New Music Friday always promises a plethora of that good-good new-new from some of your favorite artists, maybe some long-awaited, maybe some tired, through, and delayed, and maybe some songs by a treasure trove of #whos you've never heard of before. We know. It's overwhelming! Thank the heavens PAPER is here help sift through the goodness, the garbage, and the noise, and bring you the best every Friday. We gotchu, sis. Let's bop to it!
Lily Allen is back with her first album since 2014's Sheezus, entitled No Shame. And while the last record was a grab-bag collection of radio-ready pop songs about feminism, privilege, and devotion, this album hits much harder and pulls from the canon of Allen's very public private life. She sets the record straight away on album opener "Come On Then," coming at the media and all who think they know her by what they've read or heard, sings poignantly about fake friends, one-night stands and struggles with sobriety on deceptively breezy tracks like "Trigger Bang," "Higher," and "Lost My Mind." And everyone will be talking about the album's emotional centerpieces, "Everything to Feel Something," "Apples," and "Three," which cover the ways we numb ourselves to pain, and Allen pens heart-piercing lyrics about loneliness and her failures as a wife and mother.
But the thing is, no matter how hard Allen might be on herself throughout No Shame, which sets the nuance of her deep sadness against a cohesive backdrop of woozy, light dancehall flourishes — the study in contrast being a device the smart-pop auteur has gamely employed for over a decade— Allen leaves room for light to filter through. "Cake" is the album's bittersweet (but mostly sweet) closing anthem, and its chorus: "I don't see why you can't have your cake and eat it," is simultaneously, after all Allen has been through, a few notes resigned, but largely hopeful. And as always with Allen's best work, this bop is compulsively catchy, and instills a sense of pride and self-worth in its listeners. We feel her pain, but we'll dance with her through the darkness.
And on this fine day, Kim Petras dropped her latest banger and all the girls screamed at the top of their lungs, dropped everything, and rented drop-top convertibles for off-key singalong road trips, fuck having a job and responsibility. What's so great about the gorgeous new synth-pop summer jam, "Can't Do Better," among many things, is how it is the first track we've heard from the breakout pop star where the voice is truly center stage. In case it was ever a question, not only does Petras totally have the range, but the depth. The lyrics are about self-empowerment ("don't you know there's no one else but me" set against stadium-style '80s teen flick draaaaama, and we are so pleased. Not only is this track the perfect Pride anthem, but it's just perfect, full stop. As usual, Kim Petras' music does not disappoint.
Londoner Jorja Smith has captured our hearts for a while now, so her debut album Lost & Found kind of has us shaking. There are many bops of the hip-hop, bluesy R&B, and grime-inflected variety (I mean, that blend is perfect, what more could you want?). But our favorite is "Blue Lights," which inverts a Dizzee Rascal sample and makes it totally fresh. Smith is all mood and harmony on this song, and it cruises on a soulful beat very much in the way Amy Winehouse did, while she muses about turning blue lights into strobes, but that is an entry point for a lyrical plea about the dangers of street life, and possibly a message about police brutality. When she turns her voice into a siren, it grounds the song in the real and up-close.
So Sad So Sexy is right. Lykke Li is, by this point in her career, a tour-de-force singer-songwriter who turns sorrow and melancholy into all manner of poetry, at once enchantingly seductive and undeniably powerful, perhaps best exemplified on 2014's heartbreaking I Never Learn. Her first new album in four years is full of this kind of power, but Li deftly adds modified trap percussion and elaborate R&B arrangements into the mix. "Bad Woman" is more of the R&B variety, part power-ballad, part Motown harmonizing, all distinctly Lykke Li. She chastises herself for her failures in a relationship, but the couplet "I'm a bad woman/ but I'm still your woman" effectively doubles as commentary for our current political landscape. The idea that "nasty women" are actually liberated women, even as the patriarchy presumes ownership of them is never not revolutionary. But Lykke Li owns her story: As a modern woman after all, she's the only one who can say whether she's bad or good, and there's inherent power in that.
This #420 banger from D'african (love that name) will definitely appeal to those who love good kush, but its melodic trap is a delirious escapist fantasy bolstered by creeping minor keys, sung verses, and chopped-and-screwed choruses. "I Need to Smoke" is smart enough to appeal to the music lover in all of us, no matter how in-the-clouds high some of us might prefer to get.
Serpentwithfeet's debut album soil is out today, and our interview with him explored all the record's nuances, namely a deep sense of intimacy and a desire to express his love for the queer beauty it is. In that sense, "Cherubim," is so romantic and dance-able (you might have already caught the video, which is so sweet I can't), it makes me want to take up a lover and get totally swept away. It's nice when a song's reality emboldens your own fantasy.
Related | Serpentwithfeet Is In Full Bloom
Dynamic sister singer-songwriter duo, Say Lou Lou is back with their sophomore album, Immortelle. First single "Ana" is lush, orchestral, and ultra-chic pop fit for the smoking section of any upscale Parisian lounge. It's full of noirish mood, thunderous drums and surf guitars, with a little bit of cinematic trip-hop, and it's something that would make disciples of early Lana Del Rey and Portishead proud, including its evocative lyrics about a seductress: "it's new, the consequence is new / breathe in surrender to mood/ I need your love" the duo intones as if adhering to a sort of cultish devotion. Consider us followers of whatever cult Say Lou Lou is heading up.
Boasting a catchy, woozy hook with the refrain that is an instant earworm, WESLEE drops "Boys Cry" from their debut EP, 9F. "Boys need to be more open/ we all go through the motions," goes one spot-on lyric. Furthermore, the song's intoxicating blend of silky R&B vocals and radio-ready electronic pop makes "Boys Cry" something worth smiling about.
Snail Mail, the solo project of indie rock singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan, is out with her debut album today, entitled Lush. It's a fitting title, because the album rocks steady like a dream about your favorite crush. But what really sells it are tracks like "Heat Wave," which is all hazy summery sensuality and expert songcraft. Folks who love the confessional, searingly honest style of songwriting and musicianship pioneered by women like Liz Phair and Fiona Apple will take a special liking to this record. And, honestly, if you just love a well-made rock bop, you're just as apt to jump on board.
This one's for the girls, slash, the gayz. New York pop artist Michael Blume drops his new EP Cynicism & Sincerity today, and the title is perfectly captured in the fearless standout track, "R U Mad," which poses the question to homophobic haters, "R u mad cuz I'm gay?" over a skittering bassline and beat made for stomping down the concrete. I don't know about you, but I personally always love a song that makes me feel like I'm that bitch. Add this to your playlist for an extra-special dose of pop ferocity.
What's your favorite track this week? See you next week, lovers!