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:
West Londoner Hope Tala’s latest single, “Tiptoeing,” toes the lines of R&B and bossa nova, while navigating the dichotomy of falling in love or protecting yourself. “Tiptoeing” — produced in collaboration with Greg Kurstin, who produced Adele’s latest, “Easy On You” — debuted as BBC Radio 1’s Hottest Record In The World, and has a dreamy music video with Tala.
“Tiptoeing” follows her 2020 EP Girl Eats Sun and the single “Mad” from earlier this year. Hope Tala said of the latest song: “‘Tiptoeing’ is about the dance we do when we’re at the threshold of romance. It’s about treading carefully when you’re not quite sure what the other person is feeling, but desperately wanting to take a risk because you’re young and life is short.”
After his 2020 EP Which Way is Forward? and several notable collaborations this year (like “Point and Kill” with Little Simz, “Style & Fashion” with Pa Salieu and the Afrobeats producer Sarz’s EP Sweetness), Obongjayar has finally released a new single that’s his alone: “Message in a Hammer.”
“Message in a Hammer” is a mesmerizing exploration of power, with violence underlying every chanted word. The Nigerian-born, London-based artist fuses an Afrofuturist perspective with the textures of Afrobeat, trip-hop and more. The music video is rage and vengeance made literal — an actual hammer central to its final image of revenge. The single is the first release from his forthcoming debut album, which is currently untitled.
Angel Du$t have finally released YAK: A Collection Of Truck Songs in full, including some songs previously released on EPs and the earlier singles “Big Bite” and “Truck Songs,” both featured in previous weeks of Annotated On Rotation. “Dancing On The Radio,” one of the new songs on YAK, features guest vocals from Tim Armstrong from the punk rock band Rancid and the supergroup Transplants.
Even with the addition of Armstrong, “Dancing On The Radio” is still fitting with Angel Du$t’s power-pop sound. The Baltimore rock group includes members of Trapped Under Ice and Turnstile, but instead of just being a hardcore supergroup, Angel Du$t used YAK as an opportunity for indie-pop exploration and subverting expectations.
Remi Wolf, the LA-based artist, has released her debut album, Juno, after releasing the majority of the project as singles, including “Front Tooth,” featured in a previous week of Annotated On Rotation. “Street You Live On,” the final track on Juno, also comes with a characteristically colorful visualizer. The song is a vulnerable break-up track disguised with a sunny delivery: “I avoid the street that you live on / “You’re a magnet pulling my feet and my head off” Wolf repeats.
Exaggerated and exhilarating, “Street You Live On” and Juno as a whole deliver on Wolf’s technicolor promise.
“FFBH” is one of singles, alongside “2nd Round,” that preceded the latest release from Jim-E Stack, his Promotional Only EP. Now released digitally, initially only the singles were available, and to listen to the whole EP you had to snag a free CD copy of it from vending machines in New York City or London.
Theatrics aside, “FFBH” is an innovative brief instrumental from Stack, who has collaborated with artists like HAIM, Bon Iver, Empress Of, Perfume Genius, Charli XCX and Caroline Polachek.
Jordana Nye, based in Wichita, Kansas, and known musically as Jordana, has already released two collaborative singles in 2021: “Push Me Away” with Magdalena Bay and “Doubt of Revival” with Ryan Woods. Currently on tour with LA-based fellow indie-pop act TV Girl — composed of Brad Petering, Jason Wyman and Wyatt Harmon. After kicking off their joint U.S. tour, Jordana and TV Girl released a surprise collaborative EP, Summer’s Over.
“Jump the Turnstile” is one of seven tracks on Summer’s Over, a catchy song that is about, well, jumping turnstiles to “never pay the toll,” in the pursuit of someone you love.
Last month, Lindsey Jordan, aka Snail Mail, released the first single and title track from her upcoming album Valentine — featured in an earlier edition of Annotated On Rotation, and accompanied by a violent and cathartic music video. Now, she’s released the second single from Valentine, “Ben Franklin.” Even with a gigantic snake, the “Ben Franklin” music video involves tamer visuals, including footage of Jordan playing with a puppy (as opposed to murdering someone).
Jordan said in a statement about her latest song: “I wanted to sonically and lyrically get out of my comfort zone with ‘Ben Franklin.’ It felt only right that the visual accompaniment should include dancing in front of a camera and holding a 10 foot snake close to my face.”
serpentwithfeet has already released an acclaimed full-length album this year, DEACON, and has now announced a companion EP to that record called DEACON’S GROVE, set to release in November. The first single from the EP, “Down Nuh River,” is one of two new songs (along with “Shoot Ya Shot”) that will be featured on DEACON’S GROVE. The rest of the tracklist will consist of reinterpretations of DEACON’s “Hyacinth” and “Amir,” and closes with a remix of “Fellowship” with added verses from Ambre and Alex Isley.
The impeccably choreographed music video for “Down Nuh River” features serpent and three other nearly identically dressed dancers, with a setting that evokes youth and play. In a statement, serpentwithfeet said of the song: “When working on ‘Down Nuh River’ I was thinking of all the songs that me, my friends and cousins made up as kids. We had so much fun creating and reinventing songs on the playground and the porch. I wanted to channel that energy in this track.”
Philly artist Tiffany Majette, aka Orion Sun, released her debut LP, Hold Space for Me, in 2020, filled with intricate melodies influenced by jazz, hip-hop and R&B. With her first single following Hold Space For Me, Majette is back with the subtle and emotional single “Concrete.” The new single has a sleepy, soft atmosphere, reinforced by the visuals, with Majette mostly in solitude, starting off with a sunny day in nature and closing with a purple-hued sunset.
Majette said in a statement: “When I think about the song ‘Concrete,’ there’s a lot that comes to mind. There are so many emotions that come to the surface when I respond to the thought train of all the moments that lead me to this point. The warm hands of my ancestors have guided me through such tough terrain. I am comforted by them and in turn given the strength to keep going.”
“Tides” is the second single from Bonobo’s upcoming seventh album, Fragments, following “Rosewood” (featured in an earlier edition of Annotated On Rotation). Like the video first single, “Rosewood,” the music video for “Tides” feels more like a soothing nature visualizer. “Tides” features Chicago artist Jamila Woods, who recently was a part of another collaborative track, “Winona,” with Miloe and Vagabon. Other artists set to appear on Fragments are Joji, Kadhja Bonet and Jordan Rakei.
In a statement, Bonobo said: “When I first heard Jamila’s vocal she had recorded, I knew instantly I had a centrepiece for the album. Lyrically it captured everything the project was about. This track was a real turning point in the process of finishing the album.”
Woods added, “I connected with the track as soon as I heard it. It felt like rain and waves to me before I even knew the project had a theme of cycles and tides, so it all came together very organically.”
Ric Wilson, the Chicago rapper with an infectious blend of soul and disco influences in everything he makes, was a VMP Rising artist in 2018. Since then, he’s been busy, and has already released a handful of singles this year — “blah blah blahs (feat. Kiéla Adira),” “Woo Woo Woo” and “Pull A James Baldwin” — and been featured on collaborative tracks with artists like CHAI, Bluestaeb and cay caleb.
Wilson has now teamed up with British musician George van den Broek, aka Yellow Days, for a collaborative EP, Disco Ric In London Town. They recently released the lead single, “Life’s Been Good To Me,” and also announced a joint tour for this fall.
“Life’s Been Good To Me” is, as the title suggests, a happy tune driven by a disco beat, with added vocals from Lynda Dawn. According to a statement, the collaboration came easy: Wilson said, “George made this beat and I immediately had words in my head,” and van den Broek added, “I remember Ric went for a walk to write some lyrics and I wrote this guy in like a couple hours. He would always come back and I’d done a whole new track for him to do.”
While waiting for the new EP, you can get Wilson’s EP BANBA from the VMP store here.
Following up on his EP Afrikan Rebel (featured in an earlier edition of Annotated On Rotation for his collaboration “Style & Fashion* with Obongjayar), Pa Salieu is already back with a single, “Bad.” After teasing the collaboration on Instagram, Aitch and Salieu released the track and an accompanying music video.
The video bathes Salieu in cool blues, Aitch in red light. The energy dips when Aitch takes the lead, as the younger rapper doesn’t quite hold his own in such stark contrast to Salieu, but the whole track is buoyant and infectious nonetheless.
“Bad” shares sonically with “Glidin’,” Salieu’s single from earlier this year with slowthai (a former VMP Hip-Hop artist).
“Frankie” is the second single this year from Barrie, following “Dig” (featured in a previous edition of Annotated On Rotation), Barrie’s first releases since her 2019 album Happy To Be Here as a five-piece band. The two tracks are set to be released together as a 7-inch record from Winspear this December.
While “Dig” is more meandering, “Frankie” is driven by hypnotic rhythm, and almost sounds like an ’80s dance track. Barrie said in a statement that the song is inspired by the songwriter Glen Campbell. She explained: “Glen Campbell had just died and the radio was playing ‘Wichita Lineman.’ It felt relevant to the social justice movements at the moment, to the push for democratic socialism, or at least a rejection of capitalism and where it’s gotten us.”
“Rodeo Clown” is the second single from Dijon’s upcoming debut solo album, Absolutely, after “Many Times” and a live performance video of its first track, “Big Mike’s.” His first solo projects outside of the duo Abhi//Dijon were his 2020 EP How Do You Feel About Getting Married? and the 2019 EP Sci Fi 1.
The slightly distorted vocals of “Rodeo Clown” lament a love that’s not returned; it’s described in a statement as “a tearful outpouring on the fragility and pain of unrequited love set to the backdrop of a sweaty summer night at a small town Rodeo.”
The LA-based artist has notably collaborated with Jim-E Stack and is featured on Charli XCX’s “pink diamonds,” and will be supporting Bon Iver on a few tour dates in spring and summer of 2022.
Five years since their last record, Animal Collective — Deakin, Geologist, Avey Tare and Panda Bear — have announced their 11th studio album, Time Skiffs, and shared its first single, “Prester John.” The single is lowkey and experimental, and there is a similarly laidback music video for the track, directed by Jason Lester) with the band in low, moody lighting and surrounded by psychedelic imagery.
“Prester John” weaves together two songs, one written by Tare and the other by Panda Bear, according to a statement. Time Skiffs, according to that same statement, will feature nine new tracks, which they described as “love letters, distress signals, en plein air observations, and relaxation hymns, the collected transmissions of four people who have grown into relationships and parenthood and adult worry.”
The statement continued: “But they are rendered with Animal Collective’s singular sense of exploratory wonder, same as they ever were. There are harmonies so rich you want to skydive through their shared air, textures so fascinating you want to decode their sorcery, rhythms so intricate you want to untangle their sources. Here is Animal Collective past 20, still in search of what’s next.”
Azniv Korkejian, the LA-based folk artist Bedouine, has released three songs in anticipation of her upcoming sophomore album, Waysides — most recently “The Solitude,” following “The Wave” and “It Wasn’t Me” (featured in an earlier edition of Annotated On Rotation. Korkejian released “The Solitude” with more retro visuals; in the music video for the single, you can see Bedouine perform from a vintage TV set.
Korkejian said of the new single: “I was listening to Joni Mitchell’s ‘My Old Man’ and kept returning to the lyric ‘the bed’s too big, the frying pan’s too wide.’ I was so taken by that; conveying a feeling by describing a change in proportions. I wanted to expand on that and it became kind of an homage.”
She added, “Otherwise, it’s about the realization that I’m not impervious to codependencies or being in denial about them.”
Carson McHone, a country singer from Austin, recently signed to Merge Records for her upcoming third album, and has released the single “Hawks Don’t Share” so far. The track leans a little more indie rock than country, perhaps foreshadowing a shift from McHone’s last record, 2018’s Carousel. Contrary to its title, the music video for “Hawks Don’t Share” showcases whimsical communal creativity.
McHone said in a statement: “The past year and a half shifted everyone's lives dramatically. I’ve been off the road and off the stage, and for the most part in seclusion since I flew home in the middle of a tour on March 12th, 2020. Although sequestered, I’ve been lucky enough to use this time to explore new creative ground and cultivate new creative relationships. I am excited now to begin sharing the results and honored that the wonderful folks at Merge Records have signed on to help me spread the word!”
jennylee, the solo project of Warpaint bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg, hasn’t released an original single since her debut, 2015’s Right On! Now she’s back with, “Newtopia,” the first release from her Singles Club — and Warpaint is also working on an album following their recent single, “Lilys.”
In an Instagram post about the song, she asked fans to share their experiences with the new song and outlets and coping mechanisms they found in quarantine, along with a song that ties in with their share (leading to a collaborative playlist).
The Singles Club, described in its Instagram bio as “Kind of like a book club, but w songs…” will consist of seven limited edition 7-inch singles on vinyl with her own paintings as the cover artwork, community through Instagram but also in-person meetings to come, where fans can come together and share art and music.
Wet's upcoming album is a reunion of sorts for the band, with the return of guitarist Marty Sulkow alongside Kelly Zutrau and Joe Valle. The latest single, “Bound,” features Blood Orange — the only track on the album with a feature, despite co-writing and co-production credits throughout from artists like Chaz Bear (Toro y Moi) and Buddy Ross (Frank Ocean’s touring keyboardist).
“Bound” has a stunning, cinematic music video, fittingly directed by Gia Coppola. Dev Hynes, aka Blood Orange, scored two movies for Coppola, Palo Alto and Mainstream.
The last single before the album’s release, “Bound” is firmly within Wet’s wheelhouse of moody, groovy alt-R&B. The melodramatic chorus has Blood Orange and Zutrau singing, “And I’m screaming in the palm of my hands / Waiting for a love that never could land / What seems worse? / Trying not to care.”
Lucy Hayes, a 22-year-old musician based in London, has released two solo singles outside of her work in the experimental R&B duo Blood Beech: “Sin” and “Growing Pains.” Blood Beech, Hayes’ partnership with Sleepy Eye, have also been releasing singles this year, including “Casablanca” and “Stutter,” and have yet to release a full-length project.
Despite being titled “Sin,” the song starts with the line: “I’ve got angels in my DMs / and my belly’s full of amens.” Like her first solo single, “Growing Pains,” “Sin” is restrained vocally, especially in Hayes’ higher register. Producer and free jazz drummer Cid Rim — who just released an album himself, Songs of Vienna — produced “Sin.”