Vampire Weekend returns after nearly six years — and the music is a fine return to form, and feels as bright and fresh as spring. Meanwhile, Lauv and Troye Sivan team up for a downbeat reflection on the struggle to find love. On the other hand, Julia Michaels and Selena Gomez have a different kind of struggle on their minds: the daily battle with anxiety, which they candidly address on their new collaboration of the same name. Iceland's Júníus Meyvant releases a new album filled with lush, orchestral arrangements of folk-pop. And Dua Lipa comes back with a "Swan Song" for a new movie.
"i'm so tired..." Lauv and Troye Sivan
Perhaps it was inevitable: perpetual bleeding-heart singer-songwriter Lauv has joined up with similarly heart-on-his-sleeve singer Troye Sivan for a duet that blends their two tenors in a tender, downbeat pop tune. The title may suggest this is a lullaby, but the lyric has more to it: "I'm so tired of love songs," Lauv admits. "Tired of love. Just wanna go home." Sometimes, as the two share in twining verses, romance — and the search for connection — is just plain exhausting. At least now we know even pop stars deal with disenchantment.
"Harmony Hall," Vampire Weekend
After nearly six long years, beloved indie rock band Vampire Weekend dropped two new songs to herald their return. "Harmony Hall" is sweet and nimble, a welcome return to form for a group that always seemed to float atop the currents of pop and rock. Ezra Koenig isn't necessarily joyous here: "I thought that I was free from all that questioning / But every time a problem ends another one begins" he laments. But his often-cryptic lyrics find balance with a tune that is buoyant with rich guitar and piano riffing that will make old-school fans happy. It may still be winter, but spring is already in the air with the band back in the mix.
"Anxiety," Julia Michaels feat. Selena Gomez
Julia Michaels has made a career out of being deeply honest about the interior workings of her mind. "Anxiety," off of Michaels's new EP Inner Monologue Part 1, is a singsong track that reveals more than ever about the humdrum, everyday challenges of dealing with, well, anxiety. "My friends, they wanna take me to the movies," she sings, "I tell 'em to f--k off, I'm holding hands with my depression." Selena Gomez, for whom Michaels has written before, joins her halfway through with an equally unfiltered take on the subject. The bones of the song — pleasantly scratchy guitar and a bright melody — are upbeat enough, but Gomez and Michaels imbue their feather-light vocals with enough uncertainty and pain to drive the point home.
"New Waves," Júníus Meyvant
Iceland is usually better known for its stunning waterfalls and natural beauty than its musical output. But artist Júníus Meyvant is starting to change that, thanks to his unusual, lushly orchestral style; he calls it "freaky folk pop." Brass and percussion form a bold base for his rockstar-style verses on "New Waves," over which he layers strings and even some electric guitar screams, building a composition as textured as the dramatic landscape from which he hails. Meyvant has been an Icelandic star for a few years now, nabbing that country's local awards. His new album Across the Borders, out this week, should help him find an audience farther afield.
"Swan Song," Dua Lipa
"Swan Song" soundtracks the movie Alita: Battle Angel, and it's a clear battle anthem, with pulsing drum beats and an anxious, driving melody. As usual on songs she appears on, it's pop singer Dua Lipa's mellifluous voice that adds weight and smoothness, and a welcome human element. The movie, which opens in mid-February, is an action film starring an Uncanny-Valley-style CGI-enhanced main character; the song echoes that mix of electronic rhythms and a touch of the real.