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10 songs you need in your life this week

Tracks we love, in no particular order.

10 songs you need in your life this week
“Big tonka” - Yeat feat Lil Uzi Vert

Lil Uzi is not exactly famous for phoning in features, but he sounds positively rejuvenated on “Big tonka,” one of two appearances on the deluxe edition of Yeat’s album 2 Alivë. The track is a convincing throwback to Uzi’s breakout release LUV Is Rage, the mixtape which gave rise to the eponymous rap subgenre of “Rage” that Yeat operates in. Brandon Finessin’s beat, a cacophony of top 10 anime betrayal melody and almost every hit in the 808 sample pack, is the first indication of what’s to come. Then, Yeat’s endearingly garbled flexing washes over the instrumental, a wonderful appetizer before Uzi emerges like a hellhound. “Yeah, fuck it, get high as I like” Uzi snaps, sounding connected once more with the hunger that fuelled his rise. – JD

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"As It Was" – Harry Styles

Harry Styles has his eyes set on the future on his latest release “As It Was,” the lead single to his forthcoming third studio album Harry’s House. The synth-heavy track opens with the heartwarming sound of the singer’s goddaughter nudging: “Come on, Harry, we wanna say goodnight to you.” The journey that follows over the next two and a half minutes is one of release. Styles is open, honest, and self-referential as he gives up on his attempt to make sense of the past and runs out of patience waiting for anyone else to save him from it. Over his first two album releases, we’ve seen him crack himself open more and more – and with “As It Was” setting the tone for Harry’s House, he’s about to swing the door wide open. – LP

“Coming Down” – Ari Lennox

The idea of a J. Cole Gangsta Grillz mixtape might appeal to a very distinct type of music fan but D-Day is more than just conscious bars and loud ad-libs. That is, in large part, down to two songs from his Dreamville label mate Ari Lennox. On "Coming Down" she samples Rose Royce's 1976 hit "I'm Going Down" on a song about loving an addict. Calling to mind Mary J. Blige, who covered the song in 1994, Lennox lets rip with a vocal packed full of narrative detail and raw emotion. When your loose cuts are this good, the world should be on notice. – DR

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“Nets vs 76ers” — Papo2oo4

When music gets referred to as an “endurance test,” it normally means that it's a slog. Papo2oo4’s album AF1MG Live 2oo4, Vol. 3 however, asks if your ears can keep up with its pace for a full hour. The New Jersey rapper’s hardened 2000s flows and the skittering, modern-sounding drum patterns of his go-to producer Subjxct5 transform every track into an intense cypher. On “Nets VS 76ers,” they take some time to chill out and reflect for a moment. “Some way, somehow, we all gotta eat, can’t blame who rob, who steal,” Papo raps over a chopped up sample. “He needed it more than you, get another one, prolly will.” —BC

“Sirens” - Flume feat. Caroline Polachek

Caroline Polachek has said she wrote her contributions to “Sirens” at the pandemic’s peak, when from her London apartment she would hear emergency services vehicles howl down the street with jarring frequency. In the face of a receding civilization, Polachek did not freeze, instead channeling the overwhelming despair that defined 2020 into a lament, tattered yet opulent like a silk gown floating on a trash island. Flume’s instrumental has the heartbreaking quality of a benevolent rave-seeking robot breaking down on its way to the dance floor, its synths sputtering and glitched. “Sirens” is not particularly hopeful, but it is defiant, staying present in the face of an unforgiving future and creating something beautiful out of it. – JD

“The Science of Imaginary Solutions” — James Krivchenia

Though he’s best known for his mild-mannered Big Thief drumming, James Krivchenia has a maniacal side. A New Found Relaxation, his 2020 debut solo LP, gave us a glimpse at his outre aesthetic, but his forthcoming follow-up, Blood Karaoke, brings his dark, abrasive explorations into full public view. “The Science of Imaginary Solutions” is less a song than a series of strung-together snippets presented at blink-and-you’ll-miss-them speed. These range from warped orchestral arrangements and whistling subway breaks to pummeling drum lines and 8-bit synths, each of them serving its own twisted purpose within Krivchenia’s demented design. — RH

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"Up At Night" – Kehlani feat. Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber has been vying for a genuine return to the R&B arena since the underrated release of his compilation album Journals in 2013. He was certain he had made it there on 2020’s Changes, even going so far as to denounce the Recording Academy for nominating the record in the pop category at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards. After his hit “Peaches” received a nomination at this year’s show for Best R&B Performance, the singer joins forces once more with R&B titan Kehlani. “Up At Night” is a seamless melting of both artist’s strengths, and runs with a late-90s vibe and toys with harmonic arrangements without playing it safe. Throughout, Kehlani steals the show with a stellar vocal performance as she recounts the haunting of a past love, singing: “And what could I say? I knew that it would go this way / Or could you blame it on fate? I couldn't let it just escape / At the end of our days, I'll run back thoughts of you.” – LP

“21212” — DJ Travella

At 19 years old, DJ Travella is making some of the most exciting, transgressive dance music in the world. Hailing from Dar Es Salaam, he’s taken Tanzanian singeli — a style that brings the high-speed, pitch-shifted extremes of hardcore techno subgenres such as gabber to far more appealing source material — into strange new sonic realms, doubling the stakes for its already progressive premise. Mr Mixondo, his debut LP via the consistently excellent Ugandan label Nyege Nyege Tapes, eschews traditional dance staples — foregoing low end almost entirely, for instance — and “21212” is a perfect case study. Manipulating the tonality of an unassuming wood block sample, he creates a soundworld that is both incredibly streamlined and full of life, trusting his precociously discerning ear to inject just enough kick drum and wailing synth into the track’s slippery spine to keep the party going. — RH

“Fair” — Bear1boss

Does Bear1boss ever sleep? Check the Atlanta rapper’s SoundCloud on any random day and discover a new single, a massive mixtape complete with DJ drops, or a brief collaboration between him and a producer he locked in with recently. His new mixtape Dynamic is hosted by New Jersey tastemaker and dot connector DJ Phat, who has been highlighting some of the best rap coming out of regional scenes for the last few years. The tape’s lean runtime causes Bear to make decisions like if he wants to jampack a song with ideas or bet the house on one risky concept. On “Fair,” he goes with the latter. Over a sugary beat with a barrage of sirens and explosions, he deadpans “Bear” and “Fair” in an alternating cycle as if he was trying to hypnotize the world. —BC

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“Eye Tell (!)” – Jim Legxacy

Londoner Jim Legxacy skips between genre staples on "Eye Tell (!)", the plucked guitar intro would suggest the start of an emo or post-punk song before a skippy dance beat kicks in and sends the song skywards. From there a pitched-up vocal croons about a broken relationship and the difficulty of moving on when your heart is in a different place. "I keep a memory in my heart so moving on is hard to plan," he sings. The feeling of bravado giving way to tenderness is as striking as the beat is life-affirming. – DR

10 songs you need in your life this week