In some very lovely alternate universe in which the summer of 2020 plays out just like any other and there’s no pandemic hampering outdoor activity, Kim Petras’ euphoric banger “Malibu” is blasting from every car stereo, playing at every ice cream stand, blaring from every boom box on the beach (yes, in this alternate reality, there are still boom boxes, too).
Aly & AJ, “Joan of Arc on the Dance Floor”
After dropping their impressive Sanctuary EP last year, Aly & AJ have continued to toss out first-rate pop singles -- first with “Attack of Panic” earlier this year, and now with the fantastically titled “Joan of Arc on the Dance Floor,” which begs you to shout along with its early-’90s electro-pop swagger.
Audrey Mika, “Just Friends”
Bay Area native Audrey Mika offered a solid intro to the unfamiliar earlier this year with her 5 A.M. EP, but new track “Just Friends,” which distillates her blend of pop and R&B to create a natural high, represents her strongest single to date -- top-notch vocals, sleek hook, and a run time that’s short enough to make you press replay sooner than after.
Chelsea Collins, “07 Britney”
“If I’m gonna break down, I’mma break down pretty,” Chelsea Collins sings on new track “07 Britney,” which pays homage to the tumultuous public moment of Ms. Spears’ pop superstardom. There’s a whole lot to be written about how unfairly Spears was treated by onlookers and gawkers back then, and while we won’t get into all that here, let’s give Collins props for honoring pop’s princess on her latest.
Joe Goddard & Hayden Thorpe, “Unknown Song”
When Hot Chip’s Goddard and former Wild Beasts singer-songwriter Thorpe drop a dance floor heater, that’s good news for everyone, even if you weren’t obsessed with uptempo late-‘00s indie rock. “Unknown Song” mashes up Goddard’s warm production with Thorpe’s august range and soars.
Tei Shi, "Die 4 Ur Love"
Though Colombian-Canadian artist Tei Shi won't be touring with Blood Orange this summer thanks to the pandemic, she did drop this shimmering new song to hold fans over. Tei Shi, who might just be a little bit psychic, says she wrote the track “right after the new year, when I was feeling a sense of impending doom and darkness.” But she also has a knack for melding that scary concept of a shifting reality into an upbeat, electro-pop production.
Marlene, "Without You"
After taking some time off, Swedish singer-songwriter Marlene is back with a sweet, low-key electropop track about overcoming a breakup. Released independently via Marlene’s own label, “Without You” is a welcome reminder that “hearts do heal.”
Cold War Kids, Wesley Schultz, "1 x 1"
Inspired by the stories of child migrants separated from their families at the border, "1 x 1" is the stirring alt-rock collab that we didn’t know we needed. The well-matched voices of Cold War Kids' Nathan Willett and The Lumineers' Wesley Schultz mingling over piano and strings -- simply goosebump-inducing.
Dan Croll, "Yesterday"
An autobiographical tune about a missed opportunity with Paul McCartney, "Yesterday" is a melodic medley of different layered instruments -- Sufjan Stevens-esque guitar, claps and Croll's own soothing vocals: “Paul, do you remember me?/ We shook hands a few times/ You made the drive despite demand/ Say, could you come back to me?”
Christine And The Queens, "People, I've Been Sad" (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)
People, Chris has been quarantined just like the rest of us, though she naturally managed to deliver her Colbert performance in style. Attired in a shimmering green brocade suit, the French force mesmerized fans with the La Vita Nuova EP single from her Paris window.