During times of chaos, readjustment, and a preponderance of fear, it can be difficult to maintain routines of happiness. Such as, listening to new music. Though some of the artists who were scheduled to release albums this spring have cancelled, several have seized the moment to deliver fresh singles, perform private concerts over livestream, and even drop entire albums.
We understand: during times of stress, new music releases aren’t top priority. It might even feel unnatural to listen to, or even think about music right now. But for those of you who need songs to turn to, who could benefit from hearing their favorite artists: We’re here with the recent releases, the music you (almost) missed.
Teyana Taylor: The Album
Following 2018’s G.O.O.D Music-produced K.T.S.E, Teyana Taylor has come out with a sprawling, deeply personal, 23-song album. The record, named simply The Album, features some of the most iconic women in the R&B and hip-hop world: Erykah Badu dispensing her soulful self on “Lowkey”, Missy Elliott turning up on “Boomin”, and a taut Lauryn Hill verse on “We Got Love.” The Album, produced with Taylor having much more creative control than she did on K.T.S.E, soars with personality and truth derived from a life authentically lived.
John Legend: Bigger Love
When John Legend dropped his seventh album Bigger Love, he said this on Instagram, “During these painful times, some of us may wonder if it’s ok to laugh or dance or be romantic… …It’s important for us to continue to show the world the fullness of what it is to be black and human. Through our art, we are able to do that.” The new record, Bigger Love, is a sentimental, sweetly composed homage to a surviving marriage and family. The ballads on Bigger Love, though are somewhat socially conscious, mostly take on lighter, doo-wop inspired tones—namely “Ooh Laa,” the album’s opener. Hailing back to musicians such as Al Green, Marvin Gaye, and Nina Simone, all of which used their music as a form of protest. John Legend remains active in the league of artists who are using their voices to bring people together.
Phoebe Bridgers: Punisher
“I’m not pushing the record until things go back to ‘normal’ because I don’t think they should. Here it is a little early. Abolish the police. Hope you like it,” the indie musician Phoebe Bridgers wrote on Instagram to announce the release of her sophomore album Punisher. Led by the single “Kyoto,” Punisher expands and deepens the emo-folk material Bridgers introduced to us back in 2017 with Stranger in the Alps. And though fans were eagerly anticipating Bridgers second album, no one could have predicted the the landscape of honesty and modern love and sadness Bridgers would develop on Punisher. Now and forever, she is here for you, to show and sing what is typically unseen or said. Punisher, and Bridgers, are both built to survive.
Run the Jewels: RTJ4
“Killer” Mike Render and Jaime “El-P” Meline, otherwise known as the rap duo Run the Jewels, decided to drop their highly anticipated album RTJ4 two days ahead of their June 5th release when, well, the world seemed to really need it. Though packed with danceable, joyous rap songs, RTJ4 also acts as a mouthpiece for the duo’s increasing frustration and deepening hurt with the system and its police. “Walking in the Snow,” which Killer Mike previewed a week ahead of RTJ4, was written last Fall—but the song is, unfortunately, painfully relevant to this moment and the murder of George Floyd. Fans of RTJ, you’re in for a treat. And if you’re new to RTJ, or looking for a rapper’s perspective on these times, RTJ4 is a highly-listenable artifact of 2020.
The 1975: Notes on a Conditional Form
Now The 1975’s long, long overdue fourth album Notes on a Conditional Form has finally arrived. The 1975’s latest offering suffered several delays before its eventual release, but was preceded by singles “People,” “Frail State of Mind,” and “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know).” From deep and introspective, to silly and sprawling, Notes on a Conditional Form is a beautiful, albeit glitchy, viewpoint into the ever-evolving mind of Matt Healy and his raucous, unpredictable company (both real and imagined, of course). Notes on a Conditional Form may mark the end of one era, but it also beckons the new—and the sublime.
Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated: Side B
Looking to refresh your “dancing on my own” playlists? Or for a soundtrack to ignite a Zoom happy hour with your besties? Carly Rae Jepsen has delivered a bright, joyous, pop-party powerhouse of b-sides. Much like 2016’s Emotion Side B, Carly Rae Jepsen’s latest offering proves that even her cast offs, the singles that didn’t make the cut for last year’s Dedicated, still manage to cast powerful spells over our moods and boredom. They uplift and energize. They help us summon the will to dance. They conjure happiness in this summerless summer, reminding us of the better.
Agust D: D-2
According to a fan poll conducted by Billboard, Suga of BTS—also known as the rapper “Agust D”—has just dropped one of the best mixtapes we’ve seen this year. D-2, Agust D’s second mixtape, arrived on May 22nd, along with the music video for the lead single “Daechwita.” Said to be a documentation of the present, directly in contrast with 2016’s Agust D which focused on Min Yoon-Gi’s past. You can check out the “Daechwita” music video, which draws out the single’s South Korean military influence, below.
Charli XCX: How I’m Feeling Now
When the typically workaholic Charli XCX was placed under quarantine like the rest of us, she decided that she would not only catalog her experience, but that she would do so through an album. Made primarily from her home, Charli XCX’s fourth album, how I’m feeling now, has officially arrived.
Preceded by singles “Claws” and “i finally understand,” how I’m feeling now is a daring, steely, and at times claustrophobic listen. Using a bank of emotions that probably feels familiar to many of us who’ve been obeying quarantine orders, Charli XCX has created one of her most volatile works to date, an homage to the bewilderment and chaotic self-reflection imposed during this time of pandemic. In short: Charli XCX is here to say this, this is how I’m feeling now, and it’s okay if you are too.
Drake: Dark Lane Demo Tapes
In typical Drake fashion, he’s not releasing just one album but two. More specifically, a 14-track mixtape of previously leaked tracks and a full sixth studio album to arrive later this summer. The mixtape, titled Dark Lane Demo Tapes, features appearances from Future, Chris Brown, Playboi Carti, Young Thug, and more. His first studio album since 2018’s Scorpion, which Drake has referred to only by “lucky number 6,” is said to arrive in the coming months.
Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Anyone else spend the whole weekend listening to Fiona Apple‘s new album Fetch the Bolt Cutters while standing over the bathroom sink, threatening your quarantine-lengthened locks with a pair of dull scissors? No? Just me? Fetch the Bolt Cutters, her fifth album and first in eight years since 2012’s The Idler Wheel…, is an impossibly perfect album for these times. Using her female gaze, Apple allows us to confront notions of entrapment, violence, oppression, and finally, exhaustion. Trust us, a listen of Fiona Apple’s latest is a much needed act of self-care in these darker times.
KeiyaA: Forever, Ya Girl
Now that we are in an age of more homegrown music, artists such as the Chicago-bred, New York-based singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist KeiyaA have been welcomed to emerge. And emerge she has. Just a few weeks ago, beneath the radar of many quarantine-splintered minds, KeiyaA dropped her debur album Forever, Ya Girl. Working largely on her own, with occasional production assists from rapper MIKE under his DJ Blackpower moniker, KeiyaA harnesses the Earl Sweatshirt-esque grime and loneliness that propels fascination. She is gritty, funky, real. We’ll all benefit from supporting this rising voice on Forever, Ya Girl, undoubtedly the first of many stellar releases.
Beyoncé: “Black Parade”
J. Cole: “Snow On Tha Bluff”
Anderson .Paak: “Lockdown”
Lil Baby: “The Bigger Picture”
Gary Clark Jr. and The Roots: “This Land (Remix)” feat. “Black Thought”
Leon Bridges (feat. Terrace Martin): “Sweeter”
Ellie Goulding: “Power”
Foster the People: “Lamb’s Wool”
Haim: “I Know Alone”