Sometimes the 5 Best Songs Of The Week get along with each other quite well, but this week they’re a bit at odds. One-half of the now-disbanded Girls gives us an earnest ode to loss and pain, while Sharon Van Etten subverts her usual struggle and strife to disguise a few sly jabs. Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea put out a great dance-pop anthem, but Big K.R.I.T. goes on a rant against that very type of song. Oh, and there’s a genre-melding explosion of energy sandwiched in there too. Check out the best songs of the week below, and decide on which side of the divide you fall in the comments.
By her own admission, Sharon Van Etten songs are often downcast chronicles of struggle, but “Every Time The Sun Comes Up” proves she has a killer sense of humor too, and that’s even before the snippet of slap-happy studio chatter that’s tacked on the end. Sonically it’s right in SVE’s wheelhouse — trembling alto wails, languid pace, melancholy chord changes — so it would be easy to miss the goofiness at play if you’re not processing what she’s saying. But consider this couplet: “People say I’m a one-hit wonder, but what happens when I have two? I washed your dishes, but I shit in your bathroom.” It is the lyrical equivalent of a wry smile, and it looks good on her. –Chris
As fascinating as it has been to watch so many different artists in pop music blend styles and cross pollinate genres, it’s almost more thrilling to hear the same happening in decidedly un-pop music. Looking back, Death Grips might be the recent catalyst for a lot of this with their unholy cocktail of noise, hip-hop, metal, and electronic music, but one of the most exciting recent finds comes in the form of San Francisco duo Wreck & Reference. Just try and count how many things are happening on “Corpse Museum”: funky hip-hop-inflected drums, burning digital noise blasts, wretched howled vocals screaming out through a cavern of ominous choral samples that sound almost like Gregorian chants. Yet the duo of Ignat Frege and Felix Skinner never sound like they’re just a sum of really dark parts, some Frankenstein’s monster of extreme music — rather everything sounds completely of one brutal piece. The name is really just right, they’ve got the references down, but this brutal energy will wreck you. Never thought I’d say this, but Pallbearer and Deafheaven might have some trouble playing after these guys on their upcoming tour together. –Miles
Christopher Owens has long shown a soft spot for gospel music; think of the backing vocals on Girls’ Father, Son, Holy Ghost, or the way he routinely gave the backup singers on Girls’ final tours opportunities to upstage him. And when you consider that religion pretty much made Owens’s young life a living hell, there’s a fascinating tension in his connection to that music. Owens was raised in the Children Of God cult, and his younger brother died at age two because the cult didn’t believe in giving medical attention. And now Owens has written his first full-on gospel song about Stephen, that younger brother, using the musical language of joy and devotion and transcendence to sing of heartbreak and squalor and brokenness. The result is a short, sad burst of beauty that leaves my insides ringing like a bell. –Tom
Don’t make Big K.R.I.T. angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry — at least not if you’re one of the trend-conscious industry people who’ve ever dared to tell him his brand of relentless Southern stomp is out of step with times. On “MT. Olympus,” Justin Scott is such a force of nature that the times might have to get in line with him. “The ‘Control’ beat is like an ugly bitch that everybody done fucked raw,” so K.R.I.T. went and produced his own rap-game-lacerating manifesto. Unlike Kendrick, K.R.I.T. mostly leaves names out of it, but he still burns down the competition with the merciless fury of William Tecumseh Sherman. “Lotta rappers buried underneath my house,” he declares. “They know what I’m ’bout, you ain’t even know it.” Later, he gets even more explicit: “What’s good for hip-hop may not be good for my soul/ So, I keep flexin’, wreckin’, for the people that respect it.” Booming down from the mountaintop, the message is clear: Hypebeasts need not apply. On second thought, I like him a lot when he’s angry. –Chris
Namecheck “Thrift Shop” if you must, but dizzy, dumb, euphoric, cut-through-the-air-and-stick-in-your-brain horn loops have a long and noble history, both in the mainstream and the underground. “Problem” is the finest example of the form we’ve heard in years. It’s a shining moment for the young and breezy post-Mariah melismanator Ariana, who shows off both a ferocious range and an ability to convey the agony and ecstasy of crushing hard on someone terrible, and for Iggy, who gets through a guest verse without saying anything that makes me want to put a fist through my speaker. But the MVP here might be the Swedish pop mastermind Max Martin, who, after years and years in the game, appears to be discovering his inner Teddy Riley. –Tom