As COVID cases surge and we head into holiday season, the last couple weeks have seen an absolute onslaught of new music to distract ourselves with. If you're experiencing SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), listening to music has the power to actually elevate your mood. Here are seven new releases from both nationally recognized and locally based artists that'll hold space for you to refresh your mind.
Good News, Megan THEE Stallion
Megan THEE Stallion’s highly anticipated studio debut, Good News, is finally here. There’s the new single “Body”—which, can we all just collectively scream YAAAAAAAAAAS! Learning the choreography to this self-confident single may be the best workout you’ve had all year. The album is largely what you’d expect from the hot girl rapper: lots of sex-positive bars and self-confident wordplay. Album opener “Shots Fired” fiercely addresses singer Tory Lanez for inflicting harm on Meg in July when he allegedly shot her in the foot as she was attempting to exit a vehicle. Of course, there’s also previously released hit single “Savage” featuring Beyoncé, “Don’t Stop” featuring Young Thug, and “Girls in the Hood.” Other highlights include “Circles,” which beautifully samples Jazmine Sullivan’s 2020 song “Holding You Down (Goin’ In Circles)”; “Freaky Girls” featuring SZA, with grabby lines like “Suck the D like I’m toothless”; “Work That” (“and Ride it like a rodeo!”); the ultra sexy “Intercourse” featuring Popcaan and Mustard; “Go Crazy” featuring 2 Chainz and Big Sean, “Outside,” and more.
A Brown Branch, Brown Branch
Brown Branch is the new music project comprising two Portland-based musicians: jazz pianist Charlie 3rown and drummer Domo Branch. After dropping their excellent one-off single, “Smile,” in October, the producer duo have a new five-track EP titled A Brown Branch, out via the artist-run label We Are People Music. The fleshed out, jazz-influenced, at times psychedelic songs can easily be considered protest music, with track titles that read “WE,” “FIGHTING,” “UNITE,” and “CULTURE.” But the sonics and vibe on songs like the final “GOODBYE” have a sweet healing effect.
“Monster,” Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes
Okay, wow. I didn’t expect to enjoy this Justin Bieber/Shawn Mendes joint single as intensely as I do. The fiercely honest collab, “Monster,” sees the two Canadian popstars singing about making mistakes in the spotlight, and remaining human even while being put on a pedestal. Their performance of the new song on the American Music Awards gives it an acoustic intro from Shawn Mendes, and then Justin comes in to slay his verse, singing it a little differently than on the record.
“I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City,” Amber Mark
With her “COVERED-19 series,” Amber Mark has been covering songs and making them her own all year. Her latest release is a cover of Harry Nilsson's 1969 song “I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City,” also from the Netflix drama Grand Army. Over timeless, grandiose production that includes an organ, strings, chimes, and what sounds like military drums, Mark’s sizzling vocal is heartfelt and cinematic.
Friend Goals, Tank and the Bangas
On November 20, New Orleans outfit Tank and the Bangas dropped a new EP, Friend Goals. The project embraces their wacky side and emphasizes the importance of human connection. On it are two previously released singles, “Self Care,” and “To Be Real,” and lots of feature spots. Opening track “Fluff” is a deliciously danceable and instrument-forward, fully fleshed out with saxophones, flutes, and features from rapper Duckwrth, and Christian Scott atunde Adjuah. Another highlight, “TSA,” brings that silly vibe the group is beloved for and showcases some extra soulful, technical vocals, first from frontwoman Tarriona “Tank” Ball, followed by guest vocals from gospel/R&B singer PJ Morton. This song will make you laugh and also sing along: “TSA keeps takin’ my shit/I’m going through the motions/Did he just take my lotion?/So violating” Once we can all safely pack ourselves into airplanes again, this song is a travel essential. The last track, about friendship really, is “Friend Goals.”
Over It (Complete Set), Summer Walker
R&B singer/songwriter Summer Walker delivered the new Over It (Complete Set), offering up her same studio album Over It but with four new live versions, four acapella, and five instrumentals. Among my favorites are the live version of “Session 32,” as well as “Come Thru” featuring Usher from when they performed the song at the BET Awards; Since Summer Walker’s live vocals are always on point, giving something a little different from the record, these new tracks are much appreciated.
“Pick Up Your Feelings,” Jazmine Sullivan
Anytime the world gains access to a new Jazmine Sullivan song is a blessed, blessed day. Her newest single, “Pick Up Your Feelings,” is a singer’s paradise, with Sullivan giving some of her best, most searing vocals yet. “Oh, I'm tryna find a fuck to give for you/You ran out of chances of forgivin', yeah/Yeah, listen, I ain't listenin'/Just for you to go and break my heart again,” she sings in the second verse. If there’s one thing Sullivan knows how to do it’s a soulful climax with lots of runs, and that’s on full display here. Be sure to also check out this excellent recent acoustic performance of the song.