Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
SZA (Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

SZA, “Quicksand”

I know Insecure is a good show, but I’ve got this thing about all these mostly sad sometimes-funny comedy shows set in L.A., and so I’ve mostly caught the show in bits and pieces as my wife has kept up with it. But it’s clear that its concern with music is more than merely the narrative touch of Issa Rae’s bathroom rapping, with occasional rap-nerd jokes and now two great soundtrack albums. The first, released last year and curated by Queen Regent Of Tastefulness Solange, featured D’Angelo, Thundercat, Goldlink, and more, but I like the new one a little more, settling into a more consistent mood of immaculately produced R&B. No one fits that mold better than SZA, whose Ctrl is quietly sounding more and more like this year’s best album, at least to these ears. Here, she chips in the previously unreleased “Quicksand,” another effortless ride of ’80s drums and synths that morphs into something altogether slinkier for the verses before clicking back into place again. And, of course, it’s a SZA track, so it’s full of hooks that tumble one into the next for four intoxicating minutes. [Clayton Purdom]


Weaves (feat. Tanya Tagaq), “Scream”

After hearing the first two singles from upcoming sophomore album Wide Open you might think the Toronto four-piece Weaves is moving away from the slippery, disjointed post-punk sound that was all over its self-titled debut. Those tracks, “#53” and “Walkaway,” are straightforward and finely honed arena-sized indie rock, full of big riffs played on buzzy guitars and exciting, singalong-worthy choruses. But the band’s latest single, “Scream,” is an arena-ready anthem of a different sort, an enrapturing, off-kilter expression of millennial anxiety, and, ultimately, empowerment. The band clunks away at an awkward, mechanical herky-jerky groove while singer Jasmyn Burke sings of our “time when misery is just common circumstance” and being sick to her stomach almost every day. But that angst becomes fury during the choruses when Burke is joined by Tanya Tagaq, whose animalistic throat-singing goes from ominous accompaniment to full-blown feral war chant as the song explodes with righteous passion. [Matt Gerardi]

B12, “Debris”

Warp recently reissued B12’s Electro-Soma, an album originally released in 1993 as part of the label’s Artificial Intelligence series—a special collection that, somewhat defensively, begged its listener to have an “open mind” and ensure they were “sitting comfortably.” I probably could have used the warning: In 1993, like the other skeptics the series was targeting, I also thought of electronic music as primarily the soundtrack of sweaty raves, not the sort of experimental, understated, ambient drifts it represented. Along with Autechre and Aphex Twin, B12 refined techno into something suited for closer study than clubs could provide; it’s all clean, carefully precise hi-hats and crisp snares, gentle synth-string swells, and metallic surfaces, united by a gleaming, sci-fi futurism. It arguably sounds better today than it did then, and I think it will still sound as good another quarter-century from now. [Sean O’Neal]


Hammock, “The House Where We Grew Up” 

Perhaps not surprisingly, movies are one of my most reliable sources of new music; while watching something for work, I’ll often jot down some stray lyrics from an unfamiliar song that catches my ear, because Googling them later is a lot less obtrusive than whipping out my phone and firing up Shazam. (Thanks, Nerve, for introducing me to Melanie Martinez’s goofily irresistible “Soap”!) But I had to consult press notes to find out who was responsible for the lovely, transporting melodies that snake their way through the lovely, transporting Columbus, because most of the music is wordless. Answer: Hammock. This Nashville two-piece composes ambient rock so warm, mellow, and inviting that they should find a way to convert it to pill form and prescribe it as anxiety medication. Most of the dreamier post-rock stuff I listen to has a harder edge; it conveys its big emotion through a lot of fuzzy, skyscraping guitar. But the dudes of Hammock, who have been soothing frazzled nerves for about a dozen years now, reduce the epic swell of bands like Explosions In The Sky or Sigur Rós to a gentle shimmer; it’s all bliss all the time, and it’s taken the edge off a lot of bad days. [A.A. Dowd]


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