves me even more excited for where they will go next.
Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth – Mecca and the Soul Brother (1992) [Jazz Rap]
The ‘90s is brimming with jazz rap classics, but Mecca and the Soul Brother rarely gets the love it deserves. With Pete Rock on production, the LP boasts some of the finest beats of the decade, with the hypnotic horns on “T.R.O.Y.” and the wall of chopped-up samples on “The Basement” being a few shining examples. No MC could have handled the production better than C.L. Smooth, a criminally underrated rapper whose flows are as slick and effortless as a Miles Davis solo. He bends his words with the finesse of an instrument changing chords, flowing effortlessly for the full 80 minute runtime. A production masterclass and a showcase of flow at its finest, Mecca and the Soul Brother is everything a hip hop album should strive to be.
Something I Love
Tinashe – BB/ANG3L (2023) [Alternative R&B]
Though her commercial peak is behind her, Tinashe has been on a creative streak ever since she went independent, and BB/ANG3L is her strongest effort yet. In just 20 minutes, the LP covers a range of sounds, with scores of ideas crammed into its seven tracks. “Treason” acts as the project’s opener, where a dreamy setting of percussion, synths, and xylophone form the perfect backdrop for the singer to unleash her heavenly vocals. “Talk To Me Nice” is my favourite moment on the record. From the hypnotic hook to the chanting vocals in the background to that mesmerising bassline, all the elements culminate into a vibrant masterclass in R&B. At her most daring, colourful, and consistent, BB/ANG3L is up there with the best projects 2023 has to offer.
My Favourite Songs This Week
1. Olivia Dean – “Ladies Room” (2023) [Contemporary R&B]
A highlight from one of 2023’s most underrated records, “Ladies Room” is an irresistible R&B tune showing off Dean’s vocals at their most heartfelt and flexible. Flowing over a lush, soulful instrumental like something from Jessie Ware’s That! Feels Good!, this is one of the brightest, catchiest tracks of the year.
2. Cystic & Dope Sean – “Cold Feet” (2023) [Underground Hip Hop]
An anthem for the hip hop underground. On “Cold Feet”, Cystic and Sean brought together some lyrical heavyweights from the depths the underground to compete for the best verse, battling it out over a grimy instrumental with a haunting vocal sample to make the track even more sinister.
3. Young Fathers – “I Saw” (2023) [Neo-Psychedelia]
I wasn’t in love with the new Young Fathers album, but regardless, “I Saw” remains one of my favourite songs this year. The track kicks off with a sizzling bassline, over which the vocalists yell and whisper. Slowly, the song rises up to the grand climax, where a spiral of chanting voices bury the bassline, making for a truly uplifting finish.