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 be back after taking last week off. (Because of that break, this roundup will include music from the last two weeks.) Have you checked out our massive fall music guide yet? I’m sure selections from every album on the list will make their way to this space by the end of the year.
There’s a big lump of easy-going, tuneful indie rock at the top of this week’s playlist, and that wasn’t intentional — sometimes the alphabet shakes out a certain way and yields an interesting clump of songs or reveals a pattern. I usually find myself turning to this kind of music with fall on the horizon. There’s something about light jackets and stiff breezes that lends itself to winsome guitar melodies, you know? Maybe it’s just the power of suggestion, but it feels real to me.
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, thoughts, and complaints in the comments. Let's go:
Beirut, "August Holland":
I’m still spending some quality time with Beirut’s new album No No No, and "August Holland" is emerging as a favorite. It’s got more than a little in common with album opener "Gibraltar": swooning romanticism, a sonorous vocal performance by Zach Condon, and a fully realized arrangement. I can’t say the same for the rest of the record, which tends toward the minimal — or underbaked, if you’re feeling less charitable. Nevertheless, "August Holland" is a lovely song, one I’d be happy to slot alongside Condon’s best.
Last month, Deerhunter shared their funky first single "Snakeskin" off their upcoming LP Fading Frontier. Here’s another cut as we inch toward the album's release. "Breaker" is the sound of the album at its most placid. Bradford Cox & co. have been churning out dreamy, off-kilter pop songs like this for almost a decade now, and this wouldn’t have felt out of place on any record from Cryptograms to Halcyon Digest. But those records were nervier, a little more tense — "Breaker" sounds like a chill sitch come to life.
It can be hard to understand why people make such a big deal about DIIV. The band’s 2012 debut Oshin was a serviceable collection of murky guitar-pop songs, but it certainly wasn’t groundbreaking, and its members have spent the three years since the album’s release getting into trouble with the law and grappling with addiction. "Dopamine" is the first single from the upcoming Is the Is Are (due out in October), and it’s a reminder of the band’s potential, weaving simple melodies and familiar tones into a song that feels like it’s been around forever.
Duran Duran, "Danceophobia":
This is a frothy club cut elevated to another level by a stroke of genius: the deployment of none other than Lindsay Lohan (!) as some kind of dancefloor emergency physician. Her voice roughs up the song a bit — she’s smoky and husky, like she’s actually been pulling the night shift in Ibiza with a stethoscope for the last decade — but it’s okay to acknowledge this works because it’s delightfully, unabashedly silly. It’s her best single since "Rumors!"
Ellie Goulding, "On My Mind":
Ellie Goulding is releasing Delirium, her third album, this November; "On My Mind" is its lead single, one co-written by pop savants Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, and Ilya Salmanzadeh. That happens to be same the team behind Goulding’s Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack hit "Love Me Like You Do." I’m not crazy about "On My Mind" — I prefer Goulding in what I’d call "gossamer mode" compared to this song’s harder edges — but the titular hook is devastating, a snappy, staccato vocal fragment that’s already lodged in my brain.
Empress Of, "Threat":
I’ve spent a lot of time this week listening to Lorely Rodriguez’ full-length debut as Empress Of, Me — it’s a diverse, exciting collection of off-kilter pop music. "Threat" is its penultimate track, a riotous, sharp take on disco that captures the moment when your past is suddenly rendered vicious. Rodriguez is committed to moving forward, and you can hear that in her music, too: it’s pushing against boundaries, expanding pop’s possibilities in its own small way.
Lady Gaga, "Til It Happens to You":
This is Lady Gaga’s first solo single since 2013’s ambitious, scattershot Artpop, and it captures her at her most somber and operatic. "Til It Happens to You" was written with power ballad master Diane Warren for The Hunting Ground, a documentary about rape on American college campuses, and as such it’s concerned with the impacts of trauma and the disconnection it can foster. Gaga’s voice is robust, but the arrangement is heavy-handed; the bombast overshadows the song’s message where a lighter touch might’ve highlighted it.
Low, "No End":
Rock veterans Low have just released their 11th studio album, Ones and Sixes, and this is the best song it has to offer: crunchy, romantic, and streaked with bleary harmony. Something neat happens when bands stay together forever, even if they leave their prime far behind: they start to write songs that couldn’t exist without a wealth of experience. "No End" is one of those songs, concise and intimate.
Naughty Boy ft. Beyoncé & Arrow Benjamin, "Runnin’ (Lose It All)":
I could take or leave the weepy first half of Beyoncé’s appearance here — if I want to hear her in imperious, full-throated mode, I’ll just go listen to "1+1," still her finest ballad — but it’s a total thrill to hear her climbing a staircase over a speedy, energetic breakbeat. And it’s fascinating to hear her played against another powerful singer, too, because that doesn’t happen very often. Her interplay with Arrow Benjamin livens up the song’s back third. Someone fetch the Queen more drum and bass tracks!
Young Thug, "Best Friend":
There are plenty of highlights to choose from on Slime Season, Young Thug’s new mixtape — it’s an hour of music that keeps him at hip-hop’s vanguard, thrilling and weird and idiosyncratic. But "Best Friend" is a fine place to start, and putting it here gives me an excuse to watch its insane video. Thug walks in on himself hooking up with a female version of… himself? There are multiple Thugs frolicking in a forest and fighting in a car? He serves his own head like it’s a Thanksgiving turkey while in whiteface? I can’t recommend it highly enough, and the accompanying music is just as strange and counterintuitive.
Here’s this week’s playlist — have an awesome weekend.