Welcome back to The Verge’s weekly musical roundup. I’m Jamieson, and this is the last time I’ll serve as your host. My time at The Verge is ending today, and I’m not going to be curating jams for anyone — save myself, and maybe my parents if they ask — for a while. It’s sad! I’ve loved working here and writing for you, and the decision to move on and pursue a new opportunity wasn’t made easily.
Before trotting off into the sunset and taking the rest of the summer to play golf and drink red wine, I want to take a minute to talk about what this column’s meant to me over the last year-plus. It wasn’t always easy to pick 10 songs to highlight in this space on a weekly basis. There were weeks I found myself deciding between 20 or 30 worthy candidates, striking and revising and haggling with myself; there were weeks I worried I’d have to publish some non-round number because the world seemed so quiet.
Let's share a few musical memories
And yet every week I’d manage to hit play on 10 tracks that had some kind of palpable effect on me — anger, sadness, confusion, pure and simple joy. Some of them came from artists I knew and loved, and others came from artists I’d never heard of before. That sense of discovery — that something worth hearing was always just around the corner — kept me going when I was suffering through a critical dry spell, struggling to understand industry economics, or just exhausted after a day spent embedding Kanye West’s tweets.
All of the songs included below were released during my time at The Verge, and taken together they're a snapshot of contemporary music at its best. Some of them represent innovation in narrative or distribution; some of them come from artists who are pushing their chosen genres forward, or blurring the lines between them; some of them are just really cool. I'll remember thinking and writing about this music long after it fades out of the public eye, and sharing those memories with you feels like the best possible way to say goodbye.
ANOHNI, "Drone Bomb Me"
I don't watch a ton of music videos, but this one totally blew me away — I can still barely make it all the way through, that's how uncomfortable it makes me feel. (And that's the point!)
Living in Canada is almost entirely awesome, but every so often there's a hiccup that makes me wish I could hop into the US for a night. An example: when Beyoncé's Lemonade premiered on HBO, I assumed I'd have no trouble watching and recording it at the standard American time. Nope! Canadians were shut out. I had to write my review based on an... illicit viewing, and I didn't get to see the album on TV until a few weeks later. The only logical conclusion: Beyoncé hates Canadians.
Grimes, "Flesh Without Blood"
As someone who's been a Grimes fan since her early days on the awesome Canadian label Arbutus Records, it's been a real treat to watch her blossom into one of the music world's most distinctive, personable talents. Art Angels rules, and it's still revealing new parts of itself with every listen.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, "Arthropoda"
I've spent a ton of time writing about pop's upper echelon for The Verge, but some of my favorite pieces for the site have revolved around weirder, lesser-known musicians. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith is a great example — her music sounds like it comes from some fecund, bubbling near-future swamp, and I loved writing about her place in a long tradition of ambient and experimental musicians earlier this year.
Kanye West, "Famous"
I think it's safe to say no musician on Earth has caused me more stress than Kanye West. The ever-evolving album! The music videos! The fashion shows! The Twitter drama! He's probably taken a year or two off my life this year alone. I'll miss trying to figure out his music and his various interpersonal conflicts, but I'm looking forward to relaxing and watching his career evolve from the sidelines.
Mitski, "Your Best American Girl"
Listening to Mitski's "Your Best American Girl" feels like surrendering to a tidal wave: one second you're standing ankle-deep in the ocean, and the next you're being pulverized and gasping for air. I love musical moments like that, moments where you're hearing something that's so physical and forceful you can almost feel it taking a toll on your entire body through your headphones.
Rae Sremmurd, "By Chance"
I didn't write about every major album while here at The Verge, and some of the ones I missed for one reason or another ended up becoming favorites. Rae Sremmurd's new album SremmLife 2 is fast approaching that level. It's strange, slinky party-rap, and I can turn my brain off and just enjoy myself when it comes on.
The Range, "Florida"
I spent an hour or so interviewing James Hinton about his magnificent new album Potential earlier this year, and it resulted in one of my favorite pieces. His music is as contemporary as it gets because of the way he samples YouTube, but it's also warm and surprisingly humane. A few weeks after I spoke to Hinton, I spent a weekend at a cottage with a few friends. The cottage had a massive great room with huge windows, and one night we turned all the lights off and cranked Potential — which hadn't been released yet — from a speaker while we sat around and listened. (We called that giant space "the planetarium." It was ridiculous. It's still ridiculous.) I think about that night every time I hear the album now, and that's probably why it remains one of my favorites.
Rihanna ft. Drake, "Work"
When you have to write about new music within 24 hours of its release, you occasionally make a few judgments and assertions you end up wishing you could take back. I have a bunch of those regrets regarding Rihanna's ANTI, an album I've come to love from back to front. It had plenty of hits, it wasn't too weird for radio, and "Work" ended up being one of the best songs of the year. Consider this my formal apology. Work work work work work work.
The Weeknd, "Can’t Feel My Face"
This is the perfect place to cut things off. The Weeknd premiered "Can't Feel My Face" live at WWDC last June, a day that also happened to be my first at The Verge. If something like that happened now, I know I'd be in the thick of it — writing a news post, debating the significance of his appearance at the event, preparing the song for inclusion in this column, etc. I don't remember what happened then; I don't even remember watching him perform. I just remember sitting in my living room, staring at Slack, and thinking, "Holy crap, this is insane, I'm never going to be able to do this, I'm going to get fired."
Almost 15 months have passed, I survived, and "Can't Feel My Face" has become one of the most influential pop songs released this decade. We all did alright.
Thanks so much for reading and listening, everyone. Have a great weekend.