One new song a week, every week. Peep below for the full playlist, as well as a quick breakdown of each track:
October 29, 2018: “Ketchum, ID” by Boygenius
Idaho is really lame—at least that’s what the state’s residents would like everyone else to believe. In reality, the Gem State (yes, that’s its real nickname) is one of the country’s most beautiful and awe inspiring places, an underrated national treasure preserved in anonymity by the people who live there.
On “Ketchum, ID,” one of three previously unreleased songs unveiled with Boygenius’ debut EP, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker long for the chance to quit it all and settle down in some sleepy, forrest-clad nowhere town, leaving behind their former lives of touring and recording. It’s a shockingly honest thought—one that, despite the supergroup’s alt-rock credentials, is delivered as a simple, old-country ballad with a painful refrain: “I am never anywhere, anywhere I go,” the three women sing in harmony, begging for just a few seconds of unscrutinized rest.
October 22, 2018: “Timberlands” by Empress Of
There aren’t a lot of memorable details from the 1997 Disney movie Flubber, but if there’s one takeaway, it’s this: Flubber is really, really hard to control. About 75 percent of the film’s scenes involve the Flubber—which, and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t remember, is essentially a green, gooey ball of bouncy green goo—flying around, confusing the frantic scientist who is usually too slow or too concerned with making bathroom jokes to catch it.
That’s what listening to Empress Of feels like. An elastic, impossibly adaptable songwriter, Lorely Rodriguez uses her charming honesty and soaring vocal range to create music that hops instantaneously from Latin dance to Lorde-esque alt-pop to everything in between. “Timberlands,” an insatiably catchy song off her latest record, feels like every permutation all at once: it’s musical Flubber at its most unpredictable, and its most exciting.
October 15, 2018: “ZEZE” by Kodak Black (feat. Travis Scott & Offset)
Andy Warhol once said that “art is what you can get away with.” If that’s true, then Kodak black is a true artist. The Florida-born rapper has spent the past two years feasting on extravagantly catchy beats, while mostly phoning in his hooks and delivering all-around unmemorable verses.
It’s hard to name a single standout line from “Tunnel Vision,” or “Patty Cake,” or “Transportin'” or any of the other seven or so Kodak songs that have earned more than 100 million Spotify plays since 2017, but does it matter? The music bops, and, quite honestly, that’s enough. The same goes for “ZEZE,” the Instagram video turned meme-generator turned actual song that, like almost everything Kodak does, sounds so irresistibly nice—no matter what lyrics he throws over it.
October 8, 2018: “To the Boys,” by Molly Burch
Molly Burch might be a time traveller. Raised on pop classicists like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, the Austin-based songwriter croons and wails like she was cryogenically frozen inside a 1950s doo-wop.
At the same time, her sound couldn’t feel more modern. Burch has an incredible knack for dragging staple love song formats into the 21st century, splashing in addictive indie rock riffs and clever, subversive lyrics along the way. On “To the Boys,” one of the many standout tracks off the her latest record, Burch sounds equal parts nostalgic and revolutionary, fusing about 70 years of music history into one simple, fantastic pop song.
October 1, 2018: “Está Rico” by Marc Anthony (feat. Will Smith & Bad Bunny)
Heat checks all around on this one. The latest effort by Marc Anthony and Bad Bunny—both Latin pop megastars with nearly 40 million monthly Spotify streams between them—”Está Rico” is yet another coming out party for a genre that’s been working its way deeper into American charts over the past two years.
Then there’s Will Smith, who, coming off his very public and very scary 50th birthday celebration earlier this week, sounds strangely comfortable over the track’s electro-salsa beat. The Fresh Prince might be too old to be cool, but his simple, confident bled perfectly with Anthony’s silky-smooth hook.
September 24, 2018: “White Bronco” by Action Bronson
Action Bronson isn’t a man, he’s a conglomerate. No rapper in the past five years has been more successful at making himself into a cohesive brand: Need vape pen recommendations? Check out his latest video feature for GQ. Want to find New York’s best Puerto Rican food? Peep a recent video from his always-incredible VICELAND series. Headed to Barnes & Noble? Snag a copy of his critically acclaimed cookbook.
At this point, it all begs the question: do we even need Action’s music? We probably don’t, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have our cake and eat it too. Bronson’s songs are more of an aperitif than the main dish they used to be, but the quality is just as good as it’s ever been. “White Bronco,” his latest single, is no exception—it’s fun, it’s got a hilariously bold line about alligator shoes and it might have even predicted Tiger Woods’ most recent comeback.
September 17, 2018: “Ace” by Noname
Same ingredients, new recipe. The last time Noname collaborated with fellow Midwesterners Smino and Saba, it was on “Shadow Man,” the gospel-infused standout track from her incredible 2016 tape, Telefone. “Ace” puts the trio back together, but this time on a jazzed-up flex-off, with all three showing just how far they’ve come over the past two years.
Smino handles the hook and first verse, but the track belongs entirely to Noname. Just like every song on the slam-poet-turned-rapper’s debut album—the already critically adored Room 25—“Ace” oozes with the type of rapid-fire wisdom-spouting that made Telefone such a revelation. It’s evidence that Noname’s style isn’t just repeatable, it’s upgradeable: she’s at the height of her powers, and she’s still only getting started.
September 10, 2018: “OPENING” by The Blaze
Guillaume and Jonathan Alric don’t have a normal type of fame. The cousins, who record music together as The Blaze, first grabbed the Internet’s attention after releasing the music video for their first single, “Virile,” in 2016. The video is stunning: passionate, transfixing and beautifully shot, it immediately launched the duo’s career and ensured that every subsequent track they released (especially 2017’s “Territory,” which might be the year’s best video) would be judged not by its sound, but by its accompanying visuals.
As a result, it can be easy to forget that, first and foremost, The Blaze is a musical group—and a really, really talented one at that. The Alrics create gorgeous, sweeping dance-trance anthems that transcend their own genre, usually with no more than few drum loops, some loose piano refrains and a half-sung French vocal track.
“OPENING,” the first song off the group’s first full-length album, serves as a reminder of this fact: letting listeners and critics know that their songs can inspire just as much emotion as their stunning videos.
September 3, 2018: “Boca Raton” by Bas (feat. A$Ap Ferg)
Summer’s almost over, but Bas is still on vacation. The Dreamville-signed rapper’s third studio album, Milky Way, is a humid heatwave filled with trap-injected R&B and tropical dancehall anthems. At its best, the record is atmospheric in a way that few of the summer’s biggest rap releases have been (sorry, Eminem, but “I SoundCloud rap” isn’t really a vibe).
“Boca Raton,” which features A$AP Ferg, might be the best example of Bas’ masterful mood-setting: the track finds two New York rappers trading bars over a bubbly keyboard loop, bragging about eating healthy and vacationing in one of Florida’s most famous retirement havens.