Welcome back to The Verge's roundup of the most important music from the week that was. I'm Jamieson, I'm still your host, and I'm ready to spend this weekend floating in a kiddie pool. I can't believe July is almost over. This was a great week for new music, and I'm psyched to share all of these tracks with you. I hope you'll think about listening to this playlist while floating in your own kiddie pool (or real pool, or community pool, I don't want to make any assumptions about your pool situation).
There's a Spotify playlist at the end for your listening convenience, and feel free to share your own favorite cuts / compliments / complaints from this week in the comments. Let's go:
The Chemical Brothers, "Wide Open": The Chemical Brothers are over 20 years into their career at this point, and they're still churning out vital, emotive electronic music with ease. That's quite an accomplishment given the genre's tendency to mutate. The Beck feature "Wide Open" closes Born in the Echoes, their first full-length in half a decade, and it's exactly the kind of song you'd expect given the veteran status of the artists involved: still propulsive, but rendered soft and reflective by time.
Empress Of, "Kitty Kat": I hadn't spent much time with the music of Lorely Rodriguez, the woman who records as Empress Of, before "Kitty Kat" knocked me on my butt. This is an intense piece of songwriting, dense with brutal, gritty synth blasts and a pleading, desperate vocal take from Rodriguez — and it's a far cry from the glittering chillwave she was making a few years ago. It's also the lead single from her debut album, Me, which is due for release September 11th. I'm keeping my ears out for that record after hearing this.
Future ft. Drake, "Where Ya At": Our own Micah Singleton reviewed Future's monstrous DS2 earlier this week, and this is my favorite song on it: no frills, no gurgled alien croaks or lovelorn hooting, no spikes protruding from the beat, just two skilled and charismatic rappers asking where the hell you were before they were famous. Have you forgotten? No new friends! I love when Drake hops on tracks and tries to mirror the parent artist's flow; it was entertaining on "Versace," it was entertaining on "My Way," it's entertaining here. (And yes, Drake is on this list every other week, I know — that's because he's one of the biggest stars in the world and worms his way into a disproportionate amount of good music. I will not apologize.)
Jason Isbell, "Flagship": It's time for something a little more sentimental. I love this cut from Isbell's fine new record Something More than Free, and I think of it as a cousin to a song I highlighted a few weeks ago, Kacey Musgraves' wonderful "Late to the Party": simple and sweet, drunk on love and companionship, committed to keeping a flame alive. Isbell is an incredible lyricist, spinning out small, gorgeous pieces of imagery and heartfelt bits of dialogue in equal measure.
Kurt Vile, "Pretty Pimpin'": The patron saint of rooftop barbecues and hammock naps has returned! Vile's new album b'lieve i'm goin down... is set for release on September 25th, and this is the first single. It's not much of a sonic departure for him — expect loping guitar lines, shambling percussion, lyrics drawled off the back of a napkin at your local diner — but it's more surreal than much of his earlier work. Vile wakes up and looks in the mirror, only to find a stranger staring back at him, and he has to keep yanking himself back into reality with routine tasks. When he catches the stranger-Vile wearing his clothes, he can't help but acknowledge he looks "pretty pimpin'." Just typing that plot summary made me feel more relaxed.
Ratatat, "Abrasive": This single from the new Magnifique is rich in melody and synth frippery, almost to the point of decadence — spending a few minutes with it feels like eating multiple desserts in one sitting. Ratatat is a Brooklyn band, but "Abrasive" feels like some lost B-side from Daft Punk's Alive 2007 or a track on a rare Justice EP. The mix of sounds, the playfulness, the generosity: it all scans as part of the French electronic school to me, which is a real compliment from this listener.
Rustie, "Big Catzz": A piece of behind-the-scenes insight for you: I was thinking about putting a different Chemical Brothers song on here, one called "Just Bang," for the sole purpose of making a long and terrible joke about how sometimes you need a song that... just... bangs. And then I heard "Big Catzz" and realized I could express a similar sentiment in writing about this song, which is going to spit stompy, synthy hellfire out of your speakers as soon as you click play. For someone who thinks "Slasherr" is the high water mark of Rustie's career to date, this is catnip. Play this one loud.
Steve Hauschildt, "Where All Is Fled": Is it just me, or are there more major shifts between songs than usual in this week's column? We've veered from nihilistic, moody rap to lovestruck country and from relaxed, genial rock to gaudy electro-funk — let's change course once more. Steve Hauschildt used to be part of Emeralds, an American trio that made gorgeous, minimal ambient / electronic music. Working on his own since the band's split, he's released two strong LPs and a lengthy compilation, all of which look to the stars and the earth for inspiration. "Where All Is Fled" is the title track from his upcoming fifth full-length, and it's a nice introduction to his cosmic, contemplative work.
Wilco, "Random Name Generator": These alt-rock titans plopped their new album, Star Wars — and that's funnier than any dad joke any of us are ever going to make, so let's not even bother — on the internet last week without any notice whatsoever. I saw them play the whole thing live last Friday night in Chicago, and this song was a clear standout: a little glammy, caught between the band's jammier instincts and Jeff Tweedy's natural, nervous energy, packing teeth in those guitar leads. There's still plenty of life left in Wilco.
2 Chainz, "Watch Out": 2 Chainz has one of the best voices in rap, and here he's coasting over a beat that knows to stay out of his way. He's effortlessly stunting on "Watch Out," rolling out quality punchlines faster than you can say "incremental Chrome updates." (The Verge is a tech site.) With that said, I would listen to 2 Chainz rapping a month's worth of detailed patch notes over this beat. There are some musical ideas that are pleasurable to their core, and this person on this kind of track is one of them.
Here's this week's playlist — have an awesome weekend, and I'll see you again soon.