Dance For You, Dirty Projectors, from Swing Lo Magellan (forthcoming from Domino Records, streaming at youtube.com)
You can dance to this alright, but the Projectors want much more than a good party. The first track from their much-anticipated summer album is a swinging declaration of interest in answers to big existential questions, with a wide-arching melody, an easy backing of guitar and hand claps, and a smeary instrumental break.
Bitch Bad, Lupe Fiasco, from Food & Liquor II (forthcoming from Atlantic Records, streaming at youtube.com)
Lupe’s brooding five-minute analysis of a much-abused word looks at what the mainstreaming of “bitch” may mean to young girls and even younger boys. The smoothness of his delivery, over a butter-soft bass, contrasts sharply with the clash of meanings he describes.
Sunshine, Little Dragon (streaming at youtube.com)
The Swedish electro-pop quintet greets summer with a nimble rising beat and singer Yukimi Nagano’s best impersonation of a vintage soul singer who knows how to chill in the desert. Surprisingly good for a song commissioned to flog a vodka cocktail.
Rocksteady, The Bloody Beetroots (Ultra Records, streaming at youtube.com).
This pounding dance floor banger from Italian producer Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo grinds a modal, quasi-medieval tune through a dozen seething variations, saturated with grainy keyboard sounds. Wyatt Neumann’s wild-thing video is like Easy Rider with a happy ending.
National Anthem, Lana Del Rey, from Born To Die (Interscope, streaming at youtube.com)
Del Rey takes the Mad Men hypothesis – that every woman is either Marilyn or Jackie – to extremes, by impersonating both. She romances a black president (rapper A$AP Rocky), poses placidly for family photos, and rides through motorcade footage that eerily resembles a fateful amateur video from Nov. 1963. Love it or hate it (or both), this Anthony Mandler cinematic fantasy gives some hard twists to turbulent American mythologies.