5Best

This week we heard two major rap releases from each primary coastal city: Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris representing L.A., and New York showing up via A$AP Ferg’s Trap Lord, but the mainstay of the rap conversation was Kendrick Lamar claiming territory over both on Big Sean’s “Control.” That certainly made the cut this week, along with four others. Check it out below.

5. SubRosa – “Ghost Of A Dead Empire”

The last album released by Salt Lake City alt-doom band SubRosa, No Help For The Mighty Ones, was one of 2011′s most critically adored metal records, but it never fully clicked with me. As such, I went into the band’s new one, More Constant Than The Gods, with some trepidation, but that was quickly and absolutely crushed — a fate that will befall just about everything that finds itself standing in Gods’ path. The album’s second track, “Ghosts Of A Dead Empire” bursts forth as a churning doom dirge but from there, over the course of an epic 11 minutes, it grows into something much more majestic and haunting, a storm of organ and twisted strings. Just before the 6-minute mark, it drops back, strips down, regroups, and slowly scales heavenward on a warm gust of spiraling violins; the track reaches a denouement at about 8:10, a climax of melody and down-tuned guitars. It’s grand and imposing in all the right ways, but maybe more importantly, it’s really fucking catchy, too.– Michael

4. Volcano Choir – “Comrade”

Justin Vernon, it would seem, is not done exploring the vast canyonlike sound-expanses he traversed all through Bon Iver, Bon Iver. Volcano Choir once had side-project writen all over it — like it was Vernon’s clearly-demarcated place to explore his furthest-out ideas — but now “Comrade” has all the graceful drift of Vernon’s main band, and the traces of glitch and post-rock detract nothing from its tearduct-filling film-montage potential. – Tom

3. Yuck – “Middle Sea”

Frontmen: Who needs em? Yuck could’ve suffered a career-ending setback when main man Daniel Blumberg left the band. Instead, they’ve somehow come out sounding grander and more confident, attacking their old feedback-ridden ’90s-indie sound with more vigor and majesty than they had the first time around. “Middle Sea” missed its calling as a circa-1994 mixtape staple, or as the flipside of a Sebadoh split single, but it still feels like your favorite musty old blanket anyway. – Tom

2. Nine Inch Nails – “Copy Of A”

How does this happen? A once-great artist who’d spent years kind of in the wilderness just returns to the spotlight at the top of (or very close to the top of) his game? A lot of it is public perception and critical narrative, of course, but you can’t deny the music. I’m just saying, there must be some combination of inspirations and/or substances that all of a sudden, out of nowhere, sets a midlife musician on beast mode. The second track to be released from Nine Inch Nails’ forthcoming Hesitation Marks is even better than its predecessor, the aptly titled “Came Back Haunted.” Where “Haunted” felt a lot like the sleaze-industrial of NIN’s 1989 debut, Pretty Hate Machine, “Copy Of A” recalls the band’s masterpiece, 1994′s The Downward Spiral, especially that album’s more tweaked, claustrophobic moments, such as “Heresy” and “The Becoming.” In place of Reznor’s former wounded fury, though, is a sense of introspection and reserve, delivered over pillowy synths via chopped and layered vocals, that feels honest and immediate: not a copy at all, in fact, but a lifetime of influences and references recontextualized to create something entirely new. – Michael

1. Big Sean – “Control” (Feat. Kendrick Lamar and Jay Electronica)

I could write an exegesis here about New York rap, beef, and what it means that Kendrick Lamar named not a single female rapper in his verse. We could talk about how Bun B compared it to his verse on “Murder” and how it’s spawned a number of eye roll-inducing response verses, except for this amazing one from Bizarre from D12. I could engage you guys in a debate about who is the actual King Of New York, when K.Dot probably meant “I’m both 2Pac and Biggie” when he rapped, “I’m Makaveli’s son / I’m the King Of New York.” But I’ll just leave you with this: Kendrick Lamar got everyone to care about lyrics again and that deserves our praise. – Claire

Comments (7)
  1. There’s no number two…

  2. Number two is overrated.

  3. 4 is the new 5

  4. NIN = Complicated Simplicity

  5. In my opinion, I thought the list was better without number 2.

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