Bartees Strange
Photo: Cover of Bartees Strange's "Heavy Heart" single

Best New Songs: Bartees Strange, Matilda Mann, Bakar

The PM Picks playlist spotlights the best new songs across the varied genres we cover. Today features Bartees Strange, Matilda Mann, Bakar, DRIIA, and Shobsy.

Two years ago, Bartees Strange‘s debut album Live Forever was a critical smash and put this eclectic, genre-smashing talent on the map. The pop-rocker signed to 4AD Records and has a massive world tour running from 16 March through 22 July and has just released his latest single, “Heavy Heart”, to kick things off right. The track is soaring, anthemic alt-rock laced with regret and guilt and a powerful urge to get past all of those things and move forward in life to a better future.

Hear these songs on the PM Picks Spotify playlist.

Young West London pop singer-songwriter Matilda Mann has returned with “Four Leaf Dream”, a shimmery, shiny, nostalgic number with synths in the chorus alluding to Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Over in North London, Camden and Hampstead to be specific, Bakar sings about wanting to be “Free”. With a gospel organ, Afrobeats, and Bakar’s experimental approach, he’s approaching the superb territory of Young Fathers. Heading back west, the Vaccines drop their latest poptastic track, “Thunder Fever”, which is super catchy with a killer chorus. After last year’s “Headphones Baby”, this sees the band on a winning streak with appealing indie pop.

Queen Millz‘s “Body & Shape” shows the rude health of British hip-hop these days. The scene is vast, diverse, and groundbreaking. Hailing from Leicester, Queen Millz brags like the boys do but wraps it into succulent flows full of complex rhythms and tongue twisters. She’s got the flash and brilliance of Steflon Don and the smarts of Little Simz.

Now for something completely different, Sarah Johnsone‘s “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” is seeped in classic indie rock styles with intensity builds, pounding drums, assertive guitars, and strong vocals from Johnsone. She “doesn’t wanna be your girl. I’m sick of men pushing me ’round” and yet falls for someone she shouldn’t as the tempo quickens. It’s a pretty perfect rock tune. DRIIA began teaching herself electronic production at 14, and she’s now sharing her first single, “After Dark”, a proper electropop banger featuring her lovely Lily Allen-esque vocals. It sounds like a real dancefloor filler and will get wider exposure when the video debuts tomorrow.

Ireland’s Shobsy possesses a genuinely extraordinary voice, wholly unique and with a mind-blowing range. Previously, he was the lead singer for State Lights but is now stepping out solo with “Vanity”. Shobsy goes from clear soprano to tenor with ease as he stretches and bends the notes to great heights. Paired with the vocal gymnastics is a tender, affecting melody that gains intensity as the synths build and rise. The track is a spot-on critique of self-absorption in the social media age.

Los Angeles’ Little Luna drifts away once in a while “Under the Wave” on her latest song. Deeply melodic, dreamy, and smooth, Little Luna guides us into her meditative state in a tune that creates its own little warm world. Plucks of strings generate the rhythm with interpolations of other beat-filled elements. It’s gorgeous musically, blending the organic and electronic under deeply affecting vocals.

Mura Masa joins with Lil Uzi Vert, PinkPantheress, and Shygirl for likely the most twee track in his discography, “babycakes”. That’s not to suggest we’re nearing Belle & Sebastian territory with these electrosoul jams, but the cute factor is pretty high here.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian-born Belgium singer-songwriter Meskerem Mees shows off her timeless songwriting skills on “Where I’m From”. It’s a tune that begins in jaunty, breezy fashion before moving into melancholy and deep contemplation, where a lone cello enters and creates a beautiful atmosphere. This is not exactly folk but informed by folk and even Weimar cabaret styles. It’s a stunning number with an equally intriguing video.

Hear these songs on the PM Picks Spotify playlist.

Follow the curator, Editor-in-Chief Sarah Zupko on Twitter at @PopSarah.