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Happy Listening: the 5 best new releases of the week

As the week comes to a close it’s important to get your tunes in order as you head into whatever adventures you have ahead. Each week to help you decide what should be top of your list, Happy Listening curates a list of new releases ready to soundtrack these adventures, whether it’s a bush walk, socially distanced gathering, or just staying in bed until 2pm.

This week’s big feels come in the form of some local post-punk, heavy-hitting hip-hop, and a blissful album of covers.

Gordon Koang and 4 other releases available today

Happy Listening sorts through what’s good on a Friday and gives you a fresh list of new music. This week features Johnny Hunter, Sufjan Stevens, Gordon Koang, and more.

Johnny Hunter – Early Trauma

If you’ve had City Calm Down-sized hole in your heart since the band disbanded last year, Johnny Hunter are here to fill it.

Decked out in ’80s goth-rock aesthetics, Johnny Hunter ooze charisma all over their debut EP Early Trauma. This might be their first extended release, but the band already feel like rock stars.

The 5-tracker is an unstoppable mix of post-punk guitar riffs, catchy vocal melodies, and commanding vocals. Each track is primed to be plugged into your car stereo and played at window-shaking volumes.

Gordon Koang – Unity

If you open up Gordon Koang’s Spotify, Unity is the only collection of music you’ll find. However, this is not Koang’s first album. Far from it. A pop-star in his home nation South Sudan, Unity is his 11th studio album and his first since seeking asylum in Australia.

In 2014, during the South Sudanese civil war, Koang and his cousin and collaborator Paul Biel came to Australia for a series of performances. As the conflict back home worsened Koang and Biel made the tough decision to stay and seek asylum here in Australia. Koang has since continued to make music in Australia, hoping to raise money to bring his family over to join him, and growing a cult following through his joyous blend of pop, disco, and traditional Nuer instruments and rhythms.

Released through Australian record label Music in Exile, Unity collects the signature Gordan Koang elements into a collection of songs designed for dancing, singing, and reflection. Songs like Stand Up (Clap Your Hands) and Tiel e Nei Nywal Ke Ran (We Don’t Have a Problem With Anyone) exude positivity, whilst South Sudan takes a more serious tone without letting go of the records uplifting energy.

Sufjan Stevens – Video Games

With the announcement of The Ascension, Sufjan Stevens’ upcoming album, came America, a 12-and-a-half minute lead single about love and the failings of the USA. If this mammoth first offering was a bit intimidating, Steven’s is back with Video Game (sadly not a Lana Del Rey cover), a more conventional track here to ease you into his world.

Prophetic and cryptic as ever, Stevens’ begins the song with “I don’t want to be your personal Jesus,” over eery synthesisers and a clunky programmed drum beat.

When the chorus of “I don’t want to play your video games,” kicks in, it’s easy to imagine a powerhouse vocalist like Robyn singing it over a booming beat, but instead, we have Sufjan; soft, understated, and gentle.

The Ascension is out September 25th.

Whitney – Candid

Just a year after their tear-jerker of a second album Forever Turned Around, US indie-folk band Whitney are back with a collection of 10 covers.

Covers albums are a tried and tested tradition of the music industry, but the best ones are able to twist each song into something uniquely their own. Known for covering everyone from Bob Dylan to Dolly Parton on tour, the band seemed primed to knock this out of the park, and they do.

Outside of the cover of country classic and go-to drunk singalong, Take Me Home, Country Road, it would be difficult to tell these songs weren’t straight from the brains of Whitney. Kelela’s Bank Head, David Byrne’s Strange Overtones, and Moondog’s High on a Rocky Ledge.

Okenyo – Anthropology

Following breakout EP SOLO, singer, actor, and presenter Okenyo is back with heavy-hitting track Anthropology. Whilst SOLO was filled with sunny neo-soul and R&B, Anthropology is a no-holds-barred hip-hop track.

Both the song and music video confront white supremacy and the diminishment on black culture.

In a statement, Okenyo stated “My identity whether it be tied to race, gender or sexuality belongs to me only and ‘Anthropology’ is a moment for me to own that regardless of what others may seek from me. Take your hands off my biology.”