Brockhampton, Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine
Brockhampton have made a career off of their energy. Through robust raps and an often fever-pitch sense of musical adrenaline, the hip-hop collective has often managed to bust doors down through sheer force of will. So when fans first listen to the group’s latest album, Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine, they will be immediately struck by a difference in tone. The frenetic energy of their previous work is still present on tracks like the chaotic “Buzzcut,” with veteran Danny Brown (one among a cavalcade of excellent featured artists throughout) stepping in for a rage-fueled verse. But with tracks like “The Light,” “Dear Lord” and “What’s the Occasion?,” the band deals with grief, loss, melancholy and life in a world of unenviable pain. The album never stays one way long enough for you to process what you’re feeling — which makes you want to go back and listen again, picking up on the small subtleties you missed. And that’s to its benefit: Roadrunner only improves with each listen, making it one of Brockhampton’s most fascinating projects yet.
Years & Years, “Starstruck”
When Years & Years announced that frontman Olly Alexander would be taking over the synth-pop group as a solo act, some fans were concerned about what that would do to their sound. As we learned with “Starstruck,” their latest single, it may have just taken it in a new, perhaps better direction. Infused with an irresistible dance-pop sensibility, the new single sees Olly Alexander ascending to full-blown pop-star status, as he croons about being so enthralled with his partner that he can barely manage to speak in their presence. Its disco-esque dance break and pulsing bass only gives the song an even stronger, club-ready sensibility, as Alexander wails out “If you wanna dance, baby let’s dance/ Wе can dream until the sunrise.”
Kat Cunning, “Could Be Good”
Who doesn’t love a good love song? Kat Cunning certainly does, as they proved with “Could Be Good,” their heart-melting new single. The gorgeous new track once again shows off Cunning’s excellent vocals, while also giving way to a deeper, more personal sense of songwriting for the rising star. Dedicating the track to a new love, Cunning sings of the early days of romance, declaring that they want to “Take it slowly/ Get to know me/ Won’t say I’m falling but I could/ ‘Cause who knows, it could be good.”
Cunning called their new track a “portrait of the optimism that kept life rich for me this past crazy year.” They went on, explaining how they wrote it while falling in love this past year. “I love the simplicity of the chorus and would love for it to inspire hope and courage for others to take a risk. The personal intimacy of the lyric comes from moments in a relationship that are worth cementing in time for me. There was a lot of darkness in 2020, but this song is a snapshot of the light.”
Sylvan Esso, “Numb (Teddy Geiger Remix)”
Electropop duo Sylvan Esso wanted something different for their latest remix, so they enlisted an artist who could do just that: Teddy Geiger. On the new remix of their track “Numb,” the pair’s sound gets slowed down and mellowed out, with Geiger’s tendency toward creating instantly memorable melodies permeating throughout the hypnotizing rendition. “Shaking out the numb/ Let me feel something,” lead singer Amelia Meath sings over Geiger’s entrancing production.
“Teddy took the bones of ‘Numb,’ kept the idea of a serious back beat, but brought out the softer, romantic parts of the song,” Esso said of the new remix in a statement.
Through wavering synths, trap beats and a chaotic music video, Shaed lead singer Chelsea Lee’s voice breaks through “Osaka” and plainly states a fact: “I can tell you how the story ends; but you already know.” The hazy new single off the band’s forthcoming album deviates from their powerful pop path, instead turning right into blissful, ’80s synthpop, as the group deals with money, fame, parties and everything else that comes with finding success in the modern age. But all the while, a sense of melancholic escapism winds its way through the track, as Lee wails “sometimes I wish I let go.” We’re certainly not letting go of the band’s enthralling new track — in fact, we’re hovering on the repeat button.
Biianco, “That’s What Friends Are For”
Turns out that when rising pop auteur Biianco says she’s your ride-or-die, she means that literally. On “That’s What Friends Are For,” the singer embarks on a mission of reclamation and revenge against her friends’ toxic exes, softly letting them know “f— these guys, we don’t need them/ That’s what friends are for.” The accompanying, blood-spattered music video takes the metaphor to its literal conclusion, depicting Biianco and her friends throwing themselves a house party and destroying their zombified exes one by one, in gory fashion.
“Here I am—a cis, pansexual woman and producer—in a field that is dominated by 95% men. I possess traits and interests that have been unfairly delegated to men throughout history like synths, EQ, motorcycles, drum pads, video games, dating women, etc.,” Biianco said of the song in a statement. “Continuing to challenge these binarisms in my fashion and appearance is a way of me reclaiming my identity back from toxic masculinity.”