Welcome back to The Verge’s weekly musical roundup. I’m Jamieson, I’m still your host, and I’d love to go just one week without some kind of album-length surprise. It’s exhausting! James Blake hopped on BBC Radio 1 yesterday to reveal his new album was dropping in a matter of hours; after showing everyone they still know how to disappear completely, Radiohead rematerialized with two night singles and an album release date this weekend. (It was a big week for moody Brits.) I never thought “too much music” would be a real and considerable problem, but all of this is happening the same week as one of the year’s busiest release dates. There aren’t enough hours in a day to give all of this worthy new stuff the attention it deserves.
Back to this week’s picks: they turned out dance-heavy, a development I’m chalking up to higher temperatures, later sunsets, and a desperate need to decompress one way or another. Alicia Keys, Ariana Grande, and Justin Timberlake are holding down the pop end of the spectrum; Jamie xx, Katy B, and Lone are tiptoeing toward the club floor. And if you just want to sit in your room and mope, the aforementioned moody Brits have you covered.
Remember to subscribe to our Spotify playlist if you haven’t already — it’s updated weekly! Let’s go:
Alicia Keys, “In Common”
I’m rooting for Alicia Keys to come back strong from her last LP, 2012’s limp Girl on Fire, and “In Common” is a great start. You wouldn’t blink if this came on the radio between “Work,” “One Dance,” or any of the other recent hits that crib from dancehall. It’s humid and subdued, and Keys turns in a vocal take that impresses with subtlety rather than firepower. If she ends up releasing a new record this summer, I hope it’s full of songs like this.
Ariana Grande, “Into You”
It’s hard to keep Ariana Grande out of this column — it feels like she’s in here every other week — when she won’t stop releasing indelible singles. “Into You” is being given away as a promotional single to people who preorder the forthcoming Dangerous Woman, and it might be the catchiest song cut from the album to date. You can thank — or blame — pop god Max Martin and his cabal of songwriters for those razor-sharp disco synths.
Danny L Harle ft. Caroline Polachek, “Ashes of Love”
Danny L Harle and Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek are both favorites here at The Verge, so you can imagine our collective excitement when we found out they were working on music together. “Ashes of Love” is frenetic enough to soundtrack one of those pixel-crushed shooters, the kind that force you to turn waves of enemies into digital confetti until they overwhelm you. If Polachek’s the player in this analogy, she comes out on top: she can handle everything Harle throws at her. Here’s hoping this partnership yields some more music before it runs its course.
James Blake ft. Bon Iver, “I Need a Forest Fire”
I’m still working my way through James Blake’s new album The Colour in Anything, mostly because it’s really long: 17 songs! 76 minutes! That’s a lot of time to devote to warped, mopey soul that hangs around the same tempo. With that said, the Bon Iver feature “I Need a Forest Fire” is an obvious early highlight. It’s nice to hear Blake work with a voice other than his own, and the clusters of harmony that stud the song are irresistible.
Jamie xx & Kosi Kos, “Come We Go”
There’s plenty to love on DJ Koze Presents Pampa Vol. 1, the first compilation released by the venerable German producer’s label. If you only recognize one name within the tracklist, it’s probably Jamie xx, so it’s a relief that his collaboration with Koze (working under an alias) is so lively and exciting. After three and a half minutes of whirling club fare, “Come We Go” morphs into something more insular and insistent. When you hear it for the first time, it’ll feel like the floor under you has collapsed, and that’s half the fun with the music Koze makes: you never know where it’s going to take you.
Justin Timberlake, “Can’t Stop the Feeling”
Let’s get this out of the way as soon as possible: Justin Timberlake released his first single in three years to promote Trolls, a movie about Troll dolls that’s coming out this November. Take a deep breath, let it sink in, and never think about it again. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” is fine, if a little conservative. Like the best songs on The 20/20 Experience, it’s grown-person dance music; your aunt will hear it at a wedding this summer and completely lose her shit. And hey, good for her! She’s had a long week. She deserves it! Justin Timberlake is here for her.
Katy B & Chris Lorenzo, “I Wanna Be”
I feel for Katy B: her new album Honey, a collaborative love letter to the sound of British dance music, has been totally crushed by wave after wave of superstar surprises. It’s an injustice I can’t correct single-handedly, but the least I can do is give her a space here. “I Wanna Be” is the album’s centerpiece, a fluttering piece of house that manages to work “the friend zone,” “Dutch courage,” and “anxiety’s a bitch, babe” into an endearing lyric. Katy’s personality always finds a way to shine, no matter the arrangement.
Lone, “Vapour Trail”
Matt Cutler is releasing his latest album as Lone on May 27th, and “Vapour Trail” suggests he’s stepping away from the mellow jazz of 2014’s fabulous Reality Testing. He’s still working with his trademark dewdrop synth melodies, but this song is twitchier and more anxious than any of his other recent work. I can’t wait to find out whether or not the rest of Levitate moves at this frenetic pace.
Mitski’s new album Puberty 2 is coming out in a little over a month, and “Happy” is just as harrowing as earlier single “Your Best American Girl.” A drum machine hammers away like a heartbeat you can’t seem to slow down. Mitski asks a guy named “Happy” what she can do to make him stay; he lays her down, gets busy, and leaves while she’s cleaning up in the bathroom. It’s the nerviest short story this side of St. Vincent.
Radiohead, “Burn the Witch”
It’s hard for me to believe a new Radiohead album — their first in half a decade — is on the way when I haven’t even managed to digest their comeback single. The taut strings that hold “Burn the Witch” together remind me a little of Owen Pallett’s solo work, and Thom Yorke’s apocalyptic murmuring hasn’t been compromised by age. Resist the temptation to file the band away as a relic of a bygone musical era. OK Computer may be almost 20 years old, but they can still spin up that unique sense of unease.
Here’s the running This Is Your Next Jam playlist — have a great weekend!