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.
North London producer and electronic artist Loraine James has taken on a new moniker: Whatever The Weather. The first single for her self-titled debut under that name, and first release with Ghostly International, is “17°C.” (James’ Ghostly labelmate Joshua Eustis, better known as Telefon Tel Aviv, mastered Whatever The Weather.) The entire 10-track album takes the weather concept seriously, titling each song with a temperature.
James, previously known for club music sensibilities, like her 2019 breakthrough For You and I and 2021’s Reflection, turns to more ambient improvisation and vocal experiments as Whatever The Weather. According to a statement about the record, Whatever The Weather sees James “foregoing percussive structure in favor of shaping atmosphere and tone,” fluctuating between “freezing, thawing, swaying and blooming from track to track.”
James described her process in the sessions for the record as “free-flowing, stopping when I felt like I was done”; this organic approach lends itself to the concept of the Whatever The Weather, driven by fleeting weather events with nuanced conditions.
“17°C” — as evidenced by it’s music video, directed by Micahel Reisinger and featuring dancer Alana Rabor — still retains danceable elements, albeit sparking unpredictable movement. Along with Rabor’s otherworldly dancing, there’s a mesmerizing light show in the visuals, but the video is bookended by a more grounded experience of nature — presumably at a comfortable but slightly cool temperature of 17°C.
You can pre-order the VMP edition of ‘Whatever The Weather’ here.
Saba’s long-awaited third studio album, Few Good Things, is our Album of the Week this week, and “Still” is one of its best songs. The Chicago rapper now splits his time between his home city and LA, which led to the unique blend of Los Angeles and Midwest sounds on “Still.”
Few Good Things is Saba’s most collaborative album yet, with 6LACK and Smino joining him on “Still,” and a writing credit to TDE’s SiR for the Chasing Summer-esque hook. Smino, from the Midwest via St. Louis, and firmly in the same Chicago orbit as Saba (even joining Saba and Noname under the moniker Ghetto Sage), is also no stranger to LA collaboration, appearing in recent years on SiR’s latest full-length and Isaiah Rashad’s This House Is Burning.
“Still,” like many tracks on Few Good Things, sees Saba balancing a blend of nostalgia for who he was before and reckoning with the changes success has brought — often leading to ambivalence, as repeated in the chorus, “I’m still tryna decide how I feel.” As Saba referenced in a Benjamin Earl Turner quote in a statement ahead of the record’s release, it’s a matter of “both/and,” irreducible to a single narrative.
The core message of the statement, titled “Before you listen,” is to embrace the “both/and” of the human experience. Saba’s directive reads: “Let’s acknowledge the full spectrum of black emotion when dealing with this album. We grieve. And we also celebrate. And we fuck. And we get money. And we been broke. And we get happy. And we get high. And we are more than one thing all at the same time.”
Saba’s ‘CARE FOR ME’ was the VMP Hip-Hop Record of the Month in October 2018; learn more here.
“HAZY” is the first music of the year from Tkay Maidza and the Los Angeles-based artist Kyle Dion, and is Dion’s first single following his sophomore album SASSY in 2021. Dion appeared on Kali Uchis’ Isolation and toured with PartyNextDoor prior to his 2019 debut full-length, SUGA, which showcased his roots in traditional R&B.
Maidza and Dion released a visualizer for the song, and Dion also posted a brief video of them on a motorbike that looks like it could be a teaser for a full music video. The footage, like the track, is bright and playful; at the pre-chorus of “HAZY,” Maidza sings, “Just keepin’ it light with you / Last night was giving me romance / But I overthink / Just keep it light with you.” The haziness in question is navigating an unclear boundary, wondering if a friend is just a friend or something more (“My baby or buddy-buddy?”).
Maidza completed her sophomore-album-turned-EP-trilogy Last Year Was Weird in 2021; “HAZY” is the first track she’s released outside of that three-part project, which started in 2018. In an interview with NME, Maidza said of the trilogy: “I’ve been pretty sad lately — it feels like finishing a TV show that you decided to watch in one day, except this has been me for three years. I’ve dedicated every day of my waking life [to it] — and also I dream about this. I moodboarded what it was meant to feel like, sound like, look like — and to see it come to life and then come to an end is very bittersweet.”
You can get the VMP edition of Maidza’s ‘Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2 & Vol. 3’ here.
ROSALÍA’s latest single from her upcoming album Motomami, “SAOKO,” comes with an equally fast-paced music video featuring a femme biker gang, directed by Valentin Petit. In a statement about the track, ROSALÍA said: “Naming my next track ‘SAOKO’ and sampling Yankee and Wisin for me is the most direct homage I can make to classic reggaeton, a genre that I love and that has been a constant and great inspiration throughout the MOTOMAMI project.” About the song’s lyrics, she said, “Each and every phrase is an image of transformation. Celebrating transformation, celebrating change. Celebrating that you are always yourself even though you are in constant transformation or even that you are you more than ever at the very moment you are changing.”
A week before the release of Obongjayar’s latest single, “Try,” he posted a still image from the music video, and said in the caption, “If you think you know what’s to come, you don’t.” And “Try” delivers: The song, co-written with producer Barney Lister, is a completely new sound for the Nigerian-born singer. Based in London, Obongjayar has recently collaborated with Pa Salieu and appears on Little Simz’s Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. “Try,” along with the previous single “Message in a Hammer,” is set to appear on Obongjayar’s forthcoming debut full-length, Some Nights I Dream Of Doors.
“Good Will Hunting” is a standout track from Black Country, New Road’s recently released sophomore album, Ants From Up There, the follow-up to their acclaimed 2021 debut, For the first time. (Days before the release of the new record, Black Country, New Road’s singer Isaac Wood announced his departure from the band.) In a statement about Ants From Up There, band member Tyler Hyde said, “We were just so hyped the whole time. It was such a pleasure to make. I've kind of accepted that this might be the best thing that I'm ever part of for the rest of my life. And that's fine.”
“Mercy” is a track from Nigerian singer Adekunle Gold’s fourth album, Catch Me If You Can, which features Ty Dolla $ign, Lucky Daye and Fousheé, among others. “This is my absolute jam,” Gold told Apple Music about “Mercy,” “I was just thinking about how you can be in bed with people who don’t even like you, and you don’t even know. People that you think are for you are sometimes not for you at all … Interestingly, since I wrote this song — it’s almost like a personal prayer for me — some people have [revealed] themselves.” He added, “It’s not an obsession [over] finding who your enemy is; the intention is to know who has the right energy and should be in your midst.”
The only single from Junglepussy’s most recent project, Jp5000, “CRITIQUA,” is accompanied by a glamorous Caity Arthur-directed music video. The New York-based rapper’s first new music since 2020’s Jp4, Jp5000 is a five-song release with production from Nick Hakim and Bohemia Lynch, among others. Like the name of the single suggests, “CRITIQUA” is about Junglepussy’s critics; over the bluesy instrumental, she raps, unapologetic from the beginning: “Bitches love to critique / They just swear they unique … Ain’t a damn thing discrete, the name Junglepussy.”
“Call Me Home” is the latest single from SASAMI’s upcoming album Squeeze, due out at the end of February and set to feature Hand Habit’s Meg Duffy and King Tuff’s Kyle Thomas, among others. In a statement about the single, SASAMI said, “‘Call Me Home’ is dedicated to anyone who has blown up their life just to remember what it’s like to feel something. It’s about the darkness of feeling nothing and the creeping ache of apathy that can swallow you whole if you let it. It’s about skipping town, driving all night and knowing you’ll always have a home to come back to.”
London-based artist Léa Sen has released her debut single and video, “Hysasynth,” after signing to Partisan Records. “‘Hyasynth’ is about my journey from my home in Cergy in the outskirts of Paris to London,” Sen said in a statement about the single. “I had to accept all the past mistakes I’ve made back home that I couldn’t go back to. I had to accept and move on. In a way, I ran away from certain things. In another way I also made the first step into growing into the person I really wanted to be. Sometimes I feel like my past mistakes haunt me, that’s what I felt making this song. It’s about wanting to grow and handle life with more wisdom.”