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 happy to bring you another week's worth of fine tracks. The internet's still spilling over with tons of summery cuts, hopefully some of them you'll be hearing for the first time here.
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:
Albert Hammond, Jr., "Razors Edge"
Here's an incontrovertible fact for you: Albert Hammond, Jr. has had the best solo career of any member of The Strokes by a country mile. He works with the same basic toolbox — those gleaming, sharp riffs, quick pace, Day-Glo guitar melodies — but adds a dash of anxiety and a sprinkle of wit. "Razors Edge" is an absolute romp, and at the very least it's the best Strokes-affiliated song since Angles. I'm willing to argue it's the best since... the last time AHJ topped the band on his own, back in 2008. Spare a moment for "GfC."
Autre Ne Veut, "World War Pt. 2"
Arthur Ashin registered an iconic moment in the proud history of cerebral white men paying tribute to Prince with "Play by Play," the overwrought, wracking highlight of 2013's Anxiety. ("I just called you up to get that play by play" is right up there with "Here's my number / so call me maybe" and "I know when that hotline bling / that can only mean one thing" in the annals of recent lyrics about making phone calls.) "World War Pt. 2" is the first single from the upcoming Age of Transparency. It doesn't have the same scale as "Play by Play," but it's just as intimate and idiosyncratic.
Beach Slang, "Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas"
I have one problem with this Beach Slang song, which is an otherwise vital and piercing and urgent piece of rock music. There's some piece of sound in the background that sounds exactly like a Slack notification, and every time I hear it I'm driven to check all of my chats and windows only to find them empty. This is like some sort of Sisyphean hell for a music critic: an eternity spent listening to a song you like and being interrupted by phantom messages from your co-workers and friends. (I need help.) I hope your listening experience is untainted.
I'm still trying to wrap my head around this beguiling, bubbling piece of art-pop from the former Dirty Projector, whose debut full-length is coming out later this month. It's like a transmission from some secret garden, one you can feel but can't see; it makes me want to drink green tea, and I'm Team Coffee forever. If you're looking to relax after a long week at the office, this might help.
EL VY, "Return to the Moon"
I like The National as much as any music fan who came of age reading Pitchfork in the mid-'00s, but I have to be in a specific mood to listen to them. It's not every night I end up sitting on the couch drinking red wine and feeling dour, you know? EL VY is the new project from the band's lyricist / vocalist, Matt Berninger, and indie rock vet Brent Knopf, and it's just upbeat and spiky enough to fit into any evening. There's still plenty of Alligator DNA in there, but you're not going to bum everyone out if you throw this onto a porch party playlist.
Jamie Woon, "Sharpness"
Jamie Woon released one excellent single and album — that's "Night Air" and Mirrorwriting, respectively — early this decade before dropping off the face of the planet, and it's a pleasure to have him back. He's a gentle, deft vocalist, and a savvy songwriter to boot. (Mirrorwriting was ahead of its time, coming two years ahead of the subtle, emotive electro-pop wave that swept the UK.) "Sharpness" isn't as innovative, but it's grown and sexy and irresistible — the kind of music Robin Thicke would give his left foot to write and sing again. Bring on the Woonaissance!
Lianne La Havas, "Green & Gold"
I can't get enough of Lianne La Havas' second album, Blood — it's personable, placid pop-soul, the sort of thing I'd love to hear from Alicia Keys if she ever manages to rediscover her chill and subtlety again. "Green & Gold" is a song about family, about heritage, about searching and finding yourself in the world and people around you. It's like a miniaturized musical origin story, and when I listen to it I feel like I'm meeting someone new — a thoughtful and interesting friend.
Martin Courtney, "Vestiges"
After giving some shine to Courtney's Real Estate bandmate last week, I almost feel obliged to give his debut solo single a moment. It helps that the song is a total joy, languid and suburban and reflective. It might not be a great fit in Build Mode — Ducktails has the Simlish corner on lock, if you recall — but it'll sound lovely on a walk by your old high school while you're visiting your parents.
Small Black, "Boys Life"
Small Black just escaped chillwave's event horizon at the start of the decade, and they've kept on churning out synth-pop and alt-R&B ever since. "Boys Life" is my favorite thing they've ever done, colorful and propulsive. I might not remember this song in six months — hey, just being honest! — but it's going to sound great outside during these last few weeks of summer.
Titus Andronicus, "Fired Up"
And if you want something with a little more permanence — something more than a summer trifle — here's Titus Andronicus, burning down the New Jersey Turnpike and leaving destruction in their wake. There's plenty of music worth highlighting on The Most Lamentable Tragedy, which I reviewed last week, but this is the song I can't shake. There's so much detail, intensity, and passion jammed into this thing: Owen Pallett's string arrangement, Patrick Stickles' roaring vocal take, the layers of chanting and chimes and stuff that fuels the song's climax. I always leave it feeling exhausted and inspired, the same way I do when I finish the album as a whole. It'll prepare you for a weekend of revelry, I promise.
Here's this week's playlist — enjoy!