Star Tracks compiles the most exciting new music from a wide range of established and emerging artists. This week’s playlist includes tracks from Black Belt Eagle Scout, Lil Uzi Vert, Madison Beer, Wild Pink, Lolo Zouaï and Caroline Polachek.
Click here to listen to Spotify playlist.
Black Belt Eagle Scout: Don’t Give Up
In 2019, Black Belt Eagle Scout – the nickname of Swinomish/Iñupiaq singer Katherine Paul – almost single-handedly restored my faith in indie rock with the release of their second album “At the Party with My Brown Friends”. There was something uniquely vulnerable and beautiful about Paul’s songwriting – the light-as-air voice, the unvarnished yet absorbing guitar playing, the delicately evocative expressions of resistance.
Three very long years later, Black Belt Eagle Scout is back with “Don’t Give Up”, a moving new single that explores how Paul and his community rely on connecting with the natural world for spiritual healing and the promotion of mental health. “Slow, important love / It keep me alive,” she sings over softly strummed acoustic guitar, as the music rises to the track’s catchy outro, in which Paul repeats, “Earth, water, the sky.”
“I wanted to sing it like my late grandfather Alexander Paul Sr. sang in our family’s large drumming group,” she explained in a statement. “Of the heart.” — Richie Assaly
Lil Uzi Vert: I just want to rock
If you’ve been on TikTok lately, you’ve probably heard this song a million times, but only for about 30 seconds. As a snippet of a leaked “Just Wanna Rock” has already crossed over into its dance craze and was all done in the Jersey Club banger, it really is. The slow breathing, lyrics and production for the first 10 seconds to preview the rest of the track is a stroke of genius. When the shimmering keyboard and cinematic synths hit, bolstered by deep 80s synthwave hits, I’m already screaming “let’s go!” The first 30 seconds of this track is a grand entrance in pure sonic form. The snaps and drumbeats throughout are what dragged dancers to their phones on TikTok and it will do the same for listeners and the dance floor.
Uzi is wise enough to let the production breathe as he mostly features ad-libs, spits out a handful of lyrics in a verse, and breathes heavily on the track. Despite its novelty, “Just Wanna Rock” is also reminiscent of early versions of Uzi’s work from the original 2015 “Love is Rage” project, such as “Banned on TV” and “Safe House.” Electronic production to create a grand entrance is a hallmark of Uzi’s music and “Just Wanna Rock” is a spectacular comeback. — Demar Grant
Madison Beer: showed me (how I fell in love with you)
Ah, being a cis/heterosexual man and experiencing the public reverence that comes with being in a romantic relationship – receiving “is that you?” or daps in support of being with a woman, especially if they mimic the beauty standard. The scales definitely tip in their favor and Madison Beer does not hesitate to recognize it in his latest single, “Showed Me (How I Fell In Love With You.” Beer, the 23-year-old protege of Justin Bieber (he claims the having discovered via YouTube), quickly caught our attention upon the release of his first single, “Melodies”. The song was fun and it was unique and bubbly. From 2013 to present, Beer has transported his listeners and advised us about the ups and downs of love and relationships.”Showed Me” is sure to find people who can relate – she’s confident in her ability to convince listeners she’s got the upper hand, but in a patriarchal world, we are all sadly aware that it might not. Annette Ejiofor
Wild Rose: ILYSM
It’s kind of silly trying to pick just one song to highlight on Wild Pink’s extraordinary fourth album, “ILYSM.” Partially written and recorded after guitarist and vocalist John Ross was diagnosed with cancer, the immersive, genre-crossing project tackles big themes – fear, love and the new perspective offered by the sudden reality of death – and deserves to be listened to before returning.
Indeed, what makes “ILYSM” special is its subtle dynamism and unpredictability – the heartbreaking slowcore of “Hold My Hand” deviates considerably from the booming rock of “See You Better Now” (which features a typically dazzling solo from Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis) or the muddy shoegaze of “Sucking On The Birdshot”.
What ties these songs together, however, is a sweet sense of optimism that bubbles throughout the album’s hour runtime and finds its strongest expression on the title track. “I reached out to touch you / And it went well,” Ross recalls over a throbbing bass line and exuberant drums, the surreal memory giving way to a simple mantra before the song unfolds. flourishes in a reverb-laden guitar solo: “I love you so much.” — AR
Lolo Zouaï: Sexy and Crazy Dream Girl
From carefully placed keys echoing jungle-inspired percussion, “Crazy Sexy Dream Girl” sounds a bit like a fever dream. With a torrid rhythm, the airy voice of Lolo Zouaï skates on the beat as she laments that she can no longer feel love, at least for her ex. “The Crazy Sexy Dream Girl” is dead and with a cybernetic voice, Zouaï says “I’ll never get myself back (Crazy), I’ll never get myself back (Sexy), I’ll never get myself back (Dream), I’ll never get myself back (Girl).” Hard not to believe her. Although “Crazy Sexy Dream Girl” is a track about distance, Zouaï’s sensual voice always makes him attractive. She wants people who are close, but never too close because the person they are looking for is n no longer exists. CEO
Caroline Polachek: Sunset
When I last wrote about Caroline Polachek, after the release of “Billions” in February, I compared her dramatic avant-pop sound to Kate Bush. But with the release of “Sunset,” the former Chairlift singer sounds more like Shakira, pushing her voice into a high-pitched trill amid bright Spanish guitar and an edgy flamenco beat. The track marks a strange and slightly random new direction for Polachek, but she succeeds thanks to the sheer charisma of her voice and the quality of her personality – she remains one of pop music’s weirdest shape-shifters. — AR
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