The Drop: Your Guide To New Music Friday Featuring Tom Walker & Sharon Van Etten
Welcome to my first New Music Friday roundup of 2019! Every week you’re bombarded with a glut of new music, which can lead to ear candy falling through the cracks. I’m hoping to avoid that tragic scenario with The Drop — a cheat sheet of sorts to get you through New Music Friday. By now, you have probably heard Sam Smith and Normani’s slinky “Dancing With A Stranger” and possibly bopped along to Lauren Jauregui’s feisty “More Than That.” But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Let’s start with a couple of my all-time favorite artists. Lana Del Rey continues to break every rule in the indie-pop handbook with “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have — but i have it.” A five-minute, stream-of-consciousness rambling with references to Sylvia Plath and Slim Aarons, this is something of an acquired taste. That I clearly have. The roles reverse somewhat with Sharon Van Etten. Known for her wonderfully depressing ditties, the singer/songwriter embraces a bolder “pop” sound on her first album in four years. If the Bruce Springsteen-channeling “Seventeen” is any indication, it’s going to be her best yet.
Next up is a pair of R&B-heavyweights in a pop-centric mood. Kehlani released a bunch of stand-alone singles in 2018, but none of them commanded my attention quite like “Nights Like This.” A shadowy ode to self-doubt and bad decision-making late at night, this is uncomfortably relatable and deceptively catchy. The latter adjective also applies to The Weeknd’s fuzzy, sex-fueled collaboration with Gesaffelstein. The French producer evokes vintage Abel vibes on “Lost In The Fire” and everything is ok in the (music) world again.
While we’re on the topic of winning collaborations, Calvin Harris kicks off his 2019 with “Giant.” After returning to his disco-tinged, dance-pop roots on bangers like “One Kiss” and “Promises,” the Scot adds a little (or a lot of) soul to the mix via Rag’n’Bone Man. His gravelly vocal lifts this one into the club stratosphere. Another Brit with an absurdly affecting voice is Tom Walker. He revisits 2017’s much-loved “Just You And I,” complimenting the heartfelt lyrics with shiny, uptempo production. It sounds like a hit.
As usual, some of the week’s best pop comes from the southern hemisphere. Australia’s Betty Who introduced her third LP with “Between You & Me” in late 2018 and now ups the ante even further with the adorable, instantly-catchy “I Remember.” She has really come into her own since going indie. The same goes for New Zealand’s Broods. Since parting ways with Capitol Records, the Nott-siblings have reinvented themselves as thoroughly demented purveyors of pop. “Peach” was one of my favorite singles of 2018 and the equally-nuts “Hospitalized” is another gem.
How about a couple of winning remixes? After making an army of fans on The Four, Zhavia came out swinging with the soulful, evocative “Candlelight.” Given the streaming numbers and Shazam statistics, it’s not surprising that the song has been reworked as a duet with Jeremih. Hopefully, this brings the song to an even bigger audience. An equally canny meeting of the minds takes place on the new version of Alec Benjamin’s “Let Me Down Slowly,” which now features the lovely vocals of Alessia Cara. I prefer it to the original.
Hungry for chill vibes? (Yes, that is a thing). May I recommend BUNT.’s breezy, gently wistful “Oh My Other.” Sounding like a cross between First Aid Kid and Vance Joy, this German duo hits the sweet spot between pop and folk with a pleasing sprinkling of Americana. They just signed to Geffen Records in the US and are due for a breakout 2019. I feel the same way about Jerry Williams. The British singer/songwriter recounts a chance meeting with a down-on-his-luck drinker on “David At The Bar, an affecting ditty that bounces around your head long after the song ends.
If you needed any further proof that country music is no longer a resting place for cowboy hat-wearing relics, Keith Urban shows his eclectic streak on a surprisingly great cover of Marshmello and Bastille’s “Happier.” Transforming a banger into a stripped-back country moment is no easy feat, but this works well enough to be released as a single. Another Nashville native with a penchant for blurring genre lines is Kane Brown. He lends his twang to a remix of Khalid’s “Saturday Nights,” taking the song in a whole new direction.
Let’s wind up with a couple of bangers. Lost Kings bless New Music Friday with another track from their Paper Crowns EP and it’s one of their best. “Anti-Everything” features the vocals of rising pop star Loren Gray and conveys the entirely relatable mood of hating just about everything. I feel seen. Last but not least is Grey and LÉON’s lovely “Want You Back,” a club anthem with heart and multi-layered production. This could be a well-deserved hit for both. Check it out in my playlist below.