Star Tracks compiles the most interesting new music from a broad range of established and emerging artists. This week’s playlist features tracks from Rosalía, the National, Yaeji, Caroline Polachek, Maisie Peters, Fall Out Boy, Dallas Green, Isabel Pless, Bonobo and Jacques Greene, and Jesus Piece.
Click here to listen along to the Spotify playlist.
Rosalía finally broke into the mainstream last year with the release of “MOTOMAMI,” a bold, genre-mashing experiment that managed to be as fun as it was weird (I called it the most exciting pop album of the year in our 2022 roundup).
On “LLYLM,” Rosalía’s first song of the new year, the Spanish singer opens with a nod to her roots, as her voice dances nimbly over rhythmic palmas (a handclapping style central to Flamenco music). But the chorus is pure pop: “I don’t need honesty / Baby, lie like you love me, lie like you love me,” she sings in a high and yearning falsetto, surrounded by spiky synthesizers.
Admittedly, “LLYLM” is safer than most of the music on “MOTOMAMI,” but her fans, myself included, will be basking in the glory of the song’s sugary hook for weeks to come. — Richie Assaly
The National: Tropic Morning News
Like most of us, indie rock legends the National found themselves in a weird creative space the past few years: touring was cancelled, one of their guitarists had moved to Paris and solo projects began to take precedence. It’s as if the band had gone on an unintentional hiatus.
“Tropic Morning News” marks their return and there’s something about a good National song that sends waves of indescribable feels over you. The vibe, steady beat, airy guitars and the unmistakable baritone brilliance of Matt Berninger: it’s all there. The single also arrived with the announcement of the band’s ninth studio album, “First Two Pages of Frankenstein,” which will feature some high profile guest appearances from Taylor Swift and Phoebe Bridgers.
Welcome back The National, we’ve missed you. — Justin Smirlies
Yaeji: For Granted
New York-based producer and DJ Yaeji knows what it’s like to be nervous, even while the going is good.“When I think about it / I don’t even know / How it got to be this way / How it got to be so good,” she shares in her characteristic digital murmur at the beginning of her latest single, “For Granted.”
But as crunchy video game synths start playing ping pong over the beat, you realize this song isn’t about doubt, but instead a hero’s journey toward self-assurance. The colourful production steadily builds toward an echoey climax: “So I stopped the thinking / Let it rest and I’ll flow,” Yaeji concludes, before releasing a euphoric flurry of drum’n’bass. Her debut album, “With A Hammer,” is due in April and is set to explore the process of liberation through destruction. “I want to take all that I’ve suppressed and let it breathe,” Yaeji writes in a newsletter announcing the release. “I want my music to be free.”
Yaeji will perform at Danforth Music Hall on May 13. — Dhriti Gupta
Maisie Peters: Body Better
Gut-punch lyrics set to good-times beats? Yep, that’s Maisie Peters, who with “Body Better” has unleashed the first single of her hotly anticipated second album.
A persistently clever songwriter, Peters has played with paradox before. “Villain” from “You Signed Up for This” and her more recent single “Blonde” are veritable bangers, but their lyrics pierce through to a vulnerable, wounded place. The pain is hidden in plain sight — barbed words disguised by funky synth and warm percussion — and on the eve of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, the pleading question, “has she got a body better than mine?” is ugly, authentic and raw.
If “Body Better” is a peek into the emotional thrust of Peters’ second album, we all better watch out — it’s going to hurt in the best way possible. — Aisling Murphy
Fall Out Boy: Heartbreak Feels So Good
On the heels of last week’s drop, “Love From the Other Side,” Fall Out Boy released “Heartbreak Feels So Good” on Wednesday. The songs are teasers from the band’s first album in five years and the sound is a significant departure from 2018’s “Mania.” But Patrick Stump’s vocals remain as bright and soulful as ever, and are perfectly paired with bassist Pete Wentz’s metaphor-laden lyrics and flair for the dramatic.
While “Love From the Other Side” was a return to a more guitar-heavy sound, “Heartbreak Feels So Good” retains many of the infectious, poppier stylings that the band has become more known for in the past decade.
And though the new album will see them returning to their debut record label Fueled By Ramen, and collaborating with producer Neal Avron, with whom they last worked on their 2008 album “Folie à Deux,” the band has noted that the new album isn’t a regression to “old Fall Out Boy” and is instead an attempt to coalesce 20 years of musical evolution into one coherent body of work.
“For the first time we tried to make a record that incorporated all Fall Out Boy albums and eras into one,” Wentz told the crowd at a sold-out hometown show on Wednesday.
Fall Out Boy’s eighth album “So Much (for) Stardust” comes out on March 24. — Sima Shakeri
Caroline Polachek: Welcome to My Island (George Daniel & Charli XCX remix)
Before you listen to the remixed version of Caroline Polachek’s “Welcome to My Island,” do yourself a favour and familiarize yourself with the original: a brilliant progressive pop song that features some insane vocal acrobatics, an irony-free rap verse and one of the catchiest hooks in recent memory. (Also check out the song’s bizarre video, in which Polachek emotes for the camera and dances in random settings like a modern incarnation of Kate Bush, an obvious comparison but one that she apparently does not appreciate.)
Once familiar, you may proceed to the chaotic remix, on which Charli XCX and the 1975 drummer George Daniel reimagine the track as a sort of dance-floor fever dream. “I like to live my life luxurious / Eating caviar toast, buying out the Ritz,” Charli raps on her first of two raunchy and exaggerated verses, before the track transforms into a chopped up hybrid of hyperpop and EDM.
Yes, it is obnoxious! But it’s also the sound of three artists enjoying themselves as they push the limits and deconstruct the sounds of conventional pop music. — RA
City and Colour: Underground
Dallas Green knows the weight of pain well.
But on his newest track “Underground,” the Canadian sentimentalist is actually hoping you don’t get buried under that weight. Unlike the deeply personal “Meant to Be” that was released late last year, “Underground” reminds you to not retreat or hide away and, as he sings it, to “forget the unforgiving presence of death and live wild and free.”
It’s a lovely track from a very lovely man, and it’s another small step that Green is taking toward becoming one of this nation’s greatest singer-songwriters. His new album “The Love Still Held Me Near” is out March 31. — JS
Isabel Pless: Spam Calls
If there’s one thing TikTok favourite Isabel Pless excels at, it’s a stripped-down ballad. “Eldest Daughter,” “Burn Out” and now “Spam Calls” tap into the witty, sardonic malaise that accompanies being a Gen Z.
Pless has never shied away from an on-the-nose lyric — “I’m back on my eldest daughter bullsh–” comes to mind — and here, she takes a topical reference and runs with it, turning it into an achingly sad, consistently resonant note to a former love. “It sucks to see you doing OK,” she says, as hauntingly honest as ever. She tells us she picks up spam calls with the naive hope it’s them on the other end of the phone.
What makes Pless so unique is her ability to cut through to the heart of a song with only tiny wisps of post-production. She’ll be one to watch as her TikTok star continues to glow. — AM
Bonobo (feat. Jacques Greene): Fold
Very little needs to be said about “Fold,” a new collaboration from British producer Bonobo and Montreal producer Jacques Greene: the spacey-but-tropical dance track unfolds amid atmospheric synths and a sparse, driving beat that builds momentum but never derails over its nearly six-minute run time.
It’s a pristine and immediately gratifying slice of electronica from two of the genre’s finest working producers, one that will leaving you wanting more. — RA
Jesus Piece: Gates of Horn
That’s what Jesus Piece’s vocalist Aaron Heard greets you with on the brutal new track “Gates of Horn.” The Philadelphia hardcore act’s second single and accompanying music video for their upcoming album “…So Unknown” is a trip down nightmare alley, with scenes of very dark and violent dreams.
There’s been a revival of the punishing 2000s era hardcore and metalcore recently, and Jesus Piece is very much one of the acts leading the way. “Gates of Horn” is disgustingly heavy, and that ruthless breakdown at the end of the track will beat you down so hard that you’ll be, like the song itself, questioning what is real. — JS
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