Waxahatchee, “Never Been Wrong”
It won’t surprise Waxahatchee fans that the upcoming Out In The Storm (out July 14) is great; the question is more about the form Katie Crutchfield’s new album will take. 2015’s Ivy Tripp—No. 8 on The A.V. Club’s best albums of 2015—nicely balanced what my colleague Alex McLevy described as “hushed, spare confessionals and joyous pop-rock,” so will the new one follow suit? “Never Been Wrong” opens Out In The Storm with awesomely catchy power-pop, but joyous it is not. Crutchfield rebukes an old partner while censuring herself for putting up with them for so long, which is a familiar take for a post-breakup song—but some themes are eternal. The combination of Crutchfield’s cutting lyrics (“You walk around like it’s your god-given right / You love being right / You’ve never been wrong”) and the anxious energy of the song around her makes “Never Been Wrong” an excellent statement of purpose for what follows on Out In The Storm.
Payroll Giovanni, “Spot In Every Ghetto”
Detroit rapper Payroll Giovanni’s Big Bossin, Vol. 1 was one of last year’s quieter pleasures, full of sun-kissed West Coast synths and shimmering drug rap paeans. This year’s Payface—the title is, yes, a Scarface reference—is another winner, 11 tracks of “it was all a dream” luxe life mood music. There isn’t a bad track on it, but “Spot In Every Ghetto” is the perfect blend of bouncing Michael Jackson keyboards and Payroll’s lithe emceeing. He has a way of wrapping his words around the beat such that the entire verse feels like a hook: “I’m tryin’ to vacate, and elevate and stay safe / All I wanted young was a white brick with gray tape,” he starts, a young man with plans to make cream. It’s bittersweet without being rueful, nostalgic without ever feeling like a throwback. If it’s warm where you are—it took forever in Chicago, but we’re finally here—put this on and enjoy.
Mount Kimbie featuring Micachu, “Marilyn”
Mount Kimbie emerged from a four-year silence this spring with a pair of soulful, high-profile collaborations—the first with longtime friend James Blake, the second with Micachu—and I’ve had the latter in particular on repeat lately. “Marilyn” begins with a rippling synth line that washes in gently, like the tide around your ankles, before diving headlong into an aquamarine daydream. Synths curl in and overlap from every direction, layers of brass swell with the tension of waves cresting, and Micachu is right at home in this world of slyly evolving rhythms. “I’m looking up at you / Are you looking up at me?” she poses with something of an ache. The song’s ambiguous lyrics, of brief glances and wondering what someone else is thinking, bring a subtle romance to the song’s sense of wonder. “Marilyn” is downright mesmerizing—a song I know I’ll have in rotation for a long time to come.
Guerilla Toss, “Betty Dreams Of Green Men”
Guerilla Toss has come a long way since the band first came together at the New England Conservatory and started pumping out its dissonant, improvisational noise rock. Before long, singer Kassie Carlson joined up and the band started embracing the danceable side of art rock, burying funky basslines and drums beneath mounds of gooey, whirring synths while Carlson sits atop it all reciting her poetry. In the years since, the band signed with James Murphy’s DFA Records and has been inching toward tunefulness without sacrificing any of its eccentricities. “Betty Dreams Of Green Men” opens the upcoming album GT Ultra, with the band’s biggest step toward approachability yet. The bouncy bass and its occasional wah-wah smears come in loud and clear, working alongside Peter Negroponte’s punchy, insistent drums and a flurry of hand percussion to fill out the song’s absolutely killer rhythm section. There’s hardly a lick of atonality or jammy digressions, with Arian Shafiee’s guitar noodling acting more like a prickly garnish on top of the thick grooves. There’s even an honest-to-god chorus where Carlson is left alone to shout over those monstrous drums while the band occasionally cuts in with blasts of noise. It’s like an effervescent lost track from Remain In Light, and one of the catchiest things I’ve heard in ages.
Carly Rae Jepsen, “Cut To The Feeling”
This past weekend I went to my five-year college reunion, where the DJ played “Call Me Maybe” at least three times, and completely ignored my request for Carly Rae Jepsen’s latest, “Cut To The Feeling.” Now, I’ve got no problem with “Call Me Maybe,” and considering the whole event was a nostalgic exercise, its appearance made sense. But it would have been amazing to have heard “Cut To The Feeling” at least once. The track is like injecting pop joy straight into your veins, in keeping with Jepsen’s general stylistic M.O. The song is from her Emotion sessions, but that only makes it more remarkable that she released two albums from that material and still has stuff this fun left behind. “Cut To The Feeling” is a perfect match of lyric and melody; when Jepsen sings she wants to “cut through the clouds,” you can feel the song soaring. It’s perfect for dancing with abandon, which is about what’s necessary for a college reunion, anyway.