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 hope you've all enjoyed reading the site during this year's Hack Week! This post isn't going to change too much, but I'm going to close out my own personal Hack Week with one bonus feature: a tricky Most Important Songs of the Week quiz. It's embedded below all of this week's write-ups, and I'd love to hear what you thought (and how you did!) in the comments. As per usual, there's a Spotify playlist at the end for your listening convenience, and you're also welcome to share your own favorite cuts, comments, and complaints. Let's go:
"Gibraltar" is the second song released from No No No, Beirut's upcoming fourth full-length. Bandleader Zach Condon recorded the album in the wake of a divorce and major breakdown, the kind of circumstances that might lead you to expect something a little more somber. You won't find it here: "Gibraltar" is all bright piano melody and beach-bound percussion, and it's a little bit sunnier than similar songs on 2011's The Rip Tide. I loved that album, which remains a beacon of simplicity and emotional frankness — and I'm hoping that No No No can meet the lofty bar it set.
Deafheaven, "Brought to the Water":
If "Gibraltar" is the sound of a bittersweet beach visit in early autumn, then listening to "Brought to the Water" is like being forcibly dragged and dangled over the edge of a seaside cliff on a stormy day. It's the first single from Deafheaven's upcoming New Bermuda, their follow-up to 2013's feted folk-metal-shoegaze odyssey Sunbather, and it's a woolly beast. Throat-shedding shrieking, heavy-handed riffage, insane volume and density: it's all par for the course here. I know it's a big ask, but make sure to listen all the way through to roughly 7:40 — you're in for a lovely surprise.
Deerhunter might be the best American rock band of the last decade, and I'm thrilled to have them back. "Snakeskin" is the first single from their seventh studio album, Fading Frontier, and it doesn't sound like any song they've made before; it's funky, sexy, and catchy without throwing any of the band's usual wrenches. It's tough to embrace melody and directness without mortgaging the qualities that define you — in Deerhunter's case, that's a sense of queerness and alienation that pervades all of their work — but I think the band's managed it with "Snakeskin." The video's worthy, too, if only for frontman Bradford Cox's incredible overalls and a star turn from his dog Faulkner.
Dungen, "Franks Kaktus":
Proggy Swedish forest spirits Dungen are releasing their first album in half a decade, Allas Sak, on September 25th. "Franks Kaktus" could've been just another piece of psychedelic, woodsy frippery, but the band must've given Ron Burgundy carte blanche to stampede all over the song with a jazz flute like it's just another night at Tino's. It's absurd, silly, and strangely exciting. More jazz flute, please!
FKA twigs, "in time":
This is the finest piece of music included in twigs' new EP / conceptual video piece M3LL155X, an alien, mutating hunk of R&B that's also a thoughtful reflection on fighting to keep a relationship vital. twigs sounds more direct and biting here than on anything on LP1, radiating anger and frustration and fatigue over the connection she's trying to maintain. There aren't many artists working who can flit back and forth between the avant-garde and the mainstream with this kind of deftness.
Grace Potter, "Your Girl":
I can't get enough of this highlight from Potter's new solo record, Midnight — it's basically a pop-soul version of Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend," albeit one with the slightest dash of "I Kissed a Girl" or "Cool for the Summer." But while Robyn was just trying to help her lover let his old girlfriend down easy, Potter can't get her out of her brain. She's a powerful, magnetic vocalist, and this is a worthy showcase for her considerable pipes.
Låpsley, "Hurt Me":
This is a pretty standard piece of downcast electro-pop, but it's elevated to another level by Låpsley's vocal performance. Her voice is deeper and richer than I thought it was going to be — there are a lot of vocalists who would choose to float over an arrangement like this, but she gets right in the mud and leans on the heartbreak. It's a smart choice, one that sets her apart from the hordes of young musicians making similar music.
Nick Jonas, "Levels":
If you thought Nick Jonas was primed for a disappearing act after "Jealous" broke last year, I have news for you: he's not going anywhere if he keeps releasing songs this good. I described this to a few co-workers as "Robin Thicke meets 'Can't Feel My Face' meets 'You Oughta Know,'" and I'll stand by that: listen for the fraternal hollering, the thudding low end, the melody that has to be cribbed from Alanis. (I wonder if she'll ask for a credit?) This might be blasphemy to some of you, but I'd take this over Avicii's "Levels" in a millisecond.
ODESZA feat. Little Dragon, "Light":
I haven't listened to much ODESZA, but I like this song a lot — the light in question is ambient rather than star-based, the kind you see when you look up at the night sky in the city, an orange-pink-grey soup. Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano is one of my favorite working guest vocalists: she's distinctive without being overpowering, and she can adapt without losing her character. This is another winning turn.
Panda Bear, "No Mans Land":
Panda Bear surprise released his Crosswords EP earlier this week, a short follow-up to this year's full-length Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. It's not much of a change from the music contained within the latter, and that's just fine; I get the feeling he could churn out playful little slices of psych-pop in his sleep at this point. "No Mans Land" is another cocktail of dubby rhythm, thick vocal harmony, and nearly indecipherable lyrics; if I close my eyes I can see the beaches and sunsets of Panda's adopted Portuguese home. It has that kind of simple, easy beauty.
Here's this week's playlist:
And here's the quiz I mentioned above. Best of luck, and have an awesome weekend!