Welcome back to The Verge’s weekly musical roundup. I’m Jamieson, I’m still your host, and I’m drowning in pop star penitence this week.
This week’s two highest-profile additions are proof it’s never too late to apologize. They couldn’t sound more different: Adele’s first single in three years is a skyscraping, grand power ballad (did you expect anything else?), and Justin Bieber’s latest cut from Purpose is another slice of Caribbean-flavored dance-pop. But they both want you to know that they messed up — please, readers, welcome these musical giants back into your heart before it’s too late!
One more note: I’ll be on The Verge’s Periscope this afternoon for a chat about this week’s playlist and anything else going on in music right now — remember to tune in!
I mentioned above that it’s been three years since Adele released new music, but it feels a little like she never left. The singles from 21 have been radio staples since the moment they were released, and if you spend any medium-sized chunk of time in a public place — a mall, a public square, you name it — you’re bound to hear "Rolling in the Deep" or "Someone Like You" at least once. "Hello" doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and that’s just fine. The sound of Adele wailing from the mountaintop is part of our shared cultural fabric at this point.
Annie, "Out of Reach":
Norwegian singer Annie has been making featherweight, sticky pop music for over a decade now, and her newest EP Endless Vacation came out last week. You’re not going to hear "Out of Reach" on the radio alongside "Lean On" and whatever Bieber single happens to be in vogue, and that’s a minor tragedy. It’s a song about heartbreak, but it sounds cool and confident in Annie’s hands.
Beach House, "Elegy to the Void":
Beach House’s half-surprise LP Thank Your Lucky Stars landed on the internet last Friday, less than two months after the band released Depression Cherry. The new album’s darker, heavier, and more distorted than its predecessor, and it draws out the band’s natural mystery. Every song could soundtrack some kind of occult forest ceremony without feeling out of place. "Elegy to the Void" is the album’s centerpiece, and it’s the sound of the band at its most dramatic; Victoria Legrand chants and mourns over a searing lead guitar melody, and the song ends up swallowing you the way a black hole might.
Deerhunter, "Duplex Planet":
I reviewed Deerhunter’s new album Fading Frontier last week, and this is my favorite song on the record. It’s bright, chiming, and compact, but it’s stained by Bradford Cox’s trademark lyrical body horror: loneliness, disconnection, and physical discomfort are all lurking just around the corner.
Junior Boys, "Big Black Coat":
Canadian electronic duo Junior Boys are releasing their first album in a half-decade next February, and its title track makes for one hell of a reintroduction. "Big Black Coat" has harder edges than anything else in the group’s discography, and its first half opts for ominousness rather than elegance or a gentle touch. It cracks open about three minutes in, turning into something a little more warped and sensual. The band’s music can still find the sweet spot between your head and your hips.
Justin Bieber, "Sorry":
"Sorry" is enjoyable enough on its own, but I’m almost more interested in it as a sign of what’s coming on Purpose in a few weeks. Between this song and "What Do You Mean?" it’s clear now that Bieber is diving headfirst into the sound of tropical house. "Sorry" was produced by Skrillex and Blood Diamonds, but you could’ve told me it was a cover of an OMI song, and I wouldn’t have blinked. Are there going to be any songs on Purpose that deviate from this template? We’ll find out soon enough.
Majical Cloudz, "Change":
Fair warning: if you’re currently experiencing any sort of existential or personal angst, you might want to wait before hitting play on this one. "Change" is cut from Majical Cloudz’s strong new LP Are You Alone?, and it’s devastating; it’s the kind of song that’ll cut through you like a hot knife through butter if you’re in the right mindset. "Today I felt no good / I wasted all my time / Don’t ever ask me why," sings Devon Welsh. The procrastinator within me is withering just thinking about it.
Neon Indian, "Techno Clique":
If you read my review of Neon Indian’s new album VEGA INTL. Night School last week, you know I’m fond of this song. It’s a voyeuristic glimpse into a packed, heated club, one complete with microwaved synth melodies and a merciless beat, and I can’t help but wiggle in my chair every time I press play. If you’re feeling too tired for the public dance floor tonight, turn off the lights in your living room and put this on — it’ll make a decent substitute, I promise.
Oneohtrix Point Never, "Mutant Standard":
"Mutant Standard" is the monolithic centerpiece of Oneohtrix Point Never’s forthcoming Garden of Delete, and it’s the kind of song you could use to spook innocent trick-or-treaters on your doorstep come Halloween. It’s full of sharp, cascading synth melodies that ebb, flow, and burst like animatronic corpses out of coffins, and it’s long enough to span a few different visits. Keep it in mind when you’re arranging your pumpkins and dollar-store gags next weekend!
Savages, "The Answer":
Let’s wrap this week up with the lead single from Savages’ new album Adore Life, which is coming out next January. There’s a lot to like about "The Answer," but I can’t stop thinking about the song’s rhythm section: it rumbles like an engine and spins like a top, and it’ll leave you unsteady on your feet by the time the song’s finished. It feels a little like standing in a crowded space — a mosh pit or a packed train — and losing your feet on the ground; it’s exciting, but it’s scary, too.
Here’s the running This Is Your Next Jam playlist — have an awesome weekend!