Our music staff has returned with their ninth round of Music Streaming Suggestions! We have another diverse lineup this week, headlined by the likes of The Strokes, Jack Harlow, and KEY! & Kenny Beats. As usual, we added our new suggestions to our weekly-updated Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure.
The New Abnormal (2020) - The Strokes
First things first, a shoutout is in order: my talented colleague Mr. Marty Gross gifted me The New Abnormal on vinyl—a good deed that undoubtedly deepened my appreciation for The Strokes’ 2020 return record.
The New Abnormal is the band’s sixth studio album, and their first since 2013’s Comedown Machine. Despite being fairly quiet through most of the 2010s after dominating the 2000s, their most recent effort has been hailed as a return to glory by fans and critics—so much so that it won Best Rock Album at this year’s Grammys.
Another flex? The album is produced by Rick Rubin, and its cover is Jean-Michael Basquiat’s 1981 painting “Bird on Money.”
As far as the music, fans and critics have debated over which genres describe the album. The Strokes are best known for revitalizing indie rock, but The New Abnormal boasts sonics inspired by new wave, dream pop, electronica, and post-punk, among other influences.
That being said, The New Abnormal feels fresh; the album feels as if it is ushering in a new era. The entire band meshes well on this record, making for a satisfying, cohesive listen all the way through. -Evan Linden
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “The Adults Are Talking,” “Selfless,” and “Eternal Summer”
777 (2019) - KEY! and Kenny Beats
A little-known fact about A$AP Mob is that they brought the greatest R&B singer alive to mainstream audiences' attention when KEY! was featured on the frat-party centerpiece "Crazy Brazy" off of their group-produced project Cozy Tapes Vol. 1. KEY!'s ascension from a chorus contributor to a versatile, big-bodied, mean-mugging mogul can be tracked through he and Kenny Beats's delicious 15-track brainchild—777.
The project's debut single "HATER" is an amped-up speaker-blarer that I found comfort in when I would bring my headphones to Iowa City's local country bar, Bo James, on country night. KEY! protected me from the high-pitched hell-hole that was merely a conglomeration of 20-something-year-old women singing along to Taylor Swift tracks, and I would hide in the corner with my friends, down as many whiskey-cokes as humanly possible, and refrain to playing "HATER" on repeat. The A$AP Rocky cameo in the music video only amplified my newly found KEY! obsession.
Although I was reeled in by KEY!'s hectic and unapologetic bravado, 777 presented a variety of different sides of KEY!. He was no longer just a rapper with ties to A$AP Mob, but a genuinely enthralling singer who was born in the wrong generation. He exhibited Louis Armstrong's soul while polishing his delivery with a Hulk Hogan playfulness.
There wasn't a reference that was out of the question with KEY!, and as a constant cultural consumer, I was hypnotized by his ability to use Boba Fett as the foundation of a chorus on "Dig It," while also paying homage to Kristi Yamaguchi on the project's romance ballad "Love on Ice." Although KEY! hasn't reached the heights he did on 777 with any of his more recent full-length projects, I'm still a massive fan of the man who looks like he drinks 40 ounces on the curb with his headphones in, in an attempt to silence the screaming 20-year-olds who blare Cardi B with their windows rolled down. -Ralph James
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: "Kelly Price Freestyle," "Toronto," and "Boss"
That's What They All Say (2020) - Jack Harlow
A handful of rappers can accredit their success to the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic—and potentially TikTok, too. One of those emerging rappers is none other than the sexiest man alive (People Magazine... consider my vote cast!), Jack Harlow.
The Shelbyville, Kentucky-native released his debut studio album That’s What They All Say in December of 2020, surprising the rap industry with his consistent yet forceful flow. His breakthrough hits “What's Poppin” and “Tyler Herro” earned him mainstream respect and success while creating irrefutable buzz around the upcoming album. With features from Lil Baby, Big Sean, DaBaby, Chris Brown, and more A-list artists, Harlow’s release assuredly lived up to its anticipation.
Harlow was experimental and intuitive—effortlessly blending rap, R&B, and pop genres across his record. His vibrant personality seeped between each track, making him one of the most relatable rappers of the year. His performances on NPR: Tiny Desk, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and more were just a preview of what the rapper is capable of presenting in this approaching post-apocalyptic era. -Deja Williams
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “21C/Delta,” “Face Of My City,” and “Luv Is Dro”
Cheers - The Mañanas
It’s fast, it’s catchy, it’s culturally proud—it’s The Mañanas bursting onto the scene with Cheers, one of Denver's best 2021 EPs to date. There‘s so much to be said about this young, brand new duo—just throw on “Don’t Think Your Love Has Given Up” and quickly realize how special this group’s delivery and pace are in comparison to the field of indie rock. Every track on Cheers could exist within Skate 3 or a Wes Anderson flick; the sounds and styles just stick. You could also dance your heart out to it—but this option is nearly unavoidable. -Carter Ferryman