“No Surprises (feat. Janelle Monae),” Roman GianArthur: If you’re still looking to fill that gaping Prince hole in your heart, I highly recommend checking out emerging R&B artist Roman GianArthur. (Earlier this year, I saw GianArthur perform at a small club in Atlanta and he tore the house down as he shredded his guitar while both shirtless and blindfolded.) As a member of Wondaland Arts Society, Janelle Monae’s label imprint at Epic Records, GianArthur has produced and appeared on several tracks with his labelmates, including Jidhenna’s “Classic Man,” but only released his first EP, OK Lady, in 2015. The record melds D’Angelo and Radiohead covers together to produce agonizing lyrics over an infectious funk groove — something you never knew you needed until now. GianArthur’s take on “No Surprises” features a hypnotic drumbeat and some stirring harmonies, courtesy of Monae, that would probably make Thom Yorke blush.
“War Is Coming (If You Want It),” Car Seat Headrest: In the last year, Car Seat Headrest has gained traction as one of the most promising rock acts. (If James Bond, Magic Mike and Kylo Ren have already seen these indie newcomers live, then you clearly need to check them out too.) Last week, the band released a new single “War Is Coming (If You Want It)” that frontman Will Toledo simply calls “a song about not murdering people.” The track is a slight departure from the band’s 2016 LP, Teens of Denial, relying more on keyboards and synths to round out a bassline reminiscent of new wave. Could this mark the beginning of Toledo’s transformation into Gen Y’s Rick Ocasek? (They look similar enough.)
“tonite,” LCD Soundsystem: Next week, LCD Soundsystem releases its fourth studio album, American Dream, after almost a decade of (relative) radio silence. (We have the almighty David Bowie to thank for the Brooklyn indie outfit’s reunion.) The group recently released the album’s latest single, “tonite” — which they first performed live during their two-week residency at Brooklyn Steel in June — along with a flashy vintage video. (Perched at the center of the video is Gavin Russom, the band’s synth player who recently came out as transgender, serving serious face like a Greek muse and nailing full trans visibility.)
If James Murphy is good at one thing — outside of putting on a seamless live show — it’s making existential dread sound disgustingly hip. Backed by a laser cut rhythm in the vein of Giorgio Moroder, Murphy laments our embrace of (and inability to escape) derivative pop in the digital age and its corporate endgame: “And you’re too sharp to be used / or you’re too shocked from being used / by these bullying children of the fabulous / raffling off limited edition shoes.” The song leaves one wondering if they’re succumbing to such a vicious cycle by dancing to it, and ultimately buying it, or if they’re above it all. Regardless, it’s a certified jam that will make you think while you dance and feel less guilty about your life choices (almost).
“Protect Ya Neck,” Wu-Tang Clan: In case you missed it, the Wu-Tang Clan are quickly becoming the faces of vigilante justice. (Okay, that may be slight hyperbole, but wouldn’t you rather watch a superhero movie starring them over Suicide Squad?) Specifically, earlier this month, professional weaselface Martin Shkreli was convicted on three counts of fraud after raising the price of a lifesaving drug by 5,000 percent. Though, for some potential jurors who were dismissed, Shkreli’s biggest offense was messing with the 36 Chambers crew. Despite dissing the group multiple times, Shkreli had bought the only copy of Wu-Tang’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin for $2 million in 2015 to allegedly impress girls. (After his conviction, he even went so far as to livestream the unreleased album in his second sleaziest troll yet.) So, to put it simply, these jurors are the heroes we need right now.
Speaking of superheroes, Marvel’s The Defenders premiered on Netflix this weekend with a diverse soundtrack, most notably featuring Wu-Tang’s “Protect Ya Neck.” (The group’s music first appeared in Luke Cage when the show’s namesake brought the ruckus in an epic fight scene.) During a very pivotal scene in the show, that song offers a sense of cool savagery that will bring any viewer to their feet. Bottom line: The Defenders’ music supervisor deserves all of the awards.
“Let’s Stay Together,” Al Green: Honestly, I don’t really have much to offer here. This song is just so warm and it seemed fitting to share with the world now.
You can check out all of my picks for this week’s playlist on Spotify here.
Featured image courtesy of Slate.