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.)
Ethel Cain — "Gibson Girl"
Ethel Cain’s first two EPs warranted all of the buzz and press they received, but until now, with “Gibson Girl,” it turns out we hadn’t heard a sliver of the full potential. This first single from Preacher’s Daughter, the debut album from the singer/songwriter born Hayden Anhedönia, is a certified breath-taker— a slow-burning anthem that begins with all the dark sensuality, hedonism, and melodic touches of the Weeknd’s House of Balloons, then, over six minutes, develops into a soaring, feedback-heavy rock arrangement. It’s a true epic from an artist who, in one swoop, has proven herself capable of achieving massive stardom. Wait and watch.
Jenny Hval — “American Coffee”
“American Coffee,” the second track from Jenny Hval’s excellent new album, Classic Objects, offers a staggering personal history. The Norwegian songwriter’s feather-light vocal cuts through layers of organs, examining the alternate path her life might have taken if her mother hadn’t made critical sacrifices to give her daughter the opportunities she never had. Hval sings, “My mother came to the city at twenty-one and had no choice but to drive to work/ She said, ‘I cried in the car every day until I didn't’/ And when she had me, the midwife looked her in the eye and said, ‘Poor baby, you're so scared’/ I guess I was born anyway.”
It’s a technique that never gets old: making use of soaring melodies to mask the gravity of lyrical content. Hval seems to have mastered this approach, further integrating her novelistic tendencies into her songwriting with each release: “I wonder who I'd been if I never got to go get a fine arts degree and American coffee/ With irrelevant quotes from French philosophy/ And we'd meet in the climax of a clever sci-fi movie/ But that would just be/ But that would just be/ Be stupid.”
ROSALÍA — “HENTAI”
Ahead of her next album MOTOMAMI, out tomorrow (March 18), ROSALÍA delivers a fourth and final single, the sultry “HENTAI.” Where her last few tracks have leaned heavily on clanging reggaeton beats, this one opens more simply, her dry voice beautifully traversing scales over peals of piano chords that recall some of Billie Eilish’s more introspective songs, or Jeff Bhasker’s work with Kanye in the early ‘10s. Contrasting this delicate setting, though, “HENTAI” is an aggressive sex jam where ROSALÍA asks her lover to ride her like he rides her motorcycle, repeating in its final bars, “Ya te quiero hacer hentai” (“I want to make you hentai”).
The Growth Eternal — “The Remains”
This standout from Tulsa-born, LA-based producer The Growth Eternal’s latest release for Leaving Records is an instantly transfixing slow jam of the highest order. Possibly among the smoothest songs of the year to date— and I truly mean that in the most flattering sense— “The Remains” takes tenets of funk and stretches them out like taffy. The result is strikingly warm, to the point of nearly melting. I haven’t heard a vocoder-assisted vocal this silky outside of Sunlight-era Herbie Hancock. Set against a melange of equally cozy, carefully sculpted synth sounds, the whole thing feels like an AI’s approximation of classic neo-soul, from D’Angelo to Maxwell, but the humanity at its core can’t be masked; no computer is this sensual.
Automatic — “New Beginning”
L.A. trio Automatic sprang up from the city’s DIY music scene, likely witnessing enough shows at The Smell to convince themselves to start a band of their own. Their first record dropped in 2019 on Stones Throw with a coldwave/post-punk feel, but their latest single, “New Beginning,” leans into psychedelic synth-pop with distorted synths, metallic handclaps, and screeching electronics that give the song a razor-sharp edge. It sneers in all the right places and grins during the rest.
Joyce Wrice — “Iced Tea (feat. Kaytranada)”
After linking for “Kaytra’s Interlude” on her 2021 debut album, Overgrown, West Coast R&B singer Joyce Wrice taps Kaytranada for a new single, “Iced Tea.” This is Kaytra in minimalist feel-good mode: Every methodical chord, percussion flourish, and burst of synth bass carries weight, allowing Wrice’s melody to breeze across.
Joy Orbison follows last year’s killer still slippin, vol. 1 album with “pinky ring,” which he described on Instagram as “inspired in part by wanting to have new music for my club night but mostly by my lady dragging me to [drum ‘n’ bass] parties again.”
Barbados-born dub/reggae legend Dennis Bovell, who during the punk era lent legitimacy to dub-laced tracks by the Slits and the Pop Group, has now done the same for Radiohead offshoot The Smile, with what effectively serves as a B-side “version” of their recent single, “The Smoke.”
Violinist, singer/songwriter and producer Brittney Denise Parks, aka Sudan Archives, gives us her first original piece in three years, and it’s a lockdown-related groove called “Home Maker,” about being a badass as both a lover and interior decorator... right on.
“Telepathic” is another standout from Frank, the Richmond rapper Fly Anakin’s first album following his full-length collaboration with Pink Siifu in 2020, and this new release is every bit as solid as its four preceding singles suggested.
Kipp Stone, a rapper coming up out of Cleveland, linked up with producer Conductor Williams (Griselda, Mach-Hommy, Boldy James) for a satisfying, quick-hit freestyle.
And new this week to The Year's Best playlist: the very Ethel Cain track that kicks off the newsletter this week, as well as Robyn & Mapei's update of Neneh Cherry's freestyle smash, "Buffalo Stance," as covered last week. (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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