Revisiting Rihanna’s 2005 debut, Music of the Sun, it’s clear she and her producers were still trying to figure out what she could do and who she could be. Despite this, it remains one of her stronger albums. The first single, “Pon de Replay,” is as astonishing as ever. The mushy ballads toward the tail end aren’t on the level of later weepers like “Russian Roulette” and “Kiss Me Better,” but the reggae and dancehall material that dominates it proves that even at 17 she’d already figured out how to project a sense of tough, earned nonchalance.
San Antonio artist Claire Rousay stands astride the 2020s “emo-ambient” movement, using diaristic field recordings and found objects to capture the ephemeral parts of human lives that might otherwise slip away. Her new, album-length composition, Sometimes I Feel Like I Have No Friends—a rueful meditation on her failings in friendship—is at once the most emo and most ambient thing she’s released. Anyone who’s ever been unsure whether they need more or fewer people in their life will immediately understand.
Ramona Xavier, aka Vektroid, vaulted the internet-enamored vaporwave genre to new levels of cultural ubiquity 10 years ago with her Floral Shoppe album, which she recorded under the moniker Macintosh Plus. Her New Dreams Ltd. project harks back to a more analog age, suggesting the numbing chaos of TV channel flipping. Fuji Grid TV II: EMX plays like a clip show of pop-culture detritus, flashing between slowed-down pop cheese and garbled monster noises at the click of a remote. If you want to fry your brain, you couldn’t do much better than giving it a spin.
When Kanye West released The Life of Pablo exclusively to Tidal, that streaming service wasn’t yet available in Japan. Tired of waiting, Kyoto producer Toyomu pulled up a list of the lyrics and samples and—without having heard the original—cobbled together Imagining “The Life of Pablo.” It’s a lot weirder, as you’d expect, with a mournful robot voice filling in for Ye’s bray. Its irreverent treatment of its samples make the versions of “Ultralight Beam” and “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1″ sound like something you might hear in a dream.