The Playlist: Kelela Wants Answers, and Jackie Shane Gets Another Shot
By JON PARELES, JON CARAMANICA and GIOVANNI RUSSONELLOAUGUST 4, 2017
Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new songs and videos — and anything else that strikes them as intriguing. You can listen to this Playlist on Spotify here. Like this Playlist? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org, and sign up for our Louder newsletter here.
Kelela sings about a potential one-night stand in “LMK,” the single preceding her official debut album, “Take Me Apart,” due Oct. 6, after four years of sporadic releases. “LMK” isn’t a flirtation — it’s a negotiation, close to an ultimatum. Her potential partner can’t expect romance, can’t say the wrong thing and has to “let me know” fast: “I ain’t gonna wait if you hesitate,” she announces. The encounter takes place in the subterranean ambience of a production by Jam City with wavery bass tones, chattery percussion and countless layers of Kelela’s nonchalant voice ricocheting through the haze. “It ain’t that deep,” she shrugs, but it’s not exactly casual, either. JON PARELES
Rae Sremmurd, ‘Perplexing Pegasus’
Sometimes Rae Sremmurd is anthemic, and sometimes this brother duo of Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi opts for the trance-like. It doesn’t take much to nudge them in either direction; the beat here sounds like an outtake from the “X-Files” score, shimmering and decaying in equal measure. It turns them into gaseous philosophers and dreamy boasters. JON CARAMANICA
Son Little, ‘Demon to the Dark’
In a voice so careworn it’s almost otherworldly, Son Little confesses to weaknesses, fears and longing for forgiveness in “Demon to the Dark.” He’s a Philadelphia songwriter who carries blues and gospel roots into a realm of eerie electronics, and in the song he calls out to a forerunner worth rediscovering, “Deacon Phillips.” That’s Washington Phillips, who recorded gospel songs in the 1920s accompanied on a zitherlike instrument he invented, the manzarene, that were at once soothing and fatalistic: live solo recordings that were as atmospheric as Son Little’s elaborate studio surrealism. J.P.
Cory Henry & the Funk Apostles, ‘Trade It All’
Al Green soul shuffle, jam-band jollity, and some cleanly DeBarge ingratiation want to meet up. Where do they go? Straight to the studio, apparently. Mr. Henry, a gospel-rooted keyboard maestro, is becoming the boy king of the greater Snarky Puppy kingdom. Now he has an album on the way with own band, the Funk Apostles, and like Snarky’s stuff, it’s a thoroughbred studio beast. The chorus snakes in through cracks in the verse, instruments coming like condensation out of climate-controlled air. There’s no believing what Mr. Henry sings in the chorus (“I’d trade it all” for a lover) but there’s an extended electric keyboard solo, starting halfway through, that grazes into Herbie Hancock “Thrust” territory. We’re going to have to take chops over oomph here; at least we weren’t asked to give anything up. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO
Venetian Snares, ‘Simple Tasks Became Unthinkable He Just Stared Into Coiled Ernie Balls Until He Ended’
More casual terror from Venetian Snares on the latest offering from the Adult Swim singles program. Here, this Canadian producer delivers a blend of drill ’n’ bass and ambient meditation for a frenetic song that both assaults and soothes, yet still feels utterly logical. J.C.
Garbage, ‘No Horses’
Don’t expect a happy ending in Garbage’s “No Horses.” Shirley Manson sings about a society collapsing into brutal totalitarianism: “There will be no apologies and no more security/There will be no cops, just men with guns.” The track behind her grows denser and harsher, its early hints of reggae getting crushed under an increasingly industrial stomp. The video, with Ms. Manson (in a hooded red cloak reminiscent of “The Handmaid’s Tale”) intercut with clips of police versus protesters, situates her predictions squarely in the present. J.P.
Adventures of an overgrown kid, outsillying the malaise. Over big-bubble bass and sci-fi synths, the most preposterous part of “Tokyo” is the fact that Thundercat slid the word “reckless” into the chorus. This sepia-overlayed video supports the song’s overall vibe: This guy is not wrecking anything (at least not until Verse 2, wherein our narrator “tried to get someone pregnant/It wasn’t her fault, I’m just kinda psychotic”). As he trips through arcades and fast-food joints in the artificial-light hours, a lyric from “Show You the Way,” a prior single off the same album, drifts to mind: “Heavy hearted, but my burden’s light.” G.R.
Joe Nichols, ‘Baby Got Back’Branchez & Big Wet, ‘Turn Up on the Weekend’
Well, here we are. Joe Nichols, a mainline country star a couple of years past his commercial peak, is covering Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” now a 25-year-old chestnut. Mr. Nichols’s version is pure George Strait, coating the song with a thick slather of honky-tonk sincerity — it is cheeky and harmless, more a symbol of the ubiquity of hip-hop nostalgia than of country music’s steady inching toward hip-hop production values. From the other direction — actually, from a whole different direction — comes “Turn Up on the Weekend,” a collaboration between Big Wet, a jovial country rapper, and Branchez, who is more or less a dance-music producer. They have landed on a spooky, amiable anthem about letting loose that sticks to familiar country themes but offers some winking frictions, too. The video features Richie Shazam, the model who has described himself as an “NYC Bollywood princess,” in a striking, powerful pose, and also the Fat Jew (and his rosé) in a brief scene that suggests this whole enterprise might be ruse first, aesthetic second. J.C.
SOURCE : NEW YORK TIMES