Words by Brian James
Every month Off Shelf contributor Brian James brings you the best singles of the month and puts together a playlist for your enjoyment. Below you’ll find six highlighted songs that stood above the rest, which is followed by the entire playlist.
Lily Konigsberg – “Owe Me” from The Best of Lily Konigsberg Right Now (Wharf Cat Records)
Last year Lily Konigsberg released an amazing, super short 4 song EP that I just couldn’t get enough of. It was definitely a nothing but net, draining a three from beyond the arc sort of EP. Earlier this year Lily released a great full-length album with the band Palberta (check it out!) which was another swoosh shot and at this point using NBA Jam logic, she’s totally heating up. Owe Me, a newly recorded track featured on a compilation of Lily’s previous EPs called The Best of Lily Konigsberg Right Now coming May 21st, is where Konigsberg is ON FIRE! This is the best pop song I’ve heard in a long time and I seriously can’t get enough of it. It’s such a banger and, again based on NBA Jam logic, she just can’t seem to miss at this point.
Patrick Paige II – “Whisper (Want My Luv)” [ft. Steve Lacy, Allen Love, and Durand Bernarr] from If I Fail Are We Still Cool (Fat Possum Records)
Anytime I see a new release from a member of The Internet, an amazing R&B/hip hop/jazzy/awesome band, excitement abounds. Patrick Paige II is the bassist in The Internet and boy is that apparent from the literal second Whisper (Want My Luv) starts. Seriously, now that’s a sick bass line. This fantastic music is paired with playful vocals that are a lot of fun but also really interesting and multi-layered. It’s such a catchy, weird, grooving song that I can’t wait to play during the summer outside hanging out with friends (hopefully that’ll happen this year!)
Mannequin Pussy – “Control” from Perfect (Epitaph)
From the moment I pressed play on Mannequin Pussy’s 2016 album Romantic I was in love with this band and they’ve only gotten better over the past five years. Romantic is 11 songs in 17 minutes, a short and urgent record full of hard hitting, scorched earth type punk songs. Musically the album goes some interesting places, never being content in staying in one lane and Missy, lead vocalist of Mannequin Pussy, showcases the power and range of her voice perfectly throughout. In 2019 they followed up with the album Patience, which expanding their universe but retained the heart of Mannequin Pussy and found them getting into poppier territory but still with a ton of edge and also still some scorched earth hard punk songs thrown in the mix. Control, the new single from Mannequin Pussy’s new EP Perfect coming out May 21st on Epitaph, is more in the pop lane but still hits hard. Missy’s vocals shine (of course) and it’s just a great reminder of what makes Mannequin Pussy so special and so exciting.
Japanese Breakfast – “Be Sweet” from Jubilee (Dead Oceans)
Yet another super exciting album coming out in the near future is Jubilee by Japanese Breakfast. Following up 2017’s Soft Sounds from Another Planet seems like a hard task. It’s such a great and interesting album, one that seemed like it could be an artist at the height of their talent, so it wouldn’t be unfair to wonder if the follow up could rise to the same level. Any fears are quickly squashed after hearing Be Sweet, which is probably the best song I’ve heard so far this year. Also, it comes with a super fun music video featuring the aforementioned Missy from Mannequin Pussy! Seriously, just listen to this sonpatg on repeat for the rest of the day and only take a break from it by checking out this amazing live performance of the song.
Dawn Richard – “Jacuzzi” from Second Line (Merge Records)
Dawn Richard is yet another musical talent who has had an interesting trajectory over the past several years. Getting her start on Making the Band in Diddy’s group Danity Kane, Dawn could have just drifted into relative obscurity; however, she possesses too much talent and has such a unique artistic vision to keep quiet. Dawn has been making genre bending, left of center R&B music as a solo artist since 2013 and has been getting better and better with each passing year. 2019’s New Breed was both a fascinating cultural document about New Orleans and also an amazingly catchy album and if you haven’t heard it yet, please do yourself a favor and check it out! Second Line, the upcoming album coming out April 30th on Merge Records, is shaping up to be yet another winner in a long streak for Dawn as evidenced by Jacuzzi. The album rollout has consisted of several great early singles, but Jacuzzi is the one that stood out to me the most. Great beat, amazing vocals and true artistic vision. What more could you want?
The Armed – “AN ITERATION” from ULTRAPOP (Sargent House)
Bands that are shrouded in mystery are such an interesting and dichotomous thing that totally hinges on whether the band is awesome or not. If they’re not, it can be such an eye-rolling concept that seems like they’re adding intrigue where talent should be; however, if it all clicks together and the band is, in fact, super awesome it adds an interesting dimension to fandom. Such was the case with Detroit punk band The Armed and, spoiler alert, don’t worry they’re totally awesome. For years no one quite knew who was in the band or how people in press photos were connected to the band. For their new album, ULTRAPOP out April 16th on Sargent House, the band has emerged from the shadows and has revealed themselves to be an eight piece art-rock-hardcore-punk collective. These new songs from The Armed are definitely, as the album title suggests, leaning more into pop territory but this is a noise filled abstraction of pop of course. Songs that can take a turn on a dime and switch back just as quickly again. It really is quite thrilling stuff. Anyway, check out AN ITERATION but also check out the other singles if you haven’t and then dig back into their mysterious past!
If you don’t have time for the whole playlist but want a handful more awesome songs, check these out!
Damon Locks and the Black Monument Ensemble – “Free Your Mind”
Mndsgn – “Hope You’re Doing Better”
But, really, just listen to the whole playlist here: