Welcome back to The Verge’s weekly musical roundup. I’m Jamieson, I’m still your host, and I field-tested this week’s jams while blasting up and down the fine provincial highways of Ontario, Canada. (I had a convocation to attend.) I don’t get to spend a lot of time in vehicles these days, so I tried to savor the listening opportunities all the driving afforded. There’s nothing better than cranking music in a car on a bright summer day, right? Rest assured, all of these selections are road-trip approved.
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This new single from Awful Records associate Abra reminds me a little of Jessy Lanza’s recent work. It cribs rhythms and textures from ’80s R&B and dance music for a song about a relationship souring, and it doesn’t sound pristine or clean — there’s a little grime on it. If you want to hear more, you’re in luck: Abra’s new EP Princess is coming out on July 15th.
D∆WN, “Serpentine Fire”
Dawn Richard is one of the hardest-working artists around, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when she popped up with a new song as part of Adult Swim’s singles program. (It’s one of a handful of new tracks she released this week.) “Serpentine Fire” was produced by Clark, and, as far as I can tell, its glossy pop-house has nothing to do with the Earth, Wind & Fire song of the same name. My only complaint? It’s only two minutes long! This deserves an extended mix ASAP.
DJ Shadow ft. Nils Frahm, “Bergschrund”
Instrumental hip-hop legend DJ Shadow is releasing The Mountain Will Fall, his first LP in half a decade, on June 24th. “Bergschrund” is a collaboration with the minimalist German composer Nils Frahm, and it’s a strange delight. Frahm supplies a magnetic vintage synth line, the ghost in DJ Shadow’s machine; he chops it up and makes it dance with an array of battering-ram rhythms.
Drake, “4PM in Calabasas”
Drake spent the majority of Views indulging his softer side, so it’s a pleasure to hear him get back to flagrant shit-talking on the recent loosie “4PM in Calabasas.” It’s the fourth entry in what fans call the “AM/PM series,” a bunch of similarly named songs on which Drake shows off his best bars. And sure enough, Drake raps harder here than anywhere on Views: it’s studded with dozens of Diddy disses, references to hip-hop classics, and unrepentant stunting. It also includes the line, “My summer diet is just rosé and calamari,” because Drake can’t resist being a dingus even at his toughest.
Local Natives, “Villainy”
We learned this week that Local Natives’ new album is called Sunlit Youth — a great title, if you ask me — and that it’s coming out on September 9th. “Villainy” is the first song the band wrote without including any guitars, and it proves they can hang with the rest of the groups who live in that intermediate space between rock and electronic music — think Cut Copy, Tame Impala, and M83. This one’s begging to be heard on a big festival stage at sunset.
Nick Jonas ft. Ty Dolla $ign, “Bacon”
After spending a week thinking about it, I’m confident Nick Jonas’ “Bacon” is a sex thing, unfortunately — he’s throwing some bacon on the booty, right? Because it’s so hot? That’s gross, and I’m sorry for making you think about it again, and yet… this song is kinda good? It lives in this strange zone between pulsing R&B and trap music, the central hook is super catchy, and no reasonable person could ever find fault with a Ty Dolla $ign guest appearance. If you throw some bacon on this song, it’ll sizzle. (I’m so sorry. Let’s just move on.)
Sophia Grace ft. Silentó, “Girl in the Mirror”
This one requires some explanation. Adorable British children Sophia Grace Brownlee and her cousin (and hype woman) Rosie McClelland went on Ellen a few years ago after going viral with a cover of Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass,” and they turned that initial appearance into minor fame: work as award show correspondents, a movie, their own line of dolls, you name it. Sophia Grace released a 2015 single called “Best Friends” and it was, to the complete shock of everyone on the internet, AN ABSOLUTE BANGER. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’m listening to it again now and it’s going to be stuck in my head for the rest of the year.
“Girl in the Mirror” is the long-awaited follow-up, and it trades the fake DJ Mustardisms of “Best Friends” for Meghan Trainor’s contemporary doo-wop and entry-level body positivity. It also features a verse from Silentó, who obviously has plenty of free time on his hands now that “Watch Me” is off the charts. This song isn’t good, but I’m still rooting for Sophia Grace’s pop career. No one bats 1.000, not even the most reliable hitmakers; she’s 13 years old, so she has plenty of time to figure this whole music thing out. I hope she makes a trop-house slapper next. You can do it, Sophia Grace! And put Rosie in the damn video!
Tory Lanez, “Luv”
Toronto up-and-comer Tory Lanez has spent the bulk of this year spatting with Drake, a minor beef that entered the public eye when the 6 God spent half of “Summer Sixteen” crapping on him; he’s also releasing his debut LP, I Told You, later this year. Benny Blanco and Cashmere Cat produced his new single “Luv,” a featherlight bit of dancehall that interpolates Tanto Metro and Devonte’s ’90s hit “Everyone Falls in Love.” It’s no “Controlla” — sorry, Tory — but it’s catchy enough to get stuck in your craw for a while.
Usher came back with a pair of new singles this week after staying rather quiet over the last few years. One of them, the Young Thug collaboration “No Limit,” is a Tidal exclusive; “Crash” is available for everyone to hear. If you dug his prescient 2012 single “Climax,” “Crash” should hit the same kind of sweet spot: it’s a patient, subtle R&B cut with a little electronic buzz. (And it won’t force you to reckon with your Diplo feelings for the thousandth time the way “Climax” did.)
Wye Oak, “Watching the Waiting”
Baltimore indie rock vets Wye Oak came out of nowhere and released a new album this week, Tween. (The band says it’s made up of material written between their last two albums, 2011’s Civilian and 2014’s Shriek.) “Watching the Waiting” was released as a single, and it’s one of the band’s best songs ever, moving from a breezy New Order-like intro to an unhinged, noodly synth solo in just three minutes. It sounds like driving through miles and miles of farmland at sunrise: moving fast, seeing for miles, light on the horizon. I love that sound.
Here’s the running This Is Your Next Jam playlist — have a great weekend!