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:
The Weeknd has come far from his Spanish contribution to Beyoncé’s “6 Inch” (the English-jumbled “Pesos out of México (de uno)”, now joining ROSALÍA and sounding fluent on “LA FAMA.” They previously teamed up on a remix of The Weeknd’s track, “Blinding Lights.” “LA FAMA” is the latest single from ROSALÍA’s Motomami, due out next year, and follows her track “Linda” with Dominican rapper Tokischa (featured in an earlier edition of Annotated On Rotation).
The music video stars ROSALÍA as a dancer in a club, mesmerizing The Weeknd in the audience — before he gets too close, anyway. The video is a little heavy handed with its messaging — at the end, we’re left with, “Don’t forget, be careful what you wish for,” spoken by the club’s announcer — but might get away with being so over the top due to ROSALÍA’s performance. She’s pure sensuality and femme power in a glittery silver costume.
ROSALÍA said in a statement, “I wanted to write, in my own way, a bachata with a little story around ambition. Taking as a reference the lyrics of Ruben Blades or Patti Smith and the songs of Aventura, I ended up writing a story of romance with fame.”
“Softly” is the latest single from Amber Mark’s forthcoming debut full-length, Three Dimensions Deep. We’ve already heard quite a few tracks so far, including “What It Is,” “Foreign Things,” “Worth It” and “Competition.” The new song samples “Rendezvous” by Craig David, with a slight bump in tempo — another track with a singular focus on pleasure.
The visuals are almost tactile, with literal soft fluffy surfaces everywhere, multiple feathered outfits and even bunnies. In the description of the video, Mark wrote, “Softly is a lil treat I’ve sprinkled into the album.”
And a treat it is, the smooth blend of pop and R&B that Mark’s known for — albeit a bit more surface level than the more conceptual early singles from her upcoming record.
The long-awaited record from Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, An Evening With Silk Sonic, is finally here, including a rock-infused ode to gambling, “777.” (The last single before the record’s release, “Smokin Out The Window,” was featured last week in Annotated On Rotation). In case you manage to miss the many casino references in “777,” there’s even an online slots game in the track’s honor — with a chance to win a gold Silk Sonic T-shirt.
Mars and .Paak spoke with Rolling Stone in a lengthy interview about the making of the record, and explained that their primary aim was to “make other people feel good.” .Paak, asked to address whether they were tempted to include heavier topics on the record, said (in “a comically hushed voice”), “I got in here, and Bruno said, ‘Look, Andy, I know you’ve done a lot of things, a lot of songs — it’s all cute, but we’re gonna do this my way and I need you to rock with me and trust me … we’re making music to make women feel good and make people dance, and that’s it. It’s not gonna make people sad.’”
“777,” and An Evening… as a whole, achieve that feel-good aim — but strike a confusing mix between sincere reverence for ’70s Motown and Philly Soul and winking parody of the genres.
“stabilise” is the first single and music video from Nilüfer Yanya’s sophomore album, PAINLESS, due out in March. Her debut record, Miss Universe, was a concept album about a fictional health company, filled with paranoia surrounding mind control and commercial wellness. Yanya told VMP in 2019 that because she needed to meet deadlines and write more in a period of time than she ever had to create her first full-length, she “was a bit dissociated from the whole thing.” But on PAINLESS, she’s turned inward and made a more personal record, without the conceit of her debut.
In a statement about the upcoming record, Yanya said: “It’s a record about emotion. I think it’s more open about that in a way that Miss Universe wasn’t because there’s so many cloaks and sleeves with the concept I built around it.”
About “stabilise,” specifically, she said, “The video [for ‘stabilise’] plays on the central theme in the song of no one coming to save you ever. It’s set in depths of reality in every day life where we are the only one’s truly capable of salvaging or losing ourselves.”
“The Only Heartbreaker” is the second single from Mitski’s upcoming record, Laurel Hell. The new song follows “Working for the Knife,” featured in an earlier edition of Annotated On Rotation. The lyrics are sparse and straightforward: “If you would just make one mistake, what a relief that would be / But I think for as long as we’re together, I’ll be the only heartbreaker.”
Its music video is a literal manifestation of someone who corrupts everything they touch, and is visually stunning, with Mitski burning down an entire forest. But the destruction isn’t gleeful; she often looks pained and seems horrified by what she’s done.
In a statement about the track, Mitski said, “[‘The Only Heartbreaker’ is about] the person always messing up in the relationship, the designated Bad Guy who gets the blame. It could simply be about that, but I also wanted to depict something sadder beneath the surface, that maybe the reason you’re always the one making mistakes is because you’re the only one trying.”
The Toronto four-piece PUP are back with two singles, “Waiting” and “Kill Something,” their first original releases of the year — following their 2020 EP This Place Sucks Ass and a contribution to The Metallica Blacklist. In addition to the two singles, PUP have announced a North American tour for 2022. While “Waiting” is a wall of sound that frontperson Stefan Babcock called “a flurry of darkness and anger through the joyous lens of four guys just happy to be here,” the second track, “Kill Something,” is a darker, ballad-like song from the punk rockers.
“Kill Something” — as its title suggests — is morbid and asks several rhetorical questions that don’t exactly lead to a joyous place: The chorus asks, “And if I’ve got nothing to prove, why do I do the things I do?” and “Just want to kill something I love / Wouldn’t that be enough?”
According a press release, the song is about Babcock’s dog Moose, “who loves to destroy his favourite things, and then is sad that those things are destroyed.”
Jasmyn Burke — most well-known as the frontperson of the Toronto band Weaves — has reintroduced herself as just Jasmyn, a new solo project, with the single “Find The Light.” Along with the release of the single, she announced her signing to LA label ANTI- (and Royal Mountain Records in Canada). The Canadian indie singer-songwriter also released a playful music video for the track, complete with quirky choreography and video extras wearing matching wigs.
Explaining the origin of “Find The Light” in a press release, Burke said, “This song was loosely written during the Fall of 2020. The world was feeling pretty heavy, and I felt myself wanting to write music that created a mood of happiness and space to grow. It feels like we’re living in this sort of in-between space, where life is altering. I wanted to explore finding comfort and hopefulness through uncomfortable change.”
She added, “I feel like I have grown and changed as a person over the last few years and wanted to write songs that created a sense of confidence and well-being.”
When they announced their forthcoming eighth album, Once Twice Melody, Beach House said the 18-track album will be released in four sections over the next few months until the full record’s release in February. Once Twice Melody is the first full-length from Beach House produced entirely by band members Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally alone. They’ve also announced a world tour in support of the new album in 2022.
The first four tracks of Once Twice Melody — the duo’s first record since 2018’s 7 — include the title track, “Superstar,” “Through Me” and “Pink Funeral.” “Pink Funeral” is a melancholy and meandering tune, with opaque lyrics like, “Once was a fairytale, then it all went to hell / Swans on a starry lake / Hearts that were made to break / Tears through a white lace veil / Pink funeral.” There’s a lyric animation video for “Pink Funeral,” and the other three releases from chapter one, with a collage of motion graphics and text.
According to a press release, for the first time, the band used a live string ensemble with arrangements by David Campbell, although, they reassured fans that, “In addition to new sounds, many of the drum machines, organs, keyboards and tones that listeners may associate with previous Beach House records remain present throughout many of the compositions.”
“Jupiter” is a philosophical and expansive track from Jenny Hval — her first material released with 4AD — following the debut of her duo Lost Girls with Håvard Volden earlier this year, Menneskekollektivet. Hval’s most recent solo record was 2019’s The Practice of Love, on Sacred Bones Records.
The music video, directed by Zia Anger, starts with a picturesque drive as the sun goes down, but gets weirder and more imagistic as it goes. Eventually, the song’s namesake makes an appearance.
In a statement, Hval said: “When I wrote the music for this song in 2015, it had no lyrics, and I did not understand where it came from. It was a strange creature that moved from one genre to the next like a slide show and crashed into a chorus full of cymbals. Six years later ‘Jupiter’ has become a post-apocalyptic road trip. It begins by the art installation Prada Marfa in Texas, but turns into a game of identification and absurd imagery.”
Hval added, “The song winds its way through a desert-scape where values, genres, representation and relationships are breaking down. It tickles our death drive and throws us into space.”
Murkage Dave has teamed up with Caroline Polachek on his latest single, “Awful Things,” released in tandem with the solo track “Please Don’t Move To London It’s A Trap.” The singles mark his first new music since 2019’s We Need to Look After Us with grime artist Manga Saint Hilare and his debut that same year, Murkage Dave Changed My Life.
(Caroline Polachek appeared in last week’s Annotated On Rotation for another recent collaboration, Charli XCX’s “New Shapes” with Polachek and Christine and the Queens.)
Born in Leytonstone, Murkage Dave names influences from British garage and R&B to Joy Division. The singer-songwriter hasn’t announced the name or date for his upcoming album, but revealed that he collaborated with trip-hop pioneer Tricky and LA rapper Evidence, in addition to Polachek, on the record.
As an American pop artist, Polachek isn’t exactly an expected collaborator, but the resulting track speaks for itself, as she and Murkage Dave trade overlapping and interweaving vocal lines.
Fana Hues, still racking up streams from her appearance on Tyler, The Creator’s “SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE” with Brent Faiyaz, has released a new single, “Pieces.” The track doesn’t appear on her debut, Hues, but was released as a loosie in support of that record. “Pieces” also has a captivating music video, directed by Phillip Youmans.
Hues debut is a breakup record; she said in a press release, “When I was writing it, I was mourning a relationship.” It tracks a process of grief that Hues described as “denying the fact that it happened, turning it into shameful pettiness, self-reflection, re-grounding myself and acceptance, and then letting it go.”
In light of the heartbreak at the core of Hues, “Pieces” is a natural continuation of the same themes. At the chorus, Hues sings, “Tear into me, I’m torn to pieces … Shouldn’t be this hard.”
(To learn more about the making of her debut, check out our podcast interview with Hues from earlier this year.)
Vundabar have released the third single and title track for their upcoming record Devil for the Fire, following “Aphasia” and “Ringing Bell” earlier this year. The three tracks are the Boston band’s first releases following their 2020 record Either Light. “Devil for the Fire” has a moody music video that features plenty of absurd antics from the bandmates and escalating theatrics, at times grounded in reality but also quite surreal.
In a statement about the title track, bandleader Brandon Hagen said: “The beginnings of this song came about as I was binge watching film noir and burning through books on neuroplasticity. The subconscious and subconscious fear is a big theme in a lot of film noir, so I had that on the mind — sequences of abstract and surreal images to convey an inner world that has its own dream logic.”
Hagen added, “Shortly after, my dad had a life-threatening emergency heart surgery and subsequent stroke. I finished the song between visits to the hospital, not knowing whether my dad would survive. The entire thing was surreal; the hospitals in the age of COVID, the looming specter of death hanging over us, the bizarre timing of his accident with what I’d been reading and writing.”
Texas five-piece band Why Bonnie — who made their Fat Possum debut with the 2020 EP Voice Box — are back with a new nostalgia-filled single, “Galveston.” With opening lyrics, “Candyland beaches / Water too salty to swim,” the mood of “Galveston” is perfectly captured by its music video at the beach at night.
The chorus (“When I try to remember it I can’t / It’s slipping like quicksand / When I try to remember it I can’t / It’s slipping through my hand”) perfectly captures what it’s like to try to hold onto memories of childhood: They are at once within grasp, and never fully there to begin with.
“[It’s an] ode to Galveston, Texas — the capital of ghosts and good memories,” said songwriter and lead vocalist Blair Howerton in a statement. She added, “One of the most literal recollections of growing up in Southeast Texas, ‘Galveston’ is a snapshot of an old childhood haunt.”
Courtney Barnett released a final single and music video, “If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight,” ahead of the release of her latest record, Things Take Time, Take Time, last Friday. The last single is a straightforward and open analysis of what it’s like to have a crush, declare your feelings for someone and then be unsure what exactly you want their response to be. At one point, Barnett sings, “All my fears collided, when our mutual friend confided in me that / There’s a 99% chance that it’s requited.”
In an interview with VMP about the record, Barnett said it was written when “there were moments where it looked like the world was ending and if the world didn’t end, that looked like, at the very least, the music industry was gonna end.” She said this uncertainty — being unsure if anyone would even listen to the record — gave her the freedom of vulnerability.
Although, as displayed in “If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight,” sometimes vulnerability can be wrapped up in fear. In that same interview, Barnett said, “Even when we think we are being vulnerable or truthful, there’s always this element of ourselves that is trying to protect us from something, this fear of humiliation or rejection or whatever it is. I think sometimes we don’t even know if we’re being truthful with ourselves.”
Greet Death, the shoegaze band from Flint, Michigan, are back with a new single, “Your Love is Alcohol,” following up on “I Hate Everything” from earlier this year. The two tracks are their first releases since 2019’s New Hell. With the release of the single, the band also announced that they’ll be touring in support of the screamo band Infant Island.
“Your Love is Alcohol” has a music video, directed by Greet Death’s Logan Gaval, which is basically a live performance video of the track — well, except for the costumed person pouring wine in their mouths.
In a press release, Gaval said of the single: “I wrote ‘Your Love Is Alcohol’ in July of 2020. Around that time, my girlfriend and I would hang out after work at my parents’ house and pass a bottle of Tito’s Vodka back and forth and listen to my parents watching Fox News. Getting drunk with my girlfriend is one of my favorite things to do so I wrote a song about it.”
He added, “We recorded the song with our friend and new bass player Jackie Kalmink. I’m very excited to see what we can create before the heat death of Earth.”