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KCSU goes doo-wop with Jalen Ngonda and Tennis

We also go old school with some features from The Cure and Nirvana, making this week’s gems a perfect blend of the old and the new!
KCSU goes doo-wop with Jalen Ngonda and Tennis

“KCSU’s Weekly Gems Countdown” is written by the KCSU Music Directors and describes the top artists that your local 90.5 FM DJs are playing this week! This article is posted weekly on Wednesday morning and discussed on the show “KCSU Weekly Gem Countdown” which airs every Friday from 10-11. During the show, you can tune in to hear the countdown, learn more about each artist behind the songs topping KCSU’s charts, and listen to DJ Fruit-Bat and Lady J break down the sound and feel of each song!

10. The Cure – rock – 10 spins – highlighted hit: “Lullaby” off of the 1989 release “Disintegration”

Perhaps the defining band for black-clad romantics everywhere, The Cure were formed in Crawley, Sussex, England in the late seventies, in its earliest iteration featuring Robert Smith (vocals/guitars), Michael Dempsey (bass), Lol Tomhurst (drums), and Porl Thompson (guitars). Michael was soon replaced by Simon Gallup on bass, and him and Robert Smith are the two remaining members from the early Cure era to still be a part of the band now. Also joining are Jason Cooper (drums), Roger O’Donnel (keyboards), and Reeves Gabrels (guitars).

Though some of The Cure’s most popular tracks are ones like “Friday, I’m in Love” and “Just Like Heaven,” their music doesn’t just trace these upbeat paths. The Cure have always been experimental, playful, and genre-bending in their music, rejecting the “goth” label time and again; in a 2006 Reuters interview, Smith said: “it’s so pitiful when ‘goth’ is still tagged onto the name The Cure. We’re not categorizable.” This is a fair assessment—The Cure definitely are not easily categorizable, and it’s easier not to expect them to be. Our highlighted track, “Lullaby,” is another from the 1989 release “Disintegration,” which is The Cure record that gets the most play here! “Lullaby” is one of the shorter, spookier tracks on the record, an open-to-interpretation metaphor that Smith has stated can be connected to a lot of things, but stems from a childhood nightmare about being eaten by a giant spider.

9. Nirvana – rock – 10 spins – highlighted hit: “Come As You Are” off of the 1991 release “Nevermind” 

Formed in Aberdeen, Washington in the late eighties, Nirvana was originally made up of Kurt Cobain (vocals, guitar), Krist Novoselic (bass), and, after 1990, Dave Grohl (guitar). Associated with the prolific Seattle grunge scene of the 90s, these days Nirvana are probably the first band you think of when picturing grunge music. Their debut, 1989 debut, “Bleach,” was followed quickly by their seminal 1991 release “Nevermind,” which is considered the essential record Nirvana record and features their breakthrough, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” as well as other vital tracks like “Come As You Are” and “Breed.” Kurt Cobain’s tragic loss in 1994 cut the band’s lifespan short, but their contributions to music are still just as important today as they were in the 90s.

Our highlighted track is “Come As You Are,” no surprise given its status as such a popular Nirvana track! Given its similarity to “Eighties” by Killing Joke, they were hesitant to release the track as a single, but these days it’s considered one of their classics.

8. Tyler, The Creator – rap/hip-hop – 11 spins – highlighted hit: “Lumberjack” off of the 2021 release “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST”

Tyler Okonma, known creatively as Tyler, The Creator, has been through considerable evolution over his career and presence on the internet. Starting out with transgressive lyricism (and a meme-fueling internet presence a few years later), his first solo release was 2009’s “Bastard,” followed by his first album, 2011’s “Goblin.” He blew up following the build of the single “YONKERS,” and has enjoyed a cult following ever since. 2017’s “Flower Boy” record broke new ground for Okonma, skyrocketing him to the top of Hip-Hop charts (and defining the high school experience for every teenager at the time).

His most recent release, March’s “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST: The Estate Sale,” is an expanded version of the 2021 version of the record, featuring eight additional tracks. Our highlighted hit, “Lumberjack,” is one we’re thrilled to get to feature this week! Who doesn’t love a lumberjack?

7. Sarah kinsley – 11 spins – pop – highlighted hit: “Lovegod” off of the 2023 release “Ascension”

Sarah Kinsley
has only been releasing music since 2019’s debut, “The Fall,” but she’s already amassed 700,000 monthly listeners on spotify alone, each release tracking millions of streams (with “The King” at 46 million alone). With a childhood studying classical music (eventually taking her to Columbia University. Kinsley’s latest release, 2023’s “Ascension” came out in June of 2023. On the EP’s inspiration,
she said: “Ascension is about this unknown, ethereal place—the islands we create with people we have loved, where our phrases with them live, where our conversations outlast us, where every moment we have experienced lives again and again. It’s an eternal paradise. This is the center of this EP: the treasure, the collection of shining memories I carry, I ascend to.”

Our highlighted track is “Lovegod,” a track that’s perfect for that February yearning.

6. Jalen Ngonda – 12 spins – r&b/soul – highlighted hit: “Give Me Another Day” off of the 2023 release “Come Around and Love Me”

Originally from the east coast but now based in Liverpool, Jalen Ngonda is a promising new artist in the soul scene, inspired by the classic mo-town ballads he grew up listening to and bringing those classic sounds to the fore. Having been working and performing for almost a decade in Liverpool, it’s his home base. The track “Don’t You Remember” was featured on A COLORS SHOW, a platform that highlights diverse musicians from all over the world, and now has over a million views on Youtube.

Ngonda signed to Daptone to work on his debut, “Come Around and Love me,” which came out in September of last year. As far as debuts go, it’s an incredibly strong start, and Ngonda’s future is a bright one. His music has a classic romantic nostalgia that is sorely needed in today’s musical landscape. Our highlighted track, “Give Me Another Day,” is evidence of this sound, a genuine pleasure to listen to.

5. Mitski – alt/indie – 12 spins – highlighted hit: “The Only Heartbreaker” off of the 2022 release “Laurel Hell”

Mitsuki Miyawaki, known simply as Mitski, is a singer-songwriter who’s been releasing music since her first few self-released records, “Lush” (2012), and “Retired From Sad, New Career in Business” (2013), which she originally made while still in college. Mitski’s cult status among indie fans only grew after her subsequent releases “Bury Me At Makeout Creek” (2014) and “Puberty 2” (2016). Mitski achieved more mainstream success following 2018’s “Be the Cowboy” with tracks like “Nobody” and “Washing Machine Heart” going viral on TikTok and Twitter.

Mitski’s music is associated with many online niches: sad Kendall Roy edits, sad edits in general, what’s often called “sad girl” music, but Mitski rejects the idea that her music has to be defined by sadness, saying in a video for Crack Magazine that “The sad girl thing was reductive and tired like 5-10 years ago, and it still is today…let’s retire the sad girl shtick.”

Her newest album, “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We,” was released September 15th to massive acclaim from critics and fans, and we’ve absolutely exhausted it on gems. Because of that, we’re going for “The Only Heartbreaker” off of Mitski’s 2022 synthpop foray, “Laurel Hell.”

4. hemlock springs – pop – highlighted hit: “Heavun” off of the 2023 release “Going…Going…GONE!”

Isimeme “Naomi” Udu, aka hemlocke springs, is a testament to the internet’s power to skyrocket the careers of young musicians who use the platform to share music that challenges mainstream sounds. The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Springs grew up listening to pop and electronic music, experimenting on Garage Band with her own self-produced songs.

Springs posted her first song, “Gimme All Ur Love,” on her TikTok page spring of last year, immediately going viral. Her eclectic, sugary electric-pop speaks to the DIY, bedroom-pop approach that’s coming to define the new generation of pop stars. Her debut EP, “Going…Going…GONE!” came out this September, already with millions of streams online. Our highlighted track, “Heavun,” is one of the sleeper hits on the record, and on its inspiration Springs says: “For a time, I thought if a person was money-motivated, they were greedy. But by that definition, everyone is greedy, so that’s a bit unfair. I don’t consider wanting to pay bills or go on occasional excursions as greedy actions. But what if I had an insatiable hunger for money? I wanted to explore the psychology of greediness.”

3. Tennis – pop – 13 spins – highlighted hit: “10 Minutes 10 Years” off of the 2017 “Yours Conditionally”

One of the most exciting musical acts coming out of Colorado right now, Tennis are formed by husband-and-wife duo Alaina Moore (keys, vocals), and Patrick Riley (guitar, keys), who met while students right here in Colorado. Frequently out on sailing excursions, their music often takes inspiration from the boating trips the pair have been taking since the early days of their relationship.

Inspired by 50s doo-wop with a soft psych-pop twist, Tennis are a favorite at the station (especially because of their Colorado origins). “Yours Conditionally” is a record in constant rotation here, as is the rest of their stuff! Their most recent venture, February of 2023’s “Pollen,” was written on a four-month sailing trip. Our highlighted track is “10 Minutes 10 Years,” conveniently written after they’d known each other for ten years. Aw.

2. The Drums – alt/indie – 14 spins – highlighted hit: “Obvious,” off of the 2023 release “Jonny”

Debuting with 2010’s self-titled “The Drums,” The Drums have been part of the indie-pop scene since the early 2010s, and their sound reflects that. With a revolving door of members until 2016, the only remaining member is frontman Jonathan Pierce, whose voice is the one you’ll hear when you turn on any Drums track. Most known for 2011’s “Portamento” (which I loved in middle school), The Drums have more to offer than just tracks like “Money” and “I Don’t Know How to Love,” which comes through clearly on their new release, “Jonny.”

“Jonny” is described on Spotify as capturing the “work of healing from childhood trauma and the shadow it casts over adulthood.” These tracks took longer to write than Pierce’s usual, bang-it-out method, which allows for an introspection and nuance that’s an interesting new direction for The Drums. Our highlighted track is “Obvious,” one of the sweeter love songs on the record that continues the theme of healing through patience and love.

1. Beabadoobee – pop – 14 spins – highlighted hit: “tinkerbell is overrated (feat Pinkpantheress)” off of the 2022 release “Beatopia”

Bea Kristi, known musically as Beabadoobee, was born in the Philippines and raised in London. She began her music career in 2017 with the single “Coffee,” which took off almost immediately. Another coffee themed track, “death bed (coffee for your head)” by Powfu featuring Bea, went viral on TikTok in 2020, currently sitting at over a billion streams on Spotify.

Bea’s steady release of bedroom pop eps and records has built her a consistent presence in the indie music scene, and sugary-sweet tracks like “glue song” give her a ubiquitous presence in romantic playlists everywhere. Her newest record, “
came out in 2022. It’s inspired by the made-up world she retreated into as a child, and the album is full of features, from Jockstrap’s Georgia Ellery to Pinkpantheress. Our highlighted track this week happens to be the one featuring Pinkpantheress, “tinkerbell is overrated,” which she had this to say about in an interview with Apple Music: “I had written it in the studio, but I was thinking about the time I was isolating for COVID where I literally went crazy. But it was also one of the best times in my life, because I felt like I needed that. I wanted something very playful, and PinkPantheress really suited it—she encapsulated the melody really well. She’s a good friend of mine.”