45s of the week: Big Red Machine and Taylor Swift, Rico Nasty, Poppy and more!



In the three days since Big Red Machine – aka The National’s Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon – announced their second album, they’ve already shared three songs from it. All are, of course, gorgeous, but ‘Renegade’ just edges out its pals as the best so far. It finds the two-man supergroup reuniting with Taylor Swift after working on her ‘Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’ albums last year, and crafting a poignant portrait of the understanding and frustrations of loving someone struggling with their mental health. “You wouldn’t be the first renegade to need somebody,” Swift and Vernon sing in unison on the chorus, reassuring their other half that they’re not alone.  


Shygirl’s latest release is not for the prudish or easily embarrassed. You can probably guess what ‘BDE’ stands for and, if not, the London rapper, singer and DJ spells it out in the opening line of this dirty, addictive track: “Read my lips, I need a big dick boy.” Slowthai’s verse is equally as filthy, the Northampton MC promising: “You’ll be walking with a limp for the rest of the week.” Don’t play it around grandma.


“AI” K-pop star AleXa captures the before times on her new release ‘ReviveR’ – namely before she was turned into an artificial intelligence being. The record pulls from her teenage years as a human, showcasing them in bright bubblegum pop tones. On ‘Obsession’ – co-written by Lizzo’s sister Vanessa Sharie Jefferson – she sounds free of any of your usual youthful insecurities. “I’m solid gold, won’t see me broke,” she raps on a track that has enough vibrant power to make you feel like you too are “walking ’round dripped in honey”. 



Poppy has also tried to make the world believe she’s some robo-pop star over the years, but these days she seems more concerned with bringing the big riffs than the digital pop of her debut album ‘Poppy.Computer’. ‘Her’ might not be quite as heavy as her 2020 record ‘I Disagree’, but it is stunning – a fizzing, rushing piece of perfect grunge. At two-minutes-and-six-seconds, it’s far too short but you’ll still find it living in your head rent-free for days to come. 


In a taste of her upcoming mixtape ‘Rx’, Rico Nasty wants to “bring out another side of you and almost feel like you’re being taken over by magic”. The fittingly-titled ‘Magic’ achieves her goal, a sultry, summery cut that’s spellbinding and highlights her versatility away from the punk-rap sound she’s usually associated with. Lyrically, it’s on cloud nine – the Maryland rapper and singer enchanted by a love so strong that she tells her partner: “No matter what you did, you can’t piss me off.” What spell do we need to get some of that for ourselves?