What's Good: The Weekly New Music Newsletter is a new publication by Pitchfork’s founder and former Editor-in-Chief, Ryan Schreiber. A companion to his long-running weekly playlist of the same name, What’s Good outlines the week’s most essential tracks and albums, with a special focus on new and emerging artists. It is now available on Tidal, as well as Apple Music and Spotify. If you like what you see, go ahead and subscribe. (It's free.)
Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul — Topical Dancer
In a 2019 interview with DIY Magazine, pop singer Charlotte Adigéry explained how she gave herself space to embrace the aspects of her artistry that separate her from others— and permission to diverge from the typical path of mainstream artists: “I actively decided that OK, I’m done fighting with who I am.”
A Caribbean-Belgian artist of Yoruba and Nigerian descent, Adigéry first began working with collaborator Bolis Pupul through mutual friends in Soulwax. The DEEWEE label co-founders helped the duo put together their incredible debut album, Topical Dancer (out this week), an eclectic dance record that’s scathing in its satire and feels distinctly of our time in its observations on racial politics and class.
Riding elastic electro-pop beats and techno grooves, Adigéry and Pupul cover topics that rarely find a home on the dancefloor. “It Hit Me” is a dissonant, squiggly banger in which Adigéry reflects on her first memory of being sexualized, and how such experiences would shape her life. Its first verse reads like a poem, but on record, the words come like a flashback: “So I scanned my uniform/ In the same order they did/ From my Nike football shoes/ My knee-high blue socks to my/ Pleated navy mini skirt/ But I just didn’t see it/ Looking for a clue, I awkwardly looked back at them/ They looked hungry and proud/ A combination I just didn’t comprehend/ Until suddenly/ It hit me.”
Then, there’s the instructive meditation of “Reappropriate,” populated with synth runs that hit like water droplets against a ceramic sink. Adigéry croons, “You’ve got the right to femininity/ It’s yours to give, it’s yours to keep/ Embrace your womanhood by saying what you need.” The song’s power lies in its contrast to the sly irony that runs through the rest of the record, lending an earnestness and vulnerability that places Adigéry’s humanity at the center of the project.
Fully delivering on the clear promise that landed the duo in this newsletter’s Nine Artists Who’ll Change the Game in 2022 feature back in January, Topical Dancer is one of the most strikingly original albums of the year.
Robyn, Neneh Cherry, and Mapei — “Buffalo Stance”
Robyn and Swedish-American vocalist Mapei have tackled Neneh Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance” with the artist’s blessing, and while the song's idiosyncratic structure would seem a difficult adaptation, the duo has succeeded wildly in updating the 1989 freestyle classic while preserving all the elements that have made it an enduring staple of summertime block parties.
With Devonté Hynes on production, this stripped-back version opens with that unmistakable chorused guitar line floating alone in the ether before Robyn joins on the hook and Mapei sets about delivering Cherry’s raps in a more laidback— but no less assured— style. When the beat kicks in, it’s an era-specific drum machine shuffle that acknowledges the original, transplanted into a trip-hop setting that offers Robyn and Mapei plenty of space to trade off its sung and spoken lines.
Nilüfer Yanya — “try”
Three of the four singles teased in advance of Nilüfer Yanya’s new album, PAINLESS, have occupied real estate on What’s Good, so it should come as no shock whatsoever that the album (out this week) is front-to-back stacked. While Yanya’s singular talent has been clear since her very earliest releases, PAINLESS marks a career-to-date high, littered with endlessly replayable numbers like this week’s addition to the playlist, “try,” a sly waltz with a gorgeously ruminative chorus that gives way to ambient washes of orchestra.
Yukihiro Takahashi — “使いすてハート(Disposable Love)”
Yukihiro Takahashi, the legendary drummer and vocalist of Yellow Magic Orchestra, is reissuing remastered versions of two of his finest solo records: 1982’s What, Me Worry? and 1983’s Tomorrow’s Just Another Day. “使いすてハート(Disposable Love),” from the former, is a synth-pop masterpiece, sung in English, that lands somewhere between the idiosyncratic arrangements of Eno’s rock tetralogy and the polished sophisti-pop of later acts like The Blue Nile. Takahashi was always the beating heart behind YMO’s most lovestruck tunes, so it’s a joy to hear him in his element, writing freely and fully embracing his whims.
Naldo — “Mi Alright”
International artists seeking the ultimate paradisal accommodations to record their material often choose Geejam. Situated in Port Antonio on the east side of Jamaica, the property features a series of studios built high on a shoreside slope of the Blue Mountains. Drake, Diplo, Kanye, Alicia Keys, Gorillaz, and Björk are among the acts who’ve laid parts of their albums to tape among the evergreen palms and palaces overlooking Blue Lagoon Beach. So imagine spending your childhood there – with the clearance to duck in on these legendary sessions. It happened to Naldo.
Now attending the masters-in-residence program for songwriting at Jamaica’s University of Technology, Naldo draws influence from his experiences at Geejam for his first release, K.I.D. Its infectious opening track, “Mi Alright,” is an instant fave— a breezy dancehall cut with warm keys and spare percussion underpinning Naldo’s youthful flow and strong melodic flair.
Father John Misty — “Goodbye Mr. Blue”
Father John Misty has been obsessed with idyllic ‘70s singer/songwriter arrangements for years, and like many of those acts, his work can be wildly hit-or-miss, especially when he devolves into snarling snark and irony. “Goodbye Mr. Blue,” however, is a success, channeling both the contemplative twang of Harry Nilsson and the unabashed earnestness of Glen Campbell. On its face, the song is an ode to a Turkish Angora he adopted with an ex-girlfriend. As the cat reaches the end of its life, though, he views its passing as a symbol of their relationship’s end, musing on the fleeting nature of love and revealing a vulnerability he too often masks.
Miguel Atwood-Ferguson & The Suite for Ma Dukes Orchestra — “Stakes Is High (feat. Talib Kweli and Posdnous)”
In 2009, Alpha Pup affiliate Miguel Atwood-Ferguson architected a live reinterpretation of J Dilla’s music with a 60-piece orchestra (!) and assistance from the likes of Thundercat, Bilal, and others. Now, Timeless: Suite For Ma Dukes has hit streaming services for the first time. The original “Stakes Is High,” by De La Soul, featured Dilla’s patented swing, with the bass fluttering around the beat to lend the drums an intensely human feel. Here, those drums transfer from MPC to a real-life kit, and surprise guest appearances from Talib Kweli and De La’s Posdnuos bring the crowd to a roar. The energy is palpable.
Jean Dawson — “PORN ACTING*”
San Diego songwriter/visual artist Jean Dawson’s “PORN ACTING*” sounds something like a hybrid strain of mid-90s, guitar-based alt-rock and King of the Beach-era Wavves, updated for Gen Z thrashers. Fresh off a collaboration with Mac DeMarco, Dawson's latest finds him crooning over acoustic guitar, then throttling his vocals into a gruff rasp on the chorus: “I'm full of shit just like you/ Dumpster fire, bitch, I'm bulletproof.”
Pusha T — “Hear Me Clearly (with Nigo)”
Pusha T teams up with Bape founder Nigo for “Hear Me Clearly,” from the latter’s forthcoming second album, I Know NIGO. Nigo has a rich history in music— his first album dropped all the way back in 1999 on Mo’Wax (home of DJ Shadow, UNKLE, and Dr. Octagon). Here, he steps back to let Pusha carry the weight with his signature coke raps, flexing about G-Wagons and backroom meetings at Nobu.
Chicago rap duo The Cool Kids return with their first album in five years and a highlight titled “HIBACHI” with guest turns from fellow Chicagoan Nikki Sweats and Atlanta rapper KEY!; Brooklyn rapper Your Old Droog deploys his DOOM-style flow alongside a spot from Mach-Hommy on “Scooby Snacks,” a sweetly nostalgic standout from his new record, YOD Wave; Brooklyn-via-Charlotte rapper Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon is following his 2021 full-album collab with Navy Blue with another union, this time with Philly producer SadhuGold, and its opening track “Hey Big Head” is a darkly psychedelic string-sweller; and “Kool & The Gang,” the second appearance on this playlist from Curren$y & The Alchemist’s awesome Continuance, finds the New Orleans rapper expressing some of the purest and most uplifting sentiments of his long career (“My son too young to know that he a prince/ I’m so grateful I had him when I was rich”).
French jazz vocalist Marion Rampal gives us the beautifully strange “Calling to the Forest,” a hyper-minimal duet with jazz legend Archie Shepp who trades in his sax to contribute a stirring, deep baritone vocal; and vibraphonist Joel Ross, sideman to Makaya McCraven and Wynton Marsalis, steps into his own spotlight with “PRAYER,” a gorgeous meditation on faith, translated into a bright, heartfelt jazz instrumental.
North Cali artist Dora Jar has dropped “It’s Random,” an unassuming bedroom-pop jam with an explosive (and irresistible) indie-rock chorus; UK songwriter/producer San Soucis turns in a silver-lining breakup tune, “Foot Forward,” that should appeal to fans of Nilüfer Yanya; Jenny Hval dropped a very nice third single, “Freedom,” from her forthcoming 4AD album, Classic Objects; and L.A. rapper/producer Yung Braly delivers a hypnotic, beat-free, Moodymann-esque remix of Joy Orbison’s excellent “swag w/ kav.”
And new this week to The Year's Best playlist: "NO APOLOGY!" by Kilo Kish, Grace Ives' "Loose," Nilüfer Yanya's "anotherlife," and Curren$y & The Alchemist's "Half Moon Mornings." (The Year's Best is a new playlist updated with only the very best songs of the year. Think of it as the 'Best New Music' to What's Good's full coverage. It is updated and resequenced weekly. You can follow The Year's Best playlist on Tidal, Apple Music, and Spotify.)
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