Welcome back to The Verge’s weekly musical roundup. I’m Jamieson, I’m still your host, and I’m excited that one of this year’s most eclectic playlists is being delivered during a pretty slow period for new releases. Old-fashioned R&B is rubbing shoulders with jazzy hip-hop; French touch is grabbing coffee with cerebral EDM-pop; tropical house and teen-pop are getting a drink. It really excites me when I’m able to cover a lot of ground with my picks.
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 picks when it airs this afternoon. Let’s go:
Archy Marshall, "Swell":
Archy Marshall has released a lot of music under several different names, the best known being King Krule. A New Place 2 Drown is his first full-length released using his own name, and it soundtracks a massive coffee table book and short documentary created in collaboration with his brother Jack, a visual artist. "Swell" is an effortless, cool piece of music, and it’s the closest thing the album has to a title track. Instead of leaning on Marshall’s gravelly moan — his trademark until now — it coasts on skittering, lounge-ready production. He’s not singing much on this record, but it still doesn’t sound like anyone else.
Babyface ft. After 7, "I Want You":
Babyface’s new album Return of the Tender Lover is his first solo album full of original material in a decade, and it wins you over before you even hear a note — has a better album title come out this year? Return of the Tender Lover is an incredible phrase, full stop: it’s delicate, suggestive, full of character. "I Want You" is a sumptuous collaboration with long-dormant R&B duo After 7, whose members happen to be two of Babyface’s five brothers. The balance here is striking. It’s lust without sleaze.
Fred Falke ft. Shotgun Tom Kelly, "Radio Days":
Fred Falke is one of my favorite producers, an expert remixer and fine composer who makes funky, feathery house; his newest EP Alpha came out last week. "Radio Days" is a little more than a month old, but I wanted to drag it into this space to mark the EP’s release. If you’re unfamiliar with Falke, it’s a good introduction to his sound: the bass gurgles, the beat wiggles, the pianos are chintzy but endearing. It’s also given a little extra levity by LA radio personality "Shotgun" Tom Kelly, who’s basically playing Falke’s hypeman here.
Arriving at the very end of Jeremih’s impressive new LP Late Nights: The Album, "Paradise" is a lovely left turn after an album full of lecherous, pulsing R&B. A molly hangover’s never sounded this delightful: there’s some fooling around, a workout and a smoothie, and some smoking to take the edge off. Jeremih sings "So fuckin’ wasted" like he’s been touched by an angel. You leave the album on a hopeful, sunny note.
Katy B, Four Tet, & Floating Points, "Calm Down":
Whenever Katy B releases new music, you can feel her pushing at pop’s boundaries; she’s a curious, innovative force, albeit one who’s remained under the radar for most listeners outside the UK. "Calm Down" is the first single from her upcoming LP Honey, a collaboration with veteran producer Four Tet and Floating Points, and it’s remarkable how seamlessly their various sounds snap together. Katy delivers a mannered, powerful vocal; Four Tet supplies the uneasy, wobbling beat; Floating Points sneaks into the chorus with darting, sprightly violin.
Kygo ft. Maty Noyes, "Stay":
Spend a few minutes listening to Kygo’s "Stay" and you’ll understand why Justin Bieber knocked him off for comeback single "What Do You Mean?" This is weightless, warm pop music that makes sense in almost any setting — gym, club, boutique, living room, you name it. It clicks into place. I’m not sure it’ll hold up over the course of a full album, but we’re going to find out soon: Kygo’s releasing his debut full-length in February.
Pusha T ft. The-Dream, "M.F.T.R.":
Being granted G.O.O.D. Music’s presidency hasn’t slowed Pusha T down a lick: he’s releasing new LP King Push — Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude next week, and the long-awaited King Push is supposed to arrive sometime in the spring. There’s something easy to tracks like "M.F.T.R.," and I don’t mean to suggest the writing or rapping is lazy or hackneyed in some way; Pusha’s pen remains sharp, his references inventive, his disses intriguing. But he never sounds anything less than comfortable. His hand is always on the wheel. I guess it’s a quality you could deem presidential.
Rick Ross ft. DJ Premier, "Black Opium":
This highlight from the Boss’ new album Black Market is even more languid and opulent than the Pusha T track above — it’s fur-swaddled myth-making from one of contemporary rap’s best-drawn characters.
Sleigh Bells, "Champions of Unrestricted Beauty":
Sleigh Bells aren’t ready to release their follow-up to 2013’s Bitter Rivals yet, but "Champions of Unrestricted Beauty" might help tide you over while you’re waiting. My favorite thing about Sleigh Bells’ music is usually the devastating crunch of Derek Miller’s guitar, which is sadly absent here — without it, the band’s identity is compromised. This is acerbic, hyperliterate pop, but it’s not as distinctive as what the band’s done before.
Troye Sivan ft. Betty Who, "Heaven":
I found myself pleasantly surprised by the quality of Troye Sivan’s debut LP Blue Neighbourhood, which came out last week. It’s capable, ruminative post-Lorde pop, and on "Heaven" — co-written by Claire Boucher (aka Grimes) and Jack Antonoff — Sivan stitches together a touching lyric about how coming out of the closet can impact your spiritual life. It’s not hard to imagine this song serving as a lifeline for someone who’s struggling with their sexuality, a commendable destiny for any piece of music.
Here’s the running This Is Your Next Jam playlist — have an awesome weekend!