Welcome back to The Verge’s weekly musical roundup. I’m Jamieson, I’m still your host, and it’s always tough to write this column — to write about music at all, even — when the world is being rocked by larger concerns. It feels a little frivolous, you know? When I start to feel discouraged, I remind myself that art has the power to lift people away from whatever’s ailing them, if only for a few minutes. It also has the potential to galvanize true change and push people to see things from a new perspective. It’s OK to take time to read, listen, and think.
A few of this week’s picks directly address the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas police officers, and the conversations about gun violence and systematic prejudice that have been rekindled in their wake. Jay Z stepped out of semi-retirement for the heartbroken single "spiritual;" Miguel wrote and recorded "How Many" when he couldn’t sleep because he was so troubled. It’s also possible to find relief in music that isn’t linked to tragedy, and that’s represented by some of the other songs here.
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Arca’s new album Mutant is less than a year old, but the prolific producer’s already followed it up with a free, near-LP length release, Entrañas. (He’s still planning on releasing another studio album, Reverie, later this year.) The 25-minute mix doesn’t break a ton of new ground — it’s abrasive, intense, and occasionally achieves a sort of eerie, Gothic beauty — but it still makes for a fascinating, uniquely discomfiting listen.
Factory Floor, "Ya"
British electronic duo Factory Floor are releasing a new album on August 19th, and "Ya" has me feeling pretty excited about it: this is lean, icy techno, the kind of thing you conjure up in your head when you imagine a crowded Berlin dancefloor. Think of it as the leather-clad, chain-smoking niece of LCD Soundsystem’s "Yeah."
Francis and the Lights ft. Bon Iver & Kanye West, "Friends"
Am I the only one who keeps inserting a parenthetical "Famous" in front of this song’s title? If you need to get eyeballs on your new music video, it’s nice to have pals like Justin Vernon and Kanye West in your corner. "Friends" is anthemic, prom-ready pop-soul, and you might recognize the melody if you’re a fan of Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book — a prerelease version of the song was sampled on that tape’s "Summer Friends," on which Francis is credited as a guest.
James Vincent McMorrow, "Rising Water"
Irish singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow is following 2013’s solid Post Tropical with a new album, We Move, on September 2nd. Lead single "Rising Water" is quieter and subtler than anything McMorrow’s written before, a change he chalked up to a blossoming relationship with some of the production forces in Drake’s OVO crew in an interview with The Fader. "Everybody that knows me knows that my love [for music] was from hip-hop," said McMorrow. "I’ve never necessarily put that into a record before."
Jay Z, "spiritual"
When Jay Z released "spiritual" on Thursday night, it was accompanied by a short note that explained its origins. "I made this song a year or so ago, I never got to finish it," wrote Jay. "I’m saddened and disappointed in THIS America - we should be further along. WE ARE NOT… Blessings to all the families that have lost loved ones to police brutality." What more do you need to say? It’s a solemn, heartbroken piece of music.
Jidenna, "Little Bit More"
It’s unlikely that Jidenna will ever top "Classic Man," but you can’t fault him for trying, right? "Little Bit More" is the latest track cut from his upcoming LP Long Live the Chief, and it’s basically his version of "One Dance:" a flirty, dancehall-tinged summer jam that splits the difference between rapping and singing. It’s not a classic, but it’s pretty catchy.
John Newman, "Olé"
If you believe the rumor mill, "Olé" is just the latest salvo in the Taylor Swift-Calvin Harris post-breakup Cold War. (Harris co-wrote the song.) It’s a song about a dead-eyed lover who’s clearly losing interest despite her partner’s best efforts, and while the timing’s a little fishy, I refuse to believe anything emerging out of the Swift-Harris-Tom Hiddleston Bermuda Triangle is real or genuine until further notice. If you’re going to tune in, do it because you like Newman’s voice. (It’s not bad!)
PARTYNEXTDOOR ft. Jeremih & Lil Wayne, "Like Dat"
R&B stars PARTYNEXTDOOR and Jeremih have been teasing the existence of an extended collaborative project for a few months now, an LP that’s going to have the head-slapping title Late Night Party. PND put the official version of "Like Dat" on SoundCloud Friday night, and while the beat makes it feel a little more like an If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late cast-off than something new, it’s exciting to hear two of R&B’s brightest talents taking turns on the mic.
Miguel, "How Many"
When Miguel shared this demo version of "How Many" early this morning, he did so with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter and a short explanation of his intent. "This version was started here in London in my hotel room between the hours of 4AM and around 7AM when I passed out," wrote Miguel on SoundCloud. "I’ll update this song every week until it’s complete. Please feel free to share." You can hear his pain and unrest oozing out of every bar, even in this raw form. "I’m tired of human lives turned into hashtags and prayer hands," he sings. "I’m tired of watching those murderers get off while we bury the lost, loved, and innocent."
Wild Beasts, "Big Cat"
British art-pop vets Wild Beasts are releasing their new LP Boy King on August 5th, and "Big Cat" is the album’s pulsing, intense opener. (To be fair, there aren’t many Wild Beasts songs you can’t describe as "pulsing" and "intense.") Every new syllable drips with lust, and you have to be a lyrical detective to parse the sexual subtext here: "Big cat on top / Better show me what you got," purrs Hayden Thorpe. It’s the kind of line reading that’d get you sweating in the dead of winter.
Here’s the running This Is Your Next Jam playlist — have a great weekend!