Bon Iver, Solange, and Danny Brown all released albums this week. Say that aloud to yourself and then feel sorry for all of the bloggers in your life who haven’t slept a fucking wink. We do it all for you. So, if you haven’t read our conversation with Solange, or the Premature Evaluation on A Seat At The Table, OR the Premature Evaluation on Bon Iver’s new album, let alone our Danny Brown cover story… you’ve got a lot of catching up to do. We also reflected on Jenny Hval’s Blood Bitch, and paid tribute to Temple Of The Dog on their 25th anniversary. It has been a great week for features, and we’re proud as hell, but now it’s time to chill out for the weekend. Check out the songs that got us through below.
Most people were first introduced to Chromatics and Johnny Jewel by way of Drive. That film’s Cliff Martinez-helmed soundtrack was mind-blowing, and it showcased Chromatics doing what they do best: make songs that sound very good bathed in neon, heard through a car’s open window in the dead of night. Maybe this is hyper-specific, but there’s no Chromatics song that does not sound like it could hum in the background a very beautiful, very moody film. Johnny Jewel scored Fien Troch’s upcoming film Home, and “Magazine” is the first track we’re hearing from it. “Gauzy” might be one of the most overused descriptors in music writing, but I’m going to use it anyway because it is a TRUTH. The use of vocoder on this thing makes you forget it’s even a song; “Magazine” just sounds like it’s floating on air. It’s delicate and emotive and it makes you feel great big things by doing very little. –Gabriela
It’s impossible to listen to Kero Kero Bonito and not crack a smile. On the surface, their candy-coated take on pop music has a lot in common with what PC Music have been doing for the past few years. But where PC Music always keep you at a distance, KKB welcome you in. Their music isn’t an ironic commentary on anything, and there’s there’s no asterisk required. It just is what is is, and what it is is insanely fun and insanely catchy. There’s a definite, semi-predictable formula to KKB songs — big, bright Nintendo-y synths and sound effects, earworm choruses, maybe a bit of rapping in Japanese — but they constantly find ways to tweak it to make things sound fresh and new. On “Trampoline,” that experimentation brings a transcendent key change, a killer vocal breakdown, a whole lot of bouncing, and a whole lot of fun. After all, life just looks better when you’re on your trampoline. –Peter
Sirens denote urgency; alternately, they indicate an alluring call, used to distract sailors from their mission at hand. Nicolas Jaar is an expert at teasing out dual meanings, and on his new album — technically the follow-up to his 2011 debut, Space Is The Only Noise, though there have been numerous smaller and side projects in between — he explores the push and pull of unease and unrest through allusions to politics and his Chilean-American upbringing. Singling out any one track from Sirens is like only choosing to focus on the color blue in a painting, but “Three Sides Of Nazareth” jumps out at me for its exceptionalism and immediacy, in the way it’s made to sound both like a thrilling high-speed chase and a product of intense insularity and thoughtfulness. It’s percussive and abrasive, hypnotic in how it blends together ambient noise and propulsive post-punk. It’s a complete thought, starting out running before gradually losing breath and disintegrating into nothingness. –James
“Sometimes Always,” the most enduring song from the Jesus And Mary Chain’s short-lived “fascinated with America” phase, is a song structured around an old ex-couple getting together (in a bar, if you believe the video) to figure out where they’re at with each other. Jim Reid, craggy voiced, hashes things out with the absolutely luminous guest-singer Hope Sandoval, and in a truly transcendent moment, they figure things out at the end. “Wasted On You” is like that — even the video is similar — but it’s messier and more wretched and ultimately a whole lot more real. Everyone involved actually hails from Middle America, rather than coming from Scotland and LA and approximating the indigenous styles of Middle America. And “Wasted On You” has Lydia Loveless, her voice draggy and conversational and, when it needs to be, absolutely transformative. If you don’t get goosebumps when she hits that chorus, I don’t even know what to tell you. –Tom
Moses Sumney is one of those artists that I would have been done with a long time ago were his voice not so divine. I caught him at a show where I didn’t know what the lineup was going to be in 2014 and he floored me. Dude has only come out with two songs since then! I had only heard him and a guitar, but that’s all I needed, though, so it held me over well. I get leery as artists raise their profile because often their voice drowns in their newfound resources. They can be overproduced or lost in instrumentation, but I should have known Sumney would be immune. Every element slowly drizzled onto “Lonely World” makes the song that much better, and his voice still shines through heavenly. His deftly controlled falsetto, exquisitely layered with harmonies, morphs from soulful folk to double-time dance party starter and doesn’t sacrifice any of its warmth or beauty. Don’t sleep on his Lamentations EP that dropped today; of course, you’ll have plenty of time to get to it if his past track record is any indication. –Collin