PopMatters Picks Playlist

PM Picks the Best New Songs: KEiiNO, Jaga Jazzist, Cold War Kids + More

The PM Picks playlist features the best new songs. Today, we feature KEiiNO, Jaga Jazzist, Cold War Kids, Left Vessel, and Paragon Cause.

Hear all of this music on the PM Picks Spotify playlist.



KEiiNO have already delivered one of my two summer of 2021 best singles with “Summer of My Life”. It’s a tune so joyously and defiantly maximalist pop that it had me grinning from ear to ear within the first few seconds. Just for the record, the Vaccines“Headphones Baby” is the other song. Norway’s KEiiNO competed in the 2019 Eurovision contest with “Spirit in the Sky”, and it came in number one amongst the fan votes. Blending upbeat tempos, soaring pop vocals, huge synths, and a bit of Sámi rapping and chanting, KEiiNO only ever create anthems; huge songs meant to inspire and get us dancing and feeling good.

Being Pride month, KEiiNO’s new single “ADDJAS” couldn’t be more timely. The song is about fighting powers greater than ourselves and not changing ourselves to suit others. There’s power in being who we are and working together with those who feel similarly to achieve greater aims.

Band member Tom Hugo says, “The lack of queer role models when I was a teenager made it hard for me to accept myself for who I was. Even if we’ve come a long way here in Norway when it comes to equal rights for minorities, a lot of people are still fighting internal battles. That’s why it’s important to remind people that being an “outsider” is something to celebrate, and that it will get better.”

Jaga Jazzist – “Apex”

Continuing with the Norway theme, last night on Brainfeeder Records‘ Twitch show, The Hit, Jaga Jazzist unveiled their new live concert film, The Tower. It features four mesmerizing performances by the Norwegian octet. With two drummers, xylophone, horns, guitars, and a multitude of synths and other elements, the music is deeply groovy with thrilling rhythms. “Apex” is electrojazz at its finest, music you can get throughly lost in as themes emerge, are explored, and then new ideas enter. These are long instrumental tracks, but I wouldn’t edit out a thing. So much happens over the course of just once song that you feel you’ve been on a substantive journey by the time you reach the end.

The movie was filmed atop the Økern Kulturtårn in Oslo with scenes of sundown accompanying the music. “This was a beautiful night in August 2020 after five months in lockdown. It was the first day we met up and played the album together since recording it a year earlier,” says Lars Horntveth. “The idea was to capture the sunset over our beautiful city while playing the new album from start to finish. Filmed, edited and directed by the super talented Sigurd Ytre-Arne. We’re stoked that we captured this on film and looking forward to finally show it to everybody.”

Cold War Kids – “What You Say”

California indie rockers Cold War Kids really indulge their blue-eyed-soul side on new single, “What You Say”, a glorious rompfest of soul pop at its finest. It’s a funky, anthemic, and massively addictive earworm and should inspire sing-a-longs on their upcoming US tour running from August to October. The infectious and irresistible number appears on the platinum band’s upcoming new album, New Age Norms 3. So much pandemic musical fare has been downcast and downtempo, and so Cold War Kids are all that more refreshing for bringing us some happy and celebratory upbeat music to brighten up our summer. This is a killer lead single for the band and a huge statement of intent for the eagerly awaited new LP.

Nathan Willett tells us, “I think all of us want to reveal ‘our full selves’ to someone who truly understands. But when we do we expose ourselves to judgment, to criticism. So we don’t wanna give ourselves away too easily. That’s why poetry is awesome, it’s not politicizing, it speaks to our deeper, universal stuff. What you say is a big deal, your words have power.”

New Age Norms 3 is out on 24 September via AWAL Recordings.

Left Vessel – “This Year Be”

Left Vessel

Left Vessel‘s (Nick Byron Campbell) music is rustic, rural, and beautiful indie folk. For his latest single, “This Year Be”, Campbell decamped to Minnesota’s Driftless Region to create music amongst the trees, lakes, and streams. Natural sounds of the woods are carefully layered within the gentle guitar fingerpicking, dreamy vocals and harmonies, and swells of strings. The song builds slowly, gently unfolding as it reveals its inner treasures. Campbell’s aunt is a shaman and this song was inspired by a journey she led him on. “This Year Be” is tastefully composed and carefully constructed in a way that the melody seems to glide along on gossamer wings.

Campbell says, “For a while, we were training together and she was showing me the art of shamanic journeying,” he explains. “In my journeys with her, I took the form of a fox that would disappear down into a hole in a creek bed by my grandma’s old house in Ohio, where I grew up. Inside that hole was another world. This song came out of those journeys. The faint vocal hook that trails out at the end of the song was my shamanic song that was given to me during one of the journeys.”

The single appears on Left Vessel’s new album, One (and Driftless).

Paragon Cause – “Disconnected”

Paragon Cause

Canadian indietronica duo Paragon Cause team up with Sune Rose Wagner of Denmark’s the Raveonettes for the sunny new single, “Disconnected”. Blending retro jangle pop sounds with modern indie pop and a bunch of bubbling and percolating synthesizers produces pure summery vibes. The urgent beats enliven and energize, while the vocals speak of the need to get way, enjoy the sun and sense of freedom, and get “disconnected” from all the demands of modern life, including its technological gadgets that dominate our attention.

Jay Bonaparte told Under the Radar that the song “came from a happy memory of me sitting in a waterfall in Gatineau Park. I had no signal there, in fact, I didn’t even have my phone. I was just soaking up the sun and the fresh air in this amazingly positive space, which is not my normal. I recalled the memory and what I was thinking at the time: ‘Why did it take so long for me to come here? Am I allowed to be happy? Yes, it’s okay for me to feel good.’ So, this is sort of my ‘I’m allowed to be happy’ song.”

Hear all of this music on the PM Picks Spotify playlist.