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Our Best New Songs series is here to give you context on what we’re spinning each week in VMP’s On Rotation playlist — curated by VMP staff, no algorithm needed. Listen and read along below to find out why these artists should be on your radar.
Brijean — the duo of percussionist and singer Brijean Murphy and multi-instrumentalist and producer Doug Stuart — return with “Shy Guy,” with a visualizer for the song featuring artwork by Murphy and animation by Rose Biehl. The track is the lead single from their upcoming Angelo EP, the follow-up to their debut full-length with Ghostly International, 2021’s Feelings. The EP is named after a car, a 1981 Toyota Celica they got off Craigslist during their first stint in Los Angeles, where Murphy and Stuart have since settled, according to the EP’s Bandcamp page.
The recording sessions for Angelo allowed Brijean to record at their most intimate — versus Feelings, which was more collaborative — “to get us out of our grief and into our bodies,” Murphy said in a press release. The EP will include nine tracks Brijean have “crafted and carried with them through a period of profound change, loss, and relocation,” according to the release, including the sudden passing of Murphy’s father and both of Stuart’s parents. Inseparable from this context of grief, “Shy Guy” is still a bright, optimistic light.
Explaining the premise of the single in the release, Murphy said, “We are in junior high, we’re on the dance floor, what’s going down, who is dancing, who is not, how are we gonna make them dance?” The song fits perfectly with this theme, with a danceable groove and encouraging lyrics: “Show me how to move / I feel something / I know you feel it too,” Murphy sings.
“Sangoma” is the first song on Spell 31 — the latest record from French Afro-Cuban twins Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz — which includes previously released collaborations “Made of Gold” with Pa Salieu, “Lavender & Red Roses” with Jorja Smith and “Rise Above” featuring BERWYN.
In an interview with VMP, Lisa-Kaindé spoke about discovering sangomas, musical shamans from Southern Africa referenced in the song’s title, in a class titled “Rhythm, Race, and Revolution.” She explained: “I already knew about [the relationship] between revolution and music, but I didn’t know about precise revolutions from various parts of the world. Getting to learn, relearn and go deeper into it reaffirmed my perception in music. I also discovered sangomas through that [class], healers from Southern Africa who heal through song. It’s also about pursuing your faith, because if sangomas don’t pursue healing, they get sick. It’s the idea that you should always walk your own destiny, and not deviate from your gift.”
Lisa-Kaindé added, “Lastly, it taught me that after the revolution comes healing. That’s where I come in, and that’s where I want to be. We were living such difficult years, through the George Floyd and COVID-19 revolutions, and the aftermath. I was studying about it, and feeling everybody’s pain at the same time. So it became clear that it was all about healing, starting with ourselves.”
“I am. All of us.” — oklama
Those two short sentences are all we get in terms of context at the beginning of the music video for Kendrick Lamar’s “The Heart Part 5,” directed by Dave Free (former co-president of Top Dawg Entertainment) and Kendrick himself. The single, another in his “Heart” series, is the first new release ahead of his highly anticipated Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. Those opening sentences gain new meaning in the visuals as Kendrick, via deepfake, morphs into O.J. Simpson, Kanye West, Jussie Smollett, Will Smith, Kobe Bryant and Nipsey Hussle. Instead of (over?) analyzing it, we’ll stop there and let you draw your own conclusions on what this means for the upcoming album.
“The Heart Part 5” is the first release with Lamar as the lead artist since he led the Black Panther soundtrack in 2018, although he’s collaborated with a handful of artists in the interim, notably appearing last year with Baby Keem on “range brothers” and “family ties” — which won the Best Rap Performance award at the 2022 Grammys.
Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is Kendrick’s first full-length — and rumored double album — since 2017’s Pulitzer Prize-winning DAMN. He announced in 2021 that it will be his last album with TDE, explaining at the time, “As I produce my final TDE album, I feel joy to have been a part of such a cultural imprint after 17 years.”
“There’s beauty in completion,” he added, “And always faith in the unknown.”
A$AP Rocky’s “D.M.B.” (short for “Dat’s My Bitch”) is his first solo release since his 2021 appearance on the Judas and the Messiah soundtrack, although he did recently guest on Nigo’s “Arya” and has been featured on A$AP Mob tracks. Rihanna co-stars in the music video — appearing in one of his videos for the second time, after 2013’s “Fashion Killa” — which is a fictional story, “depicting true ride-or-die characters in a devoted relationship despite their circumstances.” The video also includes a wedding, with Rocky asking “Marry me?” and Rihanna responding “I do” via grill — although there’s no confirmation that the two are actually married.
Camp Trash, the Florida power-pop/emo band, have released two singles from their upcoming full-length, The Long Way, The Slow Way, including “Weird Florida” and “Let It Ride.” The Long Way, The Slow Way follows their 2021 debut EP, Downtiming (according to a press release, the new record “picks up where Downtimng left off and explodes into new directions”). The messaging is simple, said clearly in the hook: “My best I guess, ‘no excuses and no regrets’ / Keep no record of wrong or the money I spent / Always waking up feeling out of time / Learn to give it a rest / Let it ride.”
You can pre-order the VMP edition of ‘The Long Way, The Slow Way’ here.
“Ojitos Lindos,” featuring Bomba Estéreo — the Columbian duo of Simón Mejía and Liliana Saumet — is a track from Bad Bunny’s latest album, Un Verano Sin Ti. Saumet said of the song, “I’m really happy with this collaboration. It was a really fluid and natural conversation. Benito has such a clear idea of what he wants, and he is open to explore new ideas without fears. I value that so much in an artist. I think it’s important that the alternative Latin music scene joins with the mainstream to make music and deliver our message and art together.”
“If Possible” is a track from Wilma Vritra’s sophomore album, Grotto, the follow-up to 2019’s Burd. Wilma Vritra is the transatlantic joint project of London-based multi-instrumentalist and composer Wilma Archer and LA-based rapper Hal Donell Williams Jr, aka VRITRA. According to a press release, “[Grotto] is richly orchestrated, replete with references to faith, mythology, and the cosmos, its 11 tracks grapple with themes of self-preservation and refuge from the world, even as they edge their way to a sort of redemption.”
You can join the waitlist for the VMP edition of ‘Grotto’ here.
black midi have announced their third album, Hellfire, and released its lead single, “Welcome To Hell,” with an intricate, animated music video. In a press release about the new track, the band’s Geordie Greep said, “Almost everyone depicted is a kind of scumbag. Almost everything I write is from a true thing, something I experienced and exaggerated and wrote down. I don’t believe in Hell, but all that old world folly is great for songs, I’ve always loved movies and anything else with a depiction of Hell. Dante’s Inferno. When Homer goes to Hell in the Simpsons. There’s a robot Hell in Futurama. Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Jewish writer who portrays a Satan interfering in people’s lives. There’s loads!”
“The Code” is a track — featuring Texas rapper Mike Dimes and produced by KAYTRANADA — off of Maryland rapper IDK’s latest album, Simple. In a statement about the album, IDK said, “There’s a neighborhood in my city called ‘Simple City.’ It gets its name because you can get killed for any simple reason. Simple City is also the birthplace of Marvin Gaye. I wanted to tell the story of Simple City in a way that it’s never been told before. From drug abuse to crime and murder, I wanted to cover what it feels like to be from Simple City and teach the world that the fix to helping disadvantaged black communities isn’t as simple as you think. The way people view our mentalities is straightforward thing. There’s a lot of depth and it should be handled with care.”
Folk musician Joan Shelley announced her next album, The Spur, along with its title track in April, and has now released a second single, “Amberlit Morning,” featuring Bill Calahan. Shelley said in a statement about the song: “When I was a child, my father the painter would tell me the Picasso quote: ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.’ ... I imagined making [‘Amberlit Morning’] a duet that would feel like a conversation between two constellations. I wanted to be sung a mythical bedtime story, one that Bill Callahan might write. So I asked him to write and sing it with me.”
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