5Best

We’re right at about the halfway point of the year here, and we spent this week looking back at 2014 so far, and looking forward at what the summer will bring. But the week-that-was provided some excellent new tracks to keep us moving in the here and now. Here are the five best:

5. Honeyblood – “Super Rat”

Revenge songs always put the singer at risk of coming off at least as bad as the object of their ire, but who could resist joining this pity party? The major key and air of wistful reminiscence suggest “Super Rat” will be at least vaguely positive if not out-and-out joyous. Well, the joy is abundant indeed, just not in the form of the pristine guitar-pop love song I was expecting. Rather, “Super Rat” is a cleansing, purging, liberating kiss-off. There’s not a lot of redemption in a line like “I will hate you forever!” — at least not for the rodent-man responsible for stabbing our narrator(s) in the back. But sometimes you just have to vent before you can move on, and Honeyblood makes blasting your ex sound like a blast. –Chris

4. Julia Holter – “Don’t Make Me Over”

Julia Holter’s entire career has been built on adaptation. Whether it’s a nearly 2500-year-old play inspiring her debut, Tragedy, or last year’s stunning Loud City Song’s abstract retelling of the Oscar-sweeping 1958 film Gigi, one of Holter’s greatest gifts is how she can bend our perception of art to her own ends. So with the single release of LCS’s centerpiece — a cover of Barbara Lewis’ “Hello Stranger” — we’re given an additional cover of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David-written “Don’t Make Me Over.” Perhaps the most contemporary source she’s taken on at this point, and definitely the most culturally ingrained (there’s even a video of our President singing it), this is a colossal undertaking that Holter completely nails, moving from the intimate, sparse opening to the explosive finale. Even as Holter becomes more unstuck in time, pulling influences spanning literally thousands of years, she is becoming one of the most forward-looking artists we’ve got today. –Miles

3. Chlöe Howl – “Disappointed”

Even in the UK, where people swoop in and out of the pop mainstream with rare ease, Chlöe Howl isn’t any closer to becoming a bona fide star; she hasn’t yet landed her guest vocal on a summer-defining dance anthem or anything. But it doesn’t much matter; you can still hear the stardom bursting out of her. “Disappointed” has the brassy snarl that’s made Howl a favorite around these parts, but that attitude covers a deep gulf of heartbreak, and that’s right there on the surface, too. And it’s all couched in an efficient hook-delivery machine, a souped-up studio monster jam that someone like Pink would probably kill for. Could Pink, or whoever, make the song work like Howl can? I don’t think she could, and that’s why Howl needs to be a star yesterday. –Tom

2. Zammuto – “Great Equator”

The career of the Books found the band blending the idea of songs and sound collage, gradually moving more toward traditional songs. Since Zammuto’s solo career began, he’s picked up right where his previous group left off, and “Great Equator” is one of the best examples yet. Even more so than anything on his first solo EP, this is a wonderfully realized piece of experimental pop, from his vocal delivery to the way the song slowly, almost ominously picks up speed before it hits that perfectly bloopy hook more than two minutes in. “Great Equator” suggests Zammuto’s entire career is building with the same sort of momentum. –Miles

1. Jessie Ware – “Tough Love”

Benny Blanco, one of the two producers credited on “Tough Love,” started out making booty bangers for Spank Rock, and now he’s a big-money pop hired gun, putting together stadium-status tracks for people like Katy Perry. Not much on Blanco’s resume suggests the possibility of subtlety, but then Jessie Ware seems to bring that side out of people. “Tough Love” is built out of shimmering hums and frosty beeps, not the old-school lounge-soul building blocks of Ware’s amazing debut Devotion, but it has a grace that would’ve fit right in on that album. And it has Ware, once again underplaying her hand, quietly emoting about the times what we want and what we need aren’t the same thing, selling some serious deep-seated things without ever selling them. It’s what she does. –Tom

Comments (1)
  1. that Kitty [Pryde] song was no trifle, it might be the best thing she’s done yet

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