In VH New Music Fridays, the Life staff cover this week’s new music releases, from pop to country to alternative.
Hip Hop: Brendan Sawyer
“Dirty Laundry,” Danny Brown
Danny’s back with a fresh haircut and new set of teeth– the only thing that hasn’t changed are the bars he’s spitting. With “Dirty Laundry,” Danny is relentless with his rhyme schemes and one-liners, most of which are a little too raunchy for The Hustler. That being said, I highly recommend checking out the tracks genius page. Danny rhymes over a much more up-beat instrumental than anything off his last project “Atrocity Exhibition,” but the beat still comes with the glitches and distortion that have become a trademark for the Detroit rapper. “Dirty Laundry” has gotten me even more excited for his upcoming album “U Know What I’m Saying?,” which I didn’t even know was possible.
“Bank” is the standout track from EARTHGANG’s latest project “Mirrorland.” The Atlanta duo’s chemistry is more apparent than ever, with both Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot bringing their A-game. Dot brings a solid flow and charisma in the first two verses, and Johnny’s hook is ridiculously catchy with its “beep beeps” and “keep keep keep’s.” Venus comes out of nowhere for the last verses, absolutely stealing the track with his rapid fire flow and braggadocious attitude. Any trap fan should have their eye on EARTHGANG for the foreseeable future, and “Bank” is just another reason why.
Country & Americana: Alexa Bussmann
“The Highwomen,” The Highwomen
The debut, namesake album from country music’s new supergroup is everything I could’ve dreamed. A short history lesson: The Highwaymen were country’s music’s original supergroup, made up of country superstars Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. The Highwomen are today’s modern, female rendition, composed of singers and songwriters Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby. Their debut album is a masterpiece: full of soulful, classic country songs. The title track is a talented remake of the Highwaymen’s most popular song, “Highwayman.” The Highwomen pay their respects to The Highwaymen with their remake, but “Highwomen” is totally their own song and is true to each of their styles. The album pays homage to country music’s original sounds while showcasing the talent of four women who are taking the genre into their own hands. A line from “Redesigning Women” captures this sentiment perfectly: The Highwomen are “Rosie the Riveter with renovations.”
“homecoming queen?” Kelsea Ballerini
I wasn’t expecting much from a single that references high school from country’s pop princess, but “homecoming queen?” was surprisingly thoughtful and insightful. An acoustic guitar intro leads into lyrics addressed to a high school girl. Throughout the song, Ballerini encourages the homecoming queen, and teenage girls in general, to be confident in showing their true selves. Masterfully written by Jimmy Robbins and Nicolle Galyon (one of my favorite songwriters), this song is real and necessary. Women are more important than ever in country music, and The Highwomen and Kelsea Ballerini showed us that this week.
Indie & Alternative: Angela Karas
“Pick U Up,” Foster the People
Fun, flirty and fundamentally a Foster the People offering, “Pick U Up” is a perfect end-of-summer release. The song doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet nonetheless emerges as a strikingly adaptable song. “Pick U Up” functions equally well on homework and workout playlists, though is also extremely (alternative) radio-friendly. The song also incorporates 80’s new wave influence, giving the song a unique indie pop and indie rock hybridization. Long story short, “Pick U Up” is essential listening for all fans of alternative.
“Violence,” Grimes, i_o
Grimes is quite the interesting personality. From 2018’s drama with Elon Musk and Azealia Banks to a series of rather bizarre interviews, she has cultivated a distinct identity for herself within the industry. However, she rebuilds some of her credibility with new single “Violence.” The song is remarkably clever, and the electronic influences for which Grimes is known provide refreshing variety from the more traditional indie pop and/or rock releases that have dominated the year thus far. I would argue “Violence” is one of the best new releases of the week (“Pick U Up” does pose strong competition), and look forward to hearing future songs from the singer.
“Blame It On The Summertime,” Miles Kane
“Blame It On The Summertime” features a catchy chorus and, not surprisingly, encapsulates summery vibes, albeit in the eleventh hour. Generally, now that we have entered September, the carefree and upbeat songs that have characterized much of the spring and summer are sadly at their end. Kane’s single, while it does to some extent fall prey to the summertime cliché dominating much of music, nonetheless is a strong way to conclude this year’s summer releases, and is one of Kane’s better recent releases.
Indie & Alternative: Evan Monk
“GRAFFITI,” Roy Blair
Roy Blair’s 3-song release “GRAFFITI” is another display of his ease in idiosyncratic and genre-blending songwriting. Through layered vocals and pitch shifts, Blair doesn’t shy away from an abstract approach to his artistic vision. The transitions between songs on this EP add a level of cohesion, tying the work together while still allowing each track to stand alone with a distinct character. Blair pumps the brakes of his more upbeat tracks “I DONT KNOW ABOUT HIM” and “FANTAZIA,” with the ending track “YOU WERENT ENOUGH.” Each song has a lyrical appeal over strong and sometimes dominant production. No matter what one gets from Blair’s work, I find it hard to discredit the modes he employs to realize his personal experiences in a musical form. While “GRAFFITI” is slight change of pace from Blair’s 2017 album “Cat Heaven,” it is an undeniable step forward in his career, marked by experimentation in storytelling.