Welcome back to The Verge’s weekly musical roundup. I’m Jamieson, I’m still your host, and this was another exciting, unpredictable week in the world of music news. Beyoncé is back! Congress is making fun of Coldplay! Kanye West threw a listening party in Madison Square Garden for an album that could be released at any minute! There’s plenty of good music on the margins, and this is the place to hear it. (And if you’re just here to watch the "Formation" video again, that’s okay too.)
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The political implications of Beyoncé’s new single have been discussed at length in every corner of the internet — here are two worthy discussions — so I’m going to focus on the sound. "Formation" is proof that Beyoncé isn’t just one of the best singers working: she’s one of the best rappers, too, and every word of the song rumbles with intention and intensity. It follows in the footsteps of "Flawless" and "7/11," but it covers more ground than either of those songs. The verses are more stark, and the chorus is catchier. When the horns finally bloom two minutes in, you’re ready to jump out of your seat. It’s an exciting, memorable piece of music. It’s nice to have Beyoncé back!
Bon Iver, "Haven, Mass":
It feels right that a piece of Bon Iver music is being unearthed just as a new Kanye West album is rearing its head. (Unfortunately, Justin Vernon doesn’t seem to have a place on it this time.) Vernon tweeted that "Haven, Mass" just missed the cut for 2011’s Bon Iver, Bon Iver, and it has that album’s woodsy density and elliptical lyricism. Vernon’s also alluded to the band’s extended hiatus finally ending soon, and he’s recording new music. If we’re lucky, 2016 could see the first new Bon Iver release in half a decade. (I’m just crossing my fingers for a higher-quality version of this song.)
DIIV, "Healthy Moon":
This is my favorite song on DIIV’s decent new album Is the Is Are, an intricate and catchy bit of guitar-pop that’s layered like a quality lasagna. It’s a pleasure to watch the song come together piece by piece in the live version above. I could watch Zachary Cole Smith and Andrew Bailey lay those melodic lines down for hours.
GoGo Penguin, "Smarra":
British trio GoGo Penguin makes noodly, cerebral electro-jazz, and they released their new album Man Made Object last week. It’s tough to pick a standout track because the album feels like a single, compelling piece, but "Smarra" is a worthy candidate: it races forward on a gurgling bass line and skittering, uneasy percussion, dragging you forward and moving a little faster than feels comfortable.
James Blake, "Modern Soul":
James Blake is still working on Radio Silence, the LP that’ll eventually follow up 2013’s Overgrown. (It’s supposed to feature both Justin Vernon and Kanye West. So many connections in this week’s column!) He released "Modern Soul" as part of his BBC 1 radio show on Thursday afternoon, and it’s hard to think of a better phrase to describe Blake’s sound. He warbles and croons over processed piano chords, and sounds drift in and out of frame like they’re wandering through a museum’s hallways. Let’s hope we hear more about Radio Silence soon.
Junior Boys, "Baby Give Up On It":
Junior Boys’ comeback effort Big Black Coat was finally released last week, and "Baby Give Up On It" is an album track that can stand alongside singles like the title track and "Over It." Like many of the band’s best songs, it’s caught somewhere between the bedroom and the dance floor: it’ll get you to wiggle in your seat if you can keep yourself from picking out the intricate sonic detailing.
KING, "In the Meantime":
"In the Meantime" might be the oldest song I’ve ever featured in this space. It was originally released as a single back in 2013, but it deserves renewed attention as one of the standouts on KING’s subtle, spacey new LP We Are King. If you like the vibe-heavy R&B and soul of artists like Jessie Ware and Miguel, you should definitely check this album out. It’s perfect for lazy weekend mornings and naps in the sun. (If you live somewhere warm enough for naps in the sun in February, you should know I’m extremely jealous.)
Majid Jordan, "Make It Work":
"Make It Work" is one of the more propulsive songs on Majid Jordan’s slow, seductive self-titled debut, which came out last week. This is the kind of song you turn to when a night at the club feels like the only cure for romantic malaise, and the OVO duo’s definitely spent a few nights shaking out their heartbreak somewhere in Toronto’s Entertainment District.
nonkeen, "Ceramic People":
Like the GoGo Penguin track posted above, nonkeen’s "Ceramic People" is slippery, jazzy, and rhythm-centric. Contemporary classical composer Nils Frahm pieced the album together alongside two childhood friends, and they used recordings dating back to the mid-’90s as bases for tracks that became dense, weedy, and cerebral. If "Ceramic People" hits the spot for you, the rest of the album is worth your time.
Aaron Maine’s new album as Porches is a liquid, emotional collection of dance-pop, and "Underwater" is its beguiling opener. If this song came out in 2009, it could’ve become a chillwave standard without a second thought, and it holds up in 2016 thanks to Maine’s great ear for tone — these are some juicy, thick synth lines — and ease with a groove. This is the kind of song that fits a lonely walk home and a July pool party equally well, and that’s a rare kind of versatility.
Here’s the running This Is Your Next Jam playlist — have a great weekend!