Now Hear This: New music from Ariana Grande, THEY, Bruce Springsteen and HER, plus spotlight artists Luz and Helena Deland

Roisin O'Connor
·7-min read
Irish singer-songwriter Luz (left) and Helena Deland (Press image)
Irish singer-songwriter Luz (left) and Helena Deland (Press image)

Ariana Grande is in the White House, The Weeknd’s disembodied head is being carried around a mansion, Little Mix are setting fire to a warehouse, Stormzy’s in a video game… is this real life? Kind of, it’s New Music Friday.

Asides from all the colourful (and sometimes downright weird) music videos that have dropped this week, the music itself is particularly good. As predicted back in April/May, all those artists pushing their albums back to autumn/winter have now created a massive jam of new album releases. It’s a nightmare for anyone trying to keep track of them all (hi) but a treat for fans. Just look at Adrianne Lenker’s phenomenal output, which includes not one but two new albums this week, including the sublime songs. Read my five-star review here.

I’m still not over Miley Cyrus’s cover of “Zombie” by The Cranberries from earlier this week. I think it’s incredible, and people are rightly hailing an exciting new rock phase for her. Just listen to it – her voice was made for rock. While she could do with reining it in a tiny bit on the verses (see the original for Dolores O’Riordan’s extraordinary phrasing), Cyrus’s version still makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Speaking of covers: Marika Hackman released two new ones from her forthcoming covers album. My favourite is her gorgeous take on Beyonce’s “All Night” (Hackman’s original song of the same name happens to be my favourite from her last record, 2019’s Any Human Friend).

Bring Me the Horizon dropped a new single ahead of next week’s album, Post Human: Survival Horror (sounds cheerful, right?). “Teardrops” is the latest example of the band’s uncanny knack for infectious hooks. If they have anything to do with it, we’ll all be singing along at the end of the world. Gearing up for her performance on Saturday Night Live, HER has shared a new R&B slow-jam, “Damage”, which asks her partner not to take her for granted if she makes herself vulnerable. “Dirty Knees” from Medium Love (KC Underwood’s project) is a delightfully scuzzy number that reminds me of carefree summers.

I was really blown away by Che Lingo’s debut album, The Worst Generation. It’s packed with examples of his versatility as a rapper, from the slick bars on “South” to the introspective, conscious rapping of “Dark Days”, his Bonobo-influenced collaboration with Kojey Radical. Another album you should check out (although they’d probably call it a “project”) is Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez by Gorillaz. Our critic Mark Beaumont called it the finest Gorillaz album in a decade, and I strongly agree. Read Mark’s review here.

My fave soulful poet Arlo Parks just announced her own debut, Collapsed in Sunbeams, which will drop in January 2021 (boo, too long a wait). In the meantime she’s keeping fans happy with new single “Green Eyes”, which she describes as a song about “self-discovery, self-acceptance and adolescence… It’s supposed to uplift and comfort those going through hard times”. Bruce Springsteen has knocked it out the park with his record, Letter to You, which received five stars from our critic Helen Brown. Check her review here. ANOTHER album you should listen to is Nothing But Thieves with Moral Panic – I’m a fan of “Real Love Song”, which has a distinct Killers vibe to it. Last album shoutout for this week is from US duo THEY, who’ve released The Amanda Tape. Fans of Nirvana and The Weeknd should tune in (seriously).

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LAOISE, an Irish artist I featured as my spotlight pick a while back, has dropped the funky “Healthy” her best track to date. I’m very keen on “I’ve Got a Girl” by Flyte, which tackles the awful experience of breaking up with a friend. English singer and producer MT Hadley has shared the heart-rending “Suddenly”, a song he says was born out of “an all-too fleeting encounter”. “I met her in Athens on the night I arrived there, and saw her every day the week I stayed,” he explains. “She always had to leave before the night was through because she lived on the outskirts of town. One night she took me to a truly dismal exhibition of violent graphic drawings. The evening was good, but the drawings were not.” Over sombre piano, cello and bright violins, the song extends into a tune of wishful romance.

Because there’s so much music this week, I’ve done a double bill for the spotlight feature as well. Let’s start with Luz (born Luz Corrigan), an incredible 18-year-old Irish artist causing a stir with her beautifully written bedroom pop. Her latest single, “The Author”, is a stunning track about what happens when the line between friendship and romance is crossed. I’m premiering the music video, which features a wealth of Irish talent, including actors Lola Petticrew (Dating Amber) and Maya O’Shea (Normal People). It was directed by Imogen Harrison and graded by Toby Tomkins (best-known for his work on The End of the F***ing World).

Read my Q&A with Luz below and watch the video:

– Hey Luz, tell me a bit about the themes that inspired 'the author'

“‘the author’ is a story about love, friendship and navigating whether and when a certain boundary should be crossed, what it would mean, if it would be a mistake or possibly one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.”

– Where did the idea for the video come from and how did you get so many amazing people involved?

“The video was loosely based on an experience I had growing up where I too had fallen in love with a friend of mine, so working with Imogen was an absolute dream as she translated such a personal story to me on screen so well. Both Lola and Maya’s performances were amazing, and I’m so lucky to have had such a talented team involved in the making of my first video.”

– How have you found 2020 so far and have you been surprised by anything you've learned along the way?

“I’ve been surprised about how receptive people have been to new music, I was quite nervous about launching my project at the start of isolation, but in a strange way everything actually turned out okay considering the circumstances. I’ve also realised that not everything you think might happen will, so I’ve definitely tried living in the moment a little bit more.”

– What do you have lined up for the rest of the year?

“Thanks to Covid, unfortunately not much in terms of new music, but I have something special coming around Christmas time which I’m excited about! In the meantime, I’m hoping to continue writing songs and making new music to eventually share with everyone.”

My other spotlight artist is Helena Deland, a Canadian artist who released her striking and frequently unsettling album, Someone New, last week.

Read our Q&A below:

– Hey Helena, how are you feeling about the release of your album?

“I'm very happy it's out! Releasing it bit by bit via singles is a good promotion method, of course, but because it was written as a whole, I'm happy it can be experienced as such now.

“I feel very privileged to make something that can be appreciated in confinement. In these solemn, stressful times, music can be of precious support.”

– What's your experience of this strange year been so far? Have you learned anything that surprised you?

“It's very difficult knowing we're potentially putting others at risk by being near them. I've missed visiting my family! My fantasy of the world slowing down was indulged, though, and it's been nice to work on the release to keep myself busy while having very little immediate external distractions.

“It's interesting to see how completely it skews our tendencies and our ability to project ourselves into the future.”

– What do you have lined up for the rest of 2020?

“The advantage of not being able to play shows is that I can keep writing. It will be nice to take a bit of down time to read and fuel up before getting into the next project.”