What Our Staff Is Listening to This Week

Music Lists Staff Picks
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What Our Staff Is Listening to This Week

If you haven’t exhausted your list of music you were planning to check out during quarantine just yet, we’re impressed. But in case you have, we’re here every week to provide a handful of recommendations to spark creativity and hopefully bring you joy and comfort beyond mere distraction. Here’s a list of seven things that our staff has been listening to this week.

The Woolen Men: Human to Human

Bandcamp’s most recent quarantine holiday was a great reason to catch up on The Woolen Men, who have been steadily and quietly building one of the great rock discographies over the past decade or so. Their latest LP sounds like another lost gem from the ’80s heyday of college rock, with a nervous energy and vibrancy that’s as timely as ever. Expect rough-hewn but precise guitar pop, anxious and jittery as the Feelies and as catchy as the best Flying Nun bands, but capable of calming down into a peaceful off-kilter groove on songs like “Ecstasy of An Ant.” —Garrett Martin

Jim Croce: You Don’t Mess Around With Jim

This week I’ve been digging an album by an oft-forgotten rock ‘n’ roll great. Enter Jim Croce, a down-home singer/songwriter who gained fame at the tail-end of the folk-rock revival and tragically died in a plane crash in 1973 at the height of his popularity, after releasing only a handful albums. One of those records is his breakthrough, 1972’s You Don’t Mess Around With Jim. Besides being just an incredible album title, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim is one of the most enjoyable roots rock albums from its era. You get the sense that Croce was the kind of guy who walked around with a goofy grin on his face, always carrying the hope that “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be a Brighter Day,” even if today isn’t going so well. He also offers a proper antithesis to his contemporary Harry Nilsson’s “I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City” in “New York’s Not My Home,” where he bemoans every aspect of the city after living there for a year. With expertly twangy guitar work, plenty of humming and harmonica and the mellow, humble attitude of all the James Taylor-types who made this era of soft-rock so freakin’ endearing, Jim Croce chronicles the ups and downs of love and loss in the life of a classic, 30-something road dog. This album will have you longing to walk back down your own version of Croce’s “hot dusty Macon road” and set up shop with a “hard lovin’ Georgia girl.” I can’t get enough of Croce’s unapologetically southern outlooks on everything. —Ellen Johnson

Joe Goddard & Hayden Thorpe: “Unknown Song”

As someone who enjoys the musical stylings of Hot Chip and Wild Beasts, I clicked play on this new collaboration the moment I learned of its existence. On this new track, Goddard—vocalist, producer, DJ and master of grooves in Hot Chip—creates a world where warped, psychedelic tingles meet euphoric dance-pop pulses. On top of this exuberance, now-solo musician Thorpe (whose debut album, Diviner, dropped last year) lends his immediately recognizable, tender croon, and as per usual, his voice is like what you’d imagine a Greek god to sound like. “The lockdown has really made it apparent how music allows us to feel a synchronicity with our fellow beings,” Thorpe says of the song. “ In the absence of touch, music is that sensual meeting point.” —Lizzie Manno

“Boss (Ass) Bitch” mashup by Chordio feat. Doja Cat, Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks

Brace yourself for “something fun, something for the summertime, something for the girls to get ready and party to.” The best mashups are seamless, intuitive and feel as though someone reached into my brain to scratch an itch. Chordio took elements from Doja Cat’s “Boss Bitch,” Nicki Minaj’s “Boss Ass Bitch” and “Anaconda” and Azealia Banks’ “212” to create a brash new national anthem for Stan Twitter. As of late, I’ve been listening to this song, stomping around the neighborhood with a bit more aggressive energy than usual. But for my next birthday I’m going to demand someone make me a fancam with the song in the background. —Jane Song

Laurel Halo: Quarantine

Laurel Halo’s Quarantine may not refer to a literal period of disease-stricken social distance, but the sentiment’s still there. Halo’s cracking, untrained voice often rings as ascetic, possessing an occult sensibility and aggressive, lonely texture on “Years,” a track that practically beckons resentment. Listening to the album feels much like extrasensory immersion therapy, shockingly transformative as it revels in transgression and dismal ambience. It’s earnest and refuses to coddle listeners, a cruel brutality that I personally need to keep myself grounded in times as strange as this. That level of personal violence is sometimes a self-care ritual in itself. —Austin Jones

Tkay Maidza: “Shook”

Australian rapper and recent 4AD signing Tkay Maidza is taking names on her new single “Shook.” Weirdly, I’ve hit the part of quarantine where sadness has turned into restless anger, so nimble, scorching rap lends itself to that mood. “I go by the name written on my necklace / Never been about the games unless you want a death wish,” Maidza spits with cool, calm vigor over eccentric beats. The earthquake she alludes to in the song’s fiery refrain doesn’t take very long to set in. Her amusing wordplay with references to Huckleberry Finn and TikTok is accented by unwinding, sinister synths, and by the time the dizzying, alarm clock-dinging breakdown rolls around, our metaphorical cages have been thoroughly rattled—or shall we say, shook. —Lizzie Manno

Kehlani: It Was Good Until It Wasn’t

On “Toxic,” the first song on Kehlani’s new album It Was Good Until It Wasn’t, the R&B singer sings, with support from Ty Dolla $ign, “You know that dick always been problematic.” Man, ain’t that the truth! On this album highlight Kehlani, like Britney Spears in a song with the same name before her, addresses a relationship so encompassing it’s dangerous, but that line protrudes from the song like a feminist joke. It Was Good Until It Wasn’t rises and falls with plenty of these memorable one-liners as Kehlani explores every up and down that comes along with a relationship. She’s responsible for her share of hit singles, but this feels like the first time that one of her full projects feels so complete and has the potential to be long-lasting. It Was Good Until It Wasn’t is a graceful return from a singer who is actively sure of herself. Musically, it’s slick and at-ease, the kind of smooth R&B music that swallows you whole if you let it. Features from James Blake, Masego and more add to the layers of this album’s many moods. I’ve been listening to this album since it came out last Friday, and it reveals more and more magic every time. —Ellen Johnson

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