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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.
In the first verse of “Millennium” — a collaboration with The Mattson 2, and the second-to-last track on Toro y Moi’s latest record, MAHAL — Chaz Bear sings, “Let’s pretend we’re floating over everyone.” This opener is the perfect thematic pairing with the psychedelic romp that follows — and highlights a shift in sound on the album as a whole, which Bear’s been working on for half a decade.
In an interview with Stereogum, asked if he was aiming for “any specific styles” with MAHAL, Bear said, “In a way, yes, but no. This record for me is doubling down on my psych-rock sound and really showing my dedication to this concept or this sound. It’s not just a phase to make guitar music or even try to make a masterpiece.”
He added, “Songwriting-wise, musically, it’s a return to form for me. Making a rock song with fun basslines and guitar parts, that’s innate. The challenge for me was the lyrics and just getting out of that introverted, quarantine phase, to reflect the times now but also put myself out there. That’s where the fresh juice is at for this record.”
Bear said the biggest shift this time was not in the songwriting, but in the rollout — especially the Jeep, featured in the cover and visuals for the record. “I wanted a pandemic-proof way of marketing this record,” he explained. “I was like, ‘OK, if no one’s touring by the time this record’s coming out, I’m just gonna drive it out myself to these record stores and promote it at coffee shops.’”
You can get the VMP edition of ‘MAHAL’ here.
The latest release from Steven Raekwon Reynolds, aka S. Raekwon, “Single Mom’s Day,” is a song and video in celebration of Mother’s Day — even down to the album cover, which is a photo of Reynolds celebrating a young birthday with his mother. S. Raekwon said of the track, “This is the most honest song I've ever written. It's about my mom, who, in spite of everything going on, got back on her feet time and again. Who was also my father growing up. Who was more than enough.”
The lyrics of “Single Mom’s Day” are expansive — the single has a runtime of nearly eight minutes — but similarly straightforward and heartfelt: “You can’t measure love like that / ’Cause my mother’s love was enough / That I didn’t ever feel like I needed my dad.”
According to a press release, the lyric video, directed by Reynolds’ aunt, Jenny Conte, features images his aunt took over the years, including photos of where Reynolds’ and his mom lived when he was a child and his third grade classroom (which is referenced in the song’s first lyrics: “Back in third grade / My teacher had the class create a gift for Father’s Day / I made it for my momma instead / ’Cause my momma was my father every day”).
Conte said in a statement, “I'm so proud of the man and the musician he has become, and it's particularly poignant to reflect on where he comes from, and the love he shares with his mom and with his family.”
LA-based trio MUNA’s latest single from their upcoming self-titled record, “Kind Of Girl” — following “Anything But Me” and “Silk Chiffon” — is a turn toward country sonics and visuals, with the band dressed up like cowboys, complete with facial hair, in the music video.
MUNA’s Katie Gavin said in a press release, “In some ways we feel [‘Kind Of Girl’] is the heart of the record. This song explores the power of language and the words we use to describe who we are and who we want to be. Even though it is a happy, hopeful song, I shed the most tears of the record in the vocal booth recording this chorus. I think there’s something very vulnerable about plainly expressing my desire to be kinder to myself and comfortable receiving love.”
About the visuals, Gavin added, “The video for this song highlights another layer of meaning that we feel the song holds, which is that we as queer people are particularly vulnerable when we are sharing how we identify and how we would like to be perceived. We wanted to play with the gendered nature of this song because we all three have different relationships to girlhood (and Naomi [McPherson] is non-binary, so not a girl at all!). It was a gift to be able to king for this video in a way that felt earnest and comfortable and hot. The experience brought home the fact that it’s not enough for queer and trans people to be clear about who we are — we also need a community around us that hears us, believes us, honors us, and supports us. We’re very proud of what we made and grateful to everyone who was a part of it. We hope the bigots absolutely hate it.”
“Oh God” is the first solo single since 2019 from Miya Folick, a former VMP Rising artist. Folick said in a press release: “‘Oh God’ is that moment of sudden remorse/panic/fear: when you put your palm to your forehead and wonder what you have done with your life. You know that something needs to change, and for the first time, you’re willing to try anything.” In an Instagram post about the track, produced and written by Folick and Mike Malchicoff, she added, “I truly love this song and i’m vibrating with excitement in a way that’s almost unpleasant!”
On the chorus of “unsaid,” the fifth track on Sarah Beth Tomberlin’s sophomore album, i don’t know who needs to hear this, she sings: “If I don’t say I love you / then you don’t have to love me / See how simple / the unsaid keeps things?” This quiet wisdom could be about a romantic relationship, or Tomberlin’s sometimes-fraught relationship with her religious parents; she spoke with Pitchfork about gray areas and imperfections in family dynamics, concluding: “The truth is, we don’t have the answers. All I know is that the only way to not be a bitter, hard person is to listen and communicate what you can. Plant that seed and let it take root.”
You can get the VMP edition of ‘i don’t know who needs to hear this’ here.
Zambian-born, Australia-based poet and rapper Sampa the Great’s “Lane” — her first new music as the lead artist since 2019’s The Return — features Florida rapper Denzel Curry, a former VMP Hip-Hop artist, and production by Powers Pleasant. The single is accompanied by an extended, cinematic music video, with an origin story narrated by Sampa for the first two minutes. In a press release about the single, Sampa said, “We’re not going to stay in one lane, we’re going to create multiple ones. My truest self encourages me to explore different lanes, and go beyond what I think I know of myself.”
You can pre-order the VMP edition of Curry’s latest record, ‘Melt My Eyez See Your Future’ here.
“Rise Above” — a cover of the Black Flag song from their 1981 debut record Damaged — is the last single from Ibeyi before the release of their latest record, Spell 31. The duo, twins Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz, also collaborated with East London rapper BERWYN on the track. In a statement, Lisa-Kaindé said: “We read the lyrics and we immediately felt their relevance to how we felt about the world in its current state … Jorja Smith heard the track and told us we had to get BERWYN on the song. We had him by the studio to listen to the full album. I left to make tea, upon returning to the studio BERWYN had already written his verse for ‘Rise Above,’ before he had even finished listening to the album. We knew we had something special, what a gift!”
You can pre-order the VMP edition of ‘Spell 31’ here.
Tegan and Sara’s latest single, “Fucking Up What Matters,” is their first release after signing with Mom+Pop Music. About the new song, Tegan said: “‘Fucking Up What Matters’ felt like an ode to the moment in your life when you realize that you have most, if not all of the things you wanted and you start to think about what would happen if you just walked away from it all, it’s the moment in the middle of the night when you start to daydream about something else, something you never imagined ... And as my mom would say, it’s often when we’re fucking up what matters, that we’re learning the most about ourselves.”
“It Will Come In Time” is the latest release from Dutch musician, producer and songwriter Benny Sings. The Stones Throw Records artist released two full-length albums in 2021, Music and Beat Tape II, and recently co-wrote and produced Rex Orange County’s WHO CARES? His latest release is a cover of the Billie Preston & Syreeta track by the same name; Benny tweeted, “This song is THE blueprint for Benny Sings. My favorite song from when I was 5 years old up to now.” Although Benny’s music often has an upbeat, funk feel, the lyrics here are noticeably more optimistic than his own: “It will come in time, you just be patient / Everything that’s yours will get to you.”
Willie Nelson just turned 89, and released his 72nd solo album to celebrate. “I Don’t Go To Funerals” is the fifth track on that album, A Beautiful Time, and one of five songs on the album by Nelson and longtime producer Buddy Cannon. The song opens and closes with “I don’t go to funerals, I won’t be at mine,” and imagines being able to “make [his] memories rhyme” with fellow country icons and friends (“Me and Waylon, John and Chris and our sweetheart Patsy Cline / Merle and Grady and Freddy Powers, all those pals of mine”) in the afterlife.