Welcome back to The Verge’s weekly musical roundup. I’m Jamieson, I’m still your host, and you might’ve noticed a small change: we’re running on a Saturday! The shift one day forward comes with some slight tweaks to the jam selection process, but it’s nothing worth worrying about — if anything, it’s just going to make each week’s picks a little more fresh, and that’s good news for you.
This week’s batch of new tracks isn’t as rock-heavy as last week’s, but there are still some spots reserved for heavy-hitters like Dinosaur Jr. and The Strokes. Nao and Shura are readying long-awaited debut LPs in between the riffs, and Jessie Ware is making sure a new romantic comedy has at least one redeeming quality.
Remember to subscribe to our Spotify playlist if you haven’t already — it’s updated weekly! Let’s go:
Cass McCombs, “Opposite House”
It’s easy to get lost in all of the elliptical folk Cass McCombs has released over the last decade-plus. He likes to write songs that hint at something strange just around the corner, even as they’re seducing you with an easy melody and a simple arrangement. “Opposite House” is the first single from his new album Mangy Love, and it might be the catchiest song he’s released since 2011’s classic “County Line.” It’s smooth soft rock on the surface, but it’s full of imagery out of an abstract painting: rainbow blood, pet snakes, homemade magnets.
Cymbals Eat Guitars, “Wish”
“Wish” does something I can’t remember another Cymbals Eat Guitars song doing: it struts, prancing over a raucous saxophone and a simple bass line. The band committed to making “more energetic” music when putting together their new album Pretty Years, which is coming out this September. I wouldn’t call any of their old records lethargic, but it’s fair to say they’re knottier and less straightforward than “Wish.” I’m excited to hear what the band can do with a little swagger.
Dinosaur Jr., “Tiny”
I hope you can handle a little more guitar. Sludge-pop legends Dinosaur Jr. are putting out new album Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not in August, their fourth since reuniting last decade. “Tiny” sticks to the formula that’s been paying dividends for over three decades at this point: a solid riff, a laid-back vocal take from J Mascis, a little mud caked on everything, and an incendiary guitar solo to hammer it home. It still works for me.
Flume ft. Beck, “Tiny Cities”
Because of alphabetical happenstance, we’re hopping from one “tiny” to another. “Tiny Cities” closes out Flume’s new LP Skin, and it’s made up of two distinct phases: a glittering introduction that lets Beck show off the high end of his range, and a closing half that’s more warped and stuttering. (I keep rewinding to try and nail down the processing that’s taking place behind Beck’s vocal — it sounds like magnetic tape spitting and unspooling.) This is just the latest in a series of strange electro-pop features for Beck: he popped up on M83’s Junk earlier this year, and on The Chemical Brothers’ sparkling “Wide Open” about a year ago. I’m not sure what he’s up to, but I’m digging it!
Jenny Hval, “Female Vampire”
I loved Jenny Hval’s 2015 breakthrough Apocalypse, girl, a collection of experimental pop that fused pure melodies to powerful, occasionally grotesque imagery. She’s releasing a new album called Blood Bitch in September. “Female Vampire” is its stunning lead single, one that draws up a fascinating character — the titular creature, who can apparently travel through time and space — and drops her into a modern-day club. “‘Female Vampire’ is a hunting song, a scene in which a vampire looks for fresh blood on the dancefloor,” writes Hval. “She feels old, but is also struck by restlessness and boredom. She’s tired of killing but can’t help feeling bloodlust.” You can hear the urgency in the song’s soft, driving chug.
Jessie Ware, “Till the End”
“Till the End” was recorded for Me Before You, a movie coming out next week that stars Daenerys Targaryen and one of the hot guys from The Hunger Games. I don’t think it’s going to be very good, but whoever’s in charge of the soundtrack is making some decent decisions. It’s restrained, romantic, and perfectly paced; by the time it’s finished, you’re half-expecting someone to show up at your door with chocolate and a ring. It’s that powerful.
Rising British singer Nao is building on a strong run of EPs with For All We Know, her debut full-length. It’s due out at the end of July, and “Girlfriend” suggests it’ll deliver on the promise of songs like “Apple Cherry” and “Bad Blood.” The song uses one neat trick to transform from another subdued piece of electro-soul into something more exciting: it keeps going silent, all of the sound rushing away like it’s been picked up by a vacuum. When everything rushes back in and fills the void, it’ll make your heart hiccup.
No Joy, “A Thorn in Garland’s Side”
Montreal quartet No Joy makes rowdy, noisy shoegaze, and “A Thorn in Garland’s Side” — cut from their upcoming EP Drool Sucker — is typically messy and disorienting. Guitar melodies poke their heads out of the din for fleeting seconds before being bent and subsumed, and the band makes it hard for you to find your footing with a rhythm or cycling phrase. Giving into music like this feels like being carried out to sea and tossed around by the waves.
Shura, “What’s It Gonna Be?”
Shura’s spent the last few years turning out wildly catchy singles like “Touch” and “2Shy,” and she’s finally getting ready to release debut LP Nothing’s Real this July. “What’s It Gonna Be?” mines the same ‘80s pop terrain that’s produced hits for everyone from Taylor Swift to Carly Rae Jepsen, but it still manages to feel distinct — it’s sharp, gleaming, and riddled with longing.
The Strokes, “Drag Queen”
The Strokes came out of nowhere yesterday to announce they’re releasing a new EP next week, Future Present Past. (It’s their first major release since 2013’s Comedown Machine.) “Drag Queen” premiered on Beats 1 a few hours after the EP’s announcement, and I’m happy to report it sounds like… well, it sounds like The Strokes. You know what you’re getting here: a healthy helping of fuzz, a wicked lead riff, and Julian Casablancas talking all kinds of nonsense at the back of the mix. They’re a known commodity at this point, and that’s just fine.
Here’s the running This Is Your Next Jam playlist — have a great weekend!