Travis Scott – Wake Up
One of the year’s best and boldest rap records has arrived in the form of Astroworld by Travis Scott. It’s stuffed with special guests including Kanye West, Stevie Wonder, Frank Ocean and Drake, and Scott lays out his stall in the opening lyrics, which find him high on a mix of ecstasy, codeine and psychedelics. The album that ensues is a gorgeous body high made from slow, heady production and immersive melodic hooks. Wake Up is a highlight, although, truth be told, its success is down to the Weeknd delivering, on the topic of the taste of his lover’s genitals, one of his most appealing top lines. It’s perhaps the most spectacularly earnest and heartfelt song on the subject ever written.
Robyn – Missing U
Yes, Robyn is back to her tears-on-the-dancefloor best in her first solo single in eight years. But there is a key difference between Missing U and classics such as Call Your Girlfriend and Dancing on My Own. Her iconic hits are all about action and movement – working through pain, outracing heartbreak. It is rare to hear her sitting with loss: purely missing someone and letting herself register isolation instead of metabolising and moving on like a dazzling pop shark. You hear it in her voice here, too – sustained at the high, reeling note of a gasp not yet exhaled. Fans have (understandably) lamented pop’s lack of Robyn over the past eight years, save a few collaborative EPs that they, uncharitably, consider distractions from the main event. She has called Missing U a love letter to those fans, but it also works as an explanation for her absence. It takes time to develop this kind of perspective – to move on from the defiant twentysomething determination to prove, as she once sang, that you are indestructible, and let the soft parts show.
Yves Tumor – Noid
With this wonky pop gem, the Tennessee-born artist is showing he is apparently capable of anything. He has previously released stunning ambient music – like the intensely poignant and affecting Limerence on the PAN label compilation Mono No Aware – but there has also been lo-fi rap production, trip-hop and no-wave doodles; the only time I have seen him live he was screaming noise-punk, dressed in fetish gear. And Noid changes tack again: a sunny breakbeat-driven track with a nagging top line about police brutality.
Future – Hate the Real Me
When Future broke through with Pluto, his fixation on outer space seemed like a neat gimmick, or a cute metaphor for getting high. But, in hindsight, it feels like a man constantly trying to escape his own head. This closing track from the mixtape Beast Mode 2 sees him “tryna get high as I can”, but not in silly-drunk party mode – this is a cry for help, one of the most nakedly confessional rap tracks ever recorded. The man whose biggest track is about masks takes his off again, showing the truth behind the image of Hennessy-glugging rappers: “Pouring up in public, damn I hate the real me.”
Halestorm – Buzz
Carried into the upper reaches of the album charts on both sides of the Atlantic last week, like a faithful mosh pit joyfully delivering someone back to the stage, is Vicious, the new one from Pennsylvania hard-rockers Halestorm. They are powered by the lung-busting magnificence of frontwoman Lzzy Hale, a determined and libidinous figure in her lyrics. Buzz is the badass high point, where Hale’s strutting confidence modulates into desperate feeling for the massive chorus.
Sports Team – Margate
Following their excellent debut EP, Winter Nets, and their single Kutcher – an Ashton Kutcher-referencing ode to a haircut gone awry – the Cambridge University-formed Sports Team underline why they are one of British indie’s hottest properties. Frontman Alex Rice shares a skill for droll observation and elastic melody with Stephen Malkmus and Shame’s Charlie Steen, but on Margate it’s all sped up to breakneck pace as Rice squawks about rhododendrons and sun damage (paired with moves halfway between Mick Jagger and Ian Curtis in the video).
Jlin – The Abyss of Doubt
For Autobiography, her collaboration with Wayne McGregor’s dance company, Chicago producer Jlin doesn’t deviate too much from her established mode, but given it is one of the most singular in all electronic music, she doesn’t need to. Her signature elements – startling vocal samples, brutally funky footwork rhythms, a metal exoskeleton seemingly surrounding everything – are all in place, but especially frazzled. Catch Autobiography at the Edinburgh festival and across Europe this autumn – now, can we make her stated desire to score Black Panther 2 a reality?
Sandro Perri – In Another Life (edit)
The full version of this song from the Canadian songwriter is 25 minutes long – and its ambition is matched only by its beauty. Perri’s quavering voice is a little reminiscent of Cass McCombs and Phosphorescent, singing a song of acceptance and shared humanity, and the backing of meandering electric guitar and synth pattern is pure Balearic. Get a taster with this six-minute edit and mark your calendar for 14 September, when the full version arrives. It is joined on the album by Everybody’s Paris, three versions of the same excellent song featuring Perri, André Ethier and Dan “Destroyer” Bejar.
Rosalía – Pienso En Tu Mirá (Cap 3: Celos)
Rosalía is a Catalan artist on the rise. Last year, she released her debut, Los Angeles, a stark flamenco album about death, and made her mark on the pop world when she guested on Brillo, a standout from Colombian reggaeton singer J Balvin’s 2018 album Vibras. Her recent singles suggest the best is still to come – she is working with El Guincho on a project called El Mal Querer (“the bad love”) that adds subtle electronic touches to her flamenco core. Pienso En Tu Mirá (Cap 3: Celos), translated as I Think of Your Gaze (Chapter 3: Jealousy), is the second taste – a brooding yet feather-light track about the burden of being with a suspicious partner. As minimal as the arrangement is, there is still plenty of flamenco high-drama here – Rosalía describes the pain as “a bullet in the chest”.
HTRK – Mentions
This Australian band have been going since 2003, brutally cut from three to two after the suicide of bassist Stewart Smith in 2010. A powerful dub sensibility runs through the two beautiful, atmospheric new tracks they have just released, with trudging drum machine pulses swathed in echoing guitar. Singer Jonnine Standish shares a little of the xx’s Romy Madley-Croft’s earnest desire, as she complains on Mentions about a digital-physical divide: “You’re passing up on the real stuff.”