5Best

Labor Day Weekend is upon us, and with it, the unofficial end of summer. So, in hindsight, what was the Song Of Summer 2014? “Fancy”? It was probably “Fancy.” What else even came close? “Anaconda” arrived too late, “Happy” peaked too early … ” “Rude”? “Problem”? Eh. Feel free to shout out your own Songs Of The Summer in the comments. As for Songs Of The Week? See below.

5. Cass McCombs – “Night Of The World”

Here’s Cass McCombs’ idea of a pickup line: “You are the night of the world. Come, take over me.” “Night Of The World” might be minor McCombs — a bluesy burble about infatuation, for a split single with (of all people) the Meat Puppets. But McCombs is often at his best when he’s at his most tossed-off. Softly delivering invitations to crawl through prison sewers, he comes off like Lou Reed kicking game in a Berlin opium den in 1974. He rides that quiet little groove straight into your brain, and he stays there. –Tom

4. Torn Hawk – “I’m Flexible”

From his glitched-to-hell back catalog to his video art to his live performances, Luke Wyatt’s entire career seems like one ever-evolving performance. This can be a fantastic thing, but it can also cause people to doubt his sincerity. In describing his new Torn Hawk album, Let’s Cry And Do Pushups At The Same Time (his debut for Mexican Summer), Wyatt said he had dumped his longtime girlfriend, “Irony Cynicism Irreverence,” and met somebody new: “Sincere Unapologetic Craftsmanship.” On that album’s first single, “I’m Flexible,” Wyatt uses his typically garbled sonic style to convey a pure, starry-eyed wonder. Despite a ton of fascinating material in his catalog, it has long felt like Wyatt was in search of a breakthrough. Well it’s here, in all its dazzling, beautiful glory. His relationship with sincerity may be new, but this massive statement of purpose tells me Wyatt’s found a keeper. –Miles

3. Deafheaven – “From The Kettle Unto The Coil”

In the wake of last year’s Sunbather consensus orgy, it already feels gratuitous to heap honor upon a new Deafheaven song, as if by doing so I’m further cementing their status as the reigning go-to metal band for people who don’t really listen to metal. Fuck that, though. Shall I penalize Deafheaven for giving me what I want? No, I shall thank them for it. Thank you, Deafheaven, for continuing to deliver all the crushing otherworldly bombast of black metal under gorgeously gauzy shoegaze splendor and with post-rock’s sweeping sense of dynamics. Whether “From The Kettle Unto The Coil” is a holdover before some massive aesthetic shift or just a sign that Deafheaven have another Sunbather-style opus on the way, it’s a welcome return, a powerhouse from a band that was never guaranteed to deliver another powerhouse. –Chris

2. Tinashe – “Pretend” (Feat. A$AP Rocky)

Less than year ago, the only remotely prominent credit Tinashe had to her name was a guest spot on Ryan Hemsworth’s Guilt Trip album. Today, she’s the person behind the summer’s slyest, slinkiest hit. “2 On,” Tinashe’s DJ Mustard/Schoolboy Q collab, was a slick and insinuating grower, a vision into an alternate reality where the plane never crashed and Aaliyah survived into 2014. “Pretend,” the follow-up single, keeps that understated, poised restraint but changes the emotional stakes, using those same gifts for a song about regret and longing and, yes, horniness. Rocky’s verse is perfunctory and extraneous, sure, but muttering sleepily, he completely embodies the asshole lothario Tinashe is pining for. –Tom

1. QT – “Hey QT”

One of the most uncomfortable parts of Her was when the Scarlet Johansson-voiced sentient operating system Samantha hired a surrogate lover to be her body during a date with Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore Twombly. I instantly thought of that scene when the vocalist hired (synthesized?) by SOPHIE and A.G. Cook (working here as QT) sang, “I feel your hands on my body every time you think of me, boy.” It’s eerie and unsettling because since when do the singers in these guys’ songs have bodies? The avant-pop that SOPHIE and Cook specialize in feels like something out of the uncanny valley — not a product of living human beings but of electronic inventions too real for comfort. They’ve gotten exceedingly good at amping up pop’s most saccharine impulses until they crystallize into something chilling. For better or worse, what they’ve tapped into sounds like the future. It’s not without precedent; “Barbie Girl” was toying with the plastic nature of modern dance-pop a decade and a half ago. But that was before our computers starting talking to us. “Hey QT” is a similarly playful comment on pop perfection, but it comes packaged with a nauseous undercurrent that chills me to the core of my beating heart. My heart is still beating, right? –Chris

Comments (11)
  1. “Fancy” is right for SOTS, though “Problem” encapsulates the Iggy/Ariana domination, which in the absence of a juggernaut on the scale of “Get Lucky” or “Blurred Lines” seems to be the really notable trend. I’m still skeptical about both divas tbh. For Iggy, I think the featured pop artists are doing the heavy lifting… Her raps just go in one ear and out the other. For Ariana, I’m still feeling more industry push than popular pull. Her songs are serviceable, but she’s also kind of limp as pop personas go. And her vocals are atrociously overrated. Rangey, sure, but devoid of soul or emotional expression. Kelly Clarkson, Hayley Williams, or Demi Lovato could blow her off the stage anyday.

    Anyway, my personal SOTS would be “Ain’t it Fun.” Sure, it barely grazed the Top 10, but it was a breakout moment for the reconstituted Paramore, and it was the song I was always most happy to hear on the radio (maybe because it wasn’t on every other minute).

    • And I forgot P!nk should also be counted in the top tier of pop diva vocalists. Seriously it’s amazing how much hype Ariana gets for her singing when she’s so middle of the road.

  2. Shit, what if SOPHIE is actually just a computer? You guys remember that one episode of Arthur where the biggest band in the world turns out to be holograms?

  3. Hannah Diamond (w/ William Wright) did that great QT art for XL, btw!

  4. Anyone else sort of disappointed with this crop? Hey QT is catchy enough but it’s a half-assed K-pop rip off.

    And I can’t seriously (seriously??) be the only one that thinks Deafheaven is boring as hell…??

    Someone help me out here.

    • I support you on QT. I know it’s a nice tune, but I think they’re putting a lot of magic that doesn’t exist on the real song.

      But on Deafheaven, man, you’re alone.

      • To me it’s like if I want black metal, I’m going elsewhere. And if I want shoegaze/post rock I’m going elsewhere. It’s a mediocre combo of the two.

        Maybe I need to listen to Sunbather some more.

    • Deafheaven is beautiful. They put more in one song than most artists put on an entire album. Can’t stand the vocals but that’s just personal preference.

  5. Good Throb – Double White Denim
    Hank Wood and the Hammerheads – I thought I was a good man
    Cold Beat – UV
    Total Control – Systematic Fuck

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