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 glad you're taking a break from following the Drake / Meek Mill beef to spend some time with me. This is a diss track-free zone! I love a fine musical spat, don't get me wrong — I just want to give some shine to some of the non-juicy tracks made available this week.
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:
Ashley Monroe, "If Love Was Fair":
I can't get enough of Ashley Monroe's new album, The Blade. She's a cutting and emotionally intelligent writer, and the album's sound is warm and curious without straying too far from tradition. "If Love Was Fair" hews closer to a golden, breezy strain of AM radio rock than pure, rootsy country, and it's heartbreaking for its frankness and resignation. Something about the sound of this song reminds me of One Direction's "Fireproof," actually — we'll get to them later.
Carly Rae Jepsen, "Warm Blood":
Bow down, readers: the queen Carly Slay Jepsen is roaring back to life. Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij co-wrote and produced "Warm Blood," the latest in a series of great singles cut from Jepsen's upcoming Emotion. It doesn't sound much like that band, but it doesn't sound much like "Call Me Maybe," either: it's tipsy, lusty, nocturnal, sitting on the edge of control. This is pop music for the half-remembered ride home.
Disclosure ft. Sam Smith, "Omen":
I wrote about this one when it was released at the start of the week, and I've kept coming back to it since. I love hearing Smith operate within dance music, where he's restrained by beats and his richness is put to work complementing sleek, silvery arrangements. Less wailing over goopy pop-soul and more of this, please! There's nothing revelatory about Disclosure in 2015 — there wasn't in 2012 either — but they're ruthless in their competence. You could buy a shirt to this song, right? (That's a compliment, I swear.)
Ducktails, "Surreal Exposure":
When he's not churning out sparkling guitar leads as a member of Real Estate, Matt Mondanile writes prim, light psych-pop and releases it with another band, Ducktails. St. Catherine is the band's fifth album, and something about it reminds me of the music that plays while you're building and buying stuff for your houses in The Sims. On "Surreal Exposure," it's that secondary melody — I think it's a harpsichord? — lurking behind Mondanile's vocals and guitar line. If you're reading this, Matt, I have a favor to ask: record this in Simlish? Please? I'll wait to hear from you. (Until then, sool sool.)
Duke Dumont, "Ocean Drive":
British producer Duke Dumont has a new EP coming out in October, Blasé Boys Club Part 1, and "Ocean Drive" is its first single. Dumont was a major part of the UK's great recent pop-house wave, a charge led by Disclosure singles like the one above, and he ended up nailing three straight top-two hits across 2013 and 2014. There's something different about "Ocean Drive": it's funkier, darker, built to have sharper edges. I think it's a great look for Dumont, and it's smart to step away from a sound that's become oversaturated.
New Order, "Restless":
These post-punk titans are readying Music Complete, their 10th studio album and first without bassist Peter Hook, for a September release. "Restless" is its first single, and it's just fine — lacking the vitality and the momentum that marked every New Order song at the band's peak, sure, but solid given their recent personnel turmoil and the fact they're 35 years into their discography. If I'm still churning out half-decent weekly roundups in 2050, I hope you'll all recognize the magnitude of that accomplishment like I'm doing now (though I hope it's a passion project at that point).
One Direction, "Drag Me Down":
I wrote a bunch about this one this morning, so I'll keep it short here. I'm having a great time pretending the boys are all singing this song to each other, trying to console each other in the wake of Zayn's departure. "Chin up, lads! We're gonna get through this! No one's gonna drag us down! Yeah, that's the spirit!" Cut to Zayn, smirking and listening to Justified on repeat... ooh, I'm getting chills just thinking about it. Bring on his "Cry Me a River"!
PARTYNEXTDOOR, "Kehlani's Freestyle":
Actually, scratch that — I hope Zayn's listening to this. PND's probably the least commercial member of the OVO stable, but he has an impeccable grasp on their house aesthetic at this point. He's thirsty to the point where it's pitiful, he's drinking and smoking enough to feel bad about it, he's torn between braggadocio and vulnerability. Drake might've blazed the trail, but PND's leaving fresh tracks. "Who did you love that I gotta shake hands with? / Who did you love that I gotta make plans with?" I want him to get over himself, but it sounds so good.
Let's close things out with two princes — no, not "Two Princes," two Princes. (I'll stop.) None of us can figure out Prince's streaming strategy, but we can agree that this new song is great: lively, lean, and self-referential without becoming cloying or too clever by half. I don't mind that Prince is leaning on past glories at this point, because he has a ton of them. And it's hard to make two finer choices for a sonic hat-tip than "Kiss" and "Sexy Dancer," two songs I can't link because of his asinine video policy. Oh, my enigmatic purple dove! My confusing, diminutive genius! Thanks for giving us this one.
Prince Royce, "Handcuffs":
Prince Royce is a Spanish-language superstar who rose to prominence making bachata, a sensual, guitar-driven subgenre of Latin pop. Double Vision is his first English full-length and fourth album overall, and it's been a joy to spend time with it. Royce is a skilled vocalist, gentle and agile without compromising on power or grit. There's plenty worth highlighting on the album — Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez pop up on "Back It Up," and it's the best kind of effervescent summer jam — but I picked "Handcuffs" because it does a few difficult things well. It fuses tender, romantic crooning and libidinous, dubby club fare, and it does so without a shred of awkwardness. That's a sign of impressive craftsmanship.
Here's this week's playlist — have an awesome weekend, and I'll see you again soon.