Whaddya know? I took a couple days off (from work, social media, and Spotify—highly recommended, if you’ve never tried it) and when I got back there were all these new songs to listen to. (And emails to answer, but I’ll take care of those later.)
Big Thief – “Not”
Unlike a lot of hacks, I prudently budget my use of “incantatory” for special circumstances like just this one. (Not only does a quick Google reveal that I haven’t pulled that fancy rockcrit adj out since April 2018—describing Hurray for the Riff Raff’s “Kids Who’ll Die,” which deserved it— but I had to spell check the dang word too.) Each line of Adrianne Lenker’s lyrical silhouette demarcates what some mysterious entity is not, and her singing is rawer than anywhere on U.F.O.F., especially when the guitar drops out at the close and her voice is left alone with the rhythm section. Play the long version, with the coda—Lenker’s guitar deserves it.
Normani – “Motivation”
“Why would we ever do something instead of/Fallin’ into the bed right now?” is a question for the ages. Let us make two, three, many Fifth Harmony solo careers.
The Highwomen – “Highwomen”
Like most supergroups, this combo of great country songwriters (Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Maren Morris, Natalie Hemby) felt less than the sum of its parts at first. But this gender-flipped redefining of their outlaw namesakes’ statement of purpose isn’t just conceptually spot-on—it’s powerful stuff musically, with a South American refugee, a falsely accused Salem witch, a Freedom Rider (a guest vocal from the British soul singer Yola), and a persecuted preacher sharing their testimonies. Ride on, ladies.
clipping. – “Nothing Is Safe”
No matter what their video suggests, these arty rap pals are more A24 than John Carpenter. “Death is coming for you/But you already knew that," Daveed Diggs promises with suitable (if actorly) menace as a minimalist piano figure and ominous synth bass from producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes metastasizes with an eerie inherent logic. The horror.
Chris Farren – “Search for Me”
Eamest pop-punk joker (whose Wikipedia page lists “Jeff Rosenstock's best friend” among his occupations) imagines future regrets, finds himself “Wishing I was someone else/Or just myself with a slightly nicer body,” zips melodically and effortlessly along. (Hat tip to Marcus Michalik, whose omnivorous playlist I regularly pilfer for this column and highly recommend.)
Miley Cyrus – “Slide Away”
Just when you’re (OK. I’m) ready to give up on celebs entirely, this purebred phony makes something of her high-profile divorce with an ease, speed, and mastery far beyond the capabilities of anyone whose emotional development wasn’t wholly rerouted by showbiz at birth. Her best single since “Fly on the Wall.”
Every week, music editor Keith Harris scours the vast musicscape for six worthy tracks to add to City Pages' ever-expanding 2019 playlist.