In April 2020, I was in my car only a handful of times. This honestly made me worried that I would have nothing to share in this monthly round-up of my favorite new tracks. (This was not my primary worry in the midst of a pandemic. I’m not a sociopath. But it did crack the top 20.) Because like a lot of adults with jobs and responsibilities, my commutes are the ultimate moments to be able to focus on a song, to give it the best chance to get its hooks in me. Alas, I worried for no reason. Great artists still managed to worm their way into my workdays, providing an outlet for feelings of stress and disorientation, and giving voice to the joy I feel when realize I can stop and kiss my wife in-between meetings. No matter what is happening in the world, music will always have the power to do that. Which is an encouraging thought.
1. NNAMDI – “Gimme Gimme”
On this song about unrepentant greed, an insanely catchy dive-bomb bass line leaves me wanting more.
2. Charli XCX – “Claws”
If this frayed electro-pop love song is any indication, Charli’s imminent recorded-at-home album is going to make us all dance in our living rooms with tears in our eyes.
3. Jean Deaux (ft. Saba) – “Moody!”
Two Chicago rappers melting the lingering snow with their flows.
4. Laura Marling – “Fortune”
An almost unbearably beautiful breakup song.
5. Thundercat (ft. Zach Fox) – “Overseas”
Another delightful, international travel-based ditty from our planet’s resident jazz-pop goofball/genius.
6. Rina Sawayama – “XS”
If Destiny’s Child and Korn had teamed up on a single back in 1999, it would’ve broken TRL records. And, as this Japanese-British pop craftsman posits here, it would have also supersonically slapped.
7. Jessie Ware – “Spotlight”
Jessie Ware brings Sade to the club: “A dream is just a dream / And I don’t wanna sleep tonight.”
8. Duck Sauce – “Captain Duck”
The DJs responsible for the playful, unpretentious early-’10s jams “It’s You” and “Barbara Streisand” return, reminding us that the bass line to Chic’s “Good Times” is anything but a misty watercolored memory.
9. Khruangbin – “Time (You and I)”
Even when they employ vocals, as they do here, this Houston psych-funk trio uses them as mantras, ushering the groove even more expeditiously into our souls.
10. Yaeji – “When I Grow Up”
Over a skittering, hi-hat-strewn backdrop, Yaeji whispers about the intimidating permanence of adulthood: “You feel crazy / You’re hurt maybe / You don’t have room to say maybe no more.”
11. Bob Dylan – “I Contain Multitudes”
So many things are comforting about Bob Dylan’s new ballad.
1. A legendary lyricist scratching his name-dropping itch for the thousandth time, borrowing the song title from Whitman and referencing Indiana Jones, Chopin, Poe, etc.
2. A percussionless arrangement of acoustic, electric and pedal steel guitars that is the sonic equivalent of organic honey.
3. A message that we’re all complicated beings, who can be expected to do unexpected things – like, perhaps, vote for a Republican president in 2016 and then turn on him in 2020.