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Pop music, reimagined

Edition #23 • Imany, Charity Children, Deafheaven, Jessiquoi, CATT

I was surprised. It only took a few notes, and I was back in tune with the feeling. It was like nothing ever happened in the past one and a half years.

Admittingly, I felt slight anxiety attending the first concert, the first festival, without any pandemic-related measures. (Well, you had to be either vaccinated, tested, or recovered.)

But, yes, this regained freedom can be overwhelming, especially after months of seclusion.

Molchat Doma live on stage at the Musikfestwochen, Winterthur.

I never enjoyed the packed crowds very much. However, I found myself in the very first rows amid the moshpits. Jumping, suffering, laughing, dancing, and shouting. Music, not exclusively but especially when performed live on stage, is a cathartic, collective experience.

And even the obscure, heavy sounds of Molchat Doma, Thymian, and Brutus sparked happiness deep within me.

But now, enough of my drooling. It's time for your weekly dose of new sounds. I've found some gems; vocal diamonds and instrumental gold. Let's dive into today's tracks.

Imany – Like A Prayer

The French singer Imany is most known for Don't Be So Shy, remixed by Filatov & Karas. The track became the summer hit back in 2015. However, the soul artist range is way broader than catchy but simple pop tunes.

Voodoo Cello, Imany's upcoming album, features history's greatest pop songs (from Ed Sheeran to Elton John) – reimagined with eight cellos.

Imany's interpretation of Madonna's controversial 1989 hit Like A Prayer demonstrates the complexity of these songs. It's not easy listening as the original. Imany demands full attention. The cellos only provide a minimal layer of sound while her deep, smokey voice's humming sonorously through the lyrics like a preacher. It's actually like a prayer.

Charity Children – My Alchemy

Born in New Zealand, based in Berlin, the alt-pop band Charity Children is known for its dazzling songs.

The former lovers Chloë Lewer and Elliott McKee took a break to become friends again. Now, they're collaborating again, and My Alchemy certainly proves that they've lost nothing of their flamboyance.

The single is a misfit's love song; love seen through the eyes of an addict. Driven by an avid groove, slightly psychedelic touches, and soul flavours, My Alchemy is a glowing indie-pop potion that embraces wide spaces for instrumental discoveries.

We can definitely celebrate the soon arrival of their next record in late summer.

Deafheaven – Shellstar

San Francisco-based outfit Deafheaven is amongst the most innovative bands out there, highly praised for their complex, boundaries-crushing style. On Friday, they released their new record, Infinite Granite.

The album's opening track, Shellstar, sets the tone for the rest of its 53-minute runtime. The song is a dreamy, indie-rock-like epic with shimmering guitar lines and soft voices. Comparing Shellstar to earlier tracks like the blackgaze fire that is Honeycomb, it's hard to believe that these two songs are made by the same band.

There's no song on Infinite Granite as black-metal-influenced. It's a rather soft record by Deafheaven and probably more accessible to a broader audience. However, despite the relaxed ambience of Shellstar, the song deviates from traditional indie aspects. For example, during the chorus, you can hear the instruments heavily rumble in the background.

Jessiquoi – Popstar

A highly critical approach to the pop music business: That's Jessiquoi's latest track, Popstar. After Superpower, it's the second release of the Swiss avant-garde artist in 2021.

Again, Jessiqoui demonstrates her peculiar style. The sound scratches, bumps, jumps and runs. "Songs are like a box of condoms. You never know which ones are gonna break," she raps, dissecting the dirty business of the music industry where old men exploit. It's a riot hymn that bites furiously.

There are two releases of Popstar. The version that came out in June slightly differs from this week's release and features a short piano intermezzo. The newer version is more straightforward and a bit more ironed out, yet still 100 per cent Jessiqoui.

CATT – Again (Vocal Version)

A song like a dream. The German singer CATT reworked Again, which was initially released in May 2020. She scraped away all instruments and replaced them with vocal loops. The result sounds simultaneously etheric and earthy but, first and foremost, undyingly beautiful.

The vocal version of Again is one of those songs that cut right through the skin, piercing heart and soul. Layers and layers of CATT's voice create this gentle knife. Sometimes she sounds tender, almost vulnerable; then again, there's this doubtful tone that eventually evolves into confidence.

There's a saying: If you can strip down a track as much as possible without losing its essence, it's a great one. So therefore, I would argue: Again is a brilliant song.

That's it for today. As always, be sure to check out the featured tracks in the playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

And if I could help you discover some new tunes, and you think I deserve it, you can share this newsletter with your friends. It's highly appreciated.

All the best,