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Our music recommendations: What we’re listening to this week, from Ayra Starr to Amber Mark

 (PR Handout/Mikey Style)
(PR Handout/Mikey Style)

Is your playlist in need of refreshment? We have some suggestions.

Ayra Starr – Last Heartbreak Song (feat. Giveon)

Nigerian singer and rapidly rising star Ayra Starr released her second album Turned 21 today (May 31) ahead of a sure-to-be massive set on Glastonbury’s iconic Pyramid stage next month. Featuring US R&B singer Giveon as a guest star, Last Heartbreak Song is a smouldering ode to waving farewell to a one-sided love.

Amber Mark – Space & Time

This beautiful new track from Summertown song-writer Amber Marks starts life as a piano-led ballad, her vocals clear and honeyed. But as the track gradually and unexpectedly ramps up from its sparse beginnings, it just gets better, and better.

Body Meat – North Side

A genre-defying feast of artfully deployed autotune, retro video game sounds, and a symphony of frantic bleepy bloops competing for space, the latest from Philly oddball Body Meat is – in the most complimentary terms possible – one of the most bonkers new songs I’ve heard in a long time. Brilliantly bizarre.

Magdalena Bay – Death & Romance

The LA duo Mica Tenenbaum and Matthew Lewin used to play in a prog rock band together, but have since binned it off in favour of Magdalena Bay’s psychy spin on pop. New single Death & Romance – their first release since signing to New York indie label Mom + Pop – is apparently about sitting at home and waiting “for your alien boyfriend to pick you up in his UFO...but this time, he’s not coming.” Heartbreaking.

Clairo - Sexy to Someone

Surprise – indie singer-songwriter Clairo is back in the game, returning with lead single Sexy to Someone along with news of album three. Charm is slated for release on July 12, and ahead of that, Sexy to Someone is an early first glimpse: a bright, breezy track with a strong whiff of Carole King’s influence.

Billie Eilish - L'AMOUR DE MA VIE [OVER NOW EXTENDED EDIT]

Billie Eilish’s latest Hit Me Hard and Soft is blazing ahead in the potential Album of the Year stakes (we gave it a 5 star rating) in 2024, and one of its many standout moments comes from L'Amour de Ma Vie’s shock swerve from soft rock into thumping hyperpop. Now, the pop star has put out an extended edit, honing in on the club feel of the original’s second half.

PinkPantheress - Turn It Up

Another dominating much of last year with her Ice Spice collab Boy’s A Liar Pt. 2, PinkPantheress is back with Turn It Up, a misty-eyed pop song she says is inspired by the melodies of the late Tejano icon Selena, and her hit Dreaming of You.

Been Stellar - Pumpkin

Based on the strength of its lead singles, Been Stellar’s upcoming debut Scream from New York, NY is shaping up into a right old doozy; and with its uneasy, Slint-styled riffs, Pumpkin is their most slow-burning and brilliantly subdued yet.

Vince Staples - Shame on the Devil

Long Beach rapper Vince Staples, who first rose to fame as part of the hip-hop collective Odd Future, has been reflecting a lot recently on his artistic growth since; and new album Dark Times – out now – dissects how far he’s come, as well as turning the magnifying glass onto fame itself. Shame on the Devil is just one highlight from the new release.

Wishy - Love on the Outside

Indianapolis’ Wishy specialise in bright, sunny hunks of Nineties inspired indie-rock – and the influence of Bristol alt-rockers The Sundays is written all over the jangling surroundings of their latest, Love on the Outside.

Peggy Gou - Lobster Telephone

Ahead of throwing a massive, open-air party in Gunnersbury Park, Berlin-based DJ and producer Peggy Gou is here with the pumping, syncopated warm-up: the retro-flavoured summery house track Lobster Telephone.

Winter - Shaniatwainlovestory

Lo-fi acoustic indie meets UK Garage – with the life story of Shania Twain chucked in as an additional influence – sounds a bit weird, sure. Strangely, though, it all comes together on this atmosphere new release from Brazilian-born singer Samira Winter, and her project Winter.

Charli XCX - 360

Emma Chamberlain, Julia Fox, Rachel Sennott, Chloë Sevigny... it’s easier to count up the patron saints of the perpetually-online who don’t appear in Charli XCX’s new music video. Together, they chair a meeting to try and select “the new hot internet girl” – “I'm everywhere, I'm so Julia,” Charli boasts, paying tribute to one of the gang inparticular.

Rico Nasty - BLEACH BROWS

Between collaborative Boys Noize and Rico Nasty EP HARDC0RE DR3AMZ and lilbubblegum link-up SCRAPS ON, the Washington D.C. rapper has been busy as of late, and now returns with a new solo track BLEACH BROWS.

Sorry Mom - But I’m A Quarterback

The latest from New York punks Sorry Mom is a genius tribute to But I’m A Cheerleader – Jamie Babbit’s cult 1999 comedy, which starred Natasha Lyonne as a lesbian cheerleader who gets packed off to a satirical conversion camp. “Now I’m 23 and broke, and thinking about all the football boys I could’ve been,” they sing.

CMAT - Aw, Shoot!

Irish singer-songwriter CMAT is having one hell of a year between stealing the show at the BRITS with her bum-baring dress, and scooping a nomination at the songwriting-centric Ivor Novellos awards. Now, Aw, Shoot! paves the way for a new musical era following the huge success of last year’s album Crazymad, for Me

Kevin Abstract - Tennessee (feat. Lil Nas X)

With “the best boyband since One Direction” now on indefinite hiatus, Brockhampton founding member Kevin Abstract is continuing to branch out solo, teaming up with Lil Nas X for this smooth, Quadeca-produced single.

Illuminati Hotties - Can’t Be Still

Fronted by Boygenius and Weyes Blood producer Sarah Tudzin, Illuminati Hotties has to be one of the best monikers in music right now: and the music is just as fun. New single Can’t Be Still recalls the super-pacey, joyous punk rock of Mary Timony’s Ex Hex.

Dua Lipa - Falling Forever

One of Dua’s best vocal performances to date, Falling Forever is also the highlight of her decidedly patchy new album Radical Optimism: if you ask me, this should’ve been the lead single.

Jessica Pratt - The Last Year

Here in the Pitch, the fourth album from LA singer-songwriter Jessica Pratt, is one of this year’s best so far; here’s hoping it’ll propel her from alternative indie fave to more mainstream success. The old-timey The Last Year is a standout that grapples with keeping faith in dark times.

Pardoner - Future of Music

“I don’t care about the future of music,” San Francisco’s Pardoner drawl sardonically on their latest, the lead single from upcoming EP Paranoid In Hell. “The title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to how the future of music most likely will sound like… the past of music?” explained guitarist and vocalist Max Freeland.

NewJeans - Bubblegum

Punchy, fizzy, and peppered with jaunty disco flutes, Bubblegum – the latest from rising K-Pop group NewJeans – offers up its own updated and addictive spin on City Pop, a 1970s sub-genre of Japanese pop which has enjoyed a recent second wind on TikTok.

Crumb - The Bug

The Kafka vibes are strong on The Bug, a warped slice of dream-pop from the Brooklyn-based psych-pop band. “But my wings won't open wide, while the bug stays on my mind,” sings Lila Ramani, sweetly, a nagging feeling

Sabrina Carpenter - Espresso

Enter, the grammatically dubious slogan of the summer – ”that’s that me espresso”. Does the oft-quoted lyric from Sabrina Carpenter’s exceptionally hooky, uber-glossy, nu-disco influenced smash hit actually mean anything? The jury’s out on that one, but don’t let that get in the way of a good time.

Chappell Roan - Good Luck, Babe!

Rising star Chappell Roan cements her position as the new queen of queer pop with her latest track - her first since last year’s album Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess. She’s described it as “about wishing good luck to someone who is denying fate”, and over the blaring synths, her voice hits Kate Bush levels of high and wispy. The overall effect is exceptionally toe-tapping.

Charli XCX - Club Classics

On the frantic and fun Club Classics ‒ the next glimpse of upcoming album Brat ‒ Charli adopts the persona of a picky DJ’s worst nightmare, demanding all manner of club classics by her favourites (along with her own music, her requests include regular collaborator AG Cook, the late SOPHIE, and one of Brat’s rumoured producers Hudson Mohawke) and getting very sweaty on the dancefloor in the process. Chuck in an abundant dollop of wobble-bass, and you have yourself a winner.

Doechii & JT - Alter Ego

Tampa’s Doechii, labelmates with SZA on Top Dawg Entertainment, just keeps getting better, and in fairness her breakthrough hits Persuasive and Crazy set the bar pretty high. This playful, dance-influenced new single, with fellow Floridian JT, samples Spread the P*** by Ayesha Erotica and feels like a summer club smash in the making.

NxWorries (Anderson .Paak & Knxwledge) - 86Sentra

Right in time for the joys of spring, Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge have reignited their collaborative project NxWorries, along with news of a hotly awaited second album. Why Lawd? will be their first new full-length record since 2016, and the funky 86Sentra is a promising first glimpse.

LAUREL - Burning Up

Despite its chipper synth-pop surroundings, Burning Up ‒ the latest to come from LA-based Brit LAUREL ‒ delves into darker subject matter, detailing the feeling of teetering on the brink of a panic attack, the tension between pop polish and raw, candid lyrics keeping up the momentum.

mary in the junkyard - Marble Arch

Experimental London trio mary in the junkyard have built up a solid rep as regulars on the stage of Brixton new music spot The Windmill, and are now gearing up to release debut EP This Old House on May 9. Ahead of that, here’s an early glimpse in the shape of Marble Arch, which borrows its name from a reference to the London landmark in a copy of Angela Carter’s Wise Children. The song, explains Clari Freeman-Taylor, is about “the intense relationship between sisters, and leaving home and not wanting to come back.”

Jessica Pratt - World On A String

There’s a haunting, lo-fi quality to World On A String; its blend of classic-sounding pop melodies and fuzzy production reminds me of the Baltimore dream-pop band Beach House. It lands ahead of the LA singer-songwriter’s new album Here in the Pitch, out on May 3.

Chastity Belt - Laugh

This grungey highlight from the Walla Walla rockers’ new album Live Laugh Love sees Julia Shapiro and the band reflecting on carefree days, with bittersweet fondness: “remember that summer we spent living instead , I wanted it to last, but it’s all in my head.”

Tyla - Art 

“Handle me carefully,” Tyla sings on this amapiano-influenced highlight from her debut album, which ‒ despite first impressions ‒ is not actually about taking a responsible approach to painting conservation. Instead, the gallery metaphors make for a pleasingly steamy love song.

John Grant - It’s A Bitch 

There’s plenty of strut to this sleazy, smirking hunk of electro-funk, with typically witty and wordy one-liners from US singer-songwriter John Grant. “I am feeling an itch in my medulla oblongata,” he complains, “yeah, it happens a lot the doctor says I got a wild imagination.”

Logic1000 - Can't Let Go 

Mother ‒ the hotly-anticipated debut album from Sydney dance producer Samantha Poulter ‒ is out today, and stomping four-to-the-floor house cut Can't Let Go is a standout moment destined for a whole summer’s worth of dancefloors.

Warpaint - Underneath

Somehow, Warpaint have been a band for twenty years, and in that time they’ve done a sterling job of keeping things creatively fresh between their individual solo projects, drummer Stella Mozgawa’s production career, and a fairly sporadic approach to putting out records. Now, they’re celebrating the big 2-0 with a new 7” single, and b-side Underneath is a dreamy, paired back treat.

Kacey Musgraves - The Architect

So, you’ve probably heard already that everybody and their nan is having a crack at country music this year; Beyoncé and Lana Del Rey are two of the biggest names donning stetsons and getting involved. On the other hand, Kacey Musgraves has been bringing its influence into mainstream pop for years, and the philosophically-minded acoustic track The Architect is a timely reminder of her influence. Luckily, there’s enough room in this saloon for the whole lot of ‘em.

MØ - Fake Chanel 

This year, Danish pop star MØ is celebrating 10 years of her cult debut No Mythologies To Follow, and digging out a number unreleased tracks recorded during the album sessions for the occasion. The moment those muffled parps sound on Fake Chanel, it’s straight back to her glacial synth-pop days of 2014.

Cola - Bitter Melon

The latest to come from Montreal post-punks Cola - which includes former members of both Ought and US Girls - reminds me of In Rainbows-era Radiohead with an extra side-dollop of krautrock: it’s intricate, thorny, brooding, and brilliant.

Lizzie McAlpine - I Guess

Philly indie-folk artist Lizzy McAlpine is gearing up for new album Older (out April 5) and I Guess is a promising early glimpse. Building from spare foundations into a rich wash of brass and strings, McAlpine lays bear the loneliness of a spent relationship that’s falling off the rails. “We eat our dinner, then we undress,” she sings, “and now we're equal, more or less.” Ouch!

Ariana Grande - We Can’t Be Friends (Wait For Your Love)

Fans of teary synth-pop, step this way – this highlight from Ari’s new album eternal sunshine (out now) channels the juggernaut influence of Robyn’s ultimate sad-banger Dancing on my Own. It also shares a producer: the lushious production comes from Swedish pop architect Max Martin.

Girl is Red - DOING IT AGAIN BABY

Over the years, Norwegian singer-songwriter Girl in Red has shifted from smouldering lo-fi to spiky, biting indie rock, and her new single fits firmly into the latter category. She announced it by making an appearance at London’s mysterious new lesbian tapas bar – where else! – handing out tinnies to a packed VF Dalston. Genius.

Kamasi Washington - Prologue

Tenor sax superstar and Kendrick Lamar collaborator Kamasi Washington has just announced a new, guest-filled album. Fearless Movement (out in May) will feature OutKast’s André 3000, Thundercat, George Clinton, Terrace Martin, and BJ The Chicago Kid. The freewheeling Prologue is a fitting introduction, all fidgeting jazz bets and energetic brass.

O. - Green Shirt

London post-punks O. are at their headbanging best on Green Shirt, a two-minute burst of mayhem recorded with Speedy Wunderground head honcho and Kae Tempest collaborator Dan Carey. It takes its name from a beloved shirt that used to belong to drummer Tash Keary, but was unfortunately eaten by a dog. And to be fair, you can hear the rage.

Charli XCX - Von dutch

Drastically switching things up from Crash’s polished pop, Von dutch embraces both aggressive strains of dance music, and the brilliantly obnoxious, in-your-face sound of Noughties club-pop: its driving synth sound recalls Perfect (Exceeder) by Mason vs Princess Superstar, the relentlessly catchy 2007 banger which recently found new relevance on the Saltburn soundtrack. It all bodes well for her upcoming album Brat.

St Vincent - Broken Man

A world away from the smoky Seventies soul sound of 2021’s album Daddy’s Home, the first glimpse of St Vincent’s upcoming new album All Born Screaming takes things in a harsher direction, with plenty of industrial, Nine Inch Nails-style post-punk punch, and squalling guitars.

Pharrell Williams and Miley Cyrus - Doctor (Work It Out)

The doctor will see you now! Admittedly it’s a tall order to make healthcare alluring at the moment ‒ it tends to bring to mind long waiting lists and lost medical records ‒ but Miley gives it her best on her gasp-laden collaboration with Pharrell Williams. Vaguely reminiscent of Blurred Lines in sound (though not lyrical content, thankfully) it also boasts plenty of the producer’s on-prescription signatures, too ‒ that four-count intro is classic.

Cardi B - Like What (Freestyle)

“This is just the beginning… stay tuned,” teases Cardi B at the end of the visual for Like What (Freestyle) – her slick new single that makes prominent use of Missy Elliott’s 1999 classic She’s A Bitch. Could the follow-up to 2018’s Invasion of Privacy finally be upon us? Here’s hoping…

Been Stellar - Passing Judgement

Produced by south London’s Dan Carey (Kae Tempest, Wet Leg) this gritty first glimpse of this Dirty Hit-signed band’s upcoming debut album, out on June 14, holds plenty of early promise. Fans of Sonic Youth and Television, step this way.

SZA – Saturn

Fresh from dominating the Grammys with a standout performance and three wins, SZA is back with her trademark brand of smooth, ethereal RnB on Saturn; an escapist cut that dreams of floating away into deep space.

Bleachers - Me Before You

Not content with producing a decent portion of contemporary pop (he’s a collaborator of Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey and Lorde, to name three) Jack Antonoff has also been busy with his musical moniker Bleachers. Ahead of his fourth, self-titled record, this is an easy-going, Springsteen-inspired treat.

Lip Critic - Milky Max

New York’s Lip Critic bring to mind the harsh, relentless and ridiculously fun electro-punk of older flag bearers like Late of The Pier and early-era These New Puritans – Milky Max is a promising preview of their upcoming debut Hex Dealer.

Kneecap – SICK IN THE HEAD

Currently in the middle of a battle with the UK government (who controversially blocked 15 grand’s worth of arts funding, claiming that the band "oppose the United Kingdom itself") Belfast rap trio Kneecap have just announced their debut Fine Art, and SICK IN THE HEAD is a ferocious first taste that effortlessly flits between English and Gaelic.

Dua Lipa - Training Season

There’s a touch of euro-dance to Dua’s latest, which despairs at a string of truly horrific dates and decides to finally call time on wasting away endless evenings on bad matches, “just to be nice”. As with Houdini, there are plenty of crunchy Eighties synths - it’s the latest preview of her new album, out later this year.

Beyoncé - TEXAS HOLD ‘EM

Yee-haw! After pulling inspiration from house music and New York ballroom culture with Renaissance Act 1, it looks like Bey’s headed to the saloon this time around. Decked out with a hoe-down ready string section, plenty of enthusiastic whooping, and a nod to necking “rugged whiskey” it’s a fitting welcome to her country era. Time to learn some line dancing?

Lime Garden - Pop Star

“I don’t wanna work my job, ‘cause life is fleeting and I’m a pop star,” protests Lime Garden’s vocalist Chloe Howard on this spiky and sardonic  highlight from debut album One More Thing, out today. Inspired by Damon Albarn talking about using the ‘Rock 1’ preset from his omnichord to write Gorillaz’ classic Clint Eastwood, the Brighton band decided to try out a similar approach, and here we are.

Sheer Mag - Eat It And Beat It

If, like me, you were raised on an aggressive amount of Thin Lizzy, you’ll most likely love ridiculously fun Philly punks Sheer Mag. Squalling, OTT solos, guitarmonies, and yowled choruses are the order of the day on Eat It And Beat It - the latest taste of new album Playing Favorites (out March 1).

Little Simz - Mood Swings

Fresh from picking up Best Hip-Hop Act at the MOBOs, Little Simz is back with surprise EP Drop 7 – and the club-tinged lead single Mood Swings takes things up several fast-paced notches. “Why they wanna disrupt, kill my flow,” she raps, “how many times have I switched time zone?”

Kate Nash - Change

Nash has come a long way since her 2007 debut Made of Bricks turned her into a MySpace indie icon, starring in the wrestling drama-comedy Glow, and scoring the musical Only Gold. Now, she’s inked a fresh deal with Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill’s record label; and laden with hopeful strings, Change is a fitting curtain-raiser for a new era.

Caroline Polachek – Butterfly Net (Ft. Weyes Blood)

It has been one hell of a year for left-field pop artist Polachek, who headlined London’s Wide Awake festival last summer, and ranked among the Standard’s best albums of 2023 with Desire, I Want To Turn Into You. Now, that release has a deluxe edition, led by this spellbinding new duet with the uber-talented Weyes Blood.

I. JORDAN – Real Hot n Naughty (ft. Felix Mufti)

Sex Education actor Felix Mufti is a ridiculously fun presence on this wobble-laden, bingo hall inspired, UK Garage-styled stomper: it’s the lead single from DJ and producer I. JORDAN’s long-awaited debut album.

Ayra Starr - Commas

One to watch at the Grammys, the rising Afrobeats star is up for her first gong on Sunday (February 4) and stands a decent chance of taking it home – ahead of the big night, the smooth, string-laden Commas is the perfect thing to tide us over.

Burial - Dreamfear

Enigmatic south Londoner Burial – whose skittering, uneasy take on UK garage and 2-step has a cult following – never misses, but while most of his tracks are geared towards staring out the misted windows of the night bus home from the club, this one is right in the limb-flailing mix; lairy, strobe-flickered, and heavily influenced by rave.

Dog Race - It's The Squeeze

Bursting out the gates like the murky, post-punk answer to Lipps Inc’s Funkytown, the buzzy Bedford five-piece have linked up with Dry Cleaning Sorry and Portishead producer Ali Chant for their latest single.

Sega Bodega - Deer Teeth

Off the back of collaborations with fka Twigs, Björk, Shygirl, and Caroline Polachek, the Irish-Chilean producer’s latest solo effort is an eerie slab of warped and meditative electronica.

Justice - One Night/All Night (Featuring Tame Impala)

Over the years, Parisian dance duo Justice have drifted away from the hyper-saturated, rough-hewn take on French House that powered their still-influential 2007 debut, though they’ve still kept the strutting disco influences. Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker is the ideal match for this: the lead single from their first album in eight years.

Empress Of – What’s Love (Featuring MUNA)

There’s a new record on the way from LA-based pop artist Empress Of, featuring the Japanese-British singer Rina Sawayama, and the Taylor Swift and Boygenius approved duo MUNA. Based on the sheer heft of her collab with the latter - a glimmering hunk of gold - it’ll be one of this year’s big releases to watch out for.

Pillow Queens - Gone

The excellently-named Dublin punks and two-time Irish Album of the Year nominees are gearing up for third time lucky with upcoming album Name Your Sorrow, and its shoegaze-inflected single Gone is a proper stomper, with plenty of gravel.

Blue Bendy - Come On Baby, Dig!

Look, the market for south London post-punk bands who like hanging out at The Windmill in Brixton is more crowded than the queue for Chatsworth Bakehouse, but there’s something gripping about Blue Bendy’s fidgety, uneasy take on things.

Kim Gordon - BYE BYE

You know that cliche about certain icons reading out something mundane like a shopping list with such gravitas that it immediately becomes The Coolest Thing Ever? Atop the thunking, noise-trap of her new solo single BYE BYE, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon pulls off exactly this. “Call the vet, call the groomer, call the dog-sittaaaaah,” she drawls, miraculously making sheer nonsense sound weirdly profound.

Gossip - Real Power

“People in the streets are getting rowdy,” belts out Beth Ditto on Real Power, a protest-minded hunk of dance-punk that comes laden with disco strut. It’s the title track from the newly-reunited Arkansas band’s upcoming album.

Shygirl - tell me (ft Boy Noize)

Blane Muise’s upcoming EP might be called Club Shy, but her eurodance-flavoured collab with the German electronic producer Boys Noize is anything but introverted, and features additional production from the in-demand hyper-pop figurehead Sega Bodega.