There’s a lot of music out there. To help you cut through all the noise, every week The A.V. Club is rounding up A-Sides, five recent releases we think are worth your time. You can listen to these and more on Spotify.
Jai Paul, “He”
[XL Recordings, June 1]
Jai Paul managed to alter the shape of pop music with just two official singles. Both Drake and Beyoncé sampled the Brit producer’s cocky, trunk-rattling 2011 debut, “BTSTU,” while his 2012 follow-up, “Jasmine,” informed subsequent years’ equally warped, seductive R&B. And his incomplete full-length album, which leaked (and was quickly taken down) in 2013, was a visionary document of futuristic pop and R&B. Traumatized by the leak, Paul went silent, not turning up again until last weekend, when that quasi-album, reclaimed under the new title Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones), hit streaming services alongside two brand-new songs. “He,” the more obvious banger of the pair, gyrates like “BTSTU” and glides like “Jasmine,” with blurry yet vicious synths pelting Paul’s sultry crooning. The song’s cascading off-time bass, obscured vocals, and slinky, sensual guitars resemble fully rendered updates of Bait Ones’ brilliant, fractured parts. Although Paul has already radically changed pop music, his work here is clearly not done. [Max Freedman]
Rosalía, “Aute Cuture”
[Sony Music Entertainment, May 30]
Flamenco has entered the summer-jam arena, thanks to Rosalía, the classically trained, Catalan-born artist who fused the tradition’s haunting, staccato sounds with more languorous electronic music on 2018’s El Mal Querer. After turning her university thesis into that stunning concept album, Rosalía ventured into reggaeton with “Con Altura,” a kinetic collaboration with J. Balvin and El Guincho. Not content with just one “song of the summer” contender, the singer-guitarist-dancer has blessed us with “Aute Cuture,” a horns-and-clap-backed track that’s both the pre-party and the main event. The playfully misspelled title denotes Rosalía’s mission to combine cultures, styles, and genres, whether she’s bringing flamenco to the festival masses Stateside or making the aspirational a reality. The song’s video, created with Rosalía’s sister Pili, follows up the motorcycle bullfights of “Malamente” with a hyper-colored heist flick, featuring a “beauty gang” led by the singer and her embellished talons. Rosalía’s been upping her game since 2017’s Los Ángeles, a more traditional flamenco album full of melancholy strings and gorgeous melismas—which is why, on “Aute Cuture,” she doesn’t mind using the hook to tell us “this is fire.” [Danette Chavez]
[Orchid Tapes, June 7]
Mirroring was born from a place of centeredness and community, Yohuna’s Johanne Swanson recently said, and it shows. The Brooklyn native’s follow-up to 2016’s Patientness is filled with songs that begin clear-eyed before drifting into a gauzy, meditative haze. Sometimes it’s the repetition of a single phrase—“I am breathing very slow” on “Fades To Blue,” for example—that reaches towards transcendence, while other times, as on opener “Knowing U,” it’s a celestial instrumental outro of cello, flute, and trombone. Short as they are—only a handful of songs pass the three minute mark—there’s an openness to these tracks, a sense of grandeur that’s sometimes breathtaking in the way it can introduce a burst of percussion or, as on “Stranger,” a swell of stately, sighing cello. In an age of anxiety, Mirroring is refreshingly weightless, an ideal record to play on loop until the edges soften. [Randall Colburn]
We’re collecting our A-Sides recommendations over on a Spotify playlist updated every Friday. Tune in and subscribe here.
Cardi B, “Press”
[Warner Music Group, May 30]
A song like “Press” from just about any other artist would likely register as boastful theatrics. But from Cardi B, it’s a viable warning shot, backed by a technicolor life that has played in various forms of media for years. Every high-octane bar can be easily paired with a majorly publicized, heavily scrutinized moment that has informed her raw attitude. It’s no wonder why the Grammy-winning rapper chose to release the song the same day she was due in court, aside from the stroke of PR brilliance: It would be another moment that would ultimately invite the kind of judgment that has caused people to underestimate her. If “Press” is indicative of anything, it’s that Cardi B’s staying power supersedes negative attention—and it’s effective enough for us to ignore the heaps of irony long enough to praise it. [Shannon Miller]
Roísín Murphy, “Incapable”
[Warner Music Group, June 4]
It’s been three years since Roísín Murphy’s last full-length, the great, eclectic Take Her Up To Monto, but the Irish singer-songwriter (and all-around multi-hyphenate) has been far from inactive. In fact, she put out some of last year’s most memorable grooves via four Maurice Fulton-produced 12-inch singles (“Plaything”/“Like” was a particular favorite). And this week she returned to the dance floor with the stunning DJ Parrot collab “Incapable,” a panoramic house cut that takes you so deep, eight minutes isn’t nearly long enough to climb back out. Murphy gives a beguiling performance, delivering soulful glints of Dusty and Chaka among the stone-cold detachment of someone who’s “Never had a broken heart… might be incapable of love.” More than singing, she has a way of hosting tracks like these, drawing you in, giving you a 360-degree tour of its interior, then leaving plenty of room for you to explore on your own. [Kelsey J. Waite]