For reasons that aren’t very interesting or worth explaining, we missed our weekly roundup of Essential Tracks last week, so we’re offering a slightly longer list this week of songs you need to hear. Country-tinged singer/songwriters, innovatively arranged industrial rap, meditative ambient jazz and more.
Plus listen to our ongoing 2022 Essential Tracks playlist.
Shearwater – “Aqaba”
Shearwater’s historically swung between disparate and complementary poles, be it boldly dramatic art-pop statements or chilling and intimate ballads. “Aqaba” is firmly the latter, a track that seems as if it could erupt into a grand exclamation in its final moments, but never really does. And yet despite that reticence to rise above a haunting calm, it feels grand all the same, a string-laden slow-burn that could stand among the best moments of Björk or Radiohead at their most elegantly understated. It’s no exaggeration to say this is one of Shearwater’s most beautiful songs, but given what’s come before, it’s certainly saying a lot.
From The Great Awakening, out June 10 via Polyborus
Angel Olsen – “Big Time”
The two tracks that Angel Olsen has shared from her upcoming album Big Time have pointed to a particular direction that she’d never fully committed to before, but which I think we all know she could probably pull off beautifully: Country. She’s arguably always been at least country influenced, but with a track like “Big Time,” she goes whole hog with the vintage Nashville sound that really sells the big-hearted sentiment of “I’m lovin’ you big time.” I’ll be the first to admit that the title at first made me think of Peter Gabriel, but Olsen’s brief foray into ’80s nostalgia didn’t carry over here, instead finding her pursuing yet another new direction with the warmth and richness of detail to make it as gorgeously affecting as any of her best songs from prior albums.
From Big Time, out June 3 via Jagjaguwar
Shabaka Hutchings – “Black meditation”
Later this month, Shabaka Hutchings will release his first solo record after nearly a decade straight streak of music from his three different but connected bands, Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming, and Shabaka and the Ancestors. “Black meditation,” the first track he’s shared from the upcoming digital only release, is something different altogether, an ambient layering of woodwinds that speaks to its title in how it captures a kind of gorgeous calm. It’s among the most softly beautiful pieces in Hutchings’ repertoire, but there’s a sense of mysticism and mystery as well, and a touch of melancholy, encompassing a vast range of emotions while embracing stillness.
From Afrikan Culture, out May 20 via Impulse!
Wu-Lu – “Blame/Ten”
Wu-Lu (née Miles Roman-Hopscraft) made his debut back in 2015 with the hypnotic hip-hop and downtempo sounds of GINGA, but “Blame/Ten”, the first single from his upcoming Warp Records debut LOGGERHEAD, arrives with a much heavier impact. Agitated, acidic, frayed at the edges, yet showcasing a stunning arrangement with live drums and piano, “Blame/Ten” is an innovative new take on industrial hip-hop. From the jump it goes hard, Wu-Lu’s delivery and always on the edge of a greater eruption, but never quite crossing that line. That’s where the music comes in, menacing, booming and brash. He’s reintroduced himself with a bang.
From LOGGERHEAD, out July 8 via Warp
Mary Lattimore & Paul Sukeena – “Didn’t See the Comet”
The sound most often associated with Mary Lattimore is her harp, an instrument that takes on otherworldly qualities when plucked by her hands, fed through effects and echoing into the ether. It’s only natural that she’d find a kindred musical spirit with guitarist Paul Sukeena, though on “Didn’t See the Comet,” it’s not harp that forms the basis of its misty atmosphere, but synth. The track is at once dense and spacious, two musicians providing a vast and meditative space that’s as much gorgeous as it is seemingly peacefully unresolved, as if these six minutes could double or triple, and the overall effect wouldn’t diminish in the slightest. But since that’s not the case, playing it twice, three times even, is certainly an option.
From West Kensington, out May 20 via Three Lobed
Candy – “Human Condition Above Human Opinion”
Candy are a pretty intense group. Started in Richmond, Virginia but now with its members spread all over the country, the group approached their second album and first for Relapse, Heaven Is Here, with an ear for more avant garde electronic sounds, and though this isn’t exactly the hyperpop version of the group, there’s a sensory overload aspect to first single “Human Condition Above Human Opinion” that emphasizes noise and atmosphere as much as sonic annihilation, not unlike fellow Relapse labelmates Full of Hell. But make no mistake, there’s a vicious churn at the heart of this song, reaffirming just how much this band rips as purveyors of pit-swirling menace.
From Heaven Is Here, out June 24 via Relapse
Arp – “New Pleasures”
I recently watched the entire run of Miami Vice, so I can’t really help it if that’s where my mind goes when hearing “New Pleasures,” the new single from Alexis Georgopoulos, a.k.a. Arp. At once kitschy and sexy, and bathed in flashy synths, “New Pleasures” is a highly satisfying set of contradictions—it more than lives up to its title, as there’s really no getting around how pleasurable this all is. Caught somewhere between Daft Punk, Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” and, yes, ’80s action show score, “New Pleasures” sounds at once luxurious and suspenseful. Or perhaps it’s just good music to dance to—perhaps all of these things at once.
From New Pleasures, out July 15 via Mexican Summer
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.