It was a good week for songs. Any week whose 5 Best Songs includes seven artists including Danny Brown, Ezra Koenig, Jessie Ware, Rustie, SBTRKT, Shura, and Spoon? That is a good week for songs. And you know what? You could maybe even argue that a few others shoulda been squeezed on there, too. Do that in the comments. Have a great weekend in real life. Spin these tracks in both scenarios.
God bless Ezra Koenig. Music is a better place with the Vampire Weekend frontman spreading his precocious inspiration across all manner of sonic frameworks. With Koenig crooning, rapping, scatting, and doing his best Matthew Friedberger impression over ominous Amnesiac-in-the-club clatter, “NEW DORP. NEW YORK” could almost pass for a Modern Vampires Of The City outtake omitted because it wasn’t wistfully pretty enough (or sufficiently metaphysical). It certainly doesn’t sound like any SBTRKT song we’ve heard before, which bodes well for Wonder Where We Land‘s horizons. “Never hit home runs” my ass. –Chris
For a singer whose self-released debut single has received more than a million plays in a couple months, and whose newest has now gotten more than 100K in a couple days, you might be caught off guard by the delicate vulnerability of Shura’s “Just Once.” Those low-key vibes, however, are wielded expertly here. There’s the gentle, brisk bass lines, synths that simply glide, and Shura’s voice is a smooth, whispery thing, but importantly, she never lets that detract from the yearning intensity in her voice or the startling directness of a line like, “Just once, I’m gonna go get drunk/ if you get my name wrong I won’t get pissed off because I wish I was somebody else.” It feels like the work of a very sophisticated songwriter who is only getting started. –Miles
The first two songs Spoon released from They Want My Soul represented tried-and-true Spoon archetypes. There was “Rent I Pay,” the swaggering pentatonic crusher — like a bag of bricks swinging at you, soulfully — and “Do You,” the effervescent pop ditty with brisk pace and melodies that drift like fizz into the ether. The floating, shimmering “Inside Out” is a different beast entirely, one that proves these 20-year veterans still have new ground left to cover. Britt Daniel’s weary dismissal of “holy rollers” is the most mirage-like track in Spoon’s canon, a gorgeous ethereal drift marked by tumbling sound spirals and grounded by Jim Eno’s crisp, commanding boom-bap. It’s like looking at a reflection of a Spoon song on the face of the water. –Chris
Jessie Ware and the xx have shared stages before, but they had things in common even before that. Ware and the xx are both sparse and restrained and London to the core. They’ve grown up on the same records and had the same ideas about them, and her warm and plainspoken blue-eyed soul shares a soft, insinuating intimacy with their bubbling, minimal future-pop. The xx’s Romy Madley-Croft co-wrote “Share It All,” and that snaking guitar line is all her, but Ware doesn’t sound like she’s dipping outside her comfort zone on the song. Instead, it’s a warm and open-hearted plea for togetherness, an attempt to get on the same level as a significant other, as free from specifics as all of her songs have been. And her fragile-but-tough voice kills, just like that guitar line, and just like producer Julio Bashmore’s textured synthetic fantasia. I don’t know if Ware needs that kind of big-name help to achieve that liquid state, but I’m glad she has it. –Tom
A lot of times, when way-out producers collaborate with rappers, those rappers tend to ground them, to slow them down and force them to wedge their ideas into a more traditional song form. That’s not what happens here. Rustie, a Scottish producer whose tracks tend toward maximal cartoon-rave splurge, already produced three tracks on Danny Brown’s stunning album Old, and those tracks, including the annihilating “Side B (Dope Song),” are among the most bugged-out that the permanently bugged-out rapper has ever made. But on Rustie’s own “Attak,” Brown gets even further into frothing-hyena mode, bouncing his voice off the walls of a beat that’s constantly moving and flexing and changing shape. The result: A jackhammering, adrenalized three-minute banger that absolutely refuses to let you catch your breath for even a second. I’d say these two should team up for a whole album, but I’m not sure my heart could take it. –Tom