What a week! We got new Arcade Fire, new Carly Rae Jepsen, new Lorde, AND new Radiohead?!?!?!?! It’s almost too good to be true. If you need to be brought down to earth, definitely tune into your local political news station because shit is really rough out there. We need music right now. Dive into the best songs of the week below.
Katie Dey makes some of the most emotionally affecting music around, nourishing the soul with every fragment of meaning pulled from her abstract digital shrapnel and helium-soaked vocals. “Battery” finds her voice uncharacteristically clear, a distinct Australian accent peeking out as she relates deep feelings of unfulfillment and inadequacy: “I know it all feels wrong/ And it’s eating at your soul/ Your heart, once filled with love/ Is stuck.” But, in a less fatalistic echo of her own “Hope Reset,” that ennui morphs into determined self-reliance, just before the music behind her swells to a yearning crescendo: “Remember to recharge your heart when your battery gets low/ ‘Cause nobody’s gonna do that for you, and it’s not their job to.” Dey pulled a similar trick on her 2016 LP Flood Network, transposing human emotion into the comfortingly precise language of technology. With “Battery,” she reminds you that sometimes, when things get to be too much, all you need to do is recharge. –Peter
Keep the heartland krautrock mirages coming, Adam Granduciel! “Holding On” does not significantly alter the War On Drugs formula we’ve come to know and love, and its vibrant quality suggests that such a reboot is not necessary at this point in time. He’s gotten so good at constructing songs that barrel ahead beautifully into a state of melancholy reflection, like glimmering ghost trains charging across amber waves of grain, adjusting them ever so slightly so as to refract the light from different angles. “Am I holding on too long?” Granduciel rasps at one point near the end. Nah, dawg! Not as long as you maintain this ridiculously high batting average. –Chris
The teen drama Skins is about a bunch of kids trying and often failing to figure their shit out. Some of them have eating disorders, some of them are struggling with their sexuality, some of them have parents getting divorced, and all of them like to party. On Skins, the most beautifully shot scenes take place at a crowded house party or a rave or a bar that the teens are just barely old enough to be in. The biggest revelations often happen during these scenes and tell us the most about a character; the way you interact with your peers during a hedonistic night will make you celebrated or the subject of gossip in the halls come Monday. Skins documents young adulthood at its most ugly and dazzling and evocative — Lorde’s “Perfect Places” does the same.
Wasted nights and bedraggled walks of shame have always inspired Lorde’s best lyrics. Pure Heroine chronicles teenage malaise and the anxiety that comes with growing up. It’s heartening, then, that Lorde — who is, by all accounts, a very famous person — would want to make her sophomore effort a concept album about a house party: the grand theater of young adulthood, the place where drama ignites or goes to die. On “Perfect Places,” Lorde opens with a confession under a porch light, a quiet moment alone with a friend while the “wasters blow the speakers” and the surrounding crowd carries on. Her confession is innocent and all too relatable in 2017. “I hate the headlines, and the weather/ I’m 19 and I’m on fire,” she explains. “But when we’re dancing I’m alright/ It’s just another graceless night.”
From there, she merges with the crowd, beckons her friends to follow, asks them: “Are you lost enough?/ Have another drink get lost in us/ This is how we get notorious.” And that’s the moment when this song becomes anthemic, an ode to the people you call and the places you go to lose yourself in when the outside world gets to be too much. And Lorde’s idea of a perfect place isn’t some VIP section of a club. It’s not a vacation someplace exotic. It’s definitely not solitude. A perfect place is a jam-packed party filled with sweaty kids who want to get drunk and blow their brains out to the radio and forget about curfews and college applications and exes and the next step. “What the fuck are perfect places anyway?” They’re wherever you make them. –Gabriela
“And I’m certain if I drive into those trees / It would make less of a mess than you’ve made of me.” That couplet, from 1999’s “Broken Radio,” might be the ultimate Rainer Maria lyric: Grand, sweeping, poetic, dramatically overblown, ferociously self-pitying. Caithlin De Marrais wailed it with tremulous, gut-twisting force immediately after she and bandmate Kaia Fischer had softly harmonized this: “We talk about the last time it felt right to make out.” That was Rainer Maria in a nutshell, a band so tragically romantic that they basically turned you into a teenager every time you heard them. But that was nearly 20 years ago. Rainer Maria aren’t teenagers anymore, and neither, probably, are you. And on “Lower Worlds,” their first song in more than a decade, they sound like they’ve figured out confidence. There’s nothing fragile or hesitant about this song. It’s a fucking monster, a towering blues-drone that builds to a climactic moment, De Marrais belting out “Slam shut! The doors!” before erupting into a wordless scream. Rainer Maria were always a true power trio onstage, but you would’ve never gotten that impression from listening to their (great) records. This time around, they make sure you know. –Tom
It’s a miracle that we’re almost two years out from E•MO•TION and we’re still getting perfect pop throwaways from the same era. “Cut To The Feeling” is better than it has any right to be considering it’s featured on the soundtrack for Leap!, an animated movie in which Carly Rae Jepsen voices a ballerina, but here we are. It makes sense that it wasn’t included on her most recent album, though, which allowed for grey areas and complex relationship dynamics, even in its intense focus on love and desire. There’s none of that on “Cut To The Feeling,” or rather, it’s about avoiding all of those messy emotions and skipping to the point where you feel completely comfortable with someone, waking up in tangles and unselfconsciously dancing on the roof with them. That hunger for immediacy translates to the music itself, which is bold and theatrically over-the-top in a way that would have sounded out of place on E•MO•TION. That makes it perfect candidate for a movie soundtrack song, self-contained and unabashedly joyous. Those booming drums and sparkling ahhs lead up to a piercing breakdown: “Take me to emotion/ I want to go all the way,” she sings, each word hitting with a smack. That bridge could serve well as a summation of Jepsen’s songwriting fixations over the last two years: wanting all of something or nothing at all. –James