From Janelle Monáe’s goofy homage to yoga, to Jana Hunter funneling her paranoia into ’80s pop, here are this week’s best new songs.
Lower Dens — “Sucker’s Shangri-La”
Musical retrofuturism has a new posterchild, and her/his/its name is Jana Hunter. Even the title of Lower Dens’ ace third album, out this week, just sounds like a big-budget sci-fi thriller: Escape From Evil. On it, Hunter turns up the volume on her gender ambiguity and warps her fascination with pop experimentation into a Gary Numan-style homage to ’80s hits. Album opener “Sucker’s Shangri-La” would make the perfect soundtrack for cruising desert highways in a DeLorean.
Janelle Monáe feat. Jidenna — “Yoga”
Janelle Monáe’s songs tend to be on the more tasteful, smart, and socially conscious side of mainstream soul-pop. But her latest single, the fun and frivolous “Yoga,” is the sex jam to add to your workout/bedroom playlist this spring. It falls somewhere between a novelty hit and a Beyoncé single, and though that’s an odd fit for Monáe, even serious stars need to let loose sometimes.
The National — “Sunshine On My Back”
Earlier this week, NPR’s Ann Powers wrote a thoughtful rumination on this Trouble Will Find Me outtake, which features Sharon Van Etten adding vocal harmonies. “There is nothing worse than hurting when every bright thing around you insists on happiness,” Power said of the rhythmically intricate, grey-toned song, and it’s the perfect description of how an it’s-complicated band like The National would incorporate sunshine into a track.
Avid Dancer — “Not Far To Go”
If you crossed a Courtney Barnett song with a Neil Young classic and put a more docile vocal on it, you’d get Jacob Dillan Summers’ new Avid Dancer song, off his forthcoming album 1st Bath (out April 14).
Georgia — “Move Systems”
Georgia’s deadpan voice and loose flow sounds a bit like M.I.A. on this, her debut single. Coupled with the vague political rebellion of a line like, “Ain’t no one gonna tell us that we ain’t going to move systems,” you begin to understand why the young British singer/rapper would be compared to the “Paper Planes” star. But it’s worth pointing out that Georgia’s incorporation of grime music, which is poised for a comeback, gives her a crucial edge.