Although Harry Styles notched his first no. 1 single with “Watermelon Sugar” this week, it’s hard to imagine anything but Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” sneaking into the top spot next time. It’s generated incensed reactions (wet-ass p-word on loop) and incredibly cursed election-related images faster than any other huge song in recent memory. I like the song but hate it here!
Even if this was another week of maskless crowded concerts (the huge Smash Mouth biker gig) and more of Kanye West’s shambolic, GOP-adjacent presidential campaign, there’s still actual music to be had. This week brings several new albums worth checking out, including releases from Burna Boy, Young Jesus, and A.G. Cook.
Burna Boy — Twice As Tall
Last year’s African Giant was such a buoyant, towering way to cement Burna Boy’s international star power. Now, he’s quite literally doubling down on Twice As Tall, with an incredible album cover whose foot placement can only remind me of Limp Bizkit’s Significant Other. The Nigerian singer thrives over bouncy, percussive production that blends Afrobeat, dancehall, and whichever American hip-hop trends are in vogue. It all but demands movement and communal spaces. Now, he’s leaning even further into the full-fledged crossover record, looping in Chris Martin, Stormzy, and Naughty by Nature — but doesn’t betray Burna’s strengths.
Young Jesus — Welcome to Conceptual Beach
Young Jesus are a fairly demanding band — folding in ambitious indie rock, free jazz, and even slowcore across 10+ minute runtimes — but also one that takes an incredibly generous, collective approach to making and sharing art with fans. Named for a series of events that found the band jamming in front of a crowd free to wander, paint, and create throughout a “musical art gallery,” the band’s new record is a bit more direct in its approach. The past two albums have been as intellectually challenging as they are freewheeling in improvisational sprawl, but a song like “(un)knowing” gestures toward a new kind of mastery. These are some of their most approachable, instantly gratifying melodic rock songs yet, without compromising an inch of that adventurous spirit.
A.G. Cook — 7G
At 49 tracks, you could say it’s the “I ain’t reading all that” meme personified in album form. But you really should! After casting an immense shadow over hyperpop’s surge into the mainstream, the PC Music mastermind’s debut album is a true smattering of ideas and forms across 159 minutes. Dedicating each of the seven disks to a different instrument in spirit, Cook spans a dizzying degree of abrasion and distortion of familiar conventions: a dose of Alex G’s warped lo-fi indie rock, anthemic pop, and buzzsaw experiments. There’s a fairly earnest cover of the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today” on here, for crying out loud. It’s an incredibly thorough survey of his strengths as a producer and pop songwriter.
Boldy James — The Versace Tape
It’s hard to conjure a better year than Boldy James is having right now. Dude’s been at it for at least a decade, but already has two of the year’s best rap albums in the books, including The Price of Tea in China with the Alchemist, and last month’s incredibly rich Manger on McNichols with Sterling Toles. Putting out these dense, remarkable albums like there’s no tomorrow, his third of the year and Griselda debut The Versace Tape has arrived. Jay Versace, who already worked with the crew’s Westide Gunn on Pray for Paris, produced the whole thing, which is a lean, focused effort.
Kathleen Edwards — Total Freedom
Back with her first album in eight years, the underrated Ottowa songwriter unlocked the necessary motivation to return to music after nearly leaving it altogether. In a New York Times profile, she details how she followed a friend's advice to “just quit music, move home and open up a cafe called Quitters.” That cafe became an oasis of sorts for creative pressures, and an accidental destination for longtime fans to tell her what her music meant to them. As its name implies, Total Freedom is the result of abandoning all expectations or trappings of past success and industry purgatory. Ever a remarkably gifted narrative writer, these characters and concise storytelling slot right alongside her best early country rock records.