With a new Arcade Fire single released days before we heard Reflektor in its full form, there’s at least one giveaway on this list. Still, this week was as varied as ever. Who else made the cut? Check it out below.
Matangi is going to be the M.I.A. album the listening public wanted after Kala when Maya delivered /\/\ /\ Y /\ instead. I can’t front: I’m excited about that. I’m excited about more M.I.A. tracks like this one and the wonderful “Bad Girls” that work as legit party-rockers just as well as think-piece fodder. Not that I begrudge her the In Utero turn; it was that point in her discography, after all, and all the declarations of career suicide always seemed premature. This latest run of singles is proof enough that you always do live again — or at least that those artists with talent as combustible as M.I.A.’s do – Chris
I thought I had reached my saturation point for sighing, swooning, synth-ing internet pillow-talk music, but then Shy Girls came bashfully tip-toeing into my life. Call it Post-Rhye, call it How To Dress Well Jr., call it Autre Ne Smooth. Just don’t call it PBR&B. – Chris
Usually when I hear about “The Detroit Three” I think of Saunderson, May, and Atkins, the godfathers of techno, but I forget sometimes that the term is more commonly used to refer to Ford, GM, and Chrysler. It’s the latter trio that come to mind when you think about how much recent Band To Watch Bars Of Gold just sound like Michigan. It’s rock music with a distinct clunkiness to it, sounding like it was put together on a rusty, busted up assembly line. These sound like insults, but they’re exactly what makes “Hey Kids” sound so vital and hard-hitting. On first listen they’d already made me a fan by the time the ambient cool down hit, which I mistakenly thought was the end. They could have left it there, pulled a No Age style coda and still made this list, yet they come back charging back for another two explosive minutes. They’re just those kind of guys. – Miles
If we had been running 5 Best Songs when Arctic Monkeys dropped “Do I Wanna Know?” back in June, it certainly would have made the list, it managing to be both stoner rock and teetering on slinky love song. So when Brit singer Sam Smith decided to maintain its crunchiness and just add his soul flair, he transformed from leather jacket-leering into real pining. It’s that kind of vocal push that sells lyrics like, “I’m sorry to interrupt, it’s just I’m constantly on the cusp of trying to kiss you” even more. But instead of arguing about who did it better, let’s just focus our collective consciousness on willing Alex Turner and Smith into the same studio. We already know they make beautiful music together, even when they’re apart. – Claire
Not just the best song of the week, but the biggest by a wide margin — and not just the biggest in terms of excitement and reaction, but actual aural size: “Afterlife” is lush and melodic and propulsive and just swells to colossal proportions with awesome and inexorable force. I can’t help thinking Reflektor is Arcade Fire’s bid to become the biggest rock band in the world, even as they veer further than ever from the thing we call “rock.” My first reaction to “Afterlife” was that it sounded like what Brandon Flowers thinks the Killers sound like: New Order covering Springsteen with David Bowie on vocals. But where the Killers can’t help sounding compressed and artificial, “Afterlife” feels expansive, organic, and fireworks-level explosive. But that’s just what I heard on first spin. After repeated listens (and it absolutely demands to be listened to on repeat), it reveals something much greater still. – Michael