Annotated On Rotation is here to give you context on what we’re spinning each week in our On Rotation playlist — curated by our Head of A&R Alexandra Berenson, no algorithm needed. We’ve annotated each track with some added info to explain why these artists should be on your radar. Listen and read along below:
With an overload of synths, à la Eurythmics, Charli XCX is back with “Good Ones.” Borrowing heavily from the ’80s, it’s a short, sweet song about self-sabotage. In a music video she described as “twisted, dramatic and quite frankly electrifying,” she dances her way through a funeral and poses on top of her own headstone. Her first solo single since 2020’s How I’m Feeling Now, she said in a statement that, “The first single of my new chapter embraces all that my life has to offer in today’s world — fame, glamour, inner demons, and global hits.”
“Good Ones,” and its visuals, are packed full of all four.
After working together with J Balvin on “Perra,” Dominican rapper Tokischa and ROSALÍA teamed up on “Linda,” an infectious blend of dembow and flamenco. ROSALÍA told Apple Music that she’d never done anything dembow, but Tokischa pushed her to do something new, and they found a middle ground between their two styles.
“Linda” and its music video, both made in the Dominican Republic, are assertive, fast-paced and sexy. The visuals are an overload of femme energy, glitter and neon.
Little Simz has long been a VMP favorite, with her debut, A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons, featured as our VMP Hip-Hop Record of the Month in January 2018. Now, on her fourth album, the UK rapper turns inward to ask questions about persona versus personhood. On “Point and Kill,” one of only two tracks with features on Little Simz’s Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, Obongjayar and Simz meditate on the lengths they’d go to get what they want, and protect who they love.
The music video for “Point and Kill” is a cinematic experience filmed in Nigeria, where Obongjayar was born, culminating with an homage to the now-viral image from Cristo Rey, with Little Simz holding a machete to a cop as several officers point guns at her and Obongjayar. Like the other visuals for Sometimes I Might Be Introvert — music videos for “Introvert” and “Woman” with Cleo Soul — “Point and Kill” is political, theatrical and visually layered.
Patrick Morales, aka Wiki, is a born-and-bred New Yorker who came up as one third of the hip-hop group Ratking (alongside Eric Adiele and Hakeem “Hak” Lewis). His upcoming album, Half God, with the producer and rapper Navy Blue, is the follow-up to his collaborative album earlier this year with NAH, Telephonebooth, preceded by his two solo albums — 2017’s No Mountains in Manhattan and 2019’s Oofie. “Roof,” the first of two singles from Half God, is a laidback tribute to, well, his roof and the memories he has there, and the city he calls home.
Wiki is hardly an unknown artist — he’s been profiled in The New Yorker, and has collaborated with Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, Run The Jewels and Earl Sweatshirt, among others — but is still undeniably on the rise.
Like their two singles earlier this year, “Expressions” and “Diary,” Mr Twin Sister have landed firmly in upbeat club music with “Polvo,” which is cumbia-infused and sung in Spanish. The song’s title translates to “dust,” and the song, according to lead singer Andrea Estella in a press release, “is about how death fuels life, how we’re all connected, and how we must die in order to live.”
Despite being about death and dust, the song is bouncy and deceptively cheerful. A single from the New York band’s upcoming album — with a Spanish title as well, Al Mundo Azul — it seems that in the time between 2018’s Salt and now, Mr Twin Sister have again expanded their sound and ventured further into house music than ever before.
Injury Reserve made their self-titled debut in 2019, and before they could finish their upcoming sophomore album, By The Time I Get to Phoenix, founding member Stepa J. Groggs died in June 2020. According to a press release from the now-duo of Ritchie With a T and Parker Corey, most of their second album was complete before Groggs died.
Born out of improvisation and experimentation while on tour in 2019, Injury Reserve’s sophomore album is poised to be a tone shift from their debut. “Superman That” isn’t a full departure from Injury Reserve, as there's some choppy stylistic editing and grunge-like beats there, too, but this song edges further into the chaos. Built off of a distorted sample — British post-punk band Black Country, New Road’s “Athens, France” — and with heavily processed vocals, the song feels simultaneously futuristic and also like it belongs to an earlier era in hip-hop.
In their statement about By The Time I Get to Phoenix, Injury Reserve said they “above all else stayed true to [Grogg’s] insistence while recording to simply ‘make some weird shit,’” foreshadowing more unique sounds to come.
Blue Bendy’s “A Celebration” opens with singer and lyricist Arthur Nolan's deadpan voice singing, “Amass! And it’s another happy day in hand with glass / Throw out your arms! Rejoice and clap!” It juxtaposes these cheerful (albeit dripping in irony) assertions with the end of a relationship.
The first song from Blue Bendy with their new label Practise Music, the London-based art-rock group are moving into more experimentation and weirdness. Nolan said of the song in a statement, “I thought it sounded like Belle and [Sebastian] doing an Ice Age song.”
Although not technically a single (a statement specified that it’s not a single, the band “just wanted you to know that they’re still here and are making music during this global upheaval”), “Oh Know” is the first new song from Beak> in years, released in tandem with the track “Ah Yeh.” The band’s current members, Geoff Barrow (Portishead), Billy Fuller and Will Young (Moon Gangs), also made a music video for “Oh Know” for Mexico’s NRMAL Festival’s monthly YouTube show with Echo Panda films.
Heavily krautrock inspired and recorded during lockdown in 2020, “Oh Know” bottles the angst and anxiety of quarantine in its tight groove.
“TRUST!” is the first single from JPEGMAFIA’s fourth album, his first full-length since 2019’s All My Heroes Are Cornballs and following his EP! in 2020 and EP2! in 2021. Don’t be fooled by the exclamatory title, as this is not a song about trust, but the lack of it: “Yeah, I’ve been fucked over, still feeling nice” and “I can’t believe that shit, I don’t believe that bitch” he raps over the light, electronic-leaning beat.
And the self-reliant sentiment of the song is reflected in its credits: JPEGMAFIA rapped, produced, mixed, mastered and played all the instruments on “TRUST!”
Wet’s “Clementine” is the third single for their upcoming album, Letter Blue. The band’s first album with AWAL, following two with Columbia, Letter Blue sees founding guitarist Marty Sulkow rejoin the band, alongside Kelly Zutrau and Joe Valle. All three singles from the new album, “Clementine,” “Larabar” and “On Your Side,” have corresponding visuals directed by Andrew Theodore Balasia. Although the song itself is more of a soothing lament than anything else, the visuals feature shots of Zutrau interspersed with seemingly random viral video clips.
Letter Blue boasts co-writing and co-production credits from Chaz Bear (Toro y Moi), Dev Hynes and Buddy Ross (Frank Ocean’s touring keyboardist), with Ross credited on “Clementine.”
Chicago-based Divino Niño — Camilo Medina (vocals, guitar), Javier Forero (vocals, bass), Guillermo Rodriguez (guitar), Pierce Codina (drums) and Justin Vittori (multi-instrumentalist) — released their debut full-length, Foam, in 2019 to critical acclaim. With their first track in 2021, the band is back with the danceable and genre-evasive “Drive.”
Medina said in a statement, “‘Drive’ started out as a demo inspired by Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Gypsy.’ As the song evolved, we ended up mixing in influences of nostalgic rock/rap from South America.”
Of the music video, the band said: “We wanted the video to represent driving as a psycho magical act to confront demons and disappointment head-on.” It’s a euphoric and trippy ride, and somehow captures exactly what they aimed for it to represent.
Ryan Yoo, aka boylife, has said his new song, “lush,” is “about a dude who doesn’t know how to be honest.” But for someone who doesn’t know how to be honest, the lyricist presented here is intensely vulnerable. The LA-based artist also performs with the band mmmonika, and uses boylife as his solo moniker. Yoo seems to be a bit purposefully mysterious — his Spotify bio is simply “thank you love you” — but has been gaining attention in the alt-R&B arena with his smooth, soulful voice and intimate songwriting.
In the stunning visuals for the song, in contrast to the frankness of its lyrics, Yoo often turns away from the camera, maybe not quite able to face his listeners directly — at least not all the time.
Kiah Victoria’s “Another Life” is her first single since her 2018 Memo EP. On the Bandcamp page for the song, its description is simply “for the womb.” Whether focused on creation in a broader sense or literally through pregnancy, the song’s lyrics fit either meaning, with Victoria singing, “Maybe in another life, yeah / We can make another life.” Victoria described her musical style in an interview as “intimate, soulful, reflective and bumping,” and “Another Life” certainly fits those descriptors — except “bumping,” as this is a more gentle, downtempo track.
Besides being featured in Son Lux’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, Victoria has not been particularly active between her last EP release and now, but this single is hopefully the sign of more music to come.
A thematic extension of Andy Shauf’s latest album, The Neon Skyline, “Spanish On The Beach” doesn’t likely hint at an album on the way, but continues the fun of his last record. The song features Judy, the character in The Neon Skyline, and tells the story of an imagined romance on a beach vacation. Shauf said in a statement, “It’s the same theme as the story ended up being at the Skyline but the narrator’s life is a little bit booze-fueled, and this vacation is kind of like the first stop on the way to destruction.”
“Spanish On The Beach” is sonically simple, leaving the focus on Shauf’s sing-song storytelling.
Another single from Metallica’s upcoming anniversary covers album, The Metallica Blacklist, Kamasi Washington has translated “My Friend of Misery” from driving rock to astral jazz. While some of the Blacklist covers (like Rina Sawayama’s “Enter Sandman,” featured in On Rotation last week) stay pretty faithful to the original, Washington’s cover expands the song into an entirely different sonic world.
Washington also performed “My Friend of Misery” live at LA’s Hollywood Bowl in July with Metallica’s guitarist Kirk Hammet and bassist Robert Trujillo — neither of whom are featured on the studio version of the cover.