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's available on Tidal, as well as Apple Music and Spotify. If you like what you see, go ahead and subscribe. (It's free.)
Pusha T — It’s Almost Dry
Pusha T’s new Pharrell- and Kanye-produced album, It’s Almost Dry, opens with the most personal song he’s penned in years. Covering Pusha’s development from street-hustling rapper to worldwide sensation, "Brambleton" touches on topics that have long been lore in the Clipse universe.
The song is titled for a street in Norfolk, VA where his late mother worked as a pharmacist tech during his youth, but it’s most notable for Pusha’s reflections on his former manager Geezy Gonzales’ infamous VladTV interview. He spits, “It was sad watching dude in Vlad interviews/ Really it's 'bout me, he channeled it through you/ Had a million answers, didn't have a clue why Michael kissed Fredo in Godfather II.” With an eerie Neptunes-style beat, this might be the closest to Lord Willin’ that Pusha's come since the mid-‘00s.
On “Dreamin of the Past,” he revives Kanye to evoke his more recent G.O.O.D. Music iteration. The throwback beat features a prominent sample of Donny Hathaway’s 1972 cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” from my literal favorite live album ever, Donny Hathaway Live. It’s a feel-good anthem in the style of Jay & Ye’s “Otis” and the sort of thesis Pusha’s been driving at since Daytona: “Walk it down like Brady, gets better with time/ Didn't have to reinvent the wheel, just a better design/ Critics: ‘He's out of his mind’/ Haters: ‘He's out of his prime’/ Yet, always where the money's at like lottery signs.”
Jens Lekman — The Cherry Trees Are Still in Blossom
Swedish indie pop pillar Jens Lekman has recreated his scene-stealing 2005 album, Oh You’re So Silent Jens. A high watermark of ‘00s indie pop, the original recording has been out of print since its initial release, and a copy of the vinyl LP fetches over $200 on Discogs, meaning it’s gone largely unheard by those of us whose CD libraries were sold off or moved into storage years ago.
In a somewhat surprising move, Jens has chosen to populate this new recording with a mixture of material from the original sessions and new vocal takes while many of the arrangements remain unchanged. In a statement, Jens explained, “These records are a way of keeping music alive. It’s not preserving music; it’s allowing it to change.” However odd an artistic choice, it’s a joy to hear these songs again. Titled The Cherry Trees Are Still in Blossom, the album features a slightly expanded tracklist.
Among its many gorgeous reworkings is a faithful redux of “Rocky Dennis’ Farewell Song,” a heartbreaker of a tune based on director Peter Bogdanovich’s 1985 film, Mask, and the brutal “Another Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill,” which explicitly recounts the torment his grade school friends suffered at the hands of cruel classmates.
Patricia Wolf — “Pacific Coast Highway”
If you didn’t know, know now: Philip Sherburne has a fucking record label— the Menorca-based imprint Balmat (which roughly translates as “empty” from Catalan)— and if you can’t tell this excites me, please stand aside while I double down to predict its soon-to-be status as a giant of the minimal techno and ambient spaces. Simply put, Sherburne and co-founder Albert Salinas possess staggering taste and foresight, which has been evident since day one of Sherburne’s contributions to Pitchfork (the man gave the techno mecca Berghain some of its earliest international press on the site in 2008 and introduced me to my favorite album of last year, Nala Sinephro’s Space 1.8). Such impeccable curation can be found in any episode of Lapsus (the duo’s weekly program for Spain’s Radio 3), and naturally, across all of Balmat's present discography.
The latest example comes via Portland, OR-based musician and sound designer Patricia Wolf. Her forthcoming See Through features “Pacific Coast Highway,” a vibey ambient techno melange with a slow-pulsing 909-esque drum pattern and aquatic vintage synth tones that can recall the mellower side of the old house label Nu Groove. Somehow, I can’t seem to not immediately stick this on repeat whenever I play it. There’s a strange magic here that feels genuinely hypnotic— a Balmat bliss beyond this world, if you will, and one I’m all too happy to live inside.
John Carroll Kirby — “Dawn of New Day (feat. Laraaji)”
John Carroll Kirby’s new album, Dance Ancestral, kicks off with “Dawn of New Day,” a blissed-out new age manifesto featuring the divine lord of blissed-out new age manifestos, Laraaji. Most anything Laraaji touches turns to gold, but he’s at his best when sharing a vision with other visionaries, and John Carroll Kirby has worked magic with Solange, Blood Orange, and most recently, Frank Ocean and Eddie Chacon, the 90s R&B legend behind the duo Charles & Eddie. (Check out their gorgeous co-write on Chacon’s wavy fever dream, “Above Below.”)
Needless to say, “Dawn of New Day” is a true vibe, radiating that precise feeling when the crystals hit. Watery synth stabs and shimmering percussion lifts Laraaji to a higher plane as he invokes the song’s title as a mantra of rejuvenation and rebirth. Laraaji is the only guest vocalist on this project— in fact, he’s one of very few vocalists to ever appear on a JCK solo album at all— but the exception proves well justified. Kirby is rightly selective in sharing his gifts, and this partnership underscores his ear for a perfect match, setting a rich tone for a project that bridges many worlds.
Bolis Pupul — “Neon Buddha”
Fresh off his brilliant new record with Charlotte Adigéry, Topical Dancer, Bolis Pupul drops a seedy solo club banger in “Neon Buddha,” which also comes to us via Soulwax’s DEEWEE imprint. The cut blends his distinctive bendy house synths with classic Detroit/Chicago techno flourishes. Inspired by a dream in which he came across the song’s namesake in a Hong Kong pagoda, the glimmering atmospherics around the beat convey that technicolor vision, but also note the vocal samples, drawn from a phone recording of his grandparents leafing through photos.
The Weeknd — "Out of Time (Kaytranada Remix)"
Kaytranada has taken a solid crack at the Weeknd’s city-pop throwback, “Out of Time,” entirely recontextualizing Abel Tesfaye’s pleading delivery. Kay gives the song a slight, bass-heavy shuffle, turning the nostalgic dance jam into a low-key, downtempo meditation. As Abel sings, “And I remember when I held you/ You begged me with your drowning eyes to stay/ And I regret I didn't tell you/ Now I can't keep you from loving him, you made up your mind,” the sparse percussion and half-hearted handclaps make him sound even lonelier.
Jeshi — “Protein (feat. Obongjayar)”
The East London MC Jeshi, affiliate of slowthai and Vegyn, has recruited another fellow Londoner, Obongjayar, for “Protein,” a swaggering rap-funk jam. Woozy synths and a chill drum groove slink to Obongjayar’s best falsetto for one of the strongest rap hooks of the spring: “Can't nobody stop me, I'm on go/ Late night creeping, I'm running on no sleep/ Used to be the one doing the most/ Pockets getting bigger, it's the protein.” Jeshi never wastes a golden chorus when one comes his way, and his verses blend imagistic one-off lines and hazy narratives of a night lost to drugs, sleeplessness, or paranoia: “Rewind, back inside, sorry, I can't see right/ Street lights hazy, got me digging in my jeans.”
Fred again.. — “Roze (Euston Station)”
Fred again.. just dropped a remix EP featuring stripped-back versions of Actual Life 2 cuts, including a striking rendition of “Roze (Forgive).” The updated take finds Fred swapping out the strings for melancholy piano, erasing any semblance of the silver-lining or optimistic dance vibes suggested by the original.
Ab-Soul — “Hollandaise”
The TDE machine is winding up again: First, new signing Doechii went crazy on “Crazy,” then Kendrick announced he’ll be back at us next month with Mr. Morale & The Big-Steppers, and now, Ab-Soul has re-emerged with “Hollandaise.” Ab-Soul dive-bombs the new single’s soulful yet futuristic backdrop with his typically dizzying flow and a delightful chorus that imagines George Clinton covering Young Thug.
redveil — “new info”
I don’t know what you were doing on your 18th birthday, but D.C. metro upstart redveil celebrated his by self-releasing learn 2 swim, the excellent new album that’s landing him straight on the underground hip-hop radar. One of the most exciting new stars in the game, redveil blends the introspective, heady lyricism of Earl Sweatshirt with an almost preternatural sense of melody that recalls a young Kid Cudi. “new info” blends these studies effortlessly as the young rapper weaves bars that reward deep listening without sacrificing immediacy: “This small circle ain't for shits and giggles, it's protection/ My energy my biggest weapon/ A sentiment I understood when I was less irreverent/ Battles fought with one sword, I knew to never chase the pendant.”
Ty Segall — “Hello, Hi”
The crown prince of garage-rock— namely, one Ty Segall— has unveiled “Hello, Hi,” his first single from the forthcoming Drag City album that shares its name. The track imagines Marc Bolan covering the Stooges, with Segall crafting one of his best hooks in ages before dousing it in the shredded carnage of pedal-driven fuzz guitar and drums bashed in like brains in a zombie apocalypse.
London fave Haich Ber Na made “Now We’re Strangers,” a hooky, falsetto-laced synth-pop tune about drifting apart from a childhood friend; “Free in the Knowledge” by Radiohead offshoot The Smile is a real and serious bummer that hits a lot like a ballad off The Bends; Iceage have turned out “All the Junk on the Outskirts,” aka their signature “excellent debut single” from another record that I hope is consistent for once, and it sounds like Clinic stitching up Suicide; and just in time for the 20th anniversary of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which I wrote about at length last week, Wilco gives us a 2002 live rendition of that album’s moving closer, “Reservations.”
L.A. harpist Nailah Hunter dropped a new single on LEAVING RECORDS that sparkles with jazzy R&B vocals, shuffling programmed percussion, and gorgeous horns; 070 Shake, queen of the slowcore slow-jam, has a subtly infectious new track called “Skin and Bones;” Compton rapper Westside Boogie drafted “Broccoli” legend Shelley FKA DRAM for the new single, “AIGHT,” which taps into the minimal beats and hushed vocals of what the late/great Drakeo the Ruler dubbed “nervous music;” and hip-hop multi-hyphenates They Hate Change issued “Some Days I Hate My Voice,” the fourth great single from their forthcoming debut, Finally, New.