Welcome back to The Verge’s weekly musical roundup. I’m Jamieson, I’m still your host, and I’m bringing you the new year’s first batch of jams from the cramped, sweaty confines of The Verge’s home at CES.
I wouldn’t call the listening environment here in Las Vegas "optimal" — most of my music intake this week has been a wash of inescapable Justin Bieber singles over the din of the show floor — but there’s no amount of gadgets that can slow new music down. Remember to subscribe to our Spotify playlist if you haven’t already — it’s updated weekly! Let’s go:
Brandy, "Beggin & Pleadin"
Brandy’s first piece of solo music since 2012’s fine LP Two Eleven is "Beggin & Pleadin," a grainy, lusty bit of blues that perfectly suits her rusty alto. If you haven’t listened to much of her music since "What About Us" — or "The Boy Is Mine," for that matter — this one might take you by surprise. R&B doesn’t get much more rough or wounded.
Eleanor Friedberger, "Sweetest Girl"
The newest single from Eleanor Friedberger’s upcoming New View hangs on a typically piercing couplet: "Sweet girl with the broken heart / Stop crying so I won’t start." Friedberger has a duet partner lurking in the back of the mix, echoing that sentence; it’s unclear whether Friedberger’s comforting a friend or feeling the sting of rejection herself. It’s affecting either way.
Matt Kivel, "Violets"
The Los Angeles-based musician Matt Kivel makes woolly, warm folk, and he’s releasing a new album called Janus on February 5th. "Violets" is the newest track Kivel’s cut from the LP, and it’s defined by a lead guitar line that sounds just like the ones Matt Mondanile unspools as part of Real Estate. The bright melody belies a lyric that’s pretty dark: it’s inspired by Kivel’s experiences watching graphic true crime stories.
Mind Enterprises, "Girlfriend"
Andrea Tirone is releasing his debut LP as Mind Enterprises on February 5th. I didn’t have the album on my radar until a few days ago, but I’ve fallen fast for "Girlfriend." It’s a piece of gentle disco-pop that morphs into something a little more sinister in its final minute. I’m looking forward to hearing more of Tirone’s work in a few weeks.
Nap Eyes, "Roll It"
Canadian foursome Nap Eyes exists within a proud tradition of shambling, wordy rock bands, one that stretches back nearly half a century to the urban fables of The Velvet Underground and The Modern Lovers. The band’s new LP Thought Rock Fish Scale is hitting shelves in February, and it’s full of songs like "Roll It": wistful, reedy, and recorded live to tape.
Rae Sremmurd, "By Chance"
I have room in my life for more dead-eyed, off-key party music in 2016. Produced by Mike Will Made-It, "By Chance" might sound a little melancholy because of the problems fame and fortune are forcing onto the men of Rae Sremmurd. How are you going to hot-box your car when it doesn’t have a roof? SremmLife was one of last year most distinctive, enjoyable rap records, and SremmLife 2’s tracklist is starting on the right foot with this song.
RJD2, "Peace of What"
Producer RJD2 has been churning out lush, curious instrumental hip-hop for well over a decade at this point, and his new album Dame Fortune is coming out on March 25th. He says the album’s influenced by living in Philly and recontextualizing the city’s rich history of soul music, and you can hear that influence on lead single "Peace of What." Songwriter Jordan Brown lends his vocals to the track, singing about trying to find comfort and security "in the land of duck and cover."
The year’s only eight days old, but Savages already has a compelling case for one of the best music videos of 2016. "Adore" is a dramatic, intense song in its own right, but it’s lifted to another level by its accompanying clip. Lead singer Jehnny Beth negotiates the limits of desire while singing right into the camera with an unflinching gaze; the band’s other members are slowly devoured by hands reaching from behind. If you can spare five minutes, this is worth your time.
At this point, Sia has released almost half of This Is Acting in the form of various lead and buzz singles. When they’re as catchy as "Reaper," I can’t complain. Kanye West co-wrote and produced the song, which was pitched to Rihanna before ending up back with Sia, and you can hear a little of him in the tumbling, soulful chorus.
Yeasayer, "I Am Chemistry"
Brooklyn weirdos Yeasayer are releasing their first album in four years, Amen & Goodbye, on April 1st. "I Am Chemistry" is the lead single, and it comes with a video that could be some kind of tour through an alternate-universe Las Vegas desert. Little clay people roam an alien landscape, sprout growths, and dance for each other; I’m not doing the clip justice with that description. It’s not as intense as the Savages video above, sure, but it’s compelling in a totally different way.
Here’s the running This Is Your Next Jam playlist — have an awesome weekend!