Welcome back to The Verge’s weekly musical roundup. I’m Jamieson, I’m still your host, and I’ll confess that I wrote up this week’s entries while dreaming of the barbecued meats and warm temperatures I’m going to enjoy at SXSW next week. This’ll be my first year at Austin’s music, art, and technology bacchanal, and I’m planning on enjoying a ton of concerts and talking to some of my favorite artists. (You’ll have the chance to read about it, of course.)
In the meantime, I’ve queued up some music for the lengthy plane ride from Toronto to Texas: striking art-pop from Anna Meredith and ANOHNI, space disco from Lindstrøm, and a bunch of winning B-sides from Kendrick Lamar.
Remember to subscribe to our Spotify playlist if you haven’t already — it’s updated weekly! Let’s go:
Anna Meredith, "Scrimshaw":
Anna Meredith cut her teeth as a classical musician before plunging headfirst into electronic composition, and her debut album Varmints is the culmination of a few years spent churning out cavernous, foreboding singles and EPs. "Scrimshaw" doesn’t have the straightforward muscle of songs like album opener "Nautilus," but it’s graceful, intricate, and surprisingly ebullient.
Ariana Grande, "Dangerous Woman":
"Dangerous Woman" is a smoky, strange single, one that doesn’t sound much like any of the dance-pop hits Ariana Grande spun off from 2014’s My Everything. (Four of that album’s singles landed somewhere in the US top 10, including "Problem" and "Break Free.") It’s the title track from her upcoming third album, which is being released on May 20th, and she’s going to perform it on Saturday Night Live this weekend. I don’t think Grande’s a great fit for a song like this — I’d rather hear someone like Rihanna working with this plodding arrangement — but I’m still looking forward to hearing her belt it out on Saturday night.
ANOHNI, "Drone Bomb Me":
ANOHNI is making scary, seductive music about problems most of us have a hand in perpetuating. "4 Degrees" took violent climate change imagery — think animals dying of thirst, starvation, and pure heat — and turned it into fodder for parades and rallies, nesting it within a massive Hudson Mohawke arrangement. "Drone Bomb Me" does the same thing with automated warfare, conflating the language of love and families being blown off the planet at the push of a button. "Blow my head off, explode my crystal guts," she wails. "Let me be the one that you choose tonight." The music is majestic and the sentiment is horrifying.
Bat for Lashes, "In God’s House":
It’s been a few weeks since the release of "I Do," and we finally know a little more about Natasha Khan’s new album as Bat for Lashes. It’s called The Bride, it’s being released on July 1st, and it’s a concept album revolving around a woman whose husband-to-be dies in a car accident on the way to their wedding. "In God’s House" is a dreamy, glittering piece of music, one that starts to rot when the bride realizes something terrible has happened to her fiancé. "What’s this I see? Fire?" Khan’s voice sounds incredible here.
Esperanza Spalding, "One":
Esperanza Spalding’s new album Emily’s D+Evolution is a wild, ambitious collection of jazz-funk-rock, one that posits her as an heir to musicians like Miles Davis and Joni Mitchell. (Put it this way: if you can describe their work using the word "fusion," they’re probably somewhere close to this album.) "One" was released as a single last October, and it remains a clear standout. It’s dramatic, chunky, and musically unpredictable.
Julianna Barwick, "Nebula":
Julianna Barwick is going to release a new LP called Will on May 6th, and "Nebula" is its first single. It’s a word that invites you to imagine beauty on a galactic scale, and Barwick’s music can deliver on the promise of your imagination. When I listen to this song, I find myself slowly turning the volume up until it hits a rolling boil. I end up feeling like I’m sitting inside a cocoon. Barwick’s voice can never be loud enough.
Kendrick Lamar, "untitled 06 | 06.30.2014.":
Kendrick Lamar sent the internet into a frenzy last week with the surprise release of untitled unmastered, a stripped-down collection of B-sides dropped online at the behest of none other than LeBron James. (Thanks, LeBron!) "untitled 06" is one of the songs that’s closest to being fully formed. It’s soulful, romantic, and dips in and out of a summery bossa nova rhythm. The weather’s starting to get a little warmer — yes, even up here in Canada — and this song’s perfectly suited to a sunny Friday afternoon.
Lil Yachty ft. Quavo, Skippa da Flippa, & Young Thug, "Minnesota (Remix)":
Are you on board with Lil Yachty? The ascendant Atlanta rapper just released Lil Boat, his debut mixtape, and it’s the cap on months of surprisingly popular standalone tracks released on SoundCloud. (Drake and Kanye West are fans: his music’s been played on the former’s Beats 1 radio show, and he appeared in the latter’s Yeezy Season 3 fashion show.) The hypnotic, infantile "Minnesota" has been kicking around for a while, but it appears on Lil Boat with new verses from Yachty’s stylistic predecessors Quavo and Young Thug. Take a minute to get familiar now, because you’re going to be hearing about him all year.
Lindstrøm, "Closing Shot":
Say it with me: space disco! Space disco! We love space disco! Hans-Peter Lindstrøm has been the prince of this particularly delightful microgenre for over a decade at this point, and "Closing Shot" is one of his best singles in recent memory. It’s rubbery, joyous, and unabashedly goofy. (If you don’t wiggle in your seat at least three times while listening, you’ll be declared legally dead.)
Ray LaMontagne, "In My Own Way":
Ray LaMontagne’s retreated a little from the woodsy, surprisingly popular revivalism of his early career, a move that’s ended up paying musical dividends. If he wants to hang out in a cabin and make earthy, sprawling albums with Jim James, I’m totally fine with that. "In My Own Way" is just one piece of one of the two mammoth songs that make up LaMontagne’s new album Ouroboros, but it’s perfectly pleasant on its own. It sounds like an afternoon nap, and that’s a compliment.
Here’s the running This Is Your Next Jam playlist — have a great weekend!