Mahalia – ‘Jealous’ ft. Rico Nasty
“From the Southside / Summer’s outside, chillin’ Westside” sings Mahalia on the first verse of ‘Jealous’ and whether borne out of fantasy or an earnest sketch of her native Leicester, it’s an endearing way to open her first release of 2021. But as the track unfolds, it’s soon clear that if you underestimate the 22-year-old, it’s at your peril. Off the back of her glorious collaboration with Sound of 2021 winner Pa Salieu, Mahalia teams up with breakout MC Rico Nasty for a takedown of bitter ex-friends. A Spanish guitar trap beat evocative of Juice WRLD’s ‘Lucid Dreams’ complements the fire and grit of Rico, and Mahalia’s sleek vocals as she well and truly backs herself: “I’ve been bad from when I was a baby.” With accompanying visuals inspired by Belly, the Nas and DMX-led film from legendary music video director Hype Williams, ‘Jealous’ has clear roots in 90s R&B while still showing off the fresh sound of these two rising stars.
Lava La Rue – ‘Magpie’
“One for sorrow, and two for joy” goes the 16th century nursery rhyme – an ode to the eternally fickle nature of life (and birdwatching). Our January cover star Lava La Rue begins ‘Magpie’ in much the same way until they decide to queer it: “…three for a girl that my heart avoids.” In their electric hands, the lead track of new EP ‘Butter Fly’ becomes a twist on the traditional, with a lo-fi psychedelic soundscape and a dreamy soul loop that swirls like Ms. Dynamite’s ‘Dy-na-mi-tee.’ Fellow member of hip hop collective NiNE8, L!BAAN, gets a shoutout alongside La Rue’s tumultuous journey through optimism and heartbreak – “Take my misery, hand in hand, we’ll soon see victory” – and as their hypnotic flow dips in and out of focus, dramatic strings come to the fore to close out an unassuming gem.
SG Lewis – ‘All We Have’
Nostalgia for the dancefloor might be an easy win these days but it’s even more notable when it’s done well. English house and synth producer SG Lewis certainly had the cred before releasing his debut album ‘Times’ this week: he’s the man behind Dua Lipa’s ‘Future Nostalgia’ standout ‘Hallucinate’ and his previous list of collaborations is mightily impressive, too; Clairo, Ray BLK and AlunaGeorge to name but a few. The delectable slow build of ‘All We Have’ might sneak by unnoticed on an album with huge features such as Robyn and Nile Rodgers, but with a helping hand from Australian synth-pop duo Lastlings, the track culminates in pure bliss. We’re left with the palpable promise of carefree nights on the dancefloor one day because after all, “all we have is time”.
MAY-A – ‘Time I Love To Waste’
In her native Australia, 19-year-old Maya Cumming, AKA MAY-A, is on the verge of something many other international musicians would kill for right now: a live tour happening this March. On her latest track, ‘Time I Love To Waste’, MAY-A is crushing hard on a girl and though it might come to nothing, she doesn’t seem to mind, as she takes us through a sun-soaked trip complete with watery guitar riffs and an anthemic chorus. The Aussie wunderkind directed the accompanying video herself – as she has for every other single released so far – which sees her and her friends singing in an open-topped Jeep and heading to the skatepark just to narrowly dodge the skateboarders. MAY-A has been writing songs since she was 12, which shines through in her witty lyrics – “I’d let the girl live right through my wallet” – and even if the “line’s getting fuzzy”, from the sounds of this sweet dose of indie pop, she’s content to waste time to find out.
TYSON – ‘Red Handed’
It’s Four Tet meets Jessie Ware for this new atmospheric track from London-based singer TYSON, who was featured on Joy Orbison’s Radio 1 Residency last year. On ‘Red Handed’, soft jazz lounge pianos loop and the drum beat drags its feet as TYSON’s soulful, staccato vocals switch between low and high registers with ease. Her endeavour to create “celestial, interplanetary R&B” is certainly a successful one here, where the track is quick to envelop you, and while TYSON’s vocals scold and smoulder throughout, her sardonic asides suggest plenty of anger bubbling underneath the surface: “Nice try, you’re a nice guy.”
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READ MORE: The best songs of 2020