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So Necessary: Toro y Moi on ‘Tiny Desk,’ Ari Lennox’s Soul, and Vampire Weekend’s “Bambina”

Plus: Slowthai’s caustic ode to Britain, another dazzling Pi’erre Bourne beat, and Kacey Musgraves’s wild music video

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Because he has nothing better to do with his time, each Friday, Micah Peters riffs on the most awe-inspiring, confounding, addictive, or otherwise hilarious moments from the week in music. This week:


Pi’erre Bourne’s “Sunflower Seeds” Beat

Young Nudy and Playboi Carti are the most accomplished at a certain kind of zero-calorie rap music; they are shiny and covetable ornaments elevating gorgeous, gonzo beats that traditionalists would never touch. Think about “R.I.P. Fredo” on last year’s excellent Die Lit: Playboi Carti’s yoiks and yawps through a chorus that rehashes the most basic details of getting the drop on someone—“nigga didn’t notice me”—then Nudy swooshes in and says nothing, but percussively, for a full verse. Sometimes—like, anytime I hear “Hittin’ dat boy wit da FYE,” with Nudy’s onomatopoeic delivery—I think it’s a perfect song.

Nudy spends a lot of his new mixtape Sli’merre layered among Pi’erre Bourne’s impressionistic production. “Sunflower Seeds”—which sounds stringy and vaguely francophone, like it belongs on the Amélie soundtrack—is one of the times when Nudy has retreated furthest from the fore and, curiously, it’s one of the project’s best songs.

Ezra Koenig’s Polite Anxieties on Vampire Weekend’s “Bambina”

You’ll have read in so many places by now that Vampire Weekend, on their latest album Father of the Bride, realized the most perfect version of Vampire Weekend by doubling down on Vampire Weekend. Ezra Koenig, sharpened by time and somewhat eroded by the internet, seems more himself than he’s ever been. For much of Father, Koenig and studio producer Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, Adele, Charli XCX) nearly gamify the listening experience—as a song nestles into something like punk, out pops a relentlessly cheery chorus and a steel drum or something. The lyrics tend to wander just as restlessly—on “Bambina,” if not the best then certainly the catchiest song on the album—Koenig wonders aloud about police overreach and monsoon season. It’s the most “A-Punk”-y of the 18 songs, which means that you’ll be powerless against it.

When Ari Lennox Stops Being Coy on “Chicago Boy”

When I was small I remember being glued to VH1, imagining Lucy Pearl videos were what my off-duty hours might look like, once I grew a foot and could drive and had responsibilities to cast off. Neo-soul music was humid, sophisticated, and bewildering—like the keys to living fully and vibrantly, once you were old enough to grasp them. Ari Lennox’s new album, Shea Butter Baby, is fantastic, and all of those things minus pretense, plus an inclination toward vinyl-pressed and whisky-soaked sound texture. “Chicago Boy” is a hell of an introduction if you’re unfamiliar with the Dreamville artist, who released her debut EP, PHO, in 2016. Let me stress that it sounds incredible—a sultry come-hither that, through an uptick in cadence, turns into an even more seductive come-on. We’re all adults here, with increasingly less time for talking around the issue at hand: “I know I’m speedin’ up this vibe,” she almost-raps. “But is you gone judge me / If I fuck you ’fore I catch this flight?”

Slowthai’s Going All ‘You Fokking Wot’ on “Nothing Great About Britain”

Northampton rapper Slowthai has a way of cooking off the fat of pleasantries and reducing an entire worldview down to three-minute freakouts. “Doorman,” his biggest single to date, produced by Mura Masa, is about being denied entry by a literal doorman, but also about being denied by city politics and a wealthier, well-fed class that’s oftentimes easily visible through the window of a council estate flat. The song itself sounds anarchic and paranoid. It’s great.

“Nothing Great About Britain” is the lead single from Slowthai’s debut album of the same name, and the video is worth every second of its just-more-than-four minutes. He steps out of an oil painting, pulls Excalibur from its stone, and twirls it out of the passenger-side window of a car, rapping about a country he loves but would like to be better. Suddenly, we’re in a pub, as Slowthai’s rapping becomes more like dress-up, as a football hooligan. It’s a delight to hear him twist around: “Top lad, oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi! / Oi girl, what’s your ploy / That man’s your boy? I’ll slap him way too coy.”

All of Toro y Moi’s Tiny Desk Performance

Before Chaz Bundick released his latest album, January’s Outer Peace, he changed his last name to Bear. It’s indicative of a Toro y Moi project that finds him looking inward and expanding his version of dreamy indie-pop to include elements of both R&B and hip-hop. To be as corny as possible: His recent Tiny Desk performance radiates “outer peace.” Look at the bandana. Look at the bejeweled teardrops. That doesn’t work if you’re not well-acquainted with yourself.

Anyway, he performed a selection of songs from the album, including “New House.” I think a lot about how it could be a MadeinTYO song in a slightly reordered universe; but I think more about how, from the beginning of the song to somewhere around the second verse, his asks downgrade from an expensive new house to just a long shower.

Bonus: The Kacey Musgraves “Oh, What a World” Video—WATCH IT THIS INSTANT

I’m not gonna hold you: This will be difficult to get a firm hold of. We’ve got Kacey journeying into her mind’s eye, which is shaped like a heart. We’ve got Kacey as a hot pink minotaur, we’ve got rampant squiggly visual effects, we’ve got a frog playing a banjo. This is all taking place inside of a tube TV. Exactly what drugs were involved in the making of this “Oh, What a World” video was the subject of some debate in the Ringer offices Thursday afternoon. We couldn’t say for certain, obviously, but it probably wasn’t just weed.