I found out last week that Willow Smith’s Ardipithecus is finally out in the UK, and it’s fantastic. The ambition and the diversity (of musical styles, of Willow’s vocal approaches, of lyrical themes) is so impressive; most impressive is how successful it is. It varies from the post-apocalyptic wilderness of “Drugz,” which kind of reminds me of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, to the simultaneously humble and swaggering R&B of “IDK,” to “Wait a Minute,” sunny indie-pop about leaving your consciousness in the sixth dimension (while wearing dreadlocks), to dance-pop “Waves of Nature.”
K-Pop group Stellar have a new EP out. The best track is “Vibrato,” which was released as a single last year, but is still a fabulous, forensic, reconstruction of an early Spice Girls record. The EP has a couple of other tracks which are in much the same vein but less good; it also has a track, “Insomnia,” which sounds pleasingly like a Girls Aloud album track, and another, “Cinderella,” which, more unusually for K-Pop, sounds like an early 2000s pop-rock track.
I spent a fair amount of time last week listening to Friday and Saturday’s Grand Ole Opry broadcasts, because Ashley Monroe was performing. A couple of years, I was in Nashville for a conference and, while I was there, went to see the Opry, which was an entertaining but quite odd experience. Listening to the broadcast reminded me that there is a country band that is literally called “The Whites”; of the assumed Christianity and patriotism of the show’s audience (I guess I’d never really thought about the fact that Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” gets performed to standing ovations, rather than laughter); but also of how unusually multi-generational the show is, featuring, as it did last week, an 84 year-old bluegrass musician and a 24-year-old about to release her first album. I hadn’t heard of Aubrie Sellers previously, but now I’m looking forward to what she apparently calls “garage country” (that’s garage in the rock sense; I’m not sure the Opry is ready for 2-step yet, but perhaps I’m underestimating them). More rocky country in Brandy Clark’s new song, “Girl Next Door.” Clark has a great range as a songwriter, and while she has made similarly smart and cutting stomps previously (like “Stripes“), I have to admit my favourite tracks of hers are the quieter ones where she allows a moment and its implications to spool out over the course of three minutes.
The currently hot sound called “tropical house” is pretty much a tarted up version of the sort of pop music RedOne and Stargate were making in the late 2010s, so I suppose it makes sense to more directly revive that sound, as AlunaGeorge do on this, their best song since “White Noise.”
The Pet Shop Boys have announced a new album and released a track to reassure us it’s not going to lack bangers. Some other bangers I’ve been enjoying in the past week: Julio Bashmore – “Let Me Be Your Weakness (feat. BIXBY)”; Boeoes Kaelstigen – “Be the Lights (feat. Name the Pet)”; Birthday Sex – “Wurp.”