Feeling overwhelmed by the new songs, albums and videos being unveiled today? You’re not alone. Billboard’s First Stream serves as a handy guide to this Friday’s most essential releases — the key music that everyone will be talking about today, and that will be dominating playlists this weekend and beyond.
This week, Lana Del Rey drops her most fully formed statement yet, Tool returns without a hint of rust, and Post Malone switches up his style to a startling degree. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:
The Album In Which an Established Star Levels Up, Again:
Lana Del Rey, Norman Fucking Rockwell!
Earlier in her career, Lana Del Rey overcame skepticism and outright dismissiveness by putting a premium on songwriting, atmosphere and authenticity of aesthetic. She has been an undisputed star for some time, and could coast by for years on the smoky timbre of her voice if she really wanted, but Del Rey absolutely refuses to settle. Norman Fucking Rockwell! is the sound of unadulterated ambition, as Del Rey takes her uncanny lyrical observations and vocal yearning, pairs them with Jack Antonoff’s measured song construction, and shoots for the moon. It’s an album for troubled times in America, but it’s also soothing in its nostalgic pangs (“Give me Hallmark / One dream, one life, one lover,” she sings on “Venice Bitch”) and frank in its discussion of power dynamics. Del Rey has never been more in control, and her narrative has not only torched the cynics, but also surprised those who never saw her as an all-timer.
The Album That Hard-Rock Devotees Will Be Poring Over For Years:
Tool, Fear Innoculum
There are long-awaited new albums, and then there’s what Tool fans just went through: 13 years since the last full-length from the art-metal auteurs, with various shows and side projects in between. Fear Innoculum rewards patience in terms of sheer size — 86 minutes of new music, with over half of the songs extending beyond the 10-minute mark — but also with vital, expertly built rock passages, with Maynard James Keenan’s voice remaining an indispensable harbinger of intensity and Danny Carey reminding everyone why he must be included in the best-drummers-alive discussion. The entire project is worth close study and feverish discussion, but Tool newbies should try “7empest” on for size: the guitar solo that swoops in a little before the five-minute mark is the type of thrill that fans have waited over a decade to experience again.
The Song That Can Slide Effortlessly Onto Your End-Of-Summer Labor Day Playlist:
Post Malone, “Circles”
It’s always exciting when a major artist completely upends expectations, and that’s what Post Malone succinctly does with the latest track from his upcoming Hollywood’s Bleeding album. After “Goodbyes” (featuring Young Thug) previewed the full-length with Post’s standard melancholy rap sound, “Circles” is something else entirely, a shimmering pop-rock track that wouldn’t be sonically out of place on, say, a 5 Seconds of Summer album. And Post pulls it off resoundingly well: built around the bummed-out hook “Run away, but we’re running in circles,” the song lets the song’s guitar-and-drums groove do the heavy lifting while he croons his lovelorn conclusions. Post hinted at greater musical curiosity on his last album, but as “Circles” indicates, we might be getting it in full force when Hollywood’s Bleeding arrives next week.
The Song That Could Be Dominating The Clubs This Fall:
Skrillex feat. Boys Noize & Ty Dolla $ign, “Midnight Hour”
Skrillex hasn’t dropped a new single since 2017, but the EDM maestro has come back with a bold new vision of the dance floor. Along with Boys Noize, Skrillex uses “Midnight Hour” as a showcase for Ty Dolla $ign’s buttery singing voice and a percolating kit of beats; it never sounds overly complicated, but the whole frenzied affair speaks to Skrillex’s long-standing desire to tug at the edges of dance music. Breathless and exuberant, “Midnight Hour” is the type of killer cut that makes a long wait between singles more than worth it.
The Video That Will Make You Want To Go Off-Roading This Weekend:
Miranda Lambert, “It All Comes Out In The Wash”
Within a few seconds of starting, a heaping pile of mud splashes onto the camera in Miranda Lambert’s latest music video, indicating that this will be an informal affair. “It All Comes Out In The Wash” follows up on one of Lambert’s most laid-lack singles in recent memory with a similarly kicky visual, as the country star careens through mud puddles (a big guy slips into one!) before shrugging off the mess and hitting a neon-colored car wash. For an artist whose catalog includes some emotionally wrenching material, Lambert looks like she’s having a blast here, and lovingly invites her fans along for the ride.
The Song That Lets One of Rap’s Hardest Characters Soften Just a Little:
Pusha T feat. Lauryn Hill, “Coming Home”
Pusha T does not do sentimental. Over the course of his career as one-half of Clipse and as a solo artist, King Push has eschewed personal emotion in favor of cold, hard facts about drug-dealing, stacking money and survival. Yet “Coming Home,” a long-in-the-works track that has finally seen the light of day, allows the hip-hop vet to at least connect with “my street-corner survivors,” and reminisce on memories of both success and the struggle it took to achieve it. Meanwhile, Lauryn Hill’s forever-soulful voice also plays off Pusha’s ease — “When love is real, you can do anything,” she asserts — and since the reclusive star does not hop on tracks too often, she’s thankfully given more run time than a regular hook-singer here.
The Mixtape That Makes Its Points Quickly and Easily:
Lil Tecca, We Love You Tecca
Lil Tecca has grown from Soundcloud sensation to chart champ thanks to “Ransom,” the quick-witted sucker punch of a hip-hop anthem that has reached the top 5 of the Hot 100 chart. New mixtape We Love You Tecca not only gathers some previously released tracks (“Did It Again,” “Love Me,” “Bossanova”) along with “Ransom,” but also spreads Tecca’s appeal over a slew of different beats; the project is 17 songs long, with only one track surpassing three minutes in length, so unfamiliar listeners can get to know the NYC native as he hopscotches across different sounds. The new highlight may well be “Shots,” less than two minutes of chest-thumping over a sizzling dance beat.
The Album To Cozy Up To With a Hot Cup of Coffee on a Lazy Morning:
Whitney, Forever Turned Around
Chicago indie group Whitney rose from the ashes of the band the Smith Westerns to earn raves with its 2016 debut, Light Upon the Lake. That album featured 10 songs of lushly arranged and intimately written Americana-adjacent folk-rock led by Julien Ehrlich’s gentle falsetto, and so does its follow-up three years later. That’s not a complaint: Forever Turned Around is an equally warm and mellow listening experience, with songs like “Giving Up” and “Friend Of Mine” the latest examples that Whitney’s formula remains as polished and irresistible as ever.
The Song That Serves As a Quasi-Silence Breaker:
A$AP Rocky, “Babushka Boi”
A$AP Rocky has dominated hip-hop news all summer due to his legal situation in Sweden, so in a way, new single “Babushka Boi” is a triumphant return for an artist who has come home after an extended detainment. That said, the song and its corresponding video were finished months ago, prior to his jail time, and were intended to be released early in the summer. Without featuring any meditation on a harrowing ordeal, “Babushka Boi” could feel slight, but it’s a strong single worth removing from its current context, as Rocky vigorously oscillates between his standard flow and shouted dedications. Even on an entertaining stopgap track, it’s good to hear A$AP Rocky back at work.