Sean Michaels received the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel Us Conductors. He is the editor of the music blog Said the Gramophone.
Carly Rae Jepsen - Run Away With Me (2015)
I’ve been lying. All summer I’ve been lying. I wasn’t listening to those other songs: I was listening to this one.
Finally the album’s released this week, I can tell you to go buy it. Only if you like pop music, pop for sugar rushes in the blood, the simple satisfaction of a widely shared thrill. Only if you can admire a pop song that uses saxophone for all its velocity, saxophone or maybe synth-saxophone, it doesn’t matter.
Run Away With Me is tender and colossal, sweet and heavy, a sledgehammer swinging through a wall and the sun-kissed hills on the other side.
Tirzah - Make It Up (2015)
In jazz, pop, hip-hop and R&B, I have a particular affection for music that is withholding something. Songs that seem somehow belligerent: independent not co-dependent, never too eager to please.
On Make It Up, the English singer Tirzah reunites with Micachu and The Shapes’ Mica Levi to create just such a track, dry and mesmeric. Tirzah sings in hopscotch sing-song over a skipping, spiritless vocal sample; she’s asking her absent lover to come home but it’s not clear that she really cares, that she even truly minds.
The song’s not about that loving entreaty, in the end: it’s about the confusion of the thing, Tirzah’s dazed presence across Make It Up’s deep-house heartbeat.
Georgia – Move Systems (Georgia vs Stella Mozgawa Drum Version) (2015)
Georgia’s a London-based songwriter whose taste for battered, collagist pop recalls early MIA. She also plays drums. Here, she improves her debut album’s best track by enlisting the help of another drummer, Warpaint’s Mozgawa.
Working together, Move Systems becomes an absolute avalanche of a song – rock 'n' roll that spills down the slope, skidding on rhythms and the oil-black overdrive of its bassline. Georgia sounds furious, impish, all-powerful; she sounds like Cyndi Lauper remixing Nine Inch Nails.
The trick is in Move Systems’ precarious balance: on the one hand a churning, synthetic groove; on the other, Georgia’s very human voice, the naked uproar of sticks on drumskins.
Jessie Jones – Lady La De Da (2015)
With its strings and sitar, Jones’ voice like Grace Slick’s, Lady La De Da obviously owes a lot to the past: to the days of white rabbits and red doors (painted black), crystal ships and pale blue eyes.
The today-ness of it is subtler, hidden in the angle of the arrangements, the flavour of the production. Jones has recorded five minutes of acid soul, gorgeous and electrifying, that lives at once in 1967 and 2015. It’s like going back to a familiar place and finding it completely changed.