Having a hard time keeping up with all the new music that drops every week? Us too — which is why we’re rounding up the best new music of the week every Saturday evening.
Rihanna — Anti
Throughout the years, Rihanna has taken her time cooperating in and setting musical trends alike. And, when she did decide to participate in cresting genres, she made them her own, enlisting heavy-hitters to help shape songs around That Voice, which started out as a standard dancefloor siren’s call and has since evolved into something more jagged, coy, and more colorful than 98% of the pop vocal field could ever dream of.
Which is to say, Anti could’ve been a gilded frame around her and the Bad Gal persona she’s cultivated during three years of relative radio silence (of course, excepting single experiments “FourFiveSeconds,” “American Oxygen,” and “Bitch Better Have My Money). Instead, she’s created something much darker and deeper than even diehard fans expected. There are no jubilant songs here, nowhere to unleash her almost signature jubilant, fanged deliveries. Instead, she’s spending her pop star zenith looking down at the world below and wondering who could possibly stand at the top with her. The answer to that lies outside of Anti, but the state of mind she crafts within it cracks and re-develops the persona we thought we knew.
Zayn — “Pillowtalk”
Oh, Zayn; for someone so adamant about not sounding like One Direction, you kind of blew it, huh? But as a longtime fan of his voice, which was for sure the strongest the most distinct out of the original boy band bunch, “Pillowtalk” shows both what he can do with it and where he probably shouldn’t go with it. The former trumps the latter for me (though the video is difficult to reconcile); regardless, it’s nice to hear from him again.
Wet — Don’t You
If whispery, crystalline R&B-inflected music is your thing, Wet will be a revelation. Kelly Zutrau’s voice seems to literally materialize out of ether, and the songs are perfect nuggets of pop sadness. If you’re looking for cheer, look elsewhere; for the #sadgals among us, Wet is where it’s at.
Flume — “Smoke & Retribution” ft. Vince Staples and Kučka
Flume’s selection of collaborators is always interesting, and this guest vocal one-two punch is surprising but also savvy. The production kicks, and the contrast between Staples’s and (fellow Aussie) Kučka’s vocals brings more textural interest into the tune.
Sia — This Is Acting
Though I’m personally not the biggest fan of Sia’s post-pop breakout oeuvre, there’s no denying that she’s turned the songwriter-turned-star model on its head. The premise of This Is Acting (songs she wrote or worked on for other people) is solid, and through the album, she successfully reclaims these otherwise-in-limbo tunes.
St. Lucia — Matter
St. Lucia’s ’80s-inspired shtick could get old fast, but instead they keep finding ways to dazzle. Matter, the band’s second record, is packed to the gills with inventive and hypnotic musical lines; perhaps it’s even better saved for the summer.
Cross Record — Wabi-Sabi
We’ve got a soft spot for bands that include family members (see also, St. Lucia), but Cross Record’s more introspective take on the ties that bind is equally arresting. Recorded amidst wheat fields ripped out of your favorite American landscape of choice, Wabi-Sabi is an album that suggests austerity, but instead delivers gut-punching emotional payoffs.
Astronautica — Gemini
Gemini is an unfurling tendril of an album; shoegaze with even less vocal distraction. But sometimes, we’re just looking to chill out, and Gemini, true to its nature, provides a blissed-out space even while drawing the listener closer.
Dawn Richard — “Not Above That”
Richard almost sounds like a lot of artists, but when her songs build and spill over into their finales, you’ll find yourself smacking yourself for ever comparing her to anyone else. “Not Above That” KICKS, and its relentless denouement has got us body-rolling in public.
AMTHST — “Thug Passion”
Nite Jewel has long been a favorite of the musical “underground” (or what exists of it on the Internet), and her EP collaboration with rapper/producer Droop-E seems promising, based off this first single. That said, we’re partial to anything named after amethysts.
(Images courtesy of Def Jam, RCA Records)