Welcome back to The Verge’s weekly musical roundup. I’m Jamieson, I’m still your host, and this week’s selections have been shaped by last week’s battle for the hearts and ears of teens around the world. (Did you think I was talking about Oneohtrix Point Never?) Justin Bieber and One Direction both have spots on this week’s list alongside new material from the bold rapper Le1f — we profiled him last week — and a tender Paris tribute from producer Thundercat.
Remember to subscribe to our Spotify playlist if you haven’t already — it’s updated weekly! — and tune into our Periscope broadcast covering this week’s selection when it airs this afternoon. Let’s go:
Adele, "When We Were Young":
Savor the availability of "When We Were Young": it’s one of the only songs from Adele’s new album 25 you’ll be able to hear without paying. (It was reported yesterday that the British superstar is holding the album off of streaming services indefinitely.) It’s also one of the album’s best, a gigantic, weepy ballad Adele co-wrote with indie dreamboat Tobias Jesso Jr. While Jesso’s writing can border on mawkish when he’s doing it for himself, Adele has the voice to give his song a spine. The money note she hits near the song’s end is breathtaking.
David Bowie, "Blackstar":
David Bowie surprised everyone with the release of 2013 comeback LP The Next Day, and more new material is on the way: Blackstar, his 27th full-length album, will be released in January. The title track is a sprawling, strange piece of music, one that touches on Scott Walker’s avant-garde chamber music, Radiohead’s jazziest rock, and a swinging, bluesy lounge over the course of almost 10 minutes. Bowie’s been making music for almost half a century, and he’s still exploring new creative terrain — it’s inspiring.
DJ Paypal, "Ahhhhhhh":
Mysterious Berlin-based producer DJ Paypal released mini-LP Sold Out last week, and it’s one of this year’s most distinctive, kinetic dance music collections. "Ahhhhhhh" takes a vocal sample that sounds like a leftover from Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and loops and chops it over a rolling piano melody and scatter-brain percussion. The result is a sighing, ever-so-wistful piece of footwork.
Justin Bieber ft. Halsey, "The Feeling":
"The Feeling" is one of the several Skrillex co-productions that brighten up Justin Bieber’s new album Purpose, and it’s also the only song on the album where Bieber lines up against a female duet partner. I’m not crazy about Halsey’s solo work, but she’s welcome on "The Feeling" as a skeptical presence countering Bieber’s earnest, penitent romanticism. On an album that’s so weighed down by apologies, it’s nice to hear someone asking a few questions.
Le1f ft. Junglepussy & House of LaDosha, "Swirl":
"Swirl" takes all of the odd, taste-oriented adjectives people lean on to describe black bodies — Chestnuts! Coffee! Chocolate! "South African pecan!" — and repurposes them, plugging them into a rumbling, empowered piece of club-rap. "I know it’s arousing, the aura surroundin’ / My fabulous brown skin," purrs Le1f. "If you keep it cute, then you might be allowed in." It’s a funny, flashy song, but it’ll make you think twice about your language and behavior.
One Direction, "Wolves":
One Direction may sound like the past, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. "Wolves" blends the sounds of Motown, glam, and the band’s potent stadium pop-rock, and the product’s irresistible. I find myself getting caught up in the song’s little details: the texture of the vocals, the thin, fuzzy film on the guitars, the giddy bounce. It sounds the way romping around town with your best friends feels.
Oneohtrix Point Never, "Child of Rage":
There are plenty of nasty, cluttered tracks on Oneohtrix Point Never’s new album Garden of Delete, but "Child of Rage" is proof Daniel Lopatin’s still comfortable with the more serene, near-natural textures of older albums like R Plus Seven. Distortion and chaos eat away at this song’s edges, but they never infiltrate its core. It’s relaxing and easily melodic, even if it’s still a little strange.
Ra Ra Riot ft. Rostam, "Water":
Indie pop veterans Ra Ra Riot are releasing a new album next year, Need Your Light. (It’ll be the band’s first since 2013’s Beta Love.) Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij produced and chipped in on the album’s first single, "Water." Batmanglij and lead singer Wes Miles came together for a bright, chipper collection of electro-R&B as Discovery back in 2009, an album that ended up casting a surprisingly long shadow over the next half-decade of alternative pop music. "Water" doesn’t sound much like it, but Batmanglij knows how to produce Miles’ throaty yelp. He sounds great here.
Musicians are going to be processing last weekend’s horrific attacks in Paris for weeks, months, and years in their art. It didn’t take long for Thundercat and Mono/Poly to whip up tribute "Paris," but that doesn’t mean it’s not affecting or impactful. Warm, gurgling chords and a nimble bass line express an indescribable kind of mourning; the clear, striking notes of a bell feel like invocations. It’s a beautiful, sad piece of music from two gifted writers struggling with grief like the rest of us.
Ty Dolla $ign ft. TC & D-Loc, "Miracle / Wherever":
The stunning centerpiece of Ty Dolla $ign’s full-length debut Free TC opens with the R&B singer’s incarcerated brother (and the album’s namesake) singing over the phone. He’s swaddled by intricate waves of harmony and lavish orchestration, and the song transforms into… a filthy, hilarious sex jam. What else were you expecting from one of music’s foremost lotharios?
Here’s the running This Is Your Next Jam playlist — have an awesome weekend!