Star Tracks compiles the most interesting new music from a broad range of established and emerging artists.
This week’s playlist features new music from SZA, Dom Vallie, UMI, Angel Olsen, Joji, Milk & Bone, Michael Rault, Counterparts and more.
Click here to listen along to the Spotify playlistwhich includes additional tracks we loved this week.
SZA – ‘CTRL (Deluxe Version)’ available on:
Considering her stature within the world of R&B and pop, it’s wild to think that SZA has only released a single album. Sure, she’s released a slow drip of high quality singles and features in recent years, but her debut, 2017’s “Ctrl”, remains her supreme artistic statement. And wow, does it have legs – since it’s release, the album has never left the Billboard Top 200 chart.
Earlier this week, to celebrate the fifth anniversary of “Ctrl,” SZA released a deluxe version of the album, which features seven previously unreleased tracks that she recorded between 2014 and 2017 — including an alternative version of “love galore,” a track produced by Tyler, The Creator other another that flips the chorus from PartyNextDoor and Drake’s “Come and See Me.”
But the standout here is “Awkward,” a melancholy ballad about a budding relationship cut short by the rush of intimacy. “And now we don’t speak at all/ Now I regret it all,” SZA laments over a trilling flute sample and a subtle trap beat. “Still, it was worth it/ I would do it again,” she admits in the chorus. It’s a classic SZA track – raw and vulnerable, but delivered with an icy swagger. It might not be new, but it should tide her ravenous fans over for a minute. — Richie Assaly
Dom Vallie: Didn’t Go Through
Provided to YouTube by The Orchard Enterprises
The path of independence continues for Toronto rapper and singer Dom Vallie. On the cusp on his record deal falling through, Vallie’s “Didn’t Go Through” is a window into the situation. Bouncing between perspectives and flows, Vallie paints the picture of a quizzical family and irate young artist already jaded by the industry. Over Kanye-esque vocal samples and a super smooth bass guitar, Vallie outlines how his family dealt with the retracted deal, rapping from his brother’s perspective “Dom, what’s this about?/ I thought you gone an got that money, why you said they pulling out?” So far Vallie’s music has been iridescent with a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove – “Been Himma” is proof of that. With the latest label debacle those tenets have only proven truer on “Didn’t Go Through,” with excellent production to match. — Demar Grant
UMI: wish that i could
Listen to “Forest in the City” here: https://UMI.lnk.to/ForestintheCity
Singer-songwriter UMI recently took to social media to share the inspiration behind her debut album “Forest in the City,” stating that she understands how hard it can be to live in a world full of constant noise.
“The urge to get away and be in nature is so universal, but not always possible. Feeling this myself, I wanted to create an album that could be a sonic oasis. So that no matter where you are in the city, listening can connect you back to the natural world,” she wrote.
The 23-year-old Seattle artist’s album touches on identity, self-reflection, relationships and love. In “wish that I could,” she romanticizes a lover, declaring she could provide her with everything she deserves and desires.
On this track, UMI incorporates a heavier bass beat and electronic sounds to her angelic-like vocals. The single has a steady but thrilling melody that is sure to be playing in the background of your next car ride or chill night dancing on your own. — Madison Wong
Angel Olsen: Chasing the Sun
Provided to YouTube by BWSCD Inc
Over the course of the last decade, singer-songwriter Angel Olsen has undergone several transformations – just compare the angsty lo-fi folk of “Burn Your Fire For No Witness” to the punchy indie rock of “MY WOMAN” to the ambitious art pop of “All Mirrors.” On her sixth album, “Big Time,” Olsen assumes the role of the alt-country crooner, using her singular voice to explore dreamy sonic landscapes made up of slide guitar, sumptuous strings and downtempo percussion.
“Big Time” is a heavy album – a New York profiles Details how Olsen came out as gay to her adoptive parents, who both died just two months apart shortly after. At times the grief is palpable, but elsewhere —notably on the album’s stunning closing track “Chasing the Sun” – Olsen sounds irredeemably in love. “I can’t seem to get anything done/ With someone likе you around/ Everyone’s wondering whеre I’ve gone/ Having too much fun, having too much fun/ Doing nothing, doing nothing,” she sings over deeply sustained piano chords, her voice filled with pain and infatuation. Ultimately, the track makes a simple point: only love can drive away the blues. — RA
Joji: Glimpse of Us
“Glimpse of Us” – out now. Stream: https://joji.lnk.to/GlimpseofUs
Joji’s despondence is as awe-inspiring as it is relatable. A simple piano ballad is what the singer offers on “Glimpse of Us,” but the lyrics and vocals are the hammer and the nail. His misery-filled vocals are only fueled by his dissociative words that paint a regretful picture: “Cause sometimes I look in her eyes/ And that’s where I find a glimpse of us/ And I try to fall for her touch/ But I’m thinkin’ of the way it was.” New relationships don’t always mean new feelings — sometimes the residue of the previous one is what a new one is built on top of. is it fair No. But it’s a reality for many. Everything on this track is a reflection on one of Joji’s past relationships despite the person in front of him: “She’d take the world off my shoulders/ If it was ever hard to move/ She’d turn the rain to a rainbow/ When I was livin’ in the blue.” — DG
Milk & Bone: Borders
Listen to Borders everywhere: https://bonsound.co/bordersYT
“Borders” marks Montreal-based duo Milk & Bone’s latest drop since the release of their single “Bigger Love” last month.
Consisting of Laurence Lafond-Beaulne and Camille Poliquin, the Canadian electro pop duo’s newest track will give you a much-needed boost of energy. It’s a refreshing song bound to be on your summertime playlist.
The duo’s harmonies are elevating, with synth and bass elements weaved in perfectly to accompany their vocals. Reflecting on past memories and relationships, the single was written during the pandemic and touches on feeling a rush of emotions when all the “What Ifs” cross your mind. — MW
Michael RaultExactly What I Needed
Combining elements of 60s psych pop, 70s funk and 80s yacht rock, Michael Rault’s music has always felt lifted from a bygone era. But the Edmonton-born artist has perfected this pastiche on his new eponymous LP, which arrived Friday via Majesticsilk Records.
Rault flexes his skills as a songwriter and instrumentalist on the album’s lead single, “neither love nor money” a cheery and disco-inflected track that features a Stevie Wonder-esque harpsichord, a horn section and plenty of complex chord changes. Or there’s “Exactly What I Needed,” a sugary track that Rault’s press materials describe as “what might happen if Harry Nilsson and ‘Count Down To Ecstasy’ era Steely Dan had written and produced a song together.” Perhaps that’s niche, but it works – Rault’s myriad influences make for a flavorful and thoroughly enjoyable melting pot. — RA
Counterparts: Unwavering Vow
Damn counterparts, who hurt you?
The metalcore veterans from Hamilton have re-emerged with their first track since their 2019 LP “Nothing Left to Love” and are immediately throwing punches with “Unwavering Vow.”
And it’s without question the first single from their upcoming album “A Eulogy for Those Who Are Still Here” is counterparts at its finest. Sharp tones and riffs? Check. Punishing breakdowns? Check. Deeply dark and personal lyrics? Check. “In dreams I watched you die, now I can’t wait to close my eyes,” vocalist Brendan Murphy screams over chugging guitars and crisp drums (thanks to the masterful work by longtime producer Will Putney).
While counterparts has always been a revolving door of members — Murphy is the only one who has never left — the return of founding lead guitarist Jesse Doreen is extremely welcome. Their music has never sounded so polished, and it’s great to see a band so unapologetically themselves during a time when so many others in the genre tend to fade away or jump to different styles.
Counterparts are still throwing punches. And they’re landing them, too. — Justin Smileys
Provided to YouTube by Columbia
Pure anger, hate and vitriol personified, #ImSippinTeaInYoHood is one of the most rage-inducing songs ever. A diss track to SmokePurpp back in 2016 when he was still relevant, X channels animosity viscerally through throat-searing raps, screamed ad-libs and seeingthing lyrics. The production is distorted just enough to border on incomprehension but settles into hair-raising, teeth-gritting malice with it’s muddy 808s and droning tones. We always talk about channeling emotions in songs if it translates to sadness but if you don’t feel like suplexing your desk off the roof of your house after the single verse and hook of this song, you’ve misinterpreted it.
#ImSippinTeaInYoHood was first released in 2016 but it was one of those tracks that only lived on YouTube and SoundCloud, invisible to your average streaming listener. That’s until his latest compilation album “LOOK AT ME: The album” dropped on Friday and it’s still as ferocious as it was when it first dropped. — DG
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