Welcome back to The Verge’s weekly musical roundup. I’m Jamieson, I’m still your host, and I have some exciting news: we’re changing our name and getting official.
As of this week, this column’s going to be called This Is Your Next Jam. This isn’t a space for authoritative declarations about which songs are and aren’t important — instead, it’s a selection of brand new music I like that just might worm its way into your regular rotation.
We’re also excited to announce that The Verge is partnering with Spotify as an official curator. That means there’s going to be one massive, running This Is Your Next Jam playing under the site’s account, thisistheverge, and it will be updated each week with new music. Go check it out now to see the last three months’ worth of weekly columns, and check out some great music you might’ve missed.
Our new playlist is embedded at the bottom for your listening convenience, and you're also welcome to share your own favorite cuts in the comments. Let's go:
Baio, "Sister of Pearl":
When Chris Baio isn’t playing bass in Vampire Weekend, he makes bright, beachy pop music on his own as Baio. "Sister of Pearl" is a single from his debut solo full-length album, The Names, and it’s a throwback to early Vampire Weekend songs like "Walcott" that were lightweight and sunlit. Baio doesn’t have Ezra Koenig’s vocal skill or agility, but he sounds confident and romantic when he dips into the lower end of his range. This’ll make for a fine snack while you wait for the band’s follow-up to Modern Vampires of the City.
Floating Points, "Nespole":
This is the second single cut from Sam Shepherd’s upcoming debut Elaenia, and like predecessor "Silhouettes (I, II, III)," it exists on its own strange plane somewhere between jazz, classical, and electronic music. There’s no real sense of momentum to "Nespole," even when Shepherd finally introduces a beat halfway through the song. But there are waves and fragments of melody that bubble, bloom, and recede over an off-kilter, synthesized horn riff, which makes it hard to find your footing.
Keith Richards, "Illusion":
I wasn’t expecting to fall for this cut from Richards’ new solo album Crosseyed Heart, his first in 23 years, but it sunk its teeth into me. It’s simple, sensual, and smoky, and Richards and Norah Jones have palpable chemistry as duet partners; his guitar is like a third party lurking on the song’s periphery, chipping in with whispers and one-liners. I guess I shouldn’t take rock’s septuagenarians for granted.
Joanna Newsom, "Leaving the City":
"Leaving the City" has harder edges than a lot of Joanna Newsom songs: with stormy electric guitar riffs and complex, interlocking rhythms, its middle section is the closest Newsom has ever gotten to prog-rock. It doesn’t sound much like the other song released from Divers, "Sapokanikan," but a pattern is emerging nonetheless: Newsom is writing simple and relatively concise songs that morph into more complicated, thorny beasts about halfway through. We’ll find out if this holds true in just under a month.
Lana Del Rey, "Salvatore":
Lana’s appeared in this space several times with other singles from Honeymoon, and she’s nothing if not consistent when it comes to aesthetics, so I’ll spare you a detailed sonic description here. Let me ask you this: are you interested in hearing Lana rhyme "cacciatore" and "limousines" with "ciao, amore" and "soft ice cream," respectively? Would you believe that this is the best James Bond theme song in a column that actually contains a real James Bond theme song? If the answer to either question is yes, "Salvatore" is worth your time.
Ought, "Passionate Turn":
Ought established themselves as one of the most exciting young rock bands working with their 2014 LP More Than Any Other Day, and they’ve just released their follow-up, Sun Coming Down. "Passionate Turn" is a great introduction to what the band does well: it’s intense and sardonic in spots, and surprisingly raw in others. It sounds like stumbling into an epiphany during a long, inebriated winter walk home — or that’s what I hear when frontman Tim Darcy bellows, "But I have given up love!"
Ryan Adams, "All You Had to Do Was Stay":
Unless you’ve been living under a rock — in which case I’m flattered you came to read this column first — you’re familiar with Ryan Adams’ 1989, his full-length reinterpretation of the world-beating Taylor Swift record released last year. Adams’ version is scattershot, and that’s not a surprise — Adams has built a career on proudly scattershot rock records, after all — but a few of his takes on Swift’s skeletons are winners, and this is one of them. His guitar melodies are lustrous, his vocal performance retains her original urgency, and the song ends up sounding like it could soundtrack the climax of an ‘80s teen movie.
Sam Smith, "Writing’s on the Wall":
I’m torn over "Writing’s On the Wall," Sam Smith’s theme song for the upcoming Spectre. I like the pompous arrangement because it gives Smith something to fight against with that rich voice of his — it turns the song into an arms race, gives it some drama. But there’s no sense of direction here. Smith howls and horns boom, but there’s none of the urgency of "Skyfall" or even "Die Another Day," much less classic Bond themes like "Goldfinger." At the very least, we can agree it doesn’t compare to anything on The Writing’s on the Wall. Maybe Destiny’s Child can reunite for the next Bond theme?
Sia and indie pop songsmith Tobias Jesso Jr. apparently wrote this for Adele and offered it to Rihanna before Sia ended up recording it herself, and it’s fascinating to imagine the song ending up in their hands. She doesn’t have the presence or personality of either singer, but she makes up for it with sheer force; the note she hit and sustained at the end of the breakdown knocked me back into my seat like a gust of wind. I’m okay with her keeping it for herself.
Skylar Spence, "All I Want":
Ryan DeRobertis’ first album as Skylar Spence is a lovely, lightweight disco-pop collection, one mostly reliant on creative sampling and his thin, genial voice. "All I Want" is an instrumental track tucked into the album’s back half, one that lives in a nebulous space between pop, hip-hop, and disco. I can imagine DeRobertis turning this into a winsome pop song for himself or an exciting beat for a curious rapper, and it’s rare to hear that kind of flexibility in a song. He gives you the tools — it’s up to you to decide where "All I Want" takes you.
Here’s the running This Is Your Next Jam playlist — have an awesome weekend!