New Music Tuesday: Rachael Yamagata, Rihanna, Shuteye, Alicia Keys and More

We’ve made it to another Tuesday and the rain in New York is making it almost impossible to motivate myself to do much besides put pajamas back on, turn off the lights and continue listening to Dark Dark Dark’s “How It Went Down” on repeat. Actually, when I write that out it sounds depressing, so I’ll have to rethink my day. While I do that, how about you check out some of this week’s new music.

Rachael YamagataHeavyweight EP (Frankenfish Records)

Photo courtesy of Facebook

Yamagata’s latest EP contains six songs filled with the same emotionally-charged ballads I fell in love with on her phenomenal debut, Happenstance. For anyone reading this column that hasn’t listened to Happenstance, go to the nearest bathroom, slap yourself in the face lightly, look in the mirror and make a promise to not deprive yourself any longer.

Long story short: Heavyweight will do absolutely nothing to lift my current mood but it’s possible these are exactly the songs I need to be listening to right now. Hell, we all need to watch Steel Magnolias once in a while. Catharsis is a good thing. So here, drink your heartbroken, angst-filled juice, Shelby.

Shuteye Hush Hush (Shuteye Music)

Photo by Ryan Van Ert

I’m not sure what’s happening in my hometown but this is the second week in a row someone from my high school dropped a noteworthy album. So, I guess this is the closest I’ll ever get to being a cheerleader and it’s also the most attractive team for me to be cheerleading for. The duo comprised of DJ/electronic producer Alena Ratner and singer-songwriter Elysia Hang-fu formed after a chance meeting at a music studio. Back in 2011 when their first EP dropped, the group was still cultivating their overall sound and style. I enjoyed the EP but it was a lot sleepier and a little more choppy than this debut full-length. Hush Hush is a polished, dreamy and utterly enjoyable album reminding me of a combo of Massive Attack and Grimes. I’ll be using Hush Hush as the soundtrack to many upcoming train rides.

Alicia Keys  Girl on Fire (RCA Records)

Photo courtesy of Facebook

“It’s been a while; I’m not who I was before.” You are not even kidding, Alicia. Girl, I had to replay your Citi commercial three times before my roommate would finally agree it was actually you in it. What in the name of cleanses have you been doing and how can I get on it?

The album starts strong with an intro-adagio followed by the R&B star’s declaration of a “Brand New Me” then shifts into a curious blend of dance, R&B and jazz beats on “When It’s All Over.” It took a little while for me to get used to the song’s composition but when the pace was set I was able to appreciate the change-ups. The remainder of Girl on Fire is filled with the same soul-infused pop ballads which made Keys a star over 10 years ago. Standout tracks include “Limitless,” “Tears Always Win” and the Maxwell collaboration, “Fire We Make.” Basically when you feature Maxwell on a track there’s bound to be some sex disguised as an incredible falsetto.

RihannaUnapologetic (Island Def Jam)

Photo by Terry Richardson

Oh Ri-Ri, I want to be mad at you for continuing to let that disgusting troll of a violent douchebag into your life but then I look at a picture of you geeked out in Terry Richardson’s glasses and I lose my train of thought. Then I remember Terry is known for being a bit of a perv so that just killed my lady-boner a bit and I’m back to being able to concentrate on the music.

Please keep in mind that I am a gigantic Rihanna fan and have been since the release of her first single. “Only Girl In The World” used to be my ringtone and if I’m out at a bar and a Rihanna track comes on there’s a good chance I’ll grab the person next to me and make sure they understand how excited I am about it even if we heard the same song two hours earlier. That being said, I’m pretty ambivalent about most of the album’s tracks. “Phresh Out The Runway” has Rihanna coming out swinging and dispensing f-bombs as though she were giving them away for Christmas presents. “Diamonds” seems like a misplaced follow-up to the overly-aggressive first track. On its own, “Diamonds” is easily my favorite song on the album and is stylistically what defines Rihanna’s music for me. Other standouts are the rocking power ballad “What Now,” the emotionally-charged “Stay” and the EDM-laced “Jump” which gained some extra happy points in my book for referencing Ginuwine’s “Pony”.

This is more than an album, it’s a statement and a pretty bold one at that: Screw all of you and get on up out of my business. Well I’m listening and what I’m hearing (as the daughter of a psychologist and most likely the captain of team obvious) is the reckless confidence, pain and anger of a teenager who needs positive and negative attention in equal ways. So Rihanna, here is your positive: I love your willingness to try new things in the studio by incorporating very different genres of music into your own distinct sound. The negative: Seeing Brown’s name attached to this album makes me unapologetic about disliking just about half of it.

Music Extras: Check out’s $5 holiday mp3 albums for when “All I Want For Christmas Is You” just isn’t enough. Also, if you’re a die-hard Kelly Clarkson fan, you can grab a copy of her Greatest Hits Chapter One album out today on 19 Recordings.

Zola Jesus puts out mostly witch-wave music but her cover of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” is pretty damn rad!

The Young Professionals have done a great remix of Mylene Farmer’s “A l’ombre” and if you haven’t heard their awesome dance track, “D.I.S.C.O.” head over to Soundcloud to stream it.

Here is some more soulful goodness to take you through the rest of your day from Laura Mvula:

Stream a mellow, if not monotonous, track from Solange‘s new EP (out this week):

Stream the title track from Lizzie and The Yes Men’s forthcoming album, Deserts, due December 10th. 

That’s all for this week’s round of music but as always you can find me on Twitter, Facebook and Spotify. Word to all of your mothers.