Living Singles: Tia Ho on Songs from Fred Again, NoSo, and Yard Act with Elton John

Living Singles
Tia Ho

In KEXP's new weekly series Living Singles, the KEXP staff contributors highlight three brand new singles that are resonating with them right now. Listen to Tia Ho talk about her picks alongside Sound & Vision's Rachel Stevens or read about the songs below. 

"Jungle" by Fred again.. 

I’m quickly gaining a reputation as a Fred again.. stan and I must say I’m stoked on the identifier, second only to “the kitten lady,” which Joe Talbot refers to me as after IDLES named kittens with me for Wild Things. If you know me, we talk about music, and if we talk about music, we’ve talked about Fred again.. – especially after he dropped not only his solo debut in 2021 but a second installment of the Actual Life anthology in the same year, dual releases that cemented his unique style of emotional electronic as some of the most arresting music being produced today.

When I talked to Fred again.. about the one-year anniversary of his debut in April, he touched on the different “lanes” he operates in: one for his Actual Life work, which builds songs around audio snippets like vocal riffs ripped from Instagram and voicemails from friends, and another for collaborations. At that point, he’d released the rave-ready cuts “Lights Out” with Romy of the xx and HAAi as well as “Admit It (u don’t want 2)” with I. JORDAN (formerly India Jordan). “Jungle” is the third single of 2022, which credits Skrillex and Four Tet on writing and production, samples Elley Duhé’s “Immortal,” and is an absolute maelstrom of club catharsis.

In many ways, it’s a perfect marriage. Fred’s masterful use of space leaves room for emotion to build in the sparser verse, making the release all the more powerful, no doubt through the touch of Skrillex’s maximalist dub. Add some IDM sound design from Four Tet and you have an impressive offering of torrential, cinematic electronic. The song is fraught with a dark anxiety, an urgency that plays to the, as of late, oppressive angst that I, like many of us, have been feeling. All of it comes undone when the drop hits and the BPM is backfilled by a storm of drones, sirens, and that magic ingredient bass. For me, a drop is only as good as its build, which depends mostly, I think, on the producer’s grasp of the song’s emotional space and context. “Jungle” elevates Elley Duhé’s already excellent “Immortal” into a rave track that’s fearsome and fearless, which we could all use a bit more of in fearful times.

"David" by NoSo

NoSo // photo courtesy of artist's Bandcamp


I love a track that tricks me. 

On my first listen through, “David” by NoSo appeared to be an indie pop banger about unrequited love – an exceptional one at that. Between the warm guitar strums and the soft reverb haloing NoSo’s vocals, the track buried its way into my brain with the same momentum as a soft-top barreling down the PCH chasing golden hour. Lines like “Girls all swarm him like moths to a light” and “All-American boy with a gorgeous pointy nose” made the song deceivingly one-dimensional, addictive in its breeziness and melodic ease.

But “David” isn’t about an object of affection, it’s about an object of disdain. Behind the NoSo project is 24-year-old Baek Hwong, an LA-based artist who wrote the song after a dream where they embodied a white male, suddenly imbued with privileges they’d never enjoyed as a non-binary Korean American. Hwong reconciles the complexities of internalized bias in fantastical fashion with “David,” creating a three-minute space to honor the arduous nature of unlearning it. Don’t let NoSo fool you – each track on their recently released debut Stay Proud of Me is veiled in an effortless indie pop sheen, and digging even the slightest bit deeper reveals the mind of an artist poetically dealing in identity shaping in a rich world that’s only beginning to be built. 

Stay Proud of Me is out on Partisan Records. Spoiler: it’s fucking great.

"100% Endurance (Elton John Version)" by Yard Act

Yard Act by Jim Bennett


Yard Act might be my favorite post-punk band at the moment, which I don’t say lightly considering the number of post-punk bands making fantastic music right now. Their 2021 EP Dark Days got me hooked on their sardonic lyricism and deadpan treatment of our harsh realities… and I’d be remiss not to mention their mockery of the many things humans have put premiums on in the face of the end of the world (see: “Fixer Upper”).

Yard Act released their debut The Overload earlier this year to critical acclaim, and “100% Endurance” closes out the release with the Leeds band showcasing a softer, more sympathetic side of their sound. My preference for their cheeky humor compelled me to spend more time with “Rich” and the album’s title track – until I saw the Elton John Version of “100% Endurance.” After a triple take to make sure the coffee had indeed kicked in and I wasn’t imagining a previously unfathomable collaboration, I found myself immersed in the lush piano and strings of a new – and, dare I say, improved – version of the album closer. 

Elton’s Version takes the acerbic edge out of “100% Endurance” and dials up the emotion of the track. Vocalist James Smith leans into the melody, which makes the acceptance of the chaotic world we live in hit all the harder. “Everything has already happened / time is an illusion” are words that resonate deeply with me, as we rinse and repeat the same conversations around war, reproductive health, and other pain points. Yard Act speak to this hopelessness in a way that I find refreshing:

Give it everything you've got knowing that you can't take it with you
And all you ever needed to exist has always been within you
Gimme some of that good stuff that human spirit
Cut it with a hundred percent endurance

Whether you agree, it’s hard to deny the bittersweet comfort Yard Act and Elton John lend us in this surprising and somehow perfect edit of “100% Endurance.”

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