Kurt Vile – “Mount Airy Hill (Way Gone)”
2018’s Bottle It In sounded like an album recorded on tour, a stop-gap which, like the Courtney Barnett collab Lotta Sea Lice, helped quell anticipation and lighten the tension of a follow-up to Kurt Vile’s surprise success on B’lieve I’m Goin Down. (Watch My Moves) is only a little shorter than its predecessor, but much like B’lieve, makes the most of its lofty runtime. Vile crams as much as he can into each track, with the five and a half minute “Mount Airy Hill (Way Gone)” deserving to be that long and never feeling indulgent. “Mount Airy Hill” is welcomingly breezy, with its warm guitars and a warranted fade-out, evoking an even longer track that we’ll never get to hear. It fits Vile perfectly and is instantly familiar, the way an old sweater or say, a Kurt Vile album feels when you finally go back to it.
Alex G – “End Song – from “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair”
This score from Alex G isn’t exactly the follow-up to House of Sugar we were looking for, but not many albums really could be. Still, Alex has proven surprisingly adept at injecting the kind of wistful pathos into these snippets, something that seems obvious in hindsight. “End Song” takes that formula and builds it into the kind of crescendoing power that Alex has mastered on his last few releases. It’s as simple and effortless as possible, but never feels less than a song or a score, and more importantly, feels equally akin to Alex and a movie I’ve never seen.
Joyride! – “Worse for the Wear”
I will not use the term Pop Punk, with those two adjectives inherently degraded by their combination. But it’s hard to think of two words more befitting to describe Joyride!, although I have seen some people online use “Punk Pop” instead. With this amount of energy and spunk, it’s hard to believe this trio has been kicking around for almost a decade, and not just finishing up their sophomore year of high school. But “Worse for the Wear” has enough light to prove that’s a compliment, while never holding back in its snarl and propulsion. At times Jenna Marx’s vocals come close to approaching a decidedly un-California twang, but she never leans too far in either direction, always simultaneously rough and sweet in her delivery and her purpose.
Sault – “Air”
Mysterious British music collective Sault dropped this surprise album yesterday, but the real surprise is how completely devoid of R&B this album is. Rather, these tracks are mostly devoid of lyrics, focusing on choral singing with heavily orchestrated embellishments. The result unfolds like the score for an especially impressionistic sci-fi spaghetti western. While certainly not entertaining in the same way their last two stellar albums have been, Air is successful for what it is, and the title track exemplifies that bespoke sense of wonder and warmth. As the song envelops and builds, the strings both swell and give way to the choral percussion in equal measure. As rich as the song’s construction is, it’s not until the piano lead in the last minute, that you actually have time to consider it.
Anitta – “Envolver”
Even if the double-entendres on “Envolver” are lost to me, Anitta reeks the sexy charisma you would expect from a Brazilian pop singer, more so at least than on the embarrassingly obvious “I’d Rather Have Sex”. “Envolver” achieves what nearly every song on Versions of Me attempts, to be catchy in a good way, and to present Anitta as an individual musician offering a song specific to herself. There’s a reason it broke the record for the most-streamed song in a single day on Spotify, and now that it’s getting its proper album release it’s a shame Anitta couldn’t manage better bedfellows.