This week in headlines: Donald Trump Attempts To Dismantle Democracy As We Know It And Also He Has Something To Say About Madonna. Everything is absolute garbage! Here are the five best songs of the week.
Unrequited love sucks, but it’s the best kind of love to write about because it’s filled with possibility. The narrator in Angel Olsen’s “Fly On Your Wall” plays with that possibility, using an oft-used metaphor to explore the life of another person that she may or may not have feelings for. The lyrics in this song aren’t totally concrete up until Olsen spells out the central drama at the ending. “Our love never made it — it’s still mine,” she sings with a hint of a familiar tremble. “If only real in my mind.” She repeats those lines over and over and over again, as if to will that love into being. —Gabriela
If this first week of the new administration has taught us anything, it’s that the next four years will be unrelenting in their awfulness. “Vacation,” PWR BTTM’s contribution to the Our First 100 Days project, reflects the suffocating black cloud that is hanging over most of the country right now. Ben Hopkins shrinks the despondent, constant worry and anger down to a personal scale — “It happens on Mondays, Tuesdays as well/ Wednesday and Thursday are my personal hell” — before blowing it back up to echo all our collective anxieties in the chaotic climax, a fury of horns that asks, “Can I get a break? Can I get a vacation?” It’s unlikely that we’ll be getting very many breaks going forward, but it’s important to practice self-care and not lose sight of ourselves and our own well-being in the face of this new horror. That’s exactly what they want. Let’s not allow that to happen. –James
For Joey La Neve DeFrancesco, simply existing — and not being ashamed of it — is a radical act of rebellion. “Well I guess I’ll wait till you’re all excited/ I guess I’ll wait till I’m invited,” they deadpan sarcastically. “The backlash…I see what you mean.” More than ever, the state is politicizing the bodies of women, of people of color, of queer and trans and non-binary folks, threatening the identities of America’s most vulnerable groups under the auspices of their own flag. It’s hard to reconcile the lofty ideals our country was supposedly founded on with its exclusionary, backwards reality, but Trump’s America, DeFrancesco says, isn’t the only America, or even the real America. The real America is messy and fluid and full of contradictions, teetering between discordance and beauty, and it sounds something like “American Sounds.” Let’s keep it that way.
It’s a testament to Father John Misty’s skill as a songwriter that I enjoy his music so much in spite of constantly wishing he would shut the fuck up. Josh Tillman’s enlightened nihilist shtick makes me want to puke, partly because if he followed it to its logical conclusions he would give up pursuits like loving marriage and meaningful creative activity and life itself. Unfortunately my own convictions on this matter are just as weak because every listen further enthralls me with this Devastatingly Insightful Man and his Randy Newman worship. Songs like “Pure Comedy” wouldn’t have such bite if not written by a walking #actually; much of the appeal of Tillman’s work comes from the friction between his hopeless worldview and his appreciation for beauty. It’s why his essays are unbearable and his albums are unmissable, and why this latest treatise on humanity so breathtakingly subverts its own message — by virtue of its impeccable artistry, sure, but also by existing at all. –Chris
Don’t just click play on this one. Think about it for a minute. Pause. Breathe. Phil Elverum’s wife Geneviève Castrée died last year, after a short and hopeless battle with cancer, leaving behind Elverum and their baby daughter. “Real Death” is Elverum wrestling with it — not trying to make sense of it, not wanting to make sense of it, just finding ways to musically say what’s going through his head. He recorded it all in the room where Castrée died, on her instruments. And right away, he warns you: “It’s not for singing about, it’s not for making into art.” By the time the song ends, he’s telling the world about the package that arrived a week after she died: a backpack for their daughter that she won’t be able to wear for years. “You were thinking ahead to a future that you must’ve known, deep down, that would not include you.” I can’t hear this song without crying. I can’t think about this song without crying. So make sure you hear this song. It’s a stunning piece of work and, in its mere existence, a testament to human strength. Just know what you’re getting into first. –Tom