So much for the return of G.O.O.D. Fridays, huh? We haven’t gotten a new one from ‘Ye in two weeks. That isn’t to say we haven’t heard from the man this week — if anything, he’s been more vocal than usual. But it seems like something must have distracted from his creative process, because all’s quiet on the songs front. That is, all’s quiet on the Kanye songs front. Not to worry, though — we still got plenty of songs.
Dan Boeckner has spent much of his career playing co-conspirator to outsized personalities. In Wolf Parade, he was the more grounded but still dangerous rock ‘n’ roll badass to Spencer Krug’s wild-eyed mystic; he contributed all the best parts to Divine Fits’ perhaps-underrated 2012 LP A Thing Called Divine Fits, but he was still sharing a stage with one of the most iconic indie rock frontmen of our time in Spoon’s Britt Daniel; and even in his own husband-wife duo Handsome Furs, Boeckner’s guitar-slinging eventually took a backseat to Alexei Perry’s buzzing keyboard magic. But despite the presence of worthy collaborators like keyboardist Devojka and New Bomb Turks/Divine Fits drummer Sam Brown, Operators are unmistakably Boeckner’s show, and he makes it count. Starting with Handsome Furs, his music has been trending away from straight-up guitar-rock and towards something more electronically-driven, and “Cold Light” finds the band in full-on synth mode, tempered by the classic-rock grit and swagger that Boeckner seemingly oozes out of his pores. The pounding drums that inaugurate the track give way to an insistent New Order bassline, with the whole thing exploding out into anthemic territory when the synths swell up in the chorus. “So do you, do you wanna dance?” Boeckner asks. Yes, Dan, yes I do. –Peter
Jessy Lanza’s 2013 debut Pull My Hair Back was filled with the sort of sultry R&B fare that was in vogue at the time. It separated itself from the pack because of Lanza’s considered minimalism, but at the end of the day they were still songs you could lean into. Her new single, “It Means I Love You,” is nothing like that — it makes you stand straight up. The closest analogue in Lanza’s output so far would be “Fuck Diamond,” which still sounds like a world and a panic attack away from the bundled nerves of “It Means I Love You.” A coy anxiety bleeds through every fibre of it, the blip of a million crossed signals — Lanza’s voice says to come closer, to look into her eyes, boy, but the stabbing and constricted synths tell a different story. That dissonance drives the track, and makes it one satisfying jolt of energy. –James
When we met Polly Jean Harvey a couple of decades ago, she sang about personal apocalypse, about doubt and need and vengeance. Not anymore. Ever since 2011’s Let England Shake, she’s been focused more on actual apocalypse, on the society that we’ve created, over the millennia, and on the way it snuffs lives out just to remain in existence. “The Wheel” feels very much like a continuation of that album’s scorched-battlefield hellscapes: “A tableau of the missing, tied to government buildings/ 8,000 sun-bleached photographs, faded with the roses.” On the chorus, she strains to describe atrocities — “a faded face, the trace of an ear” — while the men in her band dispassionately answer back, “I heard it was 28,000.” Musically, it’s elemental Zeppelin stomp, with a bit of Stooges-esque free-jazz chaos. It’s almost like Harvey can’t help her own rock stardom, even in the face of such horror. She is who she is. –Tom
ANTI is not a banger-laden Rihanna album, but it works. It works because Rihanna really sings on it in ways we haven’t necessarily heard before, and it sounds like a cohesive, multilayered statement, rather than a Talk That Talk-style hit parade. “Higher” is exciting in the same way that “FourFiveSeconds” was exciting. Rihanna’s rasp is still there, but she unleashes it in short, sharp yelps from the first time she sings the already meme-ready inaugural lines: “This whiskey got me feelin’ pretty/ So pardon me if I’m impolite/ I just really need your ass with me.” It’s discordant, almost thrilling to hear these lyrics atop a slow, plodding piano ballad; melancholic, but undeniably sexy still. Rihanna sounds like she will absolutely fall apart if she doesn’t get some right now, and her desperation is as convincing, and almost as arresting as “Stay” was. Rihanna’s become a generational icon for so many reasons, but it’s her clinical dgaf attitude that has always made me love her. OF COURSE she made a beautiful song about getting wasted and wanting to fuck. She’s realer and more unapologetic than I could ever hope to be. Who wouldn’t want to be on the other end of this booty call? –Gabriela
(Because ANTI is a Tidal exclusive, we can’t embed “Higher” here, but you can stream it now.)
Of all the awesome DIY bands to emerge from that fertile sonic space between pop-punk and indie-rock in recent years, Chumped were my favorite. Teenage Retirement’s flurry of power chords and melodic insight portended a long, storied career for the band. Then they broke up, which for Chumped fans was the kind of miniature private trauma that Anika Pyle could write a fantastic Chumped song about. In a sense, she already had: The tremendous Teenage Retirement leftover “Not The One” takes on deeper resonance now that we know the band is over. “I’m not the one,” Pyle emotes. “I can’t give you what you want.” Technically that’s true — what Chumped Nation really wants is for the band to continue indefinitely — but as parting gifts go, they could not have done much better. –Chris