1. Justin Timberlake – Breeze Off the Pond
On Man of the Woods, Justin Timberlake took a risk that didn’t work out. That’s not to say there’s nothing salvageable from the mess, however – several of MOTW’s tracks are definitely worth the airtime. Breeze Off the Pond seems to be the ‘ideal product’ of the album, giving the traditional R&B aesthetic and subject matter a folk-inspired twist. The beat rides on the same grooves as Timberlake classics such as Rock Your Body, yet doesn’t feel as packed-in. There’s a certain airiness to the relative minimalism that gives the track an essential smoothness that Timberlake fans have been missing. Even if you’ve already nailed the coffin on MOTW, give this a spin.
2. Kendrick Lamar, SOB X RBE – Paramedic!
I’m not going to lie – I didn’t expect to be putting the Black Panther Soundtrack anywhere near my ‘favourite tracks of the week’. While Kendrick and SZA’s All the Stars fell massively short and King’s Dead featured a less than peak Future, much of Black Panther The Album found an immediate place in my rotation. Despite an all-star roster (Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Travis Scott, Future, Vince Staples and many more), it’s often the lesser-known talents that shine. Such is the case on Paramedic!, a collaboration with SOB X RBE, a relatively underground rap group. This is a classic banger – Kendrick leads the track in, before the collective’s members step up to the plate over a phenomenally crafted rap beat. If you’re a rap fan, this is the track for you.
3. Rich Brian – Cold
Despite the mediocre rating I gave to Rich Brian’s debut, it’s undeniable that his career is promising. Amen’s standout track is Cold, a three-and-a-half progression of Brian’s phenomenal production. The track begins with cold, Yung Lean-inspired pads before moving into a nostalgic piano-line, with Brian reflecting on his changed life. Soon it reaches the track’s powerful chorus, where soaring guitars push his lyrics into introspection – “Like to smoke cigs every time I feel the outside / Like to play chicks but get mad when they get new guys / You don’t get me, but I don’t blame you I don’t get myself”. The track’s shining moment lies in its breakdown, however: the beat smashes from iciness into colour, with Brian’s verse effortlessly drifting through.
4. MGMT – TSLAMP
Nothing quite captured the same magic as Oracular Spectacular. Despite their cult fandom, MGMT’s 10 years of trying has not resulted in any noticeable critical and commercial progress for the group: Congratulations and 2013’s self-titled fell somewhat short of the mark. Little Dark Age marks a different approach for the duo. Rather than attempt to follow the patterns of their debut, they’ve shifted into a different being entirely – the album is loaded with tracks that sound unlike anything MGMT have done before. A personal highlight is TSLAMP, a track that adds Daft Punk-like vocoders to smooth bass guitars and those traditional MGMT vocals. It’s a strange blend, sure, but a great one.
5. Son Lux – Forty Screams
If you stumbled upon last fortnight’s Listening Post, then you’ll probably be familiar with my love for Son Lux. Their latest LP, Brighter Wounds, dropped this Friday, and it’s another one for the books. The album opens with the gloriously orchestral Forty Screams, a letter from Ryan Lott to his newly-born child. It’s opening is angelic yet despondent – Lott’s heavenly voice is surrounded by gloom. Soon the pounding Inception-horns bring the track to monolithic status, with Lott’s heartbroken voice apologizing to his child – “I had wanted a better world for you…”. This is unmissable.