Every week — now on Wednesdays! — Vulture highlights the best new music. If the song is worthy of your ears and attention, you will find it here. Read our picks below, share yours in the comments, and subscribe to the Vulture Playlist for a comprehensive guide to the year’s best music.
Chris Stapleton, “Either Way”
I’ve called Chris Stapleton’s performance on “Either Way” the vocal moment of the year for two reasons: First, it sneaks up on you then hits like a sledgehammer. Acoustic ballads don’t always have to swell until they form a devastating storm, but “Either Way” has no choice. It’s about a relationship that has exhausted all options and reason to exist. Love can’t run on fumes. Stapleton’s vocal explosion in the chorus, where the song’s narrator comes to accept that, is the car backfiring — loudly, irreparably. Second, where plenty other singers’ voices would turn hoarse or brittle, Stapleton’s never loses its force. Compare it to Lee Ann Womack’s version of this same song, which Stapleton gave to her to record nearly a decade ago before he stepped out from behind the scenes (he was instead a background singer). It’s not that she falls flat – Lee Ann could never – but her range fails her, as does the arrangement. It would fail a lot of people tasked with handling such an emotional wallop that hinges on nailing that chorus. Only its songwriter could sing it right. —Dee Lockett (@Dee_Lockett)
LCD Soundsystem, “American Dream”
“American Dream” begins with James Murphy waking up at someone else’s house after what sounds like an awful night of taking acid and staring at himself in the mirror. He’s standing there, watching his beard move around his face, thinking about his own neuroses and comfort — like, the actual concept of comfort, and how sometimes desiring comfort is synonymous with giving up. Like many of the best LCD Soundsystem songs, Murphy is preoccupied here by what it means to get older. What it means to have heroes, and then age beyond those heroes. Who sticks around? What’s cool? When is it okay to stop caring? His songwriting has always been an honest window into the mind of an aging music fan who suddenly felt adrift in a world he helped create. After years away, “American Dream” is the sound of Murphy taking stock of that world. It’s a self-deprecating anthem for that creeping feeling that finding the best way to live your life might not ever be possible. It also happens to be one of the best songs he’s ever written. —Sam Hockley-Smith (@shockleysmith)
Perfume Genius, “Die 4 You”
When was the last time you gave yourself to someone else fully, unapologetically, and without hesitation? We are a species that rarely allows such unrestraint and trust in one another, so when the phenomenon ever occurs, it’s best to honor it. Perfume Genius made a whole album about this strange sensation of feeling equally on the edge of death and never more alive after letting another person all the way in. The blurring occurs most on “Die 4 You,” an amorous song he says is about erotic asphyxiation. In theory, such self-sacrifice should sound, I don’t know, gratifying? “Die 4 You” sounds like a body so unhinged from the reality of human interaction that it will never resemble a human form again. (Its captivating video also suggests that is the case.) Should we have to feel close to death to feel at all? This song doesn’t have an answer, but it’s search for one makes it the most arresting piece of art I’ve come across in some time. –DL
Nia Wyn, “Do You Love Enough”
Is it 2008? Has anyone told Duffy about Nia Wyn lifting her sound for the white-girl soul movement of the 20-teens? And just as Duffy followed Amy Winehouse, so, too, does Wyn follow Elle King into bringing back the brassy voice and analog sound of neo-blues pop singers. This keeps happening every few years because these songs are always catchy as hell. The snap of the snare drum is crisp and the smoky caterwaul is set to stun on “Do You Love Enough,” so start clapping along. Besides, Lana Del Rey can’t be expected to keep the cat eye alive all on her own.
—Jordan Crucchiola (@jorcru)
Nick Murphy ft. Kaytranda, “Your Time”
Nick Murphy used to go by Chet Faker, now he doesn’t. Name change aside, the music is still as pulsating, moody, and indebted to R&B as it always has been. Some of it, anyway. His new Missing Link EP truly doesn’t have any sonic link to speak of, but “Your Time,” with star producer in the making Kaytranada, will be familiar. Forget that it’s about a dude demanding of a woman’s time just because he’s “gotta have her bad.” If it makes you want to strip as much as it make me want to, just tune him out. –DL
Mount Kimbie ft. Micachu, “Marilyn”
British duo Mount Kimbie are about to be three albums deep into an idiosyncratic sound that seems to go under the radar on purpose. It’s like listening to a classic ECM jazz record through a wall, but doing it so many times that you start to notice previously imperceptible details. It’s not an easy one to wrap your head around, basically. I have to give them credit: With “Marilyn,” they’ve finally nailed an ideal version of what they’ve been working toward all this time. After grabbing James Blake for previous single “We Go Home Together,” they’ve enlisted Mica Levi, a.k.a. Micachu, a.k.a. the woman who wrote brilliant scores for Under the Skin and Jackie even as she pushed her own music career into sometimes incomprehensible, always exciting directions. Levi’s voice, warped and distant, is a perfect accompaniment for the lopsided rhythm of this track. —SH-S
Sheer Mag, “Just Can’t Get Enough”
Finally, the Philly band Sheer Mag are releasing their debut album this July, which is good news for fans of tough-as-nails rock that’s not afraid to get vulnerable. In fact, they’ve dubbed “Just Can’t Get Enough” their first “straight up and down rock ballad about ACTUALLY being in love.” That’s a stretch, but the song certainly conducts the electricity of someone falling for someone else. You want to shake and shimmy. You want to have a quick freak-out just to get the nerves out of your system so you don’t scare that person next time you’re around them. It’s cute without ever sounding like it. —DL