Yesterday we launched our new Week In Pop column, so it’s fittingly (if unintentionally) ironic that our list of the week’s five best songs is, for once, basically devoid of “pop music.” In fact, three of this week’s five best are decidedly, demonstrably, actual rock. Nice to have some loud guitars to help keep us warm in the grip of this polar vortex, no? See/hear for yourself below.
Ramshackle melodic guitar music soundtracks a white male’s whimpery extended metaphor about himself as a chunk of feces circling the drain: Krill has squeezed out the common man’s platonic ideal of an indie rock song — or at least the platonic ideal of an indie rock song circa 15-20 years ago, before the Strokes (with their tight jeans) and The O.C. (with its movie-script-ending sentimentality) and poptimism (with its synthesizers). There is a thin line between classic and cliché, and these Boston boys have landed safely and soundly on the classic side. This little shit-ditty is a spiritual successor to Archers Of Loaf’s ferocious lovelorn lament “Web In Front,” the entire Midwestern emo movement, and any number of awkward Pac-NW self-flagellators of the late ’90s indie-rock underground. Consider them the proud torchbearers of embarrassment rock. They’ve no reason to be so self-conscious, though. Jonah Furman can carry on about his inability to keep a commitment, but he’s obviously honed his craft with studious dedication under the care of a marvelous record collection. I could go on with the extravagant praise, but who am I kidding? They had me at “Turd.” –Chris
Speedy Ortiz’s Major Arcana was such a stunning debut album that it was easy to forgot the unpleasant position some young bands can get thrown into when they shoot to success. It was so entrancing that the thought of a sophomore slump never crossed my mind; something tells me it did for the band, though. Because right at the top of 2014 we have, not a victory lap, but a brand new EP finding the band pushing themselves even harder. Case in point, “American Horror,” which piles guitar riffs with too many different and contrasting textures to count on top of one another until it’s just one tough, gauzy blob of melodic noise. Everything about it — from those perfect guitar tones, Sadie Dupuis’ stunning vocals and lyrics, even their increasingly distinct album art — are the signs of a band exploring their strengths and really starting to find their voice. –Miles
As soon as “Wanderlust” begins, when those anxious drums and miasmatic synths begin tumbling around each other, it’s very clear that something special is happening with Wild Beasts. It hints at a distinct shift from the band we knew and the band we are now really getting to know. It’s interesting, sure, but it’s the moment right at 2:36 where things get serious. The second that synth line bleeds in and the song shifts into the even darker second half could pinpoint the moment Wild Beasts went from a good band to a great band — as the song moves from moody to absolutely devastating. Like most people, my first exposure to “Wanderlust” was through its music video, and I noticed that once that musical landslide occurs midway through, the clip takes on a striking resemblance to Tim Pope’s classic video for “Such A Shame” by Talk Talk, still new-wave hit makers at the time. That video added a face to frontman Mark Hollis’ pop star voice, but it was a face filled with sarcastic sneers and ballistic screams slipping through his charming veneer, much like the frustrated subjects found here. This isn’t to say Wild Beasts have proven themselves to be this generation’s Talk Talk (last year showed that it’s way way these guys) but their message is the same in both cases. Hollis expressed it in his pissed-off expression years before people realized his real ambitions, but Wild Beasts say it proudly: “Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck.” After “Wanderlust” I don’t think we ever will. –Miles
Olsen begins the song by telling us she’s so lonesome she could cry, and then she lets her voice slip into high-lonesome upper registers, the same way Hank Williams once did. Meanwhile, her guitar does Buddy Holly/Roy Orbison things with tremolo and reverb. But the whole track is piled together into a warm, sloppy, idiosyncratic haze that leaves me thinking of ’90s indie bands like Helium. And then Olsen uses a high-five — an actual high-five — as the swelling emotional climax of a song about loneliness, and I’d don’t think I’ve heard anyone do anything like that before, with the possible exception of Young Dro. A song like this feels casual and tossed-off in all the old, comforting ways, until you listen close and hear all the levels of play at work. And even when you figure that stuff out, it doesn’t explain the deep satisfaction you might feel when you hear Olsen wail that title. Just a great song. –Tom
The Men, man. Over the course of five years and five albums, this gang of guitar-slinging alpha males has evolved naturally and righteously from the pigfuck kings of New York to the makers of this impossibly explosive roadhouse rambler. “Pearly Gates” is a tour de force — emphasis on tour, but also on force. It’ll take you for a ride, violently. They could have just as easily called this thing “Subterranean Homesick Blowout.” It skronks, it screeches, it rages; it shakes, it rattles, it rolls. It’ll turn you rockist all over again. And if the rest of Tomorrow’s Hits hits like this, it’s hard to imagine anybody releasing a better collection of straight-up rock ‘n’ roll this year. –Chris