Anderson .Paak and Kendrick Lamar team up for a breezy, fresh R&B jam, while Charli XCX and Troye Sivan throw it back to "1999" on a nostalgic new pop track. Meanwhile, AlunaGeorge have found a signature sound melding electronic music with soul; youthful California band The Regrettes just want to be your friend; and guitarist Tom Morello taps Portugal.The Man and producer Whethan to join together on a powerful new suicide prevention song.
"1999," Charli XCX and Troye Sivan
Do you remember 1999? It was before Y2K, before 9/11, before the recession, before the iPhone, before many of pop's current consumers were even conscious adults. On "1999," from pop mastermind Charli XCX and her nimble sidekick Troye Sivan, throwing it back means returning all the way to childhood. (Sivan was four years old in 1999, while Charli was seven.) Forget early crushes; let's just talk grade-school freedom. Their craving for innocence is matched by the track's bubbly beats and sparkling keys, timeless pop hallmarks that feel as relevant now as they did when Britney first tried them out in her early era. "I just wanna go back, sing, 'Hit me baby, one more time,'" Charli sings, and it's both an echo of Spears's own work and a plea to return to a simpler time, when pop was pure fun and life wasn't quite so confusing. Luckily, "1999" will take us back anyway.
Don't sleep on AlunaGeorge, a British duo producing some of the most intriguing, dance-ready dark electronic music this season. On "Famous" off their new EP Champagne Eyes, they take a twisted, thumping beat and layer on an insidious narrative delivered with cold precision: "I can make you famous, famous / I'll show them where your grave is," frontwoman Aluna sings, a lyric she has referenced in a statement as a celebratory nod to #MeToo and the experience of women who find justice. With choppy vocals and an echoing, hollow beat, AlunaGeorge calls to mind acts like BANKS or Disclosure, ably spanning the gap between soulful and electronic.
"Every Step That I Take," Tom Morello feat. Portugal. The Man and Whethan
Tom Morello is known for his guitar skills in bands like Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave and Prophets of Rage — but on his new solo project, The Atlas Underground out Oct. 12, Morello starts stepping into new territory while still drawing on his signature feedback-heavy style. On the first new track, the collaborative "Every Step That I Take," Morello tapped Oregon rockers Portugal. The Man and young EDM producer Whethan to bring unexpected texture to a song equal parts dark and uplifting. Inspired by the suicide of his former bandmate Chris Cornell last year, the track is a partnership with the suicide prevention organization SAVE. But it's also an indelible piece of music, from its throbbing downbeat to a screaming guitar break and humming background. It's a song about acknowledging the ongoing struggle — "One foot in the shadows / One foot on the brakes / One foot in the gallows / Where it's quiet and safe" — but by sheer force of will and musical bombast, keeping afloat.
"California Friends," The Regrettes
The Regrettes are a young band — lead vocalist Lydia Night is only 17, while Genessa Gariano and Drew Thomsen are just 21 — but their beachy punk-rock sensibility is as warm, keen and lived-in as acts twice their age. On "California Friends," a new song following their 2017 debut album, a 2018 EP and a whirlwind festival season on the road this summer, they're having fun and living large: "Why don't you come a little closer?" Night wants to know. "I've got something to show ya. Check out this band from California — I can make you a playlist of their songs." It's sung with a wink and a sunny attitude over the kind of easy-to-love punk pop that you'd happily jam out to on a summer (or fall) evening at a local venue, sipping a beer with some friends and basking, for a moment, in youth.
"Tints," Anderson .Paak feat. Kendrick Lamar
Breezy and warm, "Tints" feels like a late-summer jam more than a fall track. But we'll take what we can get when we can get it from Grammy-nominated Anderson .Paak and Grammy-winning Kendrick Lamar, who prove a well-matched pair, with .Paak musicality serving as a sleek backdrop for Lamar's moments; .Paak brings a smooth, soulful R&B groove, while Lamar supplies the fire in the form of a few smartly-phrased verses. The first official single off .Paak's upcoming album Oxnard, it optimistically suggests sunny days to come, when "tints" — tinted windows, for the rest of us — might come in handy to shield ourselves from the brightness of success.