The 5 Best Songs Of The Week

Some of this week’s 5 Best Songs are weird. Like, really weird. Some of them are pretty normal — which isn’t a knock, because it’s not easy to make something that sounds masterfully effortless and straight-up competent. All of them, however, are good. Check them out and share your own thoughts below. (Also, this seems like as good a place as any to point out that every song we’ve heard from the new Jessie Ware album has ended up on one of these lists. Congrats, Jessie!)

5. Allo Darlin’ – “Romance And Adventure”

Say allo to your new favorite indie-pop band. There’s a breathless swoop to “Romance And Adventure” on par with the first Strokes album, yet it feels intimate and understated in the way all those great old Belle & Sebastian songs did. Elizabeth Morris has a hell of a band behind her — guitars that weave in and out like careful stitching and a rhythm section that rumbles powerfully without getting in the way. But her sighing, resigned lead vocal steals the show here, and her lyrics paint a pretty picture of a sad scene. She feels weak, but the effect is powerful. –Chris

4. Alt-J – “Every Other Freckle”

Near the end of Alt-J’s new single, shortly before trailing off into a mantra mumble of “I want every other freckle,” Joe Newman asks “If you really think that you could stomach me?” The line feels overdramatic coming from a band that just broke 1 million Facebook likes and has more Mercury Prizes than Radiohead (then again, Elbow and the Klaxons have more Mercury prizes than Radiohead, too, so we can probably agree that Mercury Prizes mean fuck-all), but that’s also exactly the point. This is a band that hit a winning formula early on and could easily coast. They don’t need to get weird, yet on “Every Other Freckle,” they do. As Michael pointed out, there is a distinct Beta Band vibe, specifically the Hot Shots II-era stuff when it felt like the Betas were mining the past to predict the future, making strikingly modern (and electronic) pop that still evoked the psych-folk of the ’60s. The difference, though, is that when the Betas were doing it, they were also growing bitterly disillusioned with their industry, their music, and their own career. Meanwhile, Alt-J find themselves in a position of power and influence, really digging in and deconstructing their sound, all while sounding like they’re having a blast. It’s a rare thing to witness, especially since so few bands get this opportunity. –Miles

3. Vince Staples – “Blue Suede”

For a long time I would always mix up Vince Staples (the Odd Future affiliate and Def Jam signee) and Vic Mensa (Chance The Rapper’s buddy who recently guested with Damon Albarn). That’s not going to be a problem anymore — not if Mensa keeps rapping over the dance-pop beats he’s been gravitating toward recently, and certainly not if Staples keeps getting his hands on clattering, chaotic productions like “Blue Suede” and absolutely crushing them. Contrary to the title, there’s nothing soft or luxuriant about this. Far more so than anything on Staples’ great Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2, it’s abrasive on both extremes, from its hardware-destroying bass to the canine-torturing high-end squall that blares like a siren throughout. And Staples matches the beat blow for blow, latching onto the rhythm with A$AP Rocky’s ease and twice the tenacity. –Chris

2. The Juan MacLean – “A Simple Design”

Nancy Whang has been singing on the Juan Maclean singles for years, but she’s just recently become a full-time member, turning John MacLean’s long-running solo project into a straight-up duo. It makes a difference, and you can already tell. “A Simple Design” isn’t simply a gorgeously rendered old-school disco-house throwback of the sort that MacLean has been cranking out for the past decade. It’s that, but it’s also a sly, chilly synthpop anthem, the closest thing to a roller-rink jam that MacLean has ever produced. Over its seven minutes, the song bubbles, shimmies, slides, and never quite falls into the starry-eyed trance that was MacLean’s default mode for so long. Instead, it keeps its melodic snap intact, and Whang’s icily trilled la la la las are the most profound thing she’s sung since she was harmonizing with James Murphy on the “NY State Of Mind” cover that ended shows on that last LCD Soundsystem tour. –Tom

1. Jessie Ware – “Say You Love Me”

Hey, it’s Jessie Ware’s first Adele song! Or maybe it’s her first Sam Smith song. Either way, it’s the moment that Ware leaves behind the precise, restrained, architectural soul of Devotion, her first album (and of “Tough Love” and “Share It All,” the first two singles from her forthcoming Tough Love) for something bigger and bolder and more likely to get played on Rite-Aid speakers here in America. That sounds like a knock, but it’s not; Ware’s voice turns out to be just as warm and empathetic when she’s sinking her teeth into a more straightforward song. And this one, which Ed Sheeran co-wrote, is all full of direct, concrete statements — lyrics that Dashboard Confessional could’ve howled once upon a time — and obvious, professional production choices, like the gospel choir that comes barnstorming in at the end. It all works because Ware sells it — the frustration of relationship distance, the slow pull of apathy and inertia, the desperate wish to rekindle things. The goosebump moment isn’t the choir’s entrance, as it is on so many songs like this. It’s the raw-nerve growl that creeps into Ware’s voice when she sings, “want to feel buuurrnnn-iiinng flaaaames when you say my name.” –Tom

Comments (6)
  1. Gašper Antauer  |   Posted on Aug 15th +1

    I really like Michael Cera’s cover of Clay Pigeons.

  2. ilovemakonnen’s song with Drake needs to be #1. Of the year.

  3. allo darlin’ have been around for at least 4 years, but i’m glad to finally see them get a shoutout here. their first 2 albums are fucking great

  4. Miles, what is wrong with Elbow (beside the fact that they won over Radiohead in 2008 which is a band that was more than once nominated for a Mercury Prize)?

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