With America opening back up at a dizzying pace, my emotions are all over the place. I hear a song about two zodiac signs that almost perfectly aligns with my wife and I’s astrological dynamic, and I feel like dancing with her until my ankles hurt. But then I hear another song about the facades we have to wear in social situations, and I want to hide under the covers. So with this list, I want to honor this rollercoaster of joy and anxiety that we’re all on in some way, shape or form. Get ready to party, then fall out, and then party some more!
1. Helado Negro – “Gemini and Leo”
Two years after sweeping us up in the whisper-delicate dream world of his last album, This Is How You Smile, Helado Negro feels like dancing. And by turning to the zodiac over this airy disco groove, the singer/songwriter elevates a simple story of two people vibing on the dance floor into a connection that must be written in the stars.
2. Jessie Ware – “Hot N Heavy”
Speaking of irresistible disco grooves about falling in love on the dance floor…
3. Tyler the Creator (feat. Lil Wayne) – “Hot Wind Blows”
Tyler the Creator isn’t just a sonic visionary who has left his gimmicky shock-rap roots in the dust – he’s an artist with the kind of big-tent vision that inspires old-timers to bring their A game. Over a flute-speckled Henry Mancini sample, Tyler sets the table for Lil Wayne, who lays into the cut with effortless, syllable-spraying glee.
4. Unto Others – “When Will Gods Work Be Done”
This Portland goth-metal hook factory, formerly called Idle Hands, had to change its name last year due to copyright issues. If you thought it might’ve disrupted their mojo, worry not. Their first track as Unto Others is a prime example of their Depeche Maiden formula, pairing a theatrically bleak worldview with punishingly catchy dual-guitar leads.
5. The Mountain Goats – “Lizard Suit”
Not super psyched for social situations to be making a comeback? This jazz-folk alienation anthem is for you: “Let my phobias control my habits / Let my habits form the shapes of days.”
6. Japanese Breakfast – “Jubilee”
When the horns come in on this chorus, it’s like the clouds parting in a way the weatherman could never predict.
7. Sault – “London Gangs”
Sault, the still-faceless UK rhythm & blues collective, dropped its fourth album of visionary jams in June. Including this one, where they make a bass line sound like a pot of water on a rolling boil, ready to receive any ingredient and make it sing.
8. Spellling – “Turning Wheel”
A sweeping, let’s-hold-hands-and-sway, Beatlesque ballad about how staying up on the hill doesn’t necessarily make you a fool.
9. Pa Salieu (feat. slowthai) – “Glidin'”
I love it when a rapper just tells me how a beat makes them feel.
10. Lucy Dacus – “Please Stay”
Break-up songs can be tough listens. But please-don’t-break-up-with-me songs? Those are the ones that break me.