The Best New Songs: Valerie June, Hana Vu, Andrew Bird and More

Get the context behind On Rotation, our curated weekly playlist of new releases

On March 22, 2022

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. 

Valerie June: “Use Me”

Ahead of her U.S. tour, Memphis-born, Brooklyn-based singer Valerie June has released “Use Me,” her first new track since her 2021 LP, The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers. Like The Moon and Stars — featuring Stax legend and former VMP Classics artist Carla Thomas — “Use Me” is a bluesy expansion of American roots music. (June’s track with Thomas, “Call Me A Fool,” earned her the first Grammy nomination of her career.) In the new song, June sings, “We've made a sphere from a circle unbroken / We’ve got true love, not just three words spoken.” 

In a statement about “Use Me,” June said, “As a bridge between modern music and traditional songs, ‘Use Me’ vacillates between upbeat pop and weaves in the old, familiar hymn, ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken.’ Coming full circle, this represents multiple layers of how through love, families, and communities, whether publicly or personally, in life and beyond death, we can use each other to create gorgeously positive changes. Oftentimes, the voices of encouragement are from the women in our lives. We use the guidance of mothers, sisters, aunts, and daughters.”

June added, “I’m thrilled to release this song in celebration of International Women’s Month because it was my very first time working with a female producer, Jennifer Decilveo. Female producers are not easy to come by in the music industry, so this collaboration was extra special.”

Hana Vu: “Parking Lot”

Hana Vu’s first-ever headline tour kicked off this past weekend in Chicago, and Vu released an EP, Parking Lot, in celebration of the tour and as a postscript to her debut full-length Public StorageParking Lot includes two new songs (“Parking Lot” and “Mr. Lonely”) along with four tracks recorded live (Public Storage’s title track, “Gutter,” “My House” and “Maker”).

The two new tracks flow seamlessly into the live recordings, aligned with the full-length’s sonics and themes. On “Parking Lot,” Vu sings: “I forgot what I’m doing here / Every word falls out my ear / I tell lies but I forget / What a lie to be anything,” maintaining the self-deprecating narration of her debut and its questions about how we define ourselves.

According to a statement, the title “Parking Lot” refers to Vu’s teenage years, playing parking lot and backyard shows. She explained, “I was just reflecting on how my perspective on music, performance, existence has changed since then and how differently I go about those things now.” 

About the live recordings on the EP, Vu said, “It feels good to breathe some extra life into the record. It was very daunting to try and make the live versions work because the production of Public Storage was created in lockdown, so I wasn’t thinking much about the live aspects. But I welcome all challenges as that is the richness of life.” 

You can get the VMP edition of ‘Public Storage’ here.

Andrew Bird: “Atomized”

Andrew Bird’s first new music in 2022, the single “Atomized,” references a Joan Didion quote from 1967: “[I] had dealt directly and flatly with the evidence of atomization, the proof that things fall apart.” The quote comes from Didion’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem, in the context of struggling to work in San Francisco, as she was “paralyzed by the conviction that writing was an irrelevant act, that the world as [she] had understood it no longer existed.”

Explaining the connection between “Atomized” and the Didion quote, Bird said, “Didion was updating W.B. Yeats for the fractious 60s.” (Meaning Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming”: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world … And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”) Bird continued, “This song takes it to the pixelated present where it’s not just society that is getting atomized but the self that is being broken apart and scattered.”

On “Atomized,” Bird sings, “Start making your apologies, blaming technology. They’re gonna try to get a rise to unseat you, they’ll demagnetize your poles and you know they’re gonna try to delete you… Here’s what I say to them: things fall apart.” 

The surreal music video for the track, directed by Matthew Daniel Siskin, makes this idea of the fragmented self literal: Bird is chased by a version of himself and his disembodied head sings, all in a black-and-white, shadowy space.

ROSALÍA: “HENTAI”

“HENTAI” is the final single from ROSALÍA’s highly anticipated third album, MOTOMAMI, out now. Unlike the previous singles, “HENTAI” is more of a sparse, soft, sensual ballad. In an interview with i-D, ROSALÍA said: “In this new album, there’s some humor. In my other projects, I didn’t allow a sense of humor. ‘Hentai’ is much more suggestive, much more erotic for me. Hentai is more interesting than conventional porn. And why not talk about something like that as an inspiration for a song? Having sex is part of life, it’s all the same. I put everything on the same level.”

Denzel Curry & T-Pain: “Troubles”

“Troubles,” featuring T-Pain, is the latest and final single from Denzel Curry’s upcoming Melt My Eyez See Your Future, due out this Friday, following “Zatoichi” (featuring slowthai) and “Walkin’.” The Kenny Beats and DJ Khalil-produced track has T-Pain and Curry singing the chorus together: “Got some troubles that these drugs can’t fix / We might struggle because life’s a bitch / And you happy when your ass get rich / Blow my money ’cause a bag ain’t shit.” Melt My Eyez See Your Future will also feature collaborations with 6LACK, J.I.D., Rico Nasty, JPEGMAFIA, Thundercat, Robert Glasper and more.

You can pre-order the VMP edition of ‘Melt My Eyez See Your Future’ here.

Sudan Archives: “Home Maker”

“Home Maker” is the first original music from Sudan Archives since her 2019 album, Athena. (Although she did recently contribute a cover track, “Dogtown,” for the tribute album Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono). In a statement about “Home Maker,” the violinist, songwriter, beat-maker and vocalist explained: “For me, homemaking is a service to mental health and coping with fear and isolation. This song is about the effort put into making a relationship work and giving love a place to live.”

Syd & Lucky Daye: “CYBAH”

For a record that’s supposed to be about heartbreak, the singles from Syd’s upcoming Broken Hearts Club have skewed toward upbeat love songs (“Fast Car,” “Right Track”). But the latest single with Lucky Daye (who just released his new full-length, Candydrip), “CYBAH,” or “Could You Break A Heart,” is back on theme. In a statement about Broken Hearts Club, Syd said, “The album is about a relationship I had that ended in my first real broken heart … I started writing the album on the relationship when I was in love. You’re really getting the whole journey from the beginning to the end.”

Arooj Aftab & Anoushka Shankar: “Udhero Na”

“Udhero Na,” featuring Anoushka Shankar on sitar, will be included on the upcoming deluxe edition of Arooj Aftab’s 2021 album, Vulture Prince. The Grammy-nominated artist said in a statement, “‘Udhero Na’ has been one of my dearest songs, written in 2005 and never released, played live on and off over the years. I’ve always held it close to my heart and am so happy to release it finally! It describes a very unique and fleeting emotional moment, a super underrated feeling. When the thought of someone from a very old and ‘passed’ relationship just pops into your head as you go about your present day to day.”

MUNA: “Anything But Me”

“Anything But Me” is the latest single from LA-trio MUNA, following “Silk Chiffon.” In a statement about the song, the band said, “‘Anything But Me’ is a song about leaving a partnership simply because it doesn’t feel right. It’s about trusting yourself and your instincts enough to walk away from someone while you still have love for each other and before it gets too bad … The song embodies the lightness and a playfulness that floods in when you realize that there’s no lock on the door, no one’s holding you back — you can untie the knot and skip into the sunset whenever you’re ready. Now, who can guess what attachment style I have?”

Horsegirl: “Anti-glory”

“Anti-glory” is the second single, after “Billy,” from Horsegirl’s upcoming debut album, Versions of Modern Performance. The Chicago indie rock band — Penelope Lowenstein (guitar, vocals), Nora Cheng (guitar, vocals) and Gigi Reece (drums) — said in a statement: “We wrote ‘Anti-glory’ almost by accident, while messing around with an old song during rehearsal. The song fell into place immediately, and looking back, we have no idea how we wrote it.” About the record as a whole, they said, “We made [this album] knowing so fully what we were trying to do. We would never pursue something if one person wasn’t feeling good about it. But also, if someone thought something was good, chances are we all thought it was good.”


Honorable Mentions

 


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