Welcome back to The Verge’s weekly musical roundup. I’m Jamieson, I’m still your host, and it sure seems like music’s biggest names were sick and tired of being left out of this space in favor of resurgent indie rockers. (I’m positive this is weekly appointment reading for them.) Did you find yourself yearning for Rihanna’s raspy growl? For Kanye’s style and Rolodex? For Drake’s hacky lines about working towards a postsecondary degree? Consider yourself sated. They let Beck stick around. Good for you, Beck!
And if you’re one of the readers prone to describing our coverage of the artists above as “unyielding” or “bothersome” or [insert critical adjective], there’s still plenty for you to enjoy. The Avalanches are back! (Did anyone ever think that was really going to happen?) Angel Olsen’s new single is intriguing! BECK IS IN THE HOUSE!
Remember to subscribe to our Spotify playlist if you haven’t already — it’s updated weekly! Let’s go:
Angel Olsen, “Intern”
Angel Olsen is following up 2014’s incendiary Burn Your Fire for No Witness with a new album called My Woman, though it doesn’t have a release date yet. “Intern” is the first we’ve heard from it, and it’s a bewitching dispatch from some alternate-universe Hollywood. It reminds me a little of Dan Bejar’s recent work as Destroyer — the slicked-back synths, the creeping sense something is unwell in this little sound world — but it has more heart, and more vocal firepower too. I can’t wait for more details about what’s next for Olsen.
The Avalanches, “Frankie Sinatra”
I said it above, and I’ll say it again: a good chunk of me can’t believe this is real. If you need a quick recap of the saga of The Avalanches, here goes: the Australian group released one joyous, sample-rich album (2000’s Since I Left You) and then spent the next 16 years teasing its follow-up, which felt more and more like musical vaporware as the years went on. The band updated all of its social media profiles earlier this year, and they premiered their first single in well over a decade, “Frankie Sinatra,” on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 show. Their new album Wildflower is coming out in a little over a month. So how does it sound? Well, it sounds like The Avalanches (plus little dashes of Danny Brown and MF Doom): playful, zany, a little dusty, drunk on music’s possibility. I don’t know if Wildflower can live up to 16 years’ worth of hype, but we’re going to find out come July.
After moping through 2014’s Morning Phase and collaborating with a bunch of electronic musicians, it sounds like Beck’s tapping back into the goofy sound of albums like Odelay with his new music. “Wow” is built around boisterous, trappy drums and a zonked-out flute loop; it could be a Ying Yang Twins song before it explodes into something richer and more melodic come the chorus. Beck talks all kinds of weird crap over top of it. It’s colorful and truly strange, and I’m curious about whether or not its parent album (which still hasn’t been unveiled) is going to include more of the same.
DJ Khaled ft. Drake, “For Free”
Snapchat baron DJ Khaled is putting out a new album called Major Key — which, OK, sure — this summer, and he pulled the tarp off Drake feature “For Free” (aka “Fuck Me for Free”) on Beats 1 yesterday afternoon. Drake shouts out Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 of the same name; he cribs an opening line from Too $hort’s “Blow the Whistle,” which is sampled throughout; he delivers the line, “I know you workin’ day and night to get a college degree / Bet nobody that you been with even know you a freak,” which is stupid and hilarious and extremely Drake-y. It’s bouncy and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. (The embed above is a 30 second preview; you can hear the full thing here, at least for now.)
Kanye West ft. literally everyone, “Champions” (or “Round and Round”)
Are you really going to make me list all of the guests? Let me take a deep breath: Quavo, Yo Gotti, Big Sean, 2 Chainz (the undisputed victor here), Travis Scott, Desiigner, and the recently liberated trap legend Gucci Mane. “Champions” (or “Round and Round,” depending on who you’re reading) is apparently cut from Kanye’s long-rumored label compilation Cruel Winter, and it sounds like a Graduation-era outtake crossed with the hypothetical soundtrack for a space Olympics. (I know there’s virtually no sound in space. Don’t bug me about this.) I have no idea when it’s going to be officially released, but there’s a decent-quality (though unfortunately clean) radio rip above.
Mai Lan, “Technique”
I didn’t know much about French musician Mai Lan before she popped up on M83’s scattershot new album Junk, so “Technique” came as a huge surprise. It’s a rubbery, frenetic club track that morphs into something resembling an internet addiction PSA over the course of its three minutes, but I can’t blame you if you ignore the words while you’re flailing like a maniac to this beat in your living room. If only Junk sounded a little more like this!
Every few years, Maxwell descends from the palace in the clouds he calls home and delivers another collection of sumptuous R&B. (That’s how I imagine it happening, anyway.) His new album blackSUMMERS’night is coming out on July 1st, and “1990x” tells you everything you need to know about it: this is elegant, buttery music, and it’s applying for a spot on any bedroom-centric playlists you might curate.
Mike Will Made-It ft. Rihanna, “Nothing Is Promised”
Is Rihanna the best rapper in this column this week? Is Rihanna the best rapper alive? (Is Beyoncé her only competition?) “Nothing Is Promised” is the first single from Mike Will Made-It’s upcoming LP Ransom 2, and he makes a smart choice: he lets Rihanna stomp all over everything like Godzilla. She leaves ANTI’s impressive vocal work in the dust, opting instead for sneering, imperious flow. “I love you, money / I love you, money,” she purrs. “I’ma just wake up and hug this money.” Watch out.
Pusha T ft. Jay Z, “Drug Dealers Anonymous”
“Drug Dealers Anonymous” is the first single from Pusha T’s King Push, an album that’s been on the horizon for years at this point. (He released a “prelude,” King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude, last December.) Jay Z’s guest spot — his second major verse in recent weeks, following an appearance on the remix of Fat Joe and Remy Ma’s “All the Way Up” — is compelling until he drops a Damn Daniel reference, the lyrical equivalent of sticking a pin into a balloon. It’s hard to hear the song in full unless you’re a Tidal subscriber, but you can hear a sample above.
YG, “Still Brazy”
Compton prince YG is releasing his second studio album on June 17th, and “Still Brazy” is the title track. If you somehow managed to escape the pull of singles like “My Nigga” and “Who Do You Love?” a few years ago, it’s a solid introduction to his sound: thumping, minimal G-funk, rich storytelling, undeniable charisma.
Here’s the running This Is Your Next Jam playlist — have a great weekend!