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.
The slowcore band Duster — Clay Parton, Canaan Dove Amber and Jason Albertini — have dropped Together, a surprise release and their first new music since their self-titled record in 2019 (which, along with Capsule Losing Contact that same year, followed a nearly two-decade hiatus after their sophomore album, Contemporary Movement, in 2000). Together released early on YouTube, with an accompanying video for each track.
Duster are something of a cult favorite, called “your favorite indie band’s favorite indie band” by Stereogum (referencing Girlpool, among other contemporary lo-fi bands who’ve claimed Duster as an influence). When they first reemerged in 2019, Duster were also the subject of an NPR feature about “the old disappearing-reappearing band trick.”
The lyrics to “Moonroam,” the eighth track on Together, are the simple, yet cryptic lines: “I see the moons in your visor / I feel your breathing in the velvet.”
Simple yet cryptic seems to be the theme; Duster’s Bandcamp page provides little context for the new album, stating: “Gather your loved ones, Together is here. Duster’s fourth album is a 13-song exploration of comfortable, interplanetary goth. A sonic vaseline of submerged guitars, solder-burned synths, and over-driven rhythm tracks.” The only additional information on the page is a quote from Parton: “I know people say, ‘Oh Duster music so sad,’ we’ve even said it ourselves before. But it’s a lot more like absurdism than nihilism.”
“Mentiras con Cariño” is the album opener and lead single from Boleros Psicodélicos, the upcoming album from Black Pumas’ Adrian Quesada. Puerto Rican icon, Grammy-winner and former Calle 13 member iLe features on the track, which is described in a statement as “a spellbinding home and enchantingly inventive reimagination of balada’s signature elements.”
Discussing the album as a whole in that statement, Quesada said, “I always wanted to pay tribute to that sound that I was already hearing in my head without realizing that people had already done it. Balada changed the face of Latin music forever ... As someone who grew up speaking two languages and living on both sides of the border, I love how much music can transcend barriers and boundaries. It really is a universal language, especially back then.”
About “Mentiras con Cariño” in particular, iLe said, “Making ‘Mentiras Con Cariño’ with Adrian was very fun since we share a similar appreciation for old school boleros. We both love the style of musical arrangements and textures that became a classic signature sound in those times where imperfections made everything feel just right. I wrote this song thinking about feeling sufficient with yourself on your own, even though love didn't turn out to be the way you wanted.”
The visuals for the single, a music video directed by Cesar Berrios, contribute to the thoughtful, timeless approach Quesada and iLe brought to the track. Berrios explained, “We really wanted to make the visuals for this song to feel like a late ’60s, early ’70s performance. From the aspect ratio to the final image. It was a fun video to shoot and the vibes were immaculate.”
Ibeyi — twins Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz — are joined by Jorja Smith on “Lavender & Red Roses,” the latest single from their forthcoming record, Spell 31. Smith is the second British artist to feature on the album, after the twins’ collaboration with Pa Salieu, “Made of Gold.” “Lavender & Red” follows “Sister 2 Sister,” expanding the definition from literal siblings to the three sisters of fate.
Lisa-Kaindé explained in a statement: “We knew we wanted to create something with Jorja that would be different from what we’ve done previously that would allow us to connect with the true meaning of the song. When we came across the three sisters of fate from the Greek mythology that personify fate we knew immediately that it would be the right idea. Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos are sisters, one of them creates the thread of fate, the other analyses it and the third one cuts it.”
The three sisters are portrayed by Ibeyi and Smith in the cinematic desert-set music video. About the song itself, Lisa-Kaindé added, “‘Lavender & Red Roses’ is a song about the feeling we all experience when we love someone troubled. It could be a partner, a sibling, a parent, a friend. We wanted to talk about the pain of witnessing a loved one hurting, repeating patterns and getting lost. And how it triggers in us the desire to reach them, hold them tight and wash their troubles away with lavender and red roses. But the truth is you can’t save them, if they pull you into their darkness, you will have to protect yourself, and allow them to find their own strength and light, their own way.”
You can pre-order the VMP edition of ‘Spell 31’ here.
Michelle Zauner, aka Japanese Breakfast, Grammy nominated for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album for Jubilee (categories won April 3 by Olivia Rodrigo and St. Vincent’s Daddy’s Home, respectively) released two songs for Spotify Singles ahead of the award show: a new version of “Be Sweet” and a cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love.” Zauner said in a statement: “We decided to record Bon Iver’s ‘Skinny Love’ because it felt like a very surprising cover for Japanese Breakfast. It’s so moving and sparse. We felt we could add some interesting instrumentation to the track and celebrate our fellow label mate Bon Iver.”
You can get the VMP edition of Japanese Breakfast’s video game soundtrack, ‘Sable,’ here.
Arooj Aftab also released two tracks — a cover of ROSALÍA’s “DI MI NOMBRE - Cap.8: Éxtasis” and a rerecording of her own song, “Baghon Main” — for Spotify Singles. The Pakistani singer, Grammy nominated herself, has been selected as Spotify’s EQUAL Ambassador for Pakistan in March. In a statement about how she selected “DI MI NOMBRE,” Aftab said, “I’ve always felt a very strong kinship to flamenco music, and recently having visited the south of Spain, even more undeniably so. It’s always been in my periphery to make something with that energy. The driving rawness of the palmas, the haunted vocals. Very much my vibe The opportunity to cover a previous Best New Artist pointed me directly to Rosalía. And while it was a very ambitious choice, I had a great time versioning this song!”
“i belong to you” is the latest track from Dua Saleh, released March 31 with the simple explanation: “new song for Trans Day of Visibility. love you all.” (The Minneapolis-based Sudanese-American artist’s debut EP, Nūr, was featured in our VMP Rising series in 2019.) Saleh is gender nonconforming and recently starred in Netflix’s Sex Education as Cal, a nonbinary high school student. “i belong to you” is their first release in 2022, after their 2021 EP CROSSOVER. On the new song, they sing, “I love you / Serve your heart up on a tray / I love you / Even made me lick the plate / I love you / That’s just how the world’s displayed / I love you.”
Brazilian singer-songwriter, drag queen and activist Pabllo Vittar and Rina Sawayama — fellow collaborators with Charli XCX — have released “Follow Me,” an anthemic dance track. In a press release, both artists called the other “an icon”; Vittar said, “I’m so excited to release this song with Rina — she is such an icon, and I’m so pleased we managed to make this song work as it’s the perfect combination of our music styles. I really hope the fans love it as much as we do. Shooting the video was so much fun as well, wearing iconic outfits, and strutting our stuff on the runway! SERVE!”
“Delete After Death” is the latest single from Adam Lenox, aka Zouj. Despite the subject matter, it’s an upbeat track with a bright, animated music video (animator Laura Jayne Hodkin said, “I wanted the visuals to be bright with garish colours and playful character animation to compliment the dark humour of the song”). Zouj said of the track, “I was wondering what would happen to ‘my’ datas if I die tomorrow, that very day I also felt like something tragic would happen to me in the next days. So I deleted [all] apps and embarrassing things of me online, just in case I pass away and that what will be remembered of me and my youth is my 12 years old Facebook or something.”
Angel Olsen has announced her new album, Big Time, out June 3, and released its lead single, “All the Good Times.” The music video for the new track, directed by Kimberly Stuckwisch, stars Olsen and her partner. In a statement, Olsen spoke about the new album, which was “written during the time Olsen was coming out as queer, and having her first experience of queer love and heartbreak.” Speaking about coming out to her parents — who both died shortly before Olsen recorded Big Time — she said, “Some experiences just make you feel as though you’re five years old, no matter how wise or adult you think you are. Finally, at the ripe age of 34, I was free to be me.”
“Storm of Life (Stand by Me)” is a track from Pastor Champion’s first and only album — due to his passing in December 2021, before the record could be released — I Just Want to Be a Good Man, via Luaka Bop. According to a statement, the song and its accompanying music video were recorded live in 2018 in the 37th Street Baptist Church in Oakland, California. Pastor Champion was a preacher, pastor, guitarist and outsider gospel singer raised in the Jim Crow South, who was reluctant to talk about himself. According to that statement, he refused interviews, “saying that he’d had a hard life and he didn’t want to talk about it.” The only quote we have from him about his music is simple: “I want to say what I mean, be practical, precise, to the point, and, at the same time, diplomatic.”