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 our Spotify playlist, and if you like what you hear, we encourage you to purchase featured artists’ music directly at the links provided below.
Katie Dey’s music tends to sound like how a scrambled TV signal looks. Her 2015 debut, asdfasdf, sounded on its surface like a 20-minute malfunction, but it didn’t take much to glimpse the pop songcraft beneath the glitches and bursts. Dey’s spent the last several years refining it, and is continuing to do so on the lovely mydata, a tender and intimate record that foregrounds her fairylike vocals more than ever before. The opening trio of songs—“darkness,” “dancing,” and “happiness”—are among the cleanest and most accessible in her catalog, her yearning lyrics glistening off spritely bursts of piano and the stirring rush of synthesized strings. There’s plenty of dissonance in what follows—her cracked vocals crumble to pieces in “word” before washing out to sea on “closeness”—but there’s also more of Dey, who continues her slow, vulnerable crawl from the sparking wires and melting plastic of her laptop. [Randall Colburn]
If there is one artist who knows his way around a scintillating dance beat, it’s hip-hop virtuoso DUCKWRTH. Though he has long proven his ability to craftily navigate any sound, tracks like “I’M DEAD,” “Crush” and the recently released, energetic “Coming Closer” flex the L.A.-based rapper’s mastery when it comes to blending hip-hop, funk, and house. Bolstered by a sultry, beckoning hook from Julia Romana, DUCKWRTH and fellow vibrant lyricist G.L.A.M deliver a sexy club anthem over a pulsating beat, adding to the growing roster of quality dance music we’ve received this year. “Coming Closer” harnesses the energy and intimacy of a dancefloor rendezvous in a way that only DUCKWRTH can manage: with ceaseless style and a captivating flow. During a time when we may not be able to saunter into the nightclub for a while, this bouncing bop brings the nightclub to you. [Shannon Miller]
You don’t need to know anything about the messy backstory of Illuminati Hotties’ latest release to enjoy it (the result of an agreement to buy out their contract with imploding label Tiny Engines that included a royalty payment for the band’s subsequent release). Regardless of the reason, listeners should rejoice at the finished product: a 12-song, 23-minute explosion of hooks and infectious creative exhilaration. Dubbed a “mixtape” by Sarah Tudzin, the sole creative force behind the name, Free I.H. runs the gamut from grimy shout-rock like “superiority complex (big noise)” to electro-twee grooves (“melatonezone”) to the lovely build-and-release catharsis of centerpiece “free dumb.” But all along, Tudzin’s knack for addictive, insistent pop anchors even the call-and-response cheerleading of “content/bedtime,” making the whole enterprise less a playful one-off and more a righteously outraged expression of art in a time of frustrated ambition. [Alex McLevy]
More than 35 years after the original version of “What’s Love Got To Do With It” went to No. 1 (making Tina Turner, then 44, the oldest female solo artist to achieve that ranking), this Kygo remix has given the track a whole new life. Perfect for beach night parties sadly not meant to be this summer, there’s an easy and organic feeling to the updated beats and synth that play beneath Turner’s signature rasp. Producer Kygo has forgone the standard vocal distortions and hook repetitions that plague lesser remixes, infusing this new version of Turner’s hit with the same love and admiration he displayed for Whitney Houston on his 2019 version of “Higher Love.” It’s exciting to hypothesize which deserving diva he’ll be inspired by next. [Patrick Gomez]
Courtney Marie Andrews’ latest record has all the elements of a pathetically lonesome album: Plaintive steel guitar, unadorned vocals, heavy-hearted piano playing. But there’s a warm, organic quality to Andrews’ voice that can’t help but sweeten the heartbroken lyrics about lost love. Like many breakup albums (and breakups), Old Flowers follows a trajectory from denial to acceptance to moving on, traveling from the lovestruck confession, “What would you say if I told you / You’re my last thought at the end of each night?” on “If I Told” to the serene farewell—“Hope your days are even better than the ones that we shared,” she sings—of album closer “Ships In The Night.” The overwhelming sadness is infused with a sort of ragged beauty, a wistful acknowledgement of good times that are now brittle and faded as the Old Flowers of the title. [Katie Rife]