Listen To This: British rapper Loyle Carner undertakes self-examination on ‘Nobody Knows (Ladas Road)’

Read about this week’s most notable singles by Carly Rae Jepsen, Björk and more.


Susan Behrends Valenzuela

(Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

This week, Listen To This features a diverse range of genres, from U.K. rap to U.S. country-twinged indie. We would argue that most of these names need no introduction — let’s face it, “Call Me Maybe” played incessantly in 2012. Read on for more.

“Nobody Knows (Ladas Road)” by Loyle Carner

Yas Akdag, Music Editor

British rapper Loyle Carner is known for his poetic lyrics and jazz-R&B sonic leanings, which harken back to old-school hip-hop, instead of the trap flavor that’s currently in vogue. In his latest single “Nobody Knows (Ladas Road),” Carner stays true to this reputation, as he raps about the challenges of being mixed race. Over a gospel-infused sample of “Nobody Knows” by Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir, Carner raps the hook, “I told the black man he didn’t understand / I reached the white man he wouldn’t take my hand.” But don’t be fooled by the church choir — there’s nothing religious about this song. Rather, “Nobody Knows (Ladas Road)” is a haunting, piercing and sometimes even scathing self-reflection, whose implications reach beyond the self. From the janky piano that opens the song to the aggressive, bumping breakbeat that drops in and out, Carner’s flow remains tight both rhythmically and lyrically. “Nobody Knows (Ladas Road)” further demonstrates Carner’s talent for marrying soulful production with incisive writing, concocting beautiful, meaningful and moving rap songs. “Yo you can’t hate the roots of the tree / And not hate the tree / So how can I hate my father / Without hating me,” Carner posits before the final hook. The song ends with the gospel sample, allowing you to sit with your thoughts for a moment. “Nobody Knows (Ladas Road)” is Carner’s third single ahead of his forthcoming album, “Hugo,” out Oct. 21.

“Talking to Yourself” by Carly Rae Jepsen

Annie Williams, Contributing Writer

Carly Rae Jepsen knows love. We’ve seen her traverse its many forms — from the bubblegum-crush of “Kiss,” the retro-pop complications of “Emotion” and the more mature, refined sound of “Dedicated,” Jepsen has dealt with the initial infatuation, the all-encompassing love and the eventual heartbreak. In her recent releases, Jepsen aims to skip the heart palpitations and broad spectrum of emotion found in her past LPs, instead narrowing the field to examine loneliness in all its complexities. She does this best in “Talking to Yourself,” her latest single, where she looks back on a relationship she had no choice but to leave. She speaks directly to her former partner when she asks, “Are you thinking of me when you’re with somebody else? / Do you talk to me when you’re talking to yourself?” Over a bed of weighted synths and bright snares, bracketed by blocky guitars, she dissects the problems they had — issues mirroring the angular disconnect in the background sonic embellishments. As the music quiets down in the bridge, with waves of sound pulsing under a choral melody, she sings, “Does it kill you that you’re thinkin’ of me?” It’s confirmation of what we already know — this is someone who knows pop music and can do it well. With her new album, “The Loneliest Time,” coming out on Oct. 21, even more arresting, intense inquiries into loneliness are sure to come.

“Ovule” by Björk

Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer, Arts Editor

Much in the same way a director might employ depth-of-focus to keep their image clear and allow viewers to freely scan it, Björk stretches syllables with her voice to compel listeners into actively finding meaning in her lyrics. Singing about heartbreak and emotional baggage, Björk’s latest single, “Ovule,” sees the artist continue to experiment with genre and allegorical songwriting. As she sings about images akin to those dreamt up in cosmic horror — “dark blood red void,” and “glass egg above us floating” — on top of one another, Björk carves out a grandiose vision of heartache where blistering images reflect the inner turmoil to which she alludes via drawn-out shrieks. The increasingly violent use of drums in the song’s progression rolls its melancholy into a cathartic moment carrying the listener to emotional heights. Björk’s brilliant maneuvering of this emotional high is a testament to her exemplary craftsmanship, signaling another radiant album to come.

“Big Time” by Angel Olsen featuring Sturgill Simpson

Stephanie Wong, Film & TV Editor

Last week, Angel Olsen released a new version of her song, “Big Time,” now accompanied by the soulful vocals of Sturgill Simpson. The song’s country-influenced twinkling piano notes and soft, steady bassline coalesce together to become a beautiful ode to the inimitable experience of falling in love. At the same time, Simpson’s crooning vocals’ deep timbre elevates the already evident Americana influence in the song. Olsen’s evocative and tender vocals couple seamlessly with her incisive lyricism on the track, as she sings bittersweet lines that capture the yearning that often accompanies romance: “And I’m losin’, I’m losin’, I’ve left it behind / Guess I had to be losin’ to get here on time.” “Big Time” acutely reflects the patience and vulnerability that comes with falling in love in what is one of Olsen’s most emotionally mature tracks.

Contact Yas Akdag, Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer, Annie Williams, and Stephanie Wong at [email protected].