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.
Sleater-Kinney, “Hurry On Home”
[Mom + Pop, May 29]
The most confident breakup song to come along in a while, “Hurry On Home,” Sleater-Kinney’s first new music since the release of its 2015 album No Cities To Love, struts with the self-assurance of someone who knows that their flirtatious entreaty for a wayward lover to “hurry on home to me / I’ve set a place for two,” is totally going to work. Opening with a bracing blast of vocal harmony like a beam of light hitting a prism, the song combines holographic synths and tattered guitars into a chaotic swirl, then beats that cyclone back into dust with Janet Weiss’ signature pounding-yet-precise drumming. Sleek and shredded, the song bears the stamp of producer St. Vincent, whose slinky sexiness collides with Sleater-Kinney’s heavy riffage with all the power—and entertainment value—of Godzilla battling King Kong. [Katie Rife]
Azymuth, Demos (1973-75) Volumes 1 & 2
[Far Out Recordings, May 31]
You can probably count on two hands the number of demo collections that are essential listening for non-fans. Grow another finger and add Azymuth’s Demos (1973–1975) Volumes 1 & 2 to the list. The Brazilian jazz-funk trio (and occasional quartet) emerged fully formed with 1975’s Azymuth, but this new compilation suggests that bassist Alex Malheiros, drummer Ivan Conti, and keyboardist Jose Roberto Bertrami’s musical chemistry was elemental from the moment they met; at times, they slip so naturally around each another as they make their way back to the one, it’s like watching amoebas split and join. Where their finished albums shifted between rock-hard jams and gauzy soft-rock, the demos collected here entirely jettison the latter in favor of aggressive, ferociously played, and wildly inventive minimalist funk. Think of peak-era Meters or Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters and you’re on the right track, but still not there: For all George Porter’s genius, he never turned your spine inside out the way Malheiros does on “Melô Da Cuica.” [Marty Sartini Garner]
Santi, Mandy & The Jungle
[Monster Boy, May 17]
Santi is a Nigerian musician whose debut album, Mandy & The Jungle, can be nominally classified as Afrobeats or alté. These buzzwords—and a sound that peaked in the States with Wizkid’s 2017 Drake collaboration, “Come Closer”—describe an ongoing African response to Western trends, particularly the rhythmically vaporous melodies of hip-hop/R&B in the age of streaming. Indeed, there’s a short distance between the airy boasts of Gunna and Lil Baby’s “Drip Too Hard” and Santi’s “Rapid Fire,” the incredible 2018 single fueling his international rise. Santi sings with a dancehall gait on the chorus, while the rapper/singer Shane Eagle makes references to “dead homies” and gender-bending singer Amaarae shouts out Jacob The Jeweler, a curio from rap’s old-school bling years. It makes for a postmillennial equivalent of Lee Perry’s rocksteady classic Return Of Django. Two well-known Americans appear on Mandy & The Jungle, too: Rapper Goldlink enlivens “Maria,” while the irrepressibly goofy DRAM (of “Broccoli” fame) shows up on “Demon Hearts.” It’s a sign that Santi may not be just a cult fave much longer. [Mosi Reeves]
We’re collecting our A-Sides recommendations over on a Spotify playlist updated every Friday. Tune in and subscribe here.
[Fader Label, May 24]
It’s that classic story: Boston teen writes lo-fi pop song for simple keys and click track, murmurs it straight into webcam while wearing a school sweatshirt and earbuds, and racks up 33 million-plus YouTube views. More than just a charming earworm, Claire Cottrill’s “Pretty Girl” (and the appealing EP it appeared on) was marked by a preternaturally sophisticated sensibility—emotive yet deadpan, understatedly arch, and deceptively unpolished, like more sedate, ironic Alessia Cara. Now the self-started (sort of, maybe) 20-year-old known as Clairo is back with “Bags,” where she retains her uncanny calm but jettisons synth-pop for dream-pop guitars. It’s warm music played cold as ice, naturalness meets artifice, with shades of Au Revoir Simone and Beach House, destined for a David Lynch project. “Bags” is the first single from Clairo’s debut album, Immunity, which comes out August 2. [Brian Howe]
Miley Cyrus, “The Most”
[RCA, May 31]
“The Most,” the closing track on Miley Cyrus’ brand-new six-cut EP She Is Coming, will likely receive the least bit of attention, as it doesn’t sport any cool collaborations with RuPaul or Ghostface Killah, and Cyrus doesn’t swear once in it. Nevertheless, it’s far and away the best song on the release. It’s a sweet anthem, presumably to Cyrus’ newlywed husband, Liam Hemsworth, bringing to mind her earlier pop-country hits like “The Climb” or even “Malibu” from 2017’s Younger Now. In her appealingly raspy twang, the singer unfurls a heartfelt, self-deprecating love song (last line: “I don’t know why you still believe in me”), backed by a disparate but epic combo of primitive percussion, steel guitar, and breathy strings. It’s the kind of emotive country ballad her godmother, Dolly Parton, would appreciate. She Is Coming is part of the lead-up to Cyrus’ seventh studio album; here’s hoping that record contains more songs like this one, fewer like “D.R.E.A.M.,” or “Drugs Rule Everything Around Me.” [Gwen Ihnat]