Did you watch the vice presidential debate on Tuesday? What’s that? You tried and got so bored and put off by two old white dudes mansplaining shit to each other that you turned off the TV? Same. Good thing we have a lot of women doing their own ‘splaining on our 5 Best Songs list this week. Check it out below.
I immediately associated “Chorus Girl” with A Chorus Line (one of my favorite musicals) in my head because my mind weirdly associates unrelated things nominally. The more I thought about it, the more I realized there are levels to that loose connection. The musical was about everything we don’t see when we look at performers on stage, the human being controlling those high kicks, dance steps, and expertly projected vocals. Really Big Pinecone’s song is similar in that it sets us up with the innocuous, innocent image of the chorus girl and then yanks us down through the depths of her individuality. The warped, deliquescent psychedelia first morphing into fuzzy clamor and then shifting into warbling chaos parallels the dimension Zannie Owens builds for the song’s main character. It’s so deliciously dark and alluring, but you would never expect it to end up in the shadows of mystique. Never judge the girl by the trumpet in her hair. –Collin
In this week’s Band To Watch feature, singer Marisa Dabice explained that Mannequin Pussy aren’t beholden to certain styles or structures because that’s not how life works, so why should their band function that way? It’s one of many reasons Romantic is such an exciting listen, the way it veers so wildly between pop and punk forms without losing its sense of purpose. But there are certain skills and habits that almost universally make life better, and Mannequin Pussy seem to understand that music functions that way too. Which is a longwinded way of saying: Wow, this band really understands dynamics! In the case of panic attack chronicle “Denial,” that means the first verse’s clenched-teeth tension levels out into a brisk melodic bop, and the second verse’s raging affirmation gives way to quiet contemplation. Its lyrics are poetry to be pondered, but the music is an emotional thrill ride in and of itself. –Chris
In 2011, Drake released a song called “The Motto.” It featured Lil Wayne and Tyga, and in case you forgot, it’s the reason people my age facetiously said “YOLO” every time we did something moronic for years after the single came out. You only live once: that’s the motto, nigga, YOLO. I am haunted by that hook. I hear it when I scroll through the endless feed of devastating world news, I hear it when I watch the presidential debates, I hear it every time some nihilism gets retweeted into my timeline. Being young and alive and in the world is fucking hard right now, because oftentimes it feels like there is very little hope for the future. So we keep our eyes down, glued to the LCD screen, looking at shit that amuses us. Like memes, for example. Weyes Blood’s “Generation Why” captures this inanity in an unconventional way. For one, Natalie Mering has the kind of voice that reminds you that the human voice is a powerful instrument. It sounds practically operatic at points, particularly when she reaches the chorus. “Y-O-L-O, why?” Those letters float out of her mouth so elegantly that it’s almost hard to ground them as an acronym the first time you hear the song. But once you do, that question becomes Mering’s thesis. “Going to see end of days/ I’ve been hanging on my phone all day,” she sings the opening lines. “And the fear goes away/ I might not need to stay/ On this sinking ship for long.” Maybe it’s a declaration of independence, or maybe she’s egging on the apocalypse. I choose the latter. –Gabriela
It’s easy to see the connective tissue between Amber Coffman’s debut solo single and Dirty Projectors’ recently-released “Keep Your Name,” or to view them as two sides of the same conversation, but neither song supports such a black-and-white reading: Coffman (albeit sampled) can still be heard on “Keep Your Name,” and David Longstreth holds a co-composing credit on “All To Myself” (perhaps also sampled). The current ambiguity surrounding their involvement in each other’s new projects only seems to strengthen the potency of both songs, and the resolute solitude of Coffman’s solo outing lets her step out of her frequent collaborator’s shadow in spectacular fashion.
“All To Myself” is a blissfully serene ballad about finding power from within and letting your inner light shine through and serve as a guide. It’s a zen outlook, one that meshes with the exactitude and grace of Coffman’s vocal delivery here; gone are the frantic aahs that marked much of her DP contributions, replaced by a confident and composed lull. “I can’t just sit around feeling upset/ Dwelling on my loneliness,” Coffman opens, sliding into a self-reliant chorus — “I gotta sing it out, sing it all to myself/ There’s no one to run to/ There’s a voice inside me/ And it’s time to listen” — that serves as both an excellent meta-commentary on the newfound independence of a solo project and a rousing rallying cry to harness your inner strength. –James
You could be forgiven for assuming that the cranes that Solange is singing about on “Cranes In The Sky” are the birds — long, slender, beautiful in an ungainly and delicate way. After all, this is just a radically pretty song, Solange’s voice slow-wafting over the spare, elegant, organic production of veteran soul-music genius Raphael Saadiq. But no. She’s singing about the rusty, towering metal hulks that could collapse on you at any minute — the construction equipment that only stops being ominous when we decide to forget that it’s there. On the song, she sings about an ever-present sadness, a heaviness in her heart that won’t go away, no matter what she does. She can’t drink or sex or read it away. It’s just there, hanging over her, a part of her world. And the dizzy, overwhelming beauty of the song can mask the deep, plunging sadness at its heart for a few listens. It’s been a long time since we’ve heard a song render depression and heaviness with this level of lush expansiveness. But when that initial dopamine-hit of pure loveliness wears off, that sadness is still very much there. –Tom