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.)
Daft Punk — “Around the World (I:Cube Remix)”
The expanded 25th anniversary edition of Daft Punk’s Homework brings a whole set of rarities to streaming services for the first time, along with others long buried deep in the singles section of their catalog. Fellow French DJ/producer I:Cube’s take on “Around the World”— a favor returned for the duo's excellent 1996 remix of his own track, "Disco Cubizm"— has always been one of my favorite spins on this classic cut, an acid-tinged club killer with fragments of the original shapeshifting through the cracks.
Yasuaki Shimizu — “Shiasate”
Japanese saxophonist, composer, and producer Yasuaki Shimizu was an integral member of his country's vibrant art-pop scene in the late 70s and early 80s, as both an innovative, prolific solo artist and a member of the cult-inspiring Mariah project. Now, an unearthed 1984 project titled Kiren— featuring his first works recorded after Mariah’s 1983 masterpiece, Utakata no Hibi— is seeing release on the Palto Flats label, bridging the gap between two distinct eras in his discography. “Shiasate” is my favorite of its seven excellent tracks, combining future-worthy synth loops, a propulsive gated drum groove, heavy sub-bass, and his own whirring sax workout standing in for a lead vocal, shredding across the pop-industrial mix.
Curren$y and The Alchemist — “Half Moon Mornings”
The latest collaboration between New Orleans rap legend Curren$y and producer Alchemist opens with a reflection on their past collaborations— namely, 2010’s stellar Covert Coup. That these two have reunited for another full project seems as thrilling to them as it should be to all of us. Opener “Half Moon Mornings” sets the tone, as Curren$y’s free-associative style floats atop dusty soul-sampled beats: “Recessed lighting, round table writing/ I pictured the listening session for it while I was still in here rhyming.”
Ian Isiah — “MSR”
With “MSR,” rising R&B singer Ian Isiah suggests that to love yourself is to let others do the same: “You’ve got to make some room/ If you really want people to love you.” What opens on a statement of self-care and a gentle croon soon ramps up into a piano-rolling, percussion-clattering gospel mantra— a prime showcase for his soaring vocal acrobatics. Yet another display of versatility following last autumn’s passionate R&B/pop anthem “SEE YOU,” “MSR” is uniquely sprawling and brilliant, illustrating how Isiah’s experience is dovetailing spectacularly with his ambition into what promises to be one of the year’s most exciting projects.
Robert Glasper — “Why We Speak (Feat. Q-Tip and Esperanza Spalding)”
Robert Glasper’s singular position in culture empowers him to meld pop, R&B, hip-hop, and jazz, pulling incredible collaborators from each realm. “Why We Speak,” a highlight of his new album— the third installment in his Black Radio series— exemplifies this, combining freewheeling Rhodes chords with a multi-lingual vocal performance from Esperanza Spalding and a playfully introspective verse from Q-Tip.
Kilo Kish — “NO APOLOGY!”
American Gurl may be only the second Kilo Kish full-length in a decade-long career, but it’s clear she grasps the power of the format as a focal point. Over numerous singles and EPs, she’s continually pushed herself harder and farther, each pop experiment more adventurous and refined than the last. Now, bursting with confidence and control, she sounds ready to attack the format full-on. “No Apology,” the latest and best of four new singles, is a radio-ready pop jam worthy of hitmaker status, bubbling with crisp drums, Robyn-esque synth-bass, and an unshakable, sky-high hook.
Daniel Rossen — “Unpeopled Space”
Almost 15 years since his last album with Department of Eagles, and a decade since his solo Silent Hour/Golden Mile EP, Grizzly Bear guitarist/vocalist Daniel Rossen is preparing his full-length solo album. “Unpeopled Space” is a tightly wound exercise in progressive chamber pop. Cinematic strings mingle with intricate guitar structures and rolling drumwork in odd time signatures as Rossen’s multi-layered vocals— often captured with a White Album production sheen— swell with frustration and yearning.
BADBADNOTGOOD — “Open Channels”
Following last year's Talk Memory, more BADBADNOTGOOD feels like a blessing. “Open Channel” is a slowly evolving jazz workout recorded during that album's sessions and previously relegated to its physical release. There’s a profound weightlessness to this harmonic exploration; it’s easy to see how it could have been considered bonus material, but the nuance of each member’s individual performances make it repeat listening.
Denzel Curry — “Zatoichi (feat. slowthai)”
Denzel Curry’s latest track is named for one of Japan’s longest-running and most beloved action heroes, the blind swordmaster Zatoichi. The one-time Raider Klan member knows that no beat exemplifies action-heroics better than that eternal staple of drum ‘n’ bass, the Amen break, and here, he deploys it like heavy artillery, rapping: “In a place where we could hardly survive and barely could thrive/ My only focus stayin' alive, like zombies revived.
JPEGMAFIA — “HAZARD DUTY PAY!”
Some of the most striking cuts from JPEGMAFIA’s outstanding LP! were initially made available only to fans willing to pony up for the digital album— a solid sales strategy in the age of DSPs. But, never one to exclude, he’s just dropped those tracks on streaming services, too, meaning “HAZARD DUTY PAY!” is now poised to reach the enormous audience it deserves. With a splashy Winans/Anita Baker flip, JPEG’s brilliance as a producer also highlights his skill behind the mic, and as usual, he comes with spirited bars right off the starting blocks: “I die for my pride, you be hiding in gimmicks/ Glock with a switch, turn a vegan to spinach.”
Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul — “Making Sense Stop”
There are few albums I’m anticipating more in 2022 than Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul’s Topical Dancer— and it’s finally out tomorrow (March 4). Beyond its sly Talking Heads reference, “Making Sense Stop” is an idiosyncratic pop smash, with Adigéry singing in both French and impressionistic English about her disappointment with so-called white “allies.” Gritty bass fills and Soulwax glitchery abound.
Pan-American — “Swimming In a Western Hotel”
Mark Nelson’s latest release as Pan-American explores a tonal palette often associated with the dusty American West— radio static, the spare, heavily reverbed tones of a lone, twanging guitar— but strips it of all the other standard-issue accoutrements. Instead, on this opener from his new album, The Patience Fader, he elevates that sound with a single layer of light chords in a lower register, capturing the tone in a bubble of almost ethereal serenity, like a sandstorm in a snowglobe.
DJ Hank — “Air Ride”
The second track to feature on this playlist from City Stars, DJ Hank’s Hyperdub debut, is another exacting juke exercise, with masterfully chopped R&B vocals over a drilled-down footwork groove. Like DJ Manny, whose Signals in My Head ranked among my favorite albums of last year, Hank seems to possess an innate ability to twist tiny fragments of larger pop choruses into bite-size bits that amplify the hooks, balancing heavy repetition with structural change-ups that give them just enough room to breathe.
Grace Ives — “Loose”
Grace Ives’ “Loose” is a lovely interplay between electronic, quantized rhythms and human songcraft. Where others might reach for a guitar, Ives’ tool of choice is a Roland MC-505, a drum 'n' bass machine disguised as a retro groovebox. Her latest single begins with crunchy synths and basic drums before Ives’ charming voice explodes into a technicolor chorus atop a sea of breaks: “I've been loose every night/ Wind me tight.”
Bernice — "Personal Bubble (Sam Gendel Remix)"
Canadian indie-pop oddballs Bernice are made 10 times stranger in the hands of producer Sam Gendel— and yet, this remix of “Personal Bubble,” from last year’s Eau De Bonjourno, is somehow the poppiest and most danceable production either has been involved in. Part technical marvel, part goofy headtrip, the track balances elastic, Seinfeldian bass with footwork rhythms and an extended, droning synth outro.
Huerco S - Plonk III
Plonk, the first Huerco S album in six years, blends the texture-focused leanings of his 2016 ambient masterpiece, For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have), with the housier roots of his earliest work. What makes this release worthy of the Huerco project’s chameleonic nature is how its tensile sound design and arrangements balance complex rhythms against avant-garde abstraction, with every measure shifting shape from the one before.
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