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8 Tracks: There's something for everyone in this summer's dance music

 "Make It Me" sounds like Mickey Guyton's roséwave playlist come to life
Joseph Lanes
/
Courtesy of the artist
"Make It Me" sounds like Mickey Guyton's roséwave playlist come to life

8 Tracks is your antidote to the algorithm. Each week, NPR Music producer Lars Gotrich, with the help of his colleagues, makes connections between sounds across time. 

"Folks, I am ready to dance!" Introducing the latest New Music Friday podcast, my colleague Daoud Tyler-Ameen sums up, in so many words, how this summer's music release slate looks. (Side note: I have seen Daoud dance and it is adorable.) On that episode alone, Kaytranada's nostalgic grooves, Charli XCX's chaos pop muppetry, Peggy Gou's candy-coated house, Tems' tender Afrobeats and Angélica Garcia's experimental synth-pop are just a few of the artists mentioned… and they all released an album on the same day!

There are so many ways and places to dance — in the club, in your kitchen, on the streets and, as I argue, in the pit — so let's showcase its multitudes. Like each edition of 8 Tracks, this one is sequenced like a mixtape. We start with the breezy pop songs that will end up on summer playlists — heavy on good times or deep emotions. The middle section slows things down before we quicken the BPMs to keep the energy well into the morning hours. Now, in the immortal words of Achewood's Ray Smuckles, "Everybody dance like there's ass in your pants."


Mickey Guyton, "Make It Me"

In a year when Beyoncé decided to make her version of a country album, I'm here for other artists exploring the elasticity of pop music. So here's Mickey Guyton, the first Black woman to be nominated for the Grammy's best country solo performance, giving us an absolute summer bop. "Make It Me" is like Guyton's roséwave playlist come to life: Fleetwood Mac's fringe-jacket guitar licks, Chaka Khan's funky disco sass and Shania Twain's honky-tonk glam all rolled into a short-and-sweet pop song. It's fun, it's flirty, it's a living room dance party with your loved one. Guyton, do whatever you want with your music, but I will selfishly ask for more like this.


Kississippi, "Last Time"

Zoe Reynolds' transition from a guitar-strummy, indie-pop songwriter to full-on pop wizard is already known (and if you don't, I highly recommend Kississippi's fabulous album Moon Ring from 2021). With the assistance of Illuminati Hotties' Sarah Tudzin, Reynolds takes her pop prowess a step further: "Last Time" sparkles like much retro synth-pop, but smartly builds the tastefully textured production around a wistful-yet-winning vocal performance. It's a breakup song — one aware that it often takes two to un-tango — but still sneaks in a fleeting middle finger: “K-I-S-S, you can kiss my ass goodbye."


Brijean, "Workin' On It"

This takes me back to a very specific time when bands like Hot Chip, CSS, Out Hud and, well, much of the DFA roster brought an indie-pop/punk sensibility to dance music. A couple decades removed, Brijean's "Workin' On It" plays with that sound by doubling down on the popped bass lines and a polyrhythmic mix of live and electronic percussion, but amping up the twee factor with an understated vocal performance somewhere between bored and coy. This one's for 20- or 30-somethings who can't make sense of their life, but need to dance the ennui away.


Moses Sumney, "Vintage"

Sometimes you need a slow jam, preferably with stylish choreo, too-small sunglasses and a mesh shirt … sung in the rain all sexy-like. So when Moses Sumney sings, "I remember how your nectar sweet / Now you got your specter hanging over me / Imma take it back to 1993," I am suddenly transported back in time to a cute girl's birthday party in her parent's basement, awkwardly swaying to TLC. Sumney's an experimental pop music shapeshifter, but I do love him in R&B mode. On "Vintage," he plays a '90s-style crooner comin' to steal your boo (see: Montell Jordan, 112, Usher), just luxuriating in drawers-droppin' romance.


Kaytranada (feat. Dawn Richard), "Hold On"

Dawn Richard understands the dance floor as a place of euphoria and melancholy, of memories made and lost. When I hear Richard sing, I know I'm in good hands. So when I saw that Richard was a feature on Kaytranada's Timeless, I immediately skipped to "Hold On," where she exemplifies that bittersweet rave quality. Kaytranada's shuffling beat and glitter-smeared keys illuminate a softer shade of Richard: facing a love strained, she sings with a flicker of hope, "Can we go back to days when lights used to dance?"


Speed, "The First Test"

The mosh pit is a dance space: Some of us push and shove, others got moves. Sydney's Speed plays mid-tempo hardcore-punk with a bullish braggadocio — music prime for a hardcore two-step. And while "The First Test" traffics in a lot of what makes this kind of hardcore great — chugging riffs, palm-muted harmonics, gang vocals — Speed actually plays with those dynamics in subtle, yet distinct ways. There's some blink-and-you-missed-it whammy bar action that gives the carnage a beat, but also a well-deployed turntable scratch and … flute? The vocalist whips out a flute! And it's sick. We're already in a flute-aissance, so I say, "More flute in hardcore!"


Olof Dreijer & Diva Cruz, "Brujas"

Like his sibling Karin, Olof Dreijer's life after The Knife has been thrilling to watch: stellar solo EPs, a steel drum exploration with Mount Sims, Fever Ray productions and next-levelremixes. Everything's coming up Olof! But his new collaboration with Colombian Swedish musician and DJ Diva Cruz feels like a culmination of, and at times a challenge to, Dreijer's obtuse electronic style. With its shattered four-on-the-floor beat and disorienting synths, "Brujas" feels like a room tipped on its side while the party rages on within it. Diva Cruz, in particular, is an incendiary presence on the mic, spitting bars en Español while ratcheting up the polyrhythm on live percussion.


De Schuurman & DJ Chuckie, "Gangster Sht"

Born from a mistake that always pays out dividends — a 33 RPM record spun at 45 — the rave genre bubbling speeds up dancehall records for an over-caffeinated dance floor. De Schuurman's take on this sweaty Afro-European dance style adds rap and R&B samples into the frenetic mix — in this collab with Dutch bubbling vet DJ Duckie, the channel-panning synths and ratatat trap beats are deployed with stuttering strobe light effect. Somewhere, the night's just getting started.

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