The 5 Best Songs Of The Week
We learned what are David Bowie’s 100 favorite books this week and it was pretty varied, replete with classics, comics, and new works, among other things. Here’s another list of carefully considered works, albeit ranging only from last Friday until yesterday — but, perhaps there are some new classics among the lot. Check it out below.
The Chinese Zodiac says it’s the Year Of The Snake, but, by now, we might as well admit it’s the Year Of The Crutchfield. It was hard to believe Allison could trump her sister Katie’s triumphant Waxahatchee record Cerulean Salt, which has become the definitive document of the DIY circuit’s ’90s alt-rock revival. But “Dust In The Gold Sack” suggests Swearin’s new Surfing Strange might be up to the task, what with its heartstring-tugging vocals, ragtag guitar symphonics, and basement-shaking forward momentum. And do you hear that wobbly shoegaze swell gooped on top like so much sonic marmalade, rendering the mix extra thick and the melody extra sweet? If Allison and Katie are the Venus and Serena of this game, consider “Dust In The Gold Sack” a diving backhand to keep an impossible rally alive. Not that there’s any need for sibling rivalry; the more indie-rock manna, the merrier. – Chris
The manic, grim energy of the original Three 6 Mafia is gone now, and it’s not coming back. But versions of it linger. Juicy J has ridden some updated take on it to latter-day stoner-rap stardom. But now his old partner DJ Paul has rounded up a mob of old Mafia outcasts, some of whom haven’t been in the fold for a decade, and made a gothic head-stomper that might come even closer than what Juicy’s been doing. It’s a nostalgic rush to hear all these voices — Koopsta Knicca’s deranged mutter-rasp, in particular — over this type of gasping thud. But the elemental power of this sound goes beyond fond memories and into that old uncanny chaos. Kelefa Sanneh once described the Triple 6 sound as, “A roomful of drunks arguing with an early Steve Reich record,” and that still holds. – Tom
We all know what prickly territory it is for a listener when a band with a pristine album, like Vancouver power-punks White Lung’s Sorry, starts to deviate from the blueprint. But frontwoman Mish Way’s wicked new scowl-growl on “Blow It South” is the perfect new element, her throatiness almost embodying the band’s name. It’s also a much more frank, visceral affair than we’re used to from them, but if this is the blistering sonic path the Canadian quartet continues on, I might have to stop tongue-in-cheekily saying I want a White Lung poster on my bedroom wall and just go for it. – Claire
The Juan Maclean has gradually been returning to the spotlight, with old bandmate, former LCD Soundsystem member Nancy Whang, in tow. It can’t be overstated how difficult of a journey John “Juan” Maclean has had, between overcoming years of heroin addiction and dealing with the abrupt death of his bandmate in 2009. As he mentions in a recent interview with us, it’s something that put his career in a tailspin for years. It’s painful stuff, but it’s those demons that have always given house music its soul and beauty. “So let’s keep sight of the things you’re momentarily trying to escape from,” DJ Sprinkles said of house music in his now famous opening monologue to his Midtown 120 Blues. With “Feels Like Movin’,” Maclean gives us that escape with a seismic energy that hasn’t felt this strong since he first opened the DFA Comp. 1. It’s a propulsive track with the kind of spirit absent too often in modern house, but who are we kidding — this thing is owned by Nancy Whang, who brings out her finest vocals to date. It’s just the right amount of energy and subtle sadness that gives way to every bad feeling evaporating, if only momentarily; the title line might be “feel like movin’,” but the line that sticks is, “it’s the perfect night to get away.” It’s good to have him back. – Miles
When I sat in Electric Lady Studios earlier this week to hear Arcade Fire’s Reflektor for the first time, there was a little bit of unease: What if the opening title track was as good as it would get? Or, what if that rhythmic new sound gets tedious over 75 minutes? The band almost anticipates that feeling — as if they hadn’t thought of everything already during this insane month of precisely-executed album promotion — because after three songs of body-shaking dance-rock came “Here Comes The Night.” And as soon as that plink-plunk piano melody first arrived, I smiled and laughed, any sliver of doubt gone and I thought, This album is a masterpiece.
Whether you hear it live on the post-SNL concert special or as track 4 of Reflektor, as I first did, you know “Here Comes The Night” is an important song for Arcade Fire. It’s why they named the live film after it, it’s why there’s a reprisal on the album’s second disc. Listen to the way that fevered sprint of guitar and drums give way to the bounciest groove you’ll hear on the album. Or how all the heavy sounds (and lyrics) on this song part ways for that sweet, childlike melody. It’s music without borders, hell it doesn’t even have bridges — different sections cut into one another as if they’re dancing, especially near the end when that distorted squall of sound kicks everything up only to let it all abruptly float back into the groove a moment later. And, finally, there’s Win Butler delivering one of the finest verses of his career as he envisions heaven as a place behind a locked gate, only to reject it with one of the most rock and roll sentiments in ages, “If there’s no music up in heaven, then what’s it for?” – Miles