Beyoncé – “Virgo’s Groove”
Probably the most anticipated release of the year, Renaissance does not disappoint. For over an hour Beyoncé guides herself through glitchy disco and dance pop, always surprising with her left turns and the ease at which she makes them. “Virgo’s Groove” unfolds like a Jessie Ware leftover, with its groove consistently bright and bubbly, with just enough layering to suggest a darker undercurrent. Beyoncé herself floats through the mix, singing like a rapper would, dotting in and out and leaning into her stretched out vocal runs. If this really is the first of three acts, as Beyoncé has noted, then she just showed us the gun.
Maggie Rogers – “Symphony”
Surrender, Rogers new album, was narrowed down from over a hundred song sketches to these prime cuts. There’s no filler here and even the lesser cuts are catchy enough to keep off the cutting room floor, but for my money if one of these tracks is going to age the most gracefully, its “Symphony”. One of the more restrained songs, “Symphony” has a deceptively strong melody, but is marked by a soft vocal delivery and some propulsive beat and synth work. Coming in towards the very end of Surrender, Rogers knows this track’s drama works best as reflection of herself and not just as a song she’s written.
Sun’s Signature – “Underwater”
Elizabeth Fraser, beloved siren of Cocteau Twins, and Damon Reece are debuting as Sun’s Signature, a moniker that does all it can to ignore the importance of its existence. Not only is Sun’s Signature the probable EP of the year, but it marks a proper resurgence from Fraser, who’s been limited to one off features for most of the last twenty years. “Underwater”, the opening track, is there at the front of the EP, purely to remind listeners of the operatic cartwheels Fraser is capable of. At times she touches on the kind of vocal cooing that made her famous, but more often she is delving into something completely new.
Florist – “43”
Emily Sprague’s Florist has grown from a solo project to a full-fledged quartet, but the music is just as wistful and mystifying as ever. Sprague deftly balances the group’s embellishments without sacrificing her fiercely intimate songwriting or atmosphere, and when tracks do pick up like on “43”, It’s hard to imagine how she was able to keep it locked up for so long.
Friendship – “Chomp Chomp”
The fourth album from this Philadelphia mainstay is as simple and exciting as they’ve ever been. Dan Wriggins continues to croon about the everyday and the band backs him up with seemingly endless amounts of relaxed professionalism. Love the Stranger is evocative in the way a comfort movie is, effortlessly personal and warm in a well worn and welcoming way. The third single, “Chomp Chomp”, in its depiction of “White Vans” and “light-washed holey jeans” manages to pin down the ineffability of love in a way that feels honest and frustratingly universal.