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The Playlists (Belatedly!) Return With Haunted Corn Mazes, Horny Pop Stars, and One Dreadful Talking Heads Cover

10 great new local songs, 10 new songs from everywhere else, and 1 song that really sucks.

YouTube; Grandstand Media|

Papa Mbye; Miley Cyrus

Goddammit, I made you wait over a month for new music! So once again, to salve my guilty conscience, here’s a double dose of what I’ve been listening to, and what I hope you’ll want to listen to as well. 

The first half of 2024 is coming to a close, so in addition to new music this week you’ll find a few older tracks that I missed. Next week I’ll share my finalized mid-year playlists—we’re looking at 75 tracks apiece. 

Local Picks

Big Delicious, “Haunted Corn” 

Of course I was gonna check out a song with this title. The first bit is a playful skip through childhood, as twisty-turny as its topical Haunted Corn Maze, without ever losing its way. Make sure to hang in there till shit gets haunted mid-track.

Dylan Hicks & Small Screens, “If Spring Comes Like They Say”

Hicks counters his rep as a lyrics-first guy with an 11-minute cut that gives the members of his nonet plenty of room to spread out—vocals don’t arrive till nearly five minutes in. Highlights include the interplay of horns and Michelle Kinney’s cello solo. Oh, and the lyrics, of course. From Modern Flora, due out this fall. 

Mack OC & Osa Deraé, “Naked”

The burgeoning local Afrobeats scene has livened up Twin Cities hip hop and R&B for sure. Here two of its finest make common cause on a distinctively steamy track.

Dua Saleh feat. serpentwithfeet, “Unruly”

Now “L.A.-based” (per the liner notes), Dua’s voice wafts at its airiest here as they find a kindred creative spirit in R&B-broadly-defined aesthete serpentwithfeet. WaveIQ and Andrew Broder contribute electro-symphonic textures and shifting, insinuating rhythms.

Rich Mattson and the Northstars, “Rendezvous With a Star”

“I got the keys in my pocket/And half a mind to just say ‘fuck it’,” stalwart rock vet Mattson begins in desperation, his drive bolstered by a galloping Western beat and dramatically percussive single strums. 

Papa Mbye, “CPU”

“Sitting outside I got it/Grass feel like the carpet/Dirt look just like chocolate/Road made just for walking.” So Mbye muses over a murky, engrossing Frankie Scoca production that evolves over the course of the track. 

Scrunchies, “The Empire”

The punk trio recorded its upcoming album, Colossal, with the late Steve Albini in late 2023, and our first taste is a typically urgent two-minute rush, its vivid lyrics spiked with the demand “I wanted you to love me like you lean into the void.”

Solid Gold, “Don’t React”

Smooth as ever and maybe even tuneful, these masters of the synth arpeggio return with a bit of their psych shagginess trimmed away for a direct, streamlined pop single.  

Steady Range, “Trust Fall”

You may remember Andy Engstrom from his old band, Fragile Canyons—or, as an infamous City Pages typo called them, Fragile Crayons. Now he’s back with a winning countryish shuffle from his new band, whose name I promise I will not fuck up. Looking forward to hearing more from Steady Rage.

Wish Wash, “Chowderhead”

Clever verses (“Like a nun in a wig, it’s a bad habit”) delivered in an indie deadpan, a chorus of “all right” over a monster riff—that’s enough for me. This trio’s first album drops tomorrow, and you can catch them at Zhora Darling Friday night

Non-Local Picks

Amyl and the Sniffers, “U Should Not Be Doing That”

The brawny Melbourne punk outfit returns with a heavy bassline that has just as much attitude as irrepressible frontwoman Amy Taylor, who roams the world at large and mocks those small-minded folks back home who lecture her.

Zach Bryan, “Pink Skies”

OK, I give. I’m innately skeptical of prolific songwriters—picking your best out of the batch is part of the job—and Bryan’s flood of music initially had me shoring up the levee. But he just keeps getting better, and this song about a family returning home for a funeral is every bit as warm and rich in detail as you could ask. He’s not even sorry for himself one little bit.

Manu Chao, “São Paulo Motoboy”

The footloose pan-Euro lefty will release his first album in 16 years this year. Here he follows up title track “Viva Tu” with a celebration of Brazilian couriers over a groove so lite you can practically skip to it.  

Charly Bliss, “Calling You Out”

Bigger, glossier, and, you know, poppier than ever, the music serves as a setting for a girlier-than-ever Eva Hendricks to express her romantic insecurity—or, more specifically, her insecurity about her insecurity.. 

Billie Eilish, “Lunch”

The most ravenous cut on Eilish’s otherwise ruminative new album rides Finneas’s most insistent beat since “Bad Girl,” but what seals the deal are lip-smackers like “It’s a craving not a crush” and (even more than “You need a seat, I’ll volunteer”) “She’s the headlights I’m the deer.” 

Katy the Kyng, “Shithole”

Ah, a heaping dose of good old-school witty self-loathing with a scraggly little guitar interlude as memorable as the hook itself. Indie rock will never die.

MJ Lenderman, “She’s Leaving You”

Every indie boy's favorite indie boy returns with a shambling vignette about being dumped—every indie boy's favorite subject.

Pony, “Freezer”

This band pushes all my ’90s alt-rock buttons, perhaps a little too skillfully. But since no one else seems to notice them, I’m happy to keep obliging. 

Frances Quinlan, “Another Season”

The soundtrack of I Saw the TV Glow does an excellent job of crystalizing a modern sad girl sensibility for intrigued outsiders like me. Partly it succeeds by tossing in a few ringers like yeule’s cover of Broken Social Scene and—especially—this heart-wringer from the Hop Along singer at her most constrained.

Tinashe, “Nasty”

How did I, longtime T well-wisher that I am, miss this sureshot anthem back in April? If for some reason you still haven’t heard it, this is why everyone keeps saying “match my freak” on social media. 

Worst New Song

Miley Cyrus, “Psycho Killer” 

Because in 2013 I wasn’t enough of a teen getting wasted for the first time for the party’s-never-over anthem “We Can’t Stop” or enough of a karaoke singer for a big, senseless ballad like “Wrecking Ball,” I still say Miley peaked in 2008 with her three great teenpop hits on Breakout. Fifty years ago we'd have just given her a Friday night variety show on ABC, let her wear glam outfits, and not have had to pretend we were following her emotional growth as a Real Person or whatever. Hearing Byrne & Co. soar over her head just confirms what her "mature" work in recent years has shown—that there's a difference between a talented showbiz kid with good career instincts and a genuine pop artist. Don't get me wrong—I love watching sacred cows get turned into hamburger, but when she adds “Oh, oh/I love you, psycho killer/Gonna love you forever/You know I'll never run away” to the chorus, she's just oozing pink slime. Pardon my French, but qu'est-que ce merde? (Cooper Lund on Bluesky: “I think she thinks it’s a song about Harley Quinn?”) As a palate-cleanser, please enjoy the greatest Talking Heads cover ever

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