Listen to these songs and more on The A.V. Club’s Spotify playlist, updated weekly with what we’re listening to.
Jon Hopkins, “Emerald Rush”
With Immunity, British producer Jon Hopkins made, in my humble opinion, the best album of 2013, and easily one of the best electronic releases of the 2010s—a record whose narrative arc, tracing a night out from its early euphoric rush to bleary sunrise reflection, seems forced but is actually deeply felt. The word “cinematic” is overused, but it best describes Hopkins’ uniquely emotive spin on techno, which can shift suddenly from big, rolling bass lines to a single, pensive piano note, like a warehouse rave freeze-framing for an inner monologue on what it all means. There’s no overarching story on the upcoming Singularity, but Hopkins is still masterfully manipulating moods on lead single “Emerald Rush.” It begins with a melancholy piano line and some twinkling starfield synths before giving way to the kind of warped thumps that drove Immunity’s energetic peak “Collider,” with Hopkins deftly layering in some wordless, angelic vocals and rockets in flight while the exhilaration builds and builds. It’s another addictive thrill on an album that is as strong a return as you could have hoped for. There’s a good chance that Singularity will end up topping my 2018 charts as well. [Sean O’Neal]
Dr. Octagon, “Area 54”
Sean disagrees with me, but seeing Dr. Octagon live last spring ranks as one of the more disappointing shows I’ve attended in recent memory. I realize Dr. Octagonecologyst was 22 years ago, but it’s still a bummer to watch Kool Keith read from a teleprompter for an hour straight. I’m keeping my expectations understandably low for the upcoming Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation, the first Dr. Octagon album since his debut with original collaborators Dan The Automator and DJ Qbert. The new track that accompanied the album’s announcement, “Octagon Octagon,” was more or less a shrug, but “Area 54” has gotten my hopes up. While recapturing the manic whimsy of Dr. Octagonecologyst two decades later remains a tall order, “Area 54” shows that at least some of the magic remains, maybe because it sounds like a ’90s hip-hop song: a vintage-sounding kick-snare beat, jazz samples, and the snippet of porn dialogue that also was a hallmark of Dr. Octagon’s debut. As Clayton noted in his newswire, they’re not reinventing the wheel, but Keith, Dan, and Qbert sound like they’re having fun together—and if the rest of Moosebumps sounds like “Area 54,” I’ll be psyched. [Kyle Ryan]
Joe Tex, “Papa Was Too”
I’m shocked Hollywood hasn’t turned the feud between James Brown and Joe Tex into a movie. Tex long held that it all started with Brown stealing his stage moves, particularly his mic-stand tricks, but things really blew up once both soul singers got signed to the same label and Brown released “Baby, You’re Right,” his version of a Joe Tex original that was altered just enough to get Brown’s name added to the credits (and royalty checks). It just gets crazier from there, with stolen girlfriends, diss tracks, onstage mockeries, and Brown allegedly shooting up a club in search of Tex, wounding several innocent bystanders and paying them off. If Brown weren’t so self-absorbed and volatile, he could’ve easily brushed his “rival” aside, because the reality is Tex was never on Brown’s level when it came to financial success. That said, he did record a few tracks that rival the swagger of the Godfather Of Soul. It wasn’t one of his bigger hits, but there’s something extra special about “Papa Was Too,” a laid-back hard-soul number with a wickedly sharp “boom-bap” beat and a dusty piano hook that’s begging to be sampled into a new life. [Matt Gerardi]