The year is nearing an end, and we’re nearing the end of our ropes with holiday #content. We’re really proud of the stuff we’ve shared so far, though, and if you haven’t checked out our 2016 Year In Review page, you should! As for looking back in the short term: So much awesome music came out this week! Check out some of the best songs below.
On a national level we tend to think of music scenes by genre, but within a major metro area it’s not uncommon for different kinds of artists to converge into one big multifarious community. In Columbus, where I live, there’s been plenty of overlap between the rap and metal scenes, so it’s not entirely surprising to hear that Bay Area talents Antwon and Kerry McCoy have joined forces. What does pleasantly surprise me is what kind of sound the artful hard-knock rapper and Deafheaven’s sonic architect settled on. “Changes” is moody post-punk on par with the genre’s best, a slow but insistent wave of melancholy built from chugging bass notes, lockstep electronic drums, and gorgeous crosshatched guitar figures. Riding atop that wave is Antwon, channeling his powerful bellow into heavy melodious regret and creating something monumentally dope in the process. –Chris
Right now, plenty of us are staring at next year with a whole lot of anxiety and uncertainty. The Brooklyn-based rapper and producer Oddisee, a Muslim American whose family has roots in Sudan, is probably carrying more anxiety and uncertainty than most. On his new single “Things,” he tries to put that generalized free-floating stress into words, his mind whirling in 15 different directions at once. But “Things” isn’t a morose song. It’s fast and jittery and celebratory. Oddisee comes from Washington, DC — from that pre-Wale era when rap took a distant backseat to go-go in the city’s music scene. He’s an expert manipulator of samples who learned his style in relative isolation, and his clipped, gospel-dipped, house-inflected “Things” track is the sort of thing that virtually no other rap producer would attempt, especially in service of an introspective song like this. He’s taken that stress, and he’s done something productive with it. Would that the rest of us would do the same. –Tom
Christmas music can be extremely annoying, so if you’re going to make a contemporary holiday jingle, it’s good to ensure the song itself is bulletproof, Christmas cheer aside. Saintseneca did exactly that on their seasonal new EP The Mallwalker. “All The Best” is its melancholic opening track that reflects on seasons past. “All the best holidays when we were less like what we are,” Zac Little initiates. He goes on to mourn snowy winter lawns, and likens some great love to calcified treasure rooted in the bottom of a copper mine: “Younger world holding a much younger girl/ Ancient love open and raw as a mineral deposit.” Little thinks this all over during a layover en route to Valparaiso before making his wish: “I hope you get what you deserve this Christmas.” Part of me wants to hear the lyric as a sneering kiss-off line, but there’s far more sadness than resentment in it. –Gabriela
I fell in love with this song’s earlier iteration as “Sharks” on Vagabon’s Persian Garden EP. With just guitar and raw vulnerability, Laetitia Tamko has an uncanny ability to make distancing melancholy warm and relatable. So when she fleshed “Sharks” out into “The Embers” with layered fuzz and cleverly syncopated drums that swelled underneath and lifted the energy and drama of the earlier, quieter version into the freaking stratosphere, it was cathartic. The lyrics are exactly the same, but her subdued yet piercing imagery and plainspoken tone have an incongruous tension enveloped by a noisier atmosphere, then she deftly matches the energy, her voice sounding wonderfully uncontrolled and unpredictable on purpose. It all coalesces beautifully around the brutally penetrating lines, “I’m just a small fish/ And you’re a shark that hates everything/ You’re a shark that eats every fish,” communicating the feeling of how microscopic an immense love for someone can make you feel. –Collin
Julie Byrne’s music exudes a preternatural calm, but it’s all a facade. Or, rather, that calm is aspirational; most of her songs come from a deeply wounded and broken place, and “Follow My Voice” is no exception. “The song is a plea for those in pain not to be overtaken by fear,” she explained in our interview with her, and it’s in that disconnect between pain and fear where Byrne manages to find solitude and warmth. “Follow My Voice” contains harsh self-critical observations — “I was made for the green, made to be alone,” “I’ve been called heartbreaker for doing justice to my own” — but instead of giving itself over to those isolationist tendencies, the song stands as a testament to love and resolute hard work: “So I will be here, so I will be here,” Byrne sings, stoic and everlasting. –James