If you only listen to one song about Zora Neale Hurston today make it this one

Jamila Woods, Charly Bliss

Jamila Woods, Charly Bliss Photo courtesy of the artist/Jacqueline Harriet

Every week, we share six great new tracks in this space and add them to an expanding yearlong mix. And if a couple of this week’s songs aren’t exactly brand-new, well, shhh, they’re worth the wait.

Jamila Woods “Zora”

As in Neale Hurston, of course, who inspires this Chicago poet/singer to flow blithely over an insistent little piano bit as she celebrates her own complex “collard greens and silver spoons” personality. “Fear is no way to live” is the sort of truth so basic that to make it feel true in a song is a feat. And that goes double for “all out of fucks to give.”

Charly Bliss “Capacity”

Eva Hendricks starts out each verse with an “I used to think” that implies she’s turned a therapeutic corner, her chirpy vocals further suggesting a change is gonna come. By the time she reaches the big pop-rock chorus she’s not quite so sure, and when her voice splatters against the second “a” in the title that’s the sound of frustration and possibility as wholly commingled as they are in my life and probably yours.

Ibibio Sound Machine “Wanna Come Down”

Nigerian-British singer Eno Williams holds together an electro-disco-Afro-Euro-funk melange that’d drift off on an eclectic sea of hyphens without her. This track includes some very Princely synths, if you’re into that sort of thing--and who are we kidding, of course you are.

Ariana Grande “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, Cause I’m Bored”

Her blasé-blasé flow may put the Ri in Ari, but she’s got it bad for this dude no matter how she yawns. This inspired some irresponsible Twitter fun this weekend, because that’s what Ariana singles do.

Gunna “One Call”

“I can go on and on,” the Atlanta MC boasts with sublime diffidence, flaunting his minimal expense of effort to disguise how hard work it is to take it this easy. His nearly stationary lips suggest a future in ventriloquism if the rap game falls through—he can’t possibly be saying, “shoot a movie like Barry Gordon,” can he? In other words, last year’s breakthrough flow drips right on into 2019, while in the background chiming electronics sound like Philip Glass playing Super Breakout on an Atari 2600 in the room down the hall.

Sharon Van Etten – “Seventeen”

I closed my review of Van Etten’s album, Remind Me Tomorrow, by calling this track “undeniable.” What I didn’t add is that I know this because I tried to deny it. I was put off at first by how the vocal forcibly denies empathy not only to the teen she’s addressing, but to her own self, past and present too. What’d they do to deserve this? I’m still not sure, but rather than settle for easy targets (she’s vexed with the inability to communicate across generations?), I’m content to puzzle over a performance that makes me a little uncomfortable for now.

Every Monday, City Pages music editor Keith Harris scours the vast musicscape for six worthy tracks to include in our ever-expanding 2019 playlist