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.
With his 2017 debut, Good For You, Aminé carved out his own carefree corner in the West Coast hip-hop scene, combining colorful, minimalist production, infectious melodies, and braggadocious rhymes to create a skillful—if a bit immature—showcase of his talents. Three years and a throwaway mixtape later, the Portland rapper returns with his moodier, more existential sophomore LP, Limbo. The happy-go-lucky attitude that colored Good For You has been replaced by vulnerability and honest introspection (“Beat so cold, it made Aminé wanna open up,” he raps on the laid-back opener “Burden.”) The album’s sole interlude, “Kobe,” finds him at a crossroads between youth and adulthood, grappling with his mortality after the death of the basketball icon (“It weirdly, like, fast-forwarded my maturity.”) All that sounds heavy, but Limbo rarely ever feels weighed down by that thematic heft. Aminé still raps with the same lightness and confidence that defined his previous work. [Baraka Kaseko]
The hushed vocals, the sense of low-level intensity, the evocative turns of phrase that take familiar sayings and twist them just a half-step to the left—Holly Humberstone’s debut EP may be the first real salvo of an emerging artist, but she’s already found a fertile and fully realized sound that that makes it seem as though she found her voice long ago. Like Lorde filtered through the style of early Julien Baker (with tiny flourishes of Billie Eilish’s softer side and Taylor Swift’s lyrical wit), Humberstone crafts powerfully affecting pop that positively hums with pent-up emotion. These six songs go by quickly (it clocks in at just 20 minutes), but they showcase an impressive breadth of artistry, from the haunting guitar-driven soul of “Deep End” to the pulsing piano rhythms of “Drop Dead” to the electro dance-floor groove of the title track, it all feels profoundly personal, like she’s right beside you, whispering confessions. If “Overkill” suffers from a, well, overkill of instrumentation, it segues smoothly into the closing blips and synths of driving anthem “Vanilla,” completing an excellent and largely unimpeachable display of songcraft. Not bad for someone whose very first song was released in January of this year. [Alex McLevy]
“Think I’m gonna rent a Montecarlo/Drive around ya neighborhood like real slow.” Breezy and playful, Remi Wolf positively cruises in a buoyant jam that encapsulates the joys of reveling in success. Remi quite literally bounces between laid-back vocals, speed rap, and melodic, joyfully pure propositions towards a “tiny little boyfriend” with such ease and charisma. The summer bop gained an early following thanks to a Samsung event and the full release did not disappoint. It pairs very well with the confident virtuoso’s recently released EP I’m Allergic To Dogs!, which was a verifiably bright spot during a rather dark quarantine. Though she originally penned the track for fellow energetic rapper Cardi B, there’s no denying that “Monte Carlo” benefits entirely from a sprightly swagger that only Remi can bring. [Shannon Miller]
In 2019, a masked stranger rode into town with little more than some fringe and a guitar, but it wasn’t long until everyone knew his name (well, his pseudonym): Orville Peck. With an unmistakable warble and lyrics that brazenly queered cowboy iconography, Peck’s debut album Pony announced a unique voice in the country scene, a buckaroo ready to buck convention. Now, the delayed follow-up EP, Show Pony, arrives to cement his ascent: No one-trick pony, this new collection of songs charts his path to stardom. Where Pony was more melancholy, Show Pony does justice to its name with a flashier, more confident sound. Standout “Drive Me Crazy,” for example, is a piano-fueled torch song for the CB radio set, leaning into camp (“Breaker, breaker, break hearts,” Peck croons) without sacrificing its soulful longing. Elsewhere, Shania Twain joins Peck for the barnstorming duet “Legends Never Die,” and he closes out the EP with a fiery cover of “Fancy”—queer country canon thanks to Reba McEntire’s take on the classic. It’s in these tracks that Orville Peck’s vocal muscle really shines through, staking out a place of his own among the legends that inspired him. [Cameron Scheetz]
Surely, it was only a matter of time before Miley Cyrus went full-on ’80s glam. Scatterings of icy electronic throwbacks to that era are present on Bangerz, but whereas that album leaned into its modern R&B sound, with new single “Midnight Sky,” Cyrus has embraced the dancehall style of the Me Decade, with a track that wouldn’t sound out of place on a mixtape from 1985. Eurythmics, Culture Club, Pet Benatar—she’s tossed it all in a blender and come out with an addicting song that wears its retro style proudly. A paean to luxuriating in being single and ready to party, the message is vintage Cyrus, even as it finds her trying on a different style than she’s known for—and it suits her. The accompanying video (which Cyrus also directed) may be a reminder that her penchant for playacting vainglorious stage coquettes hasn’t dimmed, but as a part of this latest persona, it feels apt: Miley Cyrus is having fun again. [Alex McLevy]