We typically have a hard enough time narrowing down the vast bounty of music this very generous internet bequeaths us each week, and
Thanksgiving Black Friday Weekend made sure our selection process was even more excruciating this time out. As with today’s best videos list, we were working with two weeks’ worth of songs for this installment, so the field of legitimate contenders was extra dense. But in the end that field must be pared down to just five honorees, and these are they.
Demdike Stare is extremely consistent in how they dish out their industrial, ambient, and creepy-as-hell blend of library music and techno: Release three or four EPs and then put them all together near the end of the year as a monolithic multi-disc album. So it’s been a bit of a surprise to see them change up their methods this year, via their incredible Testpressing singles series. The entire series is worth your time, but “Null Results,” the final track on their final release of the year, is mandatory listening. For a duo that works best in long stretches, building eerie vibes and unsettling atmospheres, it’s literally unbalancing once “Null” kicks in aggressively, without ever letting up: the break-beat panic attack, the death-knocking sub bass, that moment where everything cuts to silence for two hang-in-the-air seconds. This was a duo so unique in their music that they probably didn’t need to change anything up, but here they are embracing completely new sounds (in this case, jungle) and creating something visceral and transcendent. –Miles
If you’re sincerely bothered by the idea that the three Atlanta youngsters who make up the Migos are not lyrical rappers, perhaps it’s worth asking yourself what lyrics do. If the Migos’ lyrics don’t look good on paper, they don’t have to; as heard on record, there’s something viscerally satisfying about the phrase “Dikembe Mutombo the block,” and in the way all three of them frantically bounce syllables off of each other. The words are the music, and the music is the words. And if you’re not letting another absurdly catchy slap creep into your head, I feel sorry for you. –Tom
As lead singles go, “Money On My Mind” is exceptionally meta. It’s about when Sam Smith the thoughtful introvert saw the number of zeros on his contract and realized what an ungainly machine he’d signed up to be a part of, his steadfast refusal to be a puppet (sounds familiar…), his apprehension about letting his breathtaking, knee-buckling, life-changing vocal cords become a commodity. He doesn’t want to see the numbers, he wants to see heaven. Smith’s declaration of independence is reassuring — it’d be painful if he ended up singing hooks on craven Flo Rida-style EDM rap crossovers or whatever — but at the same time, his voice is so magnificent that he might be able to redeem even lowest-common-denominator garbage like that. In the meantime, it doesn’t seem like we need to worry about that. Smith is making songs like this one, songs that assure we’ll all see a little bit of heaven in this life. –Chris
Here’s something different: The arguable originators of the classic post-rock loud-quiet-loud dynamic decide that, instead of flaring up, they can glow and flicker. The last song on the forthcoming Rave Tapes is a vocoder hymn, a soft and heartfelt autumnal purr, a sound so beautiful that I actually gasped the first time I heard it. (Also, Chris thinks I should make a “Lorde is out of control” pun, possibly involving this, but I just can’t bring myself to do that.) –Tom
Kanye West says his next album will be his Born In The U.S.A., and while that might be true in the metaphorical sense, I’m willing to bet no album will sound literally as much like Born In The U.S.A. as the War On Drugs’ Lost In The Dream. (Then again, there’s a new Hold Steady album coming out…) I mean the Springsteen comparison in the fondest sense: “Red Eyes” is the sound of “Dancing In The Dark” actually plunging into darkness; it’s “Glory Days” but with the blues replaced by a bleary Americanized motorik pulse; it’s what downbound trains sound like when you’ve been awake for the past 48 hours — or have you been dreaming? And it has me very excited to see what else Adam Granduciel has been cooking up while we’ve been wearing out our copies of Slave Ambient. –Chris