Essential Tracks This Week: Kelela, Big|Brave and more

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As the end of 2022 draws near, we’ve been just inundated with new music. For a humble independent music resource like ours, it’s a lot to keep up with and we’re doing our best (Shameless Plug: Support us on Patreon! Link below!). But then again also we’ve had trouble tearing ourselves away from that gorgeous new Lucrecia Dalt album even with an avalanche of new albums headed our way. And if that weren’t enough, we’re already starting to prepare ourselves for a rush of new music in 2023.

All of which is to say: It’s a good week for new music. The best new songs this week include an electronic/R&B artist’s second single in five years, an enigmatic British producer’s progressive electronic epic, a post-metal group’s climactic new ripper, and more. Hear and read about our picks for this week’s Essential Tracks.

Check out this week’s Essential Tracks, and listen to our ongoing 2022 Essential Tracks playlist.

Kelela – “Happy Ending”

The return of Kelela earlier this year has been one of the highlights in pop music this year, and while there’s still no specific information available about a follow-up to her 2017 album Take Me Apart, the two singles she’s released thus far are a fantastic start. “Happy Ending” is her latest, a hybrid of ethereal synth-driven melodies and ’90s-reminiscent club sounds, breakbeats included. It’s a bright and joyful electronic pop single that arrives just in time to bring a little bit of extra heat to this increasingly chilly autumn.

Out now via Warp

Big|Brave – “carvers, farriers, and knaves”

Montreal trio Big|Brave have an unmatched ability to create epic, massive music from a minimalist approach. With just one chord, the group is able to construct a piece of music that feels like it could part the sea. Their latest single, “carvers, farriers, and knaves,” has just such a quality—dense, layered, climactic, flaring with harmonics and rising up into a crushing wave of immense sound. If the immediate reaction is catharsis or release, that’s to be expected—this is music to purge the soul—but there’s also a great deal of subtlety within such a powerful package. Including a rare moment of chord-progression groove. Here’s where one of the best bands in North America only keeps getting better.

From nature morte, out February 24 via Thrill Jockey

Burial – “Exokind”

The release of January’s Antidawn opened up a new era of ambient composition for Burial, the enigmatic UK composer who once was synonymous with dubstep. Following that up on the Streetlands EP, out today, Burial continues to explore beatless terrain through lengthy, searching pieces that incorporate synth-laden atmosphere and field recordings in the context of something that feels cinematic, its structure seeming to lay out a wordless narrative. “Exokind” is the most richly maximalist of its three tracks, using its 12 minutes to stretch out from arpeggio-laden progressive electronic into moments of gothic grandeur and hushed reflection. One of the most remarkable pieces Burial has released in a long time.

From Streetlands EP, out today via Hyperdub

Tom Skinner – “The Journey”

Tom Skinner’s appeared in our Essential Tracks column several times this year, both as a solo artist/bandleader and on a Beth Orton song. Today the focus is back on his own upcoming release, Voices of Bishara, which finds the British drummer returning to a spiritual jazz groove. Spacious but still living inside the pocket, “The Journey” isn’t as urgent and exclamatory as his funkiest material with Sons of Kemet, but the groove is there regardless, guiding its serpentine rhythms and hypnotic bassline. While Skinner might have been the subject of attention this year more for his (very good!) debut with The Smile, “The Journey” is a necessary reminder that he’s among the very best jazz musicians in the UK today.

From Voices of Bishara, out November 4 via International Anthem/Nonesuch/Brownswood

Low – “Dance Song ’97”

It’s the mark of a great song when a band can completely strip it of its original context and it still sounds as great as you remember it. It’s also the mark of a great band if that recontextualized version not only sounds great, but adds an entirely new layer to it. Low covering Sleater-Kinney is perhaps the most likely candidate for this kind of songs-in-conversation transformation, but in practice as much as theory, it works beautifully. A highlight on Dig Me In, a charity covers album released to celebrate Dig Me Out‘s 25th anniversary (and if you’re looking for more albums in that vein, we have some ideas), Low’s take on the album’s penultimate barnburner is, naturally, slower and more spacious, with a lighter touch of some of the gnarlier effects from las year’s HEY WHAT and, most significantly, the breathtaking vocal harmonies of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker. A convergence of two indie legends that’s worth savoring.

From Dig Me In: A Dig Me Out Covers Album, out today

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