By Samantha Neou Entertainment Editor
This time around, the songs chosen are, for the most part, less abrasive. At least half the artists on this list are not particularly well known either, which is a first. Last month felt hopeless in terms of quality music, but upon looking closely, pockets of gems can be found. And here are some of them:
“Lost in Japan” by Shawn Mendes
This 19-year-old Canadian artist surprises with a slick, R&B groove that isn’t about the “stitches” from his last heartbreak. The track begins with trickling, jazzy piano before transitioning to smooth beats and vocals. He’s demonstrating his love to an unnamed woman when he sings, “I'm a couple hundred miles from Japan, and I / I was thinking I could fly to your hotel tonight.” It sounds corny, but with production reminiscent of Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie,” “Lost In Japan” manages to sweep up listeners in its stylishness.
Since the start of his career in 2014, Shawn Mendes had great potential as a pop star. Here, he proves he can take a more mature approach to his music while retaining his familiar sound.
“Plastic Hamburgers” by Fantastic Negrito
Xavier Dphrepaulezz, better known as Fantastic Negrito, got his big break when NPR selected him from nearly 7,000 entries as the winner of their Tiny Desk Concert competition. Even though his entry consisted of a performance in a downtrodden freight elevator in Oakland, his music’s vibrancy made him a clear winner.
His latest single may not sound very special at first, but in a musical landscape where rap and pop dominate, it’s nice to hear something different, like a simple blues rock jam where he chants about life’s everyday evils, such as overconsumption and censorship. The short guitar solo halfway through the song is the highlight.
“Til It’s Over” by Anderson .Paak
This Apple Music exclusive like a sun-kissed morning with a lover and late night, drunken escapades where all that’s remembered is laughter.
Anderson .Paak returns to the scene with an R&B and electronic jam about accepting the fate of a short-lived relationship. Never specifying the reason, it doesn’t stop .Paak from enjoying every last second of it. The fall and rise of sunny, shimmery synths and keyboards are symbolic of that relationship. And as it comes to an end, the song, just like the relationship, will remain an infectious experience.
“Earth” by Mount Eerie
“Earth” is a profoundly personal and harrowing look at Phil Elverum’s grief after he lost his wife to pancreatic cancer, leaving him with their only daughter.
Under the name Mount Eerie, Elverum released “A Crow Looked At Me” last year, an ode to the memory of his wife, a rumination on death and what it means to keep living. His most recent EP, “Now Only,” expands on these ideas. Elverum’s vocals are conversational, as if he’s telling you the events of his day. In this folk rock song, he tells us blatantly how his wife’s bones are withering away in his backyard. There’s a sense that perhaps deep loss is a labyrinth we don’t ever leave, but only get better at maneuvering through. And maybe that’s okay.
“Bet Ain’t Worth The Hand” by Leon Bridges
Leon Bridges received critical success for his 2015 album, “Coming Home,” which was often described as a ‘60s Sam Cooke throwback. But on his new track, Bridges successfully flexes more of his R&B skills and stays true to his roots. “Bet Ain’t Worth The Hand” describes a woman who is everything, but a woman Bridges realizes he can’t commit to because the risk isn’t worth it. It’s a ballad backed by a lovely string arrangement that complements his soulful vocals, his falsetto a cry for what could’ve been.
“Insecure” by Amara La Negra
“Best Friends” by Little Dragon
“Call Out My Name” by The Weeknd
“Losing You” by boy pablo
“OKRA” by Tyler, The Creator