Friday Five: Tinashe unleashes her alter ego, the return of Semisonic, and more
The five best songs we heard this week.
Every Friday, EW's music team runs down the five best songs of the week. In today's edition, Tinashe unleashes her alter ego, Cults bring witchy dream-pop vibes, jxdn gives pop punk a modern twist, Haux summons a ghost from the ether, and Koffee is thinking about a post-quarnatine life. (Also: A bonus song from the recently reformed Semisonic.)
"Rascal (Superstar)" – Tinashe
Tinashe’s split from RCA Records has been more like an emancipation. The singer has long been ahead of the curve, writing and producing what the Grammys are now calling “Progressive R&B,” but was pulled away from that sound by the label and put in a pop box that didn’t quite fit. With this new single, she unleashes her cocksure alter ego Nashe over a trap beat crafted by Bay Area artist Sage the Gemini. Tinashe finds ways to flex both lyrically and vocally, announcing “I’m a superstar, bitch,” while sustaining large operatic notes in the background. —Marcus Jones
"Trials" — Cults
The New York duo Cults emerged at the beginning of the 2010s with a style of fizzy indie pop that would define that era. Today, hits like “Always Forever” and “Go Outside” sound like time capsules from when Passion Pit and Neon Indian ruled the airwaves, evoking a pleasant nostalgia for simpler times. Cults’ latest single, from their forthcoming album, Host, has a much different vibe. “Trials” is a witchy dream-pop track with a foreboding bassline, mesmerizing vocals from Madeline Follin, and baroque strings that channel the creepiness of an abandoned opera house. It’s a sonic switch-up that’s not unlike what Beach House — another band from that bygone era — did on their ghastly 2018 record 7, and it’s a sound that suits Cults incredibly well. —Eli Enis
"So What!" — jxdn
We’re now in an era where TikTok stars are becoming full-blown recording artists (hey, talent can come from anywhere). Take Jaden Hossler, aka jxdn. After hearing the 19-year-old’s independent single “Comatose,” drummer Travis Barker made him the first artist signed to his DTA Records imprint. Together they’re giving the pop-punk genre Blink-182 helped popularize a 2020 update. On "So What!" the digitized production and drum machine beat allows the song's angsty chorus to explode even more than you would expect.
"Lockdown" — Koffee
"Where will we go? When di quarantine ting done and everybody touch road." Koffee is looking to the future with her new track "Lockdown." Like many Jamaican artists, the 20-year-old singer has a habit of making songs that get you up on your feet through bouncy instrumentals and an ability to shift from rapid-fire bars to a poignantly sung lyric. What sets "Lockdown" apart is its message about planning for a time when we're all moving freely again. We may not be finding love as Koffee states here, but we can all relate to the excitement of getting out into a post-pandemic world. –Alamin Yohannes
"Of the Age" — Haux
Prior to writing his just-released debut, Violence in a Quiet Mind, electrofolk dreamweaver Haux returned to his native Berkshires, where memories of a childhood haunted by grief swirled overhead, heavy as fog. Hushed, hermetic, and beautifully weathered, “Of the Age” casts addiction as the pall over his family portrait, siphoning away heat from anything tender, making cold comfort of a close embrace. "Yet a piece of you still aches, with broken bones, embroidered lace," he coos, an accusation and an exorcism. Like fellow folk ascetics Bon Iver, Haux summons ghosts from the ether so as to better banish them. —Isaac Feldberg
Bonus: "You're Not Alone" — Semisonic
It's reopening time. After a nearly 20-year recording hiatus, the critically beloved Minneapolis trio announces its return with this completely on-brand slice of power-pop goodness, all soaring vocals and chunky guitars with stop-time grooves. Frontman Dan Wilson, of late an in-demand songwriter (Adele, the Chicks), opens aptly enough: “Everybody knows that the world is wrong/The only thing to do is write a song/That’s one way to take a wrong and make it alright.” It's a good start at least. The song presages a five song EP, also titled You're Not Alone, out Sept. 18. —Sarah Rodman