Welcome back to The Verge’s weekly musical roundup. I’m Jamieson, I’m still your host, and this was a pretty quiet week in the world of music: no surprise albums, no massive singles, no controversial interviews. And while I find all of those things just as exciting as everyone else, it’s nice to take a breather once in a while. I caught up on some listening I’d fallen behind on earlier this year; I sat on the couch and listened to ambient music. It was nice! I recommend it! This week’s picks split the difference between buzzy hip-hop (like A$AP Ferg and Rae Sremmurd) and chill guitar music (like Deakin and William Tyler), and there’s some genre-blurring stuff in the middle for those of you who aren’t interested in either. In short, it’s another eclectic week here at Jams HQ.
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A$AP Ferg ft. Missy Elliott, "Strive"
A$AP Ferg is following up his delightful 2013 debut Trap Lord with Always Strive and Prosper, a new LP that’s being released next week. "Strive" is probably the last single he’ll release before the album proper, and it’s a major departure from gritty street anthems like "Shabba" and "Work." Producers DJ Mustard and Stelios Phili give Ferg a bright, piano-driven beat, one that’d probably sound great in a club on its own, and Missy turns the song into a stop on her comeback tour with a hearty guest verse. This might be the most commercial Ferg’s ever sounded, and it makes me wonder what the rest of Always Strive and Prosper is going to sound like.
Deakin, "Golden Chords"
There’s a wild story behind Sleep Cycle, the solo album Animal Collective member Josh "Deakin" Dibb just released. Dibb used Kickstarter to fund a 2009 trip to Mali, where he performed at a musical festival and sought inspiration for the album that would become Sleep Cycle. It ended up taking Dibb almost seven years to release the album and the associated rewards, a delay he chalked up to "fatal perfectionism" in a 2012 interview with Pitchfork. I can’t speak for Dibb’s backers, but I think the wait was worth it: Sleep Cycle has the same loose, rambling spirit that characterized Animal Collective’s beloved mid-’00s records. "Golden Chords" is the album opener, a rippling acoustic stroll given some heft by field recordings sitting in the background.
The Invisible, "So Well"
London trio The Invisible are releasing a new album called Patience this June, an appropriate title given it’s their first LP in four years. "So Well" is a longing collaboration with Jessie Ware, who’s totally mastered pensive synth-soul in her own right; if you told me this was a remodeled Tough Love B-side, I’d probably believe you.
James Blake, "Timeless"
James Blake revealed this week that his long-awaited new LP Radio Silence is ready to be released, a piece of info that surely sent fans of his fluttering electro-R&B into a frenzy. (The album apparently contains a song that’s well over 20 minutes long. Intriguing!) He also offered up "Timeless," a new track that’s ostensibly part of the album. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything — if you’ve spent any time listening to Blake, you can probably guess how it’s going to sound — but that doesn’t make its slow mutation into a dense, roiling club track any less satisfying.
Mayer Hawthorne, "The Valley"
As a huge Steely Dan fan, it’s a pleasure to hear Mayer Hawthorne use his near-unparalleled skill as a revivalist to recreate the feel of that band’s louche ‘70s jazz-rock. "The Valley" is a classic Californian cautionary tale, a laid-back yarn about a girl who’s going to make it big or die trying. There’s a reference to The Coffee Bean! It’s delivered with a wink and a sly grin, and the sound is pristine. Fagen and Becker would approve, I’m sure.
Parquet Courts, "Human Performance"
Verbose Brooklyn quartet Parquet Courts just released their fifth album since 2011, Human Performance. The title track looks back on a relationship gone wrong, and it’s stuffed full of little details that’ll strike a chord if you’ve spent any time feeling single and sorry for yourself: "Busy apartment, no room for grieving / sink full of dishes and no trouble believing / that you are leaving." It’s a resigned bummer of a song, but it’s one that’s likely familiar. We’ve all been there.
Rae Sremmurd, "Look Alive"
Party-rap princes Rae Sremmurd are releasing SremmLife 2 — the sequel to last year’s SremmLife, naturally — on June 24th. Zane Lowe premiered their new single "Look Alive" on Beats 1 yesterday, and it has the same laid-back, after-midnight vibe as the brilliant "No Type." It feels a little like they’re giving you a tour through a crowded house bash, popping into room after room and trying to keep you awake and inebriated. "Hey, come on! Look alive!"
Skepta, "Man (Gang)"
This single from Skepta’s forthcoming LP Konnichiwa is an absolute riot, and it kicks off with one of the best opening lines I’ve heard this year: "I don’t know why man’s calling me family all of a sudden, like / Hmm, my mum don’t know your mum, stop telling man you’re my cousin." This strikes me as both perfectly reasonable — you’d be mad if some guy was telling people you were cousins when you weren’t — and insanely funny. It’s a delightful blast of attitude, like someone kicking down your door and then dancing on it in your foyer.
Tim Hecker, "Black Phase"
"Black Phase" closes out Tim Hecker’s imposing new record Love Streams, and it’s the most compelling instance of his experimentation with voices and the myriad ways they can be processed and altered. Hecker took 15th-century choral works and turned them into collections of digital detritus, and he worked with the Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhansson on new arrangements that complemented the warped original work. What does that mean in layman’s terms? On tracks like "Black Phase," it means dramatic clusters of vocals bursting out over top of foreboding electronics that are rooted in music written hundreds of years ago. Theory aside, it’s an ominous, exciting piece of music.
William Tyler, "Gone Clear"
Guitar whiz William Tyler is releasing a new album called Modern Country this June, and "Gone Clear" is the first single. If you liked the Steve Gunn single I wrote about a few weeks ago, you can think of this song as its stormier, more intense cousin. The rounds of fingerpicking that make up the song’s intro are just dizzying, and it remains gorgeous as Tyler takes it into a chiming midsection. He doesn’t need any words to tell you a story.
Here’s the running This Is Your Next Jam playlist — have a great weekend!