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.
Jay Som, Anak Ko
The soft revolution continues apace with Anak Ko, the third full-length from songwriter Melina Duterte, a.k.a Jay Som. Jay Som’s music always has a sweetness and a vulnerability to it, and album singles “Superbike” and “Nighttime Drive” take Duterte’s dreamy bedroom pop to new, expansive, fuzzed-out places inspired by a retreat to the high California desert. But it’s “Tenderness” that’s squishiest in lyrical content as well as in sound. Described by Duterte as a “feel-good, funky, kind of sexy song,” this easy number entreats a special someone to try a little long-distance tenderness through their smartphone screen. These digital-age lyrics contrast with the song’s ’70s soft-rock groove, which lends a polyester-and-linoleum retro sheen to Jay Som’s already starry-eyed sound. [Katie Rife]
“Some sisters in the industry, I know that y’all was frontin,’” admits Rapsody on “Cleo.” Indeed, despite a rap renaissance for women, the North Carolina rapper often looks out of place—not an indie sensation like Noname, yet unengaged in pop aesthetics like Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, et al. Her major-label debut, 2017’s Laila’s Wisdom, slowly built an audience with mentor 9th Wonder’s throwback soul samples and, crucially, a Grammy nomination that mainstream fans couldn’t ignore. Eve isn’t as sonically consistent, and that’s probably a good thing: the booty-bass bounce of “Serena” and the digital vibes of “Tyra” prove she can do more than flow over backpacker tracks. Each song is named after an iconic black woman, and it’s gratifying to hear her with Leikeli 47 (“Oprah”) and Queen Latifah (“Hatshepsut”). A J Cole session on “Sojourner” proves she’s nearing her moment when she can maintain a faithful audience—radio hits or no—if only she can claim it. [Mosi Reeves]
We’re collecting our A-Sides recommendations over on a Spotify playlist updated every Friday. Tune in and subscribe here.
House Guests, My Mind Set Me Free
Burnt out by Star Time but still not a star, Bootsy Collins left James Brown’s nascent J.B.’s and headed back to Cincinnati in 1971, taking his brother Catfish and trumpeter Clayton “Chicken” Gunnells with him. Along with drummer Frankie “Kash” Waddy and singer Rufus Allen, they formed House Guests and proceeded to tear up the Rust Belt funk circuit, frequently outshining the likes of the Ohio Players and Gladys Knight & The Pips. One of those supernova nights ended with Bootsy, Catfish, and Kash getting hired away by a rising group called Funkadelic, and in a flash so bright you need star-shaped shades to face it, the histories of funk, rock, R&B, and space travel were changed forever. My Mind Set Me Free suggests that that could have been the case even if George Clinton hadn’t gotten his ego bruised in Ohio: The tracks collected here are as whip-tight as anything they did as The J.B.’s, but they’re leavened by the sweet spaciness that’s still Bootsy’s trademark. [Marty Sartini Garner]
Oso Oso, Basking In The Glow
There’s something timeless about the indie guitar swing of Oso Oso. Jade Lilitri’s emo rock project has gotten a lot of comparisons to Death Cab For Cutie and other ’00s bands, but that’s not entirely accurate. Yes, there’s plenty of Spoon and other recent acts in the heady melodicism of Basking In The Glow, Lilitri’s new record, but there’s also a heavy dose of Elvis Costello, Matthew Sweet, and numerous other sharp-riffing singer-songwriters who wed thoughtful, penetrating lyrics to distorted guitars just piercing enough to be warm without getting sugary. “Yeah, there’s this hole in my soul / So how far do you wanna go?” he asks on “Dig,” restrained licks wedded to an almost stately groove (before it erupts in cathartic release), and that question permeates the entire record, a moving meditation on passion and the emotional cost that pursuing such elusive goals can take on a person. Going from explosive anthems to pensive and moody moments of quiet—sometimes in the same song—the record builds and ebbs in elegant, moving waves of beauty, a pop-rock album of understated grace. [Alex McLevy]
Missy Elliott, “Throw It Back”
Missy Elliott is so ahead of the game, even her throwbacks sound like they’re from the future. Thus is the case with “Throw It Back,” which you absolutely have to listen to on big, booming, bass-heavy speakers—or at least a pair of decent headphones—or you’ll miss half of the track. Missy puts on her moon boots to bound over the song’s low-gravity bass, reminding listeners that, among her many braggadocious achievements, she’s got “so many VMAs that I could live on the moon.” And just when you think you’ve got the song figured out, “Throw It Back” flips it and reverses it, proving once again why, no matter what the year, we’re all just following in Missy Elliott’s wake. [Katie Rife]