Mark Kozelek has now released three songs from the forthcoming Sun Kil Moon LP Benji, and all three have found their way to their respective week’s 5 Best Songs: the brand new “I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same” is in the upper half of this week’s list. That’s a pretty good sign that the album is gonna be a winner (spoiler alert: it is indeed a winner). But Koz couldn’t take home the gold this week — that went to the first single off another really damn good LP whose release is imminent. It’s the last week of January, but you’ll be hearing about those two through 2014, especially in December. Peep the list below, have a great weekend.
Drake has a way of jumping on other people’s songs and sucking all the air out of the room, becoming the immediate center of attention. That’s not what happens here. Nor is YG, the durable and effortlessly chill Los Angeles snarler who’s now poised to become a major star, the song’s focal point. Instead, the track belongs entirely to DJ Mustard’s precise, ominous, propulsive beat, the latest in a long line of minimal but cinematic bangers. YG and Drake deserve credit for knowing how to ride a beat like this, to ornament it, to let it help them sound colder and haughtier and more blown away with their own coolness. But it’s that beat, and Mustard beats much like it, that aim to take rap over in 2014. We don’t often get absolute summer jams like this one in the dead of winter, and if you can bang it from an open car window without contracting frostbite, you should do that. –Tom
I’ve spent the past couple weeks mesmerized by Sun Kil Moon’s Benji, a deeply vulnerable album haunted by death and depression. Their music bears little resemblance, but it seems Mark Kozelek and Eddie Chacon would have a lot to talk about. Chacon begins “Happy” with a barely-hanging-on lament amidst Tomas Barfod’s ethereal twinkles and gurgles: “All my life, people keep slipping away/ They keep dying on me, man!” When the beat drops and “Happy” blooms into a wistful, all-consuming rumble worthy of Burial, Chacon declares, “I’m gonna be happy,” as if trying to convince himself. The wordless samples that carry the song to conclusion tell another story; they are groanings too deep for words. –Chris
Does the world need a Wye Oak album without guitars when it already has two such Jenn Wasner projects in Flock Of Dimes and Dungeonesse? Probably not. Is the world better with “The Tower” in it? Yes, absolutely. If Shriek is going to be Wye Oak’s The King Of Limbs, the album where the main band and the side bands start to blur into one, its soft-hued, groovy lead single is far more immediately stirring than anything on Radiohead’s “grower.” Wasner’s bass licks are nearly as sublime as her effortlessly floaty vocals, and the lurching, stuttering, swirling keyboard symphony in the background is as hypnotic as Wye Oak’s trademark waves of six-string ephemera. It suggests that wherever Wasner and Andy Stack follow their muse, it’s going to be good. –Chris
“It’s not deep depression I’m singing about, or even necessarily a bad feeling, but a state of being,” said Mark Kozelek in a recent essay for The New York Times, the same one that premiered “I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same,” one of the finest songs we’ve heard from Sun Kil Moon’s upcoming Benji. That’s an important sentiment to keep in mind as he weaves memories of death, shame, regret, and deep, deep embarrassment into a soft 10 minutes that eat away at you gradually like waves on stone. What sets the song apart is the way he treats these memories, faded at the edges and warped by nostalgia, recognizing they’re an inspiration and as much a part of him as that magical night seeing John Bonham play up on that big screen. That tremendous length is essential, and the first time I heard it, during Kozelek’s meditative acoustic guitar breaks, I felt my own memories come to the surface: my first real fist fight on a school bus in 7th grade; watching my childhood dog pass away at age 9; and a phone call shortly before my 21st birthday from one of my best friends telling me that his brother had just died. Everyone has these stories and experiences, even if the details are blurred, and Kozelek knows that. His memories are not unique, and that’s what makes them so beautiful. –Miles
When Cloud Nothings dove headlong into the world of old-school scrape-rock, of ’80s and ’90s underground post-hardcore skree, on the great 2012 album Attack On Memory, they sounded like they were discovering a whole new world. But they live in that world now. “I’m Not Part Of Me,” the first song we’ve heard from the forthcoming Here And Nowhere Else, occupies the same Marshall-stacked lane as Attack On Memory, but its got a breezy comfort that Cloud Nothings didn’t have on the last album. The song’s sound is still Midwestern fuzz-blast, but its soul is sunny California punk. With its sticky melodies and its brisk tempo, it’s a song that bursts with bittersweet joy. And Dylan Baldi’s band, now down to power-trio essentials, has learned to pogo as it pummels. — Tom