Bob Weir, CL, Danny Brown, and more: Grading the week's best (and worst) new singles
Each week, EW's music staff takes a hard listen to the biggest new tracks and offers up our unfiltered opinions. Read on for reviews of new tracks by CL, Bob Weir, Danny Brown, and more.
CL doesn't care about your silly Song of the Summer race—she'll drop a solid-gold banger in the middle of August just because she can, and it'll still sound better than most of the songs gunning for the title. The K-pop star and co-writer Asher Roth (yeah, the college-loving Asher Roth, who shares management with her) mix a Wu-Tang Clan samplewith the breezy vibes of Beyoncé's "Hold Up" and M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" into one sweet seasonal cocktail. A –Nolan Feeney
Bob Weir, "Only a River"
For all the jokes about their noodle-heavy psychedelia, the Grateful Dead's devotion to folk and Americana often goes overlooked; their 1970 classic Workingman's Dead is far more indebted to country-western than rock and roll. On Blue Mountain, Bob Weir's first album in more than a decade, the Grateful Dead singer and guitarist pays homage to those roots with a collection of tunes honoring his "experiences working on a ranch in Wyoming as a teenager." The album's opening cut, "Only a River," was recorded with members of indie-rock ensemble the National like much of Blue Mountain, but it's distinctly rustic aesthetic gives it a timeless edge. Once the Dead's boyish hearthrob — really! — Weir's aged voice sound as good, or even better, as other elder statesmen of rock such as Neil Young or Bob Dylan. A- –Eric Renner Brown
Frank Ocean, "Nikes"
On Saturday, Frank Ocean finally unveiled Blonde, his highly anticipated, long-delayed follow up to Channel Orange, and second record in as many days. The ensuing album is a quietly commanding, minimalist effort best consumed with careful listening, but opener "Nikes" serves as a suitable snapshot: soft, ethereal melodies waft through warped vocals and sluggish bass, letting meditations on life, hedonism, and police violence bleed deep. Ocean's echoic second verse engulfs the back half of the song, ending with a beautifully subdued end-of-summer toast to fleeting love and living with abandon. And, true to form, he's got two versions. A –Dana Getz
"John," Jeffery/Young Thug feat. Wyclef Jean
Young Thug is pushing hip-hop in new directions with his gender-bending style and genre-bending vocal inflections, but he's certainly not the first artist to mix rapping and singing. One of his historical precedents is former Fugees front man (and erstwhile Haitian presidential candidate) Wyclef Jean, who joins him here on a single from his upcoming Jeffery mixtape. It's so far unclear whether Young Thug really is abandoning his famous moniker in favor of his given name, but if so, this song shows that it might not be so bad. "Jeffery" sounds so smooth and beautiful flowing off these men's tongues, in between those characteristically ethereal raps. B+ –Christian Holub
Hoops, "Going Strong"
This highlight from the up-and-coming Indiana band's new EP is as fitting an introduction as any: expressive, shoegazey guitar work, '80s-leaning production, and a steady beat that keeps the track's dreamy qualities from crossing the line into snoozeville. Frontman Drew Auscherman's vocals can be hard to make out from everything going on around them, but that only makes the track's vaguely disorienting atmosphere more potent. B –NF
Danny Brown, "Pneumonia"
Danny Brown has always boasted astounding levels of charisma and eccentricity, and advance singles from his next studio album, Atrocity Exhibition, suggest the Detroit MC hasn't lost his edge. Evian Christ gives "Pneumonia" a disorienting, minimalistic beat that's of a piece with Brown's other sonically experimental work, but Brown's verses are the track's predictable highlights. Whether he's riffing about drugs ("pop a pill just like Mike and Ikes"), sex ("slurp that p—y up just like lo mein"), or his musical acumen ("like a surgeon with that scalpel, bring that track to life"), Brown remains one of hip-hop's most entertaining and vivid lyricists. A- –ERB
Sad13, "Get A Yes"
Lurching melodies and jagged riffs have oft defined Speedy Oritz's work, so it's initially puzzling that frontwoman Sadie Dupuis opted to cut them from her debut solo track as Sad13, "Get A Yes." Instead, she favors shimmering, synth-assisted pop, thrusting her weight behind the poignant lyricism that's long informed her output. Here, she rallies behind a powerful, hyper-relevant message about the importance of sexual consent. It's an odd pairing, but Dupius has never played by the rules. B –DG