After my first job MTV working as a music programmer, I can't stop trying to matchmake people with music they might like. So, I wrote a book called Record Collecting for Girls and started interviewing musicians. The Music Concierge is a column where I share music I'm listening to that you might enjoy, with a little context. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook, or leave me a comment below and tell me what you're listening to this week.
There is so much to unpack on Willow's debut album (read a conversation with her about it, because it will shine a lot of light on the project). I must admit I was surprised when I pressed play, because it is so unlike anything else happening in music right now. The string arrangements on this particular track will make it stand out on any current Spotify playlist, but the low register her voice reaches is what grabbed me. The tone of her voice is soothing, and that low key she goes for, rather than the high notes many pop divas reach for, lends both sadness and wisdom to her sound. She's also picked a prime time of year to release it, as her soul-searching lyrics just go better with the fall atmosphere. I recommend listening to the full album on this one.
Vance Joy "Like Gold"
I didn't think there would be a follow up worth caring about for Vance Joy after "Riptide." And, fair enough, putting one near perfect pop song into the universe is an achievement that many will never unlock. But damn if they haven't caught my ear with "Like Gold," which takes up the mantle of low-key banjo pop that Mumford & Sons stupidly laid down. If you like plaintive and plainspoken or have a bit of love for good old-fashioned folk music, this is the jam for you.
N.E.R.D. feat. Rihanna "Lemon"
Obviously, we need to talk about this song. I've read a lot of hot takes on Twitter that I think are getting it all wrong. A lot of people don't like it because it doesn't do what Soundcloud rap is doing now, opting instead for some old N.E.R.D. production tricks and beats we remember from the '00s. Peel down to the layer below that and it's also referencing the golden age of hip-hop from the late '80s to early '90s, when sampling and repeated sampled wordplay was the style. The other thing this track does is bring us Rihanna the rapper for the first time, and whether you think she's good at it or not is so not the point: it forces that conversation about how many women can be on the rap charts at one time. Historically, they only let you have one. So, Rihanna and N.E.R.D. are here to prove that's not true. And, by letting Rihanna do her verse and own her sexuality and gender, Pharrell and Chad Hugo are trying to make good on their history of being less than woke about feminism (shout out to "Blurred Lines," never forget). It's a lot to pack into one song, and I'm reserving judgment until I hear more from this project, but I'll take this step with them.
Stef Chura "Speeding Ticket"
Detroit doesn't sound like it used to if indie rocker Stef Chura is any indication of what's brewing under the surface of the city. Her voice has that near-but-not-quite a growl and dicey delivery in line with Stevie Nicks, but her aesthetic is all lo-fi '90s rock, like Mary Timony, Liz Phair, or Juliana Hatfield. The whole thing sounds intensely personal, less like listening to music and more like listening to your conscience whisper to you.
NSTASIA "Hell of a Time"
Good luck being anything less than charmed by NSTASIA's delightful track. When this Haitian-American singer/songwriter sings "stick with me kid," you will be locked in. There are no down moments, it's all groves here. Everything is sweet in this track, from the wavy island synths to her lilting vocals to the unwavering confidence she brings to the lyrics. Just trust me, you need this track in your life.
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