The 5 Best Songs We Heard This Week: Blood Orange, Aphex Twin, Nite-Funk

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We’re still in recovery from our last dose of Game of Thrones for months to come, so forgive us if our picks this week sound a bit medicated. We didn’t set out to pick synth-heavy productions for this week’s column, but as it turns out, our favorite new music from the last week of June seems to occupy common branches on the musical tree.

We’ve got some OG techno references, the maturation of an Italian delicacy, a seamless collaboration, and the miseducation of Dev Hynes. But first, a tease from Jesse Boykins III:

aboveDat – “Dance On (ft. Jesse Boykins III)”

R&B crooner Jesse Boykins III is no stranger to indiEDM—his Love Apparatus LP with Machinedrum further dissolved any divide between R&B and electronic music made by bedroom producers. It was one of our favorite albums of 2014. This one-off with producer aboveDat finds Boykins on the uptempo, with a strutting bass line and a sing-a-long hook. His forthcoming LP Bartholomew is still without a release date, but he dropped a single “Losing You” earlier this year.

Aphex Twin – “2X202-ST5”

We won’t pretend to know what the title means/references, but whatever Richard D. James is on on this second single from his upcoming EP Cheetah, we’re buying. James is unafraid to chop up samples, but “2X202-ST5” is built around a relatively straightforward (if infectious) analog drum machine beat—its sonic ancestry is firmly in early Detroit techno. After dropping his first music video in 17 years, there’s no visual to accompany this track yet, but you can find it on the BBC via the above album art (or right here). To hear the track, press the Play button and skip to 1:56:29.

Clams Casino – “A Breath Away (ft. Kelela)”

To call Clams Casino a star in waiting is only a bit disingenuous; he’s solidified his place in hip-hop with a proven track record of bangers for the likes of Lil B, A$AP Rocky, Vince Staples and Danny Brown. He’s collaborated on avant-R&B geniuses Blood Orange and FKA Twigs. But when 32 Levels drops July 15, it will be his official debut—his first three Instrumentals mixtapes featured work that appeared on other artists’ albums. This latest single with Kelela shows some of the range he’s developed since his first hypnotic leaned-out beats. His mastery of off-kilter percussion hasn’t gone away; dude just knows how to craft a song now, as opposed to a mere beat.

Nite-Funk – “Can U Read Me”

Dâm-Funk is one of those cats that wears his sound on his sleeve; the first time we ever saw a photo of him (the album art for his “Hood Pass Intact” 12-inch), we knew exactly what he would sound like, and that we would love it. True to his name, he brings a Funkadelic fingerprint to any track he’s on, and his collaboration with Nite Jewel (aka Ramona Gonzalez) is no different. Nite Funk’s smoothed-out sexiness is arguably more interesting than the sum of its parts, those Dâm-Funky basslines and sparkling Nite Jewel synths. They’ve been collaborating since they met 7 years ago, but their debut self-titled EP just dropped today.

Blood Orange – “Hands Up”

One of our favorite things about music is its ability to transport us to places we’ve never been, or are completely incongruous with our current surroundings. Cold, rainy, or snowing? Pop on a Jimmy Cliff record, and its easy to imagine the sunshine and bright green foliage of the islands. Never been to the scorched earth of Iceland? Pop on Ágætis Byrjun, and you can picture the grey skies and freshly hardened volcanic rock. So while we struggled with which of Freetown Sound‘s 17 tracks we’d pick for our column this week, it was No. 10, “Hands Up,” that transported us furthest. Not necessarily to Sierra Leone, the ancestral homeland of Devonté Hynes’ father—lyrically, it recalls more homegrown struggles—but to whatever plane Hynes occupies when he writes music. It’s beautiful, vulnerable, and powerful, all at once.