There are times when it’s easy to determine the 5 Best Songs Of The Week, and others when it gets a little tougher for us to figure out what should go where, what belongs and what doesn’t. Then there are weeks like this, where debates about inclusion and placement stretch into long email chains over hours. That’s because across the board this was an unreasonably great week for music (Tuesday morning alone topped most entire weeks). We’re letting you know in advance: You’ll see some hard snubs this week, and some of those songs left on the cutting-room floor were ones that we really loved: Future’s “Benz Friends,” the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s “Eurydice,” and Crow Bait’s “The Ocean,” among others, could have made this list if it were a different week. That said, any of the five songs below could have topped this list under different circumstances. They’re all incredible; the only problem is they all came out within days of each other. Check them out below and let the debate continue in the comments.
It’s made for the soundtrack of what’ll probably be the summer’s big date movie, but that is no reason for Charli XCX to do anything less than blow our minds. “Boom Clap” feels more explosive than almost anything she’s done yet. Those earthquake drums already start at a high 5 (if we’re going by Pop Richters — a totally legit measurement that I didn’t just invent), but those choruses spike to dangerous levels, triggering the tidal wave of a synth sweep that crashes through. This song is so gigantic that it takes a few spins to realize that the big takeaway is just a simple, “You make me feel good.” It feels almost frustrating hearing “Boom Clap” and knowing that it probably won’t end up on Charli XCX’s feverishly anticipated album, and that there’s virtually no news on when that album will be out. Still “Boom Clap” continues to keep us at peak excitement … after all, it’s impossible to feel disappointed following Charli XCX on her breadcrumb trail when she’s tossing back grenades. –Miles
“Benz Friendz (Whatchuola),” Future’s much-anticipated Andre 3000 transformative-Atlata-rap-star summit meeting dropped this week, and it’s great, a jubilant anti-materialistic fuck-you that’s really more amped about Toyotas than it is angry about Lambos. But it’s not the week’s best rap song, even if I had to play it on repeat for a while to make sure. That distinction belongs to “Statue,” from permanent-underdog Huntsville, Alabama strivers G-Side. And interestingly enough, G-Side pulled off the upset by finding their way into Future’s alien-fantasia Auto-Tune synthscape aesthetic — or, rather, a planet within that solar system. The beat, from longtime collaborators Block Beattaz, crossbreeds Yeezus with early-’90s Pete Rock and film-score-era Tangerine Dream, and it sounds like it only crashlanded into this planet when its spaceship ran out of fuel and went off course. But G-Side don’t treat this beat as a curiosity; they treat it as a fun toy, something to get excited about. And that’s exactly what it is. Build it a statue. –Tom
We’ve been pretty rough on poor Lana over the years, culminating with a scathing review of Born To Die that reasonably prophesied her impending retreat into obscurity. But if her remarkable appeal among festival-goers and the surprise success of Cedric Gervais’ “Summertime Sadness” remix didn’t foretell Lizzy Grant’s continued relevance, “West Coast” would do the trick. This thing sounds exactly like you’d expect from a Lana Del Rey song produced by Dan Auerbach, but twice as good. The string-laden swoons of Born To Die have given way to a grittier sort of fantasy realm, one in which the trailer park torch song queen of “Video Games” goes rock ‘n’ roll. This is an atmosphere (and my, how atmospheric it is) in which Del Rey’s sad-girl-loves-bad-boy shtick can flourish without collapsing under the weight of its own schmaltz. The lugubrious groove is reinforced by violently snappy percussion, a foreboding oscillating hum, and guitars worthy of suspicious sidelong glances. Del Rey’s affected vocal is mesmerizing from the start, and when the chorus hits and the tempo shifts, the harmonies pile up until her own ghost seems to be serenading her. The lyrics are American mythology at its most gloriously garish. Del Rey’s pose continues to come off more obviously artificial than your average pop playacting, but she’s found her most gorgeous artifice yet. –Chris
Love. The first word in “Screenshot,” the first word spoken on Swans’ titanic new album, is “love.” It’s a word that appears more than any other throughout the album, recurring in nearly every song on To Be Kind if you take the time to sift through those lyrics Michael Gira shouts at you. That’s not a coincidence. It can be easy to hear Swans as a creepshow, when really they’re filled with light. It overflows from them (albeit it’s a blinding, glaring light, like staring into the sun). That important quality in Swans’ music is “rapturous” in a very ancient sense: apocalyptic, deathly, but also mad with ecstasy and joy. But that’s by design, and To Be Kind, like all of Swans’ best music, plays with that dichotomy brilliantly. Except “Oxygen.” There is no “love” in “Oxygen” — just screams and barks of horror, punctuated with shouts of “Amen!” It is the rare moment when Swans become the black hole you feared; they’re a vacuum, they’re your worst nightmare. The band pummel for four minutes, cruelly give you a moment of silence to thinks it’s passed, before Gira shouts “FEED ME NOW — I’LL STEAL ALL THE OXYGEN!” And he does, and then horns crash in like rampaging elephants, and the end was really the middle, and the nightmare continues. –Miles
George Lewis, Jr. has never made a secret of his appreciation for the 1980s, but his music as Twin Shadow has tended toward smoother, slinkier influences — Prince, Morrissey, Michael Jackson — outlandish characters that managed to seem subtle by virtue of unflappable cool. But there’s nothing subtle or unflappable about “To The Top.” It’s music for shouting from the rooftops while enacting a dance routine with a dozen complete strangers, for realizing you’re in love with your best friend and going in for the kiss, for bawling tears of joy (possibly upon encountering a song like this one in 2014). It is as maximal as pop music gets, and it suggests Lewis has been hiding his truest talents from us all along. Here’s hoping he continues to let it all hang out. –Chris