Alas, it’s Friday, and what a Friday it’s been! We published ten-year anniversary pieces on Death Cab For Cutie’s major label debut Plans and Kanye West’s massive Late Registration (which coincides with the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina), reviewed Zac Efron’s biceps in the hapless coming-of-age film We Are Your Friends, and declared Justin Bieber’s new single a banger. Tomorrow is a super full moon in pisces, which basically means that if you’re experiencing an E•MO•TION-al apocalypse, you can expect to feel better by Sunday, just in time for the VMAs! In the meantime, go ahead and have a nice cry soundtracked by this week’s genre-spanning five best list.
Bossie is thinking about time. She’s thinking about grooves, dark nights, dancefloors, anxiety, peace, and everything in between. And she’s thinking out loud, channeling all those thoughts into distorted ’80s grooves through her hopped-up helium-twinkle voice. She’s like Cyndi Lauper on speed, skating across three decades with an airy euphoria that nods at worry but keeps right on gliding. Big-budget critical darlings like 1989 and E•MO•TION guarantee that the ’80s are back in a big way, but what they’ve actually done is separate those sounds away from their anchor in time, thrusting them into our bubbling post-modern cauldron. Bossie picks up where those mainstreamers leave off, shaving down a decade of sounds for her own delight. There’s time, and then there’s the human relationship to it; the past is ours if we choose to use it as a tool. After Taylor and Carly, there’s no one swinging that ’80s pop hammer with more grace than Bossie. –Caitlin
There are ghosts, and then there are witches. Three years ago, Natasha Khan named her last Bat For Lashes album The Haunted Man. If she was thinking about ghosts when she made it, you can hear it in the album. The ghost is doomed, eternal, fated to hide in shadows and watch the world keep progressing with no power beyond the ability to scare mortals from time to time. The witch is something else. The witch isn’t passive. She exerts real and mysterious power over the world, bending things to her will. Khan’s new project is Sexwitch, a collaboration with the band TOY, and you can hear the witch in first single “Helelyos.” It’s a cover of an unhinged song from the late-’60s/early-’70s Iranian funk band Zia, a weird and powerful cultural artifact already. In Khan’s hands, though, it’s a feverish incantation, a bloodthirsty chant. TOY’s groove is dank and cavernous, driven by a Liquid Liquid-esque bassline and a spidery guitar — a bit similar to the Swedish tribal psych-funk band GOAT, but not too far removed from Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” And over that, Khan whoops and wails, repeating “my dark girls, my dark girls” like a mantra. There’s wrath in her voice, and there’s exhilaration, too. At a certain point, they become the same thing. –Tom
Kelly Clarkson’s “Miss Independent” remains one of her all-time greatest singles because it’s an uncompromising, aggro pop song about why falling in love can be really fucking inconvenient when you’re not looking to do so. Clarkson’s unruly voice has undoubtedly inspired countless nights at karaoke bars, and her brazen declaration that “if you’re gonna use that line you’d better not start” is the perfect oh shit comeback that you’ll remember the next time someone makes a half-assed effort to hit on you in a bar. Ellen Kempner grew up in the shadow of Clarkson’s fierce anthem, and if you’re at all familiar with Palehound’s debut full-length, Dry Food, then you know that the two singers both have sharp-witted personalities that turn their weaknesses into heart-shattering strengths, ready to make casual but pointed declarations of indifference: “Miss on her own, Miss almost grown/ Miss never let a man help her off her throne.” That, and the early-aughts pop-rock aesthetic of the song pairs nicely with the bluesy, improvisational instrumentation on Palehound’s new album. Kempner’s cover doesn’t take any major risks, but the way she sings the breakdown entirely in falsetto is a reminder that Clarkson’s single is still ~fire emoji~ 10+ years later. –Gabriela
Every week, the Stereogum staff enters suggestions for this list into a spreadsheet, where we debate the merits of each submission until we end up with something like a consensus. Lana Del Rey’s last two singles, “Honeymoon” and “High By The Beach,” both made it onto that spreadsheet, and each one was hotly debated before eventually being denied the honor of inclusion. The lovers were passionate, the haters even more so. (Who knew Lana Del Rey was so polarizing?) Both times I was among those wondering what happened to the force of nature behind Ultraviolence, the album that showed me Del Rey’s maudlin shtick can thrive more than one song at a time. “Terrence Loves You” is the first Honeymoon track that’s swept me away like that. It’s only one song, but man, does it ever thrive. Her voice flutters over the dreamy nothingness, delivering a few heartrending phrases with enough magnetism to set you adrift along with her. Del Rey’s performance is so mesmerizing, and the arrangement behind so subtly powerful, that the David Bowie homage barely even registers. When you’re under her spell, everything but Lana ceases to exist. –Chris
“The Magdalene,” Foxing’s first single from their upcoming sophomore album, was written about frontman Conor Murphy’s Catholic school upbringing, and the classic guilt that hangs over all associated with the faith via the shushing side-eye of the Holy Spirit. Religious sex-shaming has been around since the dawn of time, but it seems to manifest itself with a fervor in Catholic high schools. Horny teenagers combined with strict rules seems to equal an accelerated sexual awakening, tied to a crushing guilt. Sex is for marriage, sex is for procreation — of course, sex is for all the time, but on “Magdalene,” Murphy still feels it necessary to talk about it in thinly-veiled innuendos: “I’m going down with the rosary,” “I could watch it drip down and cover my skin/ The taste of Christ sits still while I swallow your insides.” These are graphic, sure, but they use the language of the Sacraments to stand in for anything outright explicit. Even as a grownup, there’s still a fear that what we’ve done will be waiting for us when Judgement Day comes — “When God unravels the webs that I’ve spun, what shall be undone?” Foxing’s tense, structured music doesn’t provide much of an answer. –James