In case you’re wondering, I’ve tried and failed to fall for Haim’s “Summer Girl” (walk on the mild side), Angel Olsen’s “All Mirrors” (fine, your feelings are bigger than mine, didn’t know it was a contest) and, most disappointing for me, Lana Del Rey’s “Looking for America” (please stop trying to troll Greil Marcus into writing another chapter to Mystery Train).
The Rails – “Call Me When It All Goes Wrong”
With the Rails already on their third album, it’s probably long past time to stop mentioning that Kami Thompson’s parents are Richard and Linda T. But her intonation is so eerily and inescapably her dad’s, just as clipped and icy and ominous. The chary, put-upon bite of lines like “I’m a complex soul/Not a quick way out” sounds far more earned coming from a woman though. And that inheritance wouldn’t matter a jot if Thompson and husband James Walbourne didn’t write top-shelf folk-rock with the precision of power-pop.
Valerie June – “Cosmic Dancer”
Over otherworldly acoustic strum and decorative piano, the Memphis blues-folk revisionist renders the T. Rex tune both earthier and spacier than the original. Smarter too.
Miranda Lambert – “Mess With My Head”
Lyrically Lambert invites a lover into her head and bed to discombobulate her meticulously sterile life. Musically she invites producer Jay Joyce, who made his name retooling Eric Church’s neo-outlaw country-rock, to mess with her sound, adding weird retro-pop drumming and trick guitars.
Jidenna ft. Mr. Eazi – “Zodi”
Remember how slick “Classic Man” sounded in 2015? Well the Chief’s back, but he’s left Atlanta for Nigeria, and the tracks he’s released in advance of his latest 85 to Africa partake somewhat of Afrobeats' hip vibe-as much-as-a-sound. But he somehow got a Busta Rhymes sample through customs. Slick.
Mary J. Blige – “Know”
When it comes to inspirational and aspirational R&B, I appreciate Mary’s weathered and weary approach: “Every woman and mother in the world is a queen, because she sacrificed so much.” And Sounwave’s production traffics in soul samples without waxing too throwbacky. By the way, her upcoming album is actually called My Life II… There’s Something About Me, My Self & MaryJane (Act 2).
Megan Thee Stallion ft. Nicki Minaj, Ty Dolla Sign – “Hot Girl Summer”
I want to love it but I just … like it. Any song belatedly named for a slogan you’ve been circulating for months is an inevitable anticlimax, and anyway Megan doesn’t really do anthems. Juicy J’s beat could use a little more bounce, and the track overall could use a lot less Ty Dolla. But but but but but but but. I’m including this on the assumption that all these reservations will be overwhelmed by Labor Day. And if not… what do I know anyway, I’m just a boy.
Every week, music editor Keith Harris scours the vast musicscape for six worthy tracks to add to City Pages' ever-expanding 2019 playlist.