We’re already pretty stoked on 2016. Kanye dropped his new single, “Real Friends” (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign) along with a snippet of “No More Parties In LA” (Feat. Kendrick Lamar) today, which means that both will be eligible for next week’s picking. This time around, we had nearly three weeks of new music to choose from, since we didn’t publish this column over the holidays. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but a GOOD kind of mixed back. After all, G.O.O.D. Fridays are back!
“Christmas can wreck you head like some listless, awkward sex / So you refuse to leave your bed / Get depressed when no one checks.” That’s a funny way to announce the return of your beloved, broken-up band to the world. But James Murphy insists on doing things the most self-deprecating way possible. So the morning after his band played his final triumphant Madison Square Garden show, he invited a film crew into his apartment to film him looking sad, walking his dog in pajama pants. And now that they’re coming back to headline America’s biggest festival, he’s given us this: A tinkly bury-your-head-in-your-blankets ballad about trying to recapture a “normal life” with a distant loved one. They’re in full “New York I Love You Mode” here, never showing one iota of the disco-rock intensity that made them such a vital force. But it’s a pretty song, expertly recorded, with perhaps the saddest and most ironic sleigh bells ever put to tape. –Tom
Abi Reimold’s voice is haggard, and I mean that as a compliment. There are (obviously) billions of songs about emotional unrest and decay, but when lyrics are delivered with a crystalline polish, I don’t always believe them. They don’t always move me. “Sugar” navigates a unique landscape of torment, and form follows content so carefully on this song that it almost feels like Reimold is spitting her thoughts out at us as they surface. There’s reluctance in each turn of phrase, arriving at an apex when she sings: “Outside it looks like I’ve gained more control/ But I am secretly wishing for you to come home.” Reimold’s voice quiets on the tail end of that admission, letting it fester for a minute. It sounds like that moment when you’re on the phone with someone and you let something slip that you wish you hadn’t, followed by an inevitable pause that reminds you it’s too late to take it back. –Gabriela
Facebook can be so depressing. You inevitably receive one-line status updates from people you routinely spoke to in person once upon a time. Genuine relationships turn into a seemingly chasmic distance with the people we once knew giving way to their curated online persona, leaving doubt as to who we thought the person was when we knew them and wonder about how little of that person we knew is left. New Jersey natives Pinegrove may know this feeling well, as a simple move across the Hudson can land a friend in a galaxy far, far away. “Old Friends” embodies this sentiment with some deeply visceral songwriting about how increasingly tenuous ties from our past can strengthen our present relationships because we want to avoid the feeling of someone slipping away. Laments like, “My steps keep splitting my grief through these solipsistic moods/ I should call my parents when I think of them/ Should tell my friends when I love them” remind of how easily and often relationships dissolve, and how awful that irreparableness feels. The incongruously bright electric guitars and bouncy drums before the heavy-hitting hook add to the song’s superb ambivalence. Turning deep-seated regret into an ultimately uplifting call to action is no small feat, but Pinegrove do it well. –Collin
Chance The Rapper is one of the most musical rappers in the game. He’s got the technical skill, but despite his moniker, he’s interested in more than just rap, bringing in jazz and funk and gospel and juke and stirring it all up until the whole thing combusts in an explosion of joyous energy. (See: “SlipSlide,” Chance’s last collaboration with Busta Rhymes.) Chance is great at that, and I definitely don’t want him to stop doing that, but on the other hand… damn it’s a treat when he decides to leave the horns and the choirs at home and just go in on a track and rap his ass off. That’s what he does here, dropping one “long-ass verse” on the beat from Luniz’ classic “I Got 5 On It,” which is followed by another long-ass verse from Busta himself, who kicks things into serious overdrive just before the finish line. These guys are in possession of two of the most distinctive voices in rap music, but they’re on totally opposite ends of the spectrum — while everything that comes out of Chance’s mouth has a sing-song, playground-taunt quality to it, Busta is booming and gravelly and authoritative, sounding approximately two geologic eras older instead of just two decades. It’s an effective contrast, and there’s something interesting in that. But really, “Hello” works because it’s two awesome rappers being awesome at rapping, and sometimes that’s all it takes to make an awesome song. –Peter
Radiohead never really stopped making great music — The King Of Limbs has its moments, and there are days when In Rainbows feels like their finest work. But they entered their self-cannibalization stage well over a decade ago, when Hail To The Thief semi-successfully doubled back across the band’s discography, so it’s no surprise that their rejected Bond theme strongly resembles their previous work. The shocker was that when I submerged myself in “Spectre,” futures trickled by the past. As it turns out, further down the river Amnesiac’s gorgeously stumbling piano ballad “Pyramid Song” crossed streams with Kid A’s grandly desolate “How To Disappear Completely.” The result was beautiful and ironic — beautiful because just listen to this thing, ironic because it took yet another Thom Yorke song about making your peace with death to remind me Radiohead still have life left in them. –Chris