PopMatters Picks Playlist

PM Picks: The Best New Songs – 16 June 2021

The PM Picks playlist features the best new songs. Today, we feature Ida Mae, Diamond Thug, School of X, Tamaraebi, and Psylla.

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

Ida Mae – “Learn to Love You Better”

Photo: Zach Pigg

British indie folkers Ida Mae incorporate Americana influences and indie rock energy in their music, as on their previous single “Little Liars”. On their latest, “Learn to Love You Better”, Ida Mae amp up the rock ‘n’ roll and they unleash the mandolin’s power on the soulful and upbeat song. Mandolins are superb rhythm instruments besides driving lead melodies, and the group use it like R.E.M. (“Losing My Religion”) rather than Bill Monroe. Indeed, Ida Mae take many American influences and combine them into a really tasty stew. That British gift for melody shines strong here as well, as the tune builds intensity on it’s way to a truly rocking finish. Ida Mae must be amazing live.

“‘Learn to Love You Better’ came out of nowhere. I’d picked up the same late 1800s American made mandolinetto that we used on ‘Little Liars’ and this song just fell out. This was written from the perspective of a friend of ours who was trying to find a way to better support the person they loved who was struggling with their own personal demons. We wanted to offset the Americana/folk connotations of the mandolin with another vintage analogue drum machine often sampled on hip-hop records. We found ourselves trying to land the production somewhere between Hiss Golden Messenger and a trashy Robert Plant and Alison Krauss after an all nighter.”

Their new album, Click Click Domino, is releasing on 16 July, and they will be appearing at the Red Rooster Festival in Suffolk on 28 August.

Diamond Thug – “Purple Skies”

Diamond Thug

South Africa’s Diamond Thug blend dream pop and space rock on the ethereal and gorgeous new song, “Purple Skies”. The arrangement is minimalist and spare, but that only elevates the stunning vocals of lead singer Chantel Van T. Her voice is so unique, and it acts as much like an instrument as a device to deliver lyrics. It feels warm, emotive, and capable of great empathy. That’s the type of voice that can just melt away the troubles of the world as the listener is drawn into its healing interiors.

Diamond Thug say it’s “an empathetic song, dealing with the acceptance that suffering is a shared experience of all of life, albeit to differing degrees. Through our suffering, we are healed and can offer our healing to others in the form of sharing experiences.”

The group’s last LP, Apastron, was a huge success with more than three million streams in the first year. We eagerly await their next album.

School of X – “Feel of It”

School of X
Photo: Jonas Bang

Danish indie popper School of X spent time in the countryside at his childhood home to reflect on life and write new music. Rasmus Littauer had planned a SXSW appearance under his own name before the festival was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic. This has been a difficult period for artists not being able to tour, but it’s also provided a period of unhurried creative time. With a new son on the way, Littauer ponders what he wants for himself and his child on his latest single, “Feel of It”. It’s a dreamy song with a stunning chorus. The song will appear on his upcoming new album, releasing via Tambourhinoceros.

Tamaraebi – “Waistline”

Photo: Faith Aylward

Nigerian-British artist Tamaraebi brings African beats to his inventive alternative R&B sound. His latest single “Waistline” is inspired by the 1980s smash hit “Maniac”, from the movie Flashdance. Tamaraebi’s voice is smooth and supple, gently dancing around the notes in a soulful manner. The rhythms are subtle and funky and the synthesized elements make this a splendidly mellow but groovy and sultry electrosoul number to heat up the love on dancefloors and in your homes.

Tamaraebi says, “when I was young my mum was proper into health and fitness and when she put videos on to do a workout, she would do her squats to ‘Maniac’. All my songs are a bit sexy and with this track I wanted something that was also a bit upbeat, so I could move my waistline.”

His new EP, Spectrum, released on 2 June and also features previous singles, “Brown Angel” and “Telephone”.

Psylla – “Silence” (feat. McCall)

Finnish producer Psylla mainly creates instrumental songs, but this latest track, “Silence”, adds the vocals of McCall in a soaring hyperpop mashup. Hyperpop is an extravagant sound that can be experimental and deconstructive in its nature. That can lead to brilliance or massive failure. That’s because as maximalist as hyperpop is, the best songs in the genre still require some careful editing. This is where Psylla excels. “Silence” wows with its opening synth effects before McCall’s sweet, warm, and melodic voice enters the scene. “Listen close to the notes in the silence” urges listeners to enjoy quiet time with themselves as a means of improving mental health. Psylla embraces his need for self-care on the wonderful new song.

“During the pandemic, I started leaning on spirituality as a coping mechanism. The more I looked for meaning in everything, the more overwhelmed I became by what I couldn’t contrive an answer for, and it ended up hurting me more than helping me. Eventually, I reached a place where taking time to be quiet and love myself was enough. There’s not always a grand meaning behind your depression, and that’s okay,” says Psylla.

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