Kesha is clearly over-qualified to serve as a guest vocalist on a producer’s house track, but by sliding onto Dutch DJ Sam Feldt’s latest single, the pop star uses her powerhouse instincts to elevate its uncomplicated motivational message. “Stronger” wisely keeps Kesha in the center of the frame throughout its run time, only deviating from her words during its chopped-up vocal hook.
Real Lies, “Oh Me, Oh My (Nicotine Patch)”
London electronic duo Real Lies’ latest single is powered by a hypnotic loop that opens the track in medias res, then morphs into a bright synth line that’s juxtaposed with the detached vocals. The whole thing is mesmerizing, a sleek dance cut more enthralling than the sum of its parts and designed for some strobe-light grooving post-pandemic.
“I love you like gravy” is a curious line to anchor a pop song, especially outside of the holiday season — if Irish pop artist Laoise had released “Gravy” in time for last Thanksgiving, for instance, we would have been serenading our plates as we loaded up the turkey and stuffing. Still, “Gravy” is an easy sell as infatuated disco-pop, with Laoise detailing her jitters (“It’s systematic that I panic and turn the organic manic,” she sighs) over the thumping beat.
Blu DeTiger, “Vintage”
A song like “Vintage,” in which Blu DeTiger pines for a guy with throwback flair, works due to its detail: when she sings that her ideal beau “knows all the words to ‘Mr. Brightside,’” she sneaks in a “It was only a kiss!” as a delicious aside. “Vintage” possesses a hook that’s ripe for the karaoke nights nodded to in its lyrics, but its greatness lies in its corners.
Mothica, “Forever Fifteen”
Mothica has released a difficult but important single in “Forever Fifteen,” a glimpse into a void of teenage self-loathing the singer-songwriter penned to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of her attempt at suicide. The song’s unflinching portrait of underage exploits is paired with a raw vocal take that’s among Mothica’s most impressive work to date.
PrettyMuch, “Parking Spot”
The Simon Cowell-launched pop group PrettyMuch has a new home in Sire Records, and they’re off to a strong start with their sultry Smackables EP. Hopefully you’ve got your driver’s license by now (ahem), in order to head to the group’s “Parking Spot” and throw a tailgate party.
Swedish indie-pop singer Augustine and his soothing falsetto are back, and if you didn’t get the prom experience your teenage self hoped for, this song might serve as a balm however many years later. “The night before prom came to embody this very tense and juvenile feeling of a life-changing moment,” Augustine explains in a release. “You know the feeling that everything will be different tomorrow? There is so much melancholia attached to it, but also excitement. It’s beautiful in a way. You never know how things will turn out, or what choices will make sense in the end.”
Yonaka, “Seize the Power”
U.K. alt-rock group Yonaka’s first single since their incredible 2019 album Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow is fifty shades of sick, from Theresa Jarvis’s chanting vocals (“Woke up this morning, I feel so f–king important/ I looked in the mirror, I’m different, I finally made a decision”) to its unexpected guitar breakdown.
Kids In America, Luna Aura, “Afterlife”
For those of you in the Northeast getting slammed by the polar vortex, Kids In America’s latest track, “Afterlife,” provides a summery antidote. Try not to go green with envy at the music video, which sees the gang — including featured singer-songwriter Luna Aura — skateboarding around palm tree-lined streets.
Sarcastic Sounds, Claire Rosinkranz, Clinton Kane, “Change Ur Mind”
Toronto producer/vocalist Sarcastic Sounds recruited rising singer-songwriter Clinton Kane and “Backyard Boy” star Claire Rosinkranz for “Change Ur Mind,” which will be your next favorite if you’ve worn out the play button on “Death Bed (Coffee For Your Head).”