What a week for great new music! The Lorde blessed us with Melodrama, Arcade Fire debuted “Creature Comfort,” Hundredth’s RARE is out, Young Thug dropped BEAUTIFUL THUGGER GIRLS late last night, and Queens Of The Stone Age are back, baby! New music Fridays have been good to us lately. We ranked five of the best songs we heard this week below.
Tamir Rice’s murder was so obscene, and its aftermath so absurd, that apocalyptic howling is practically the only reasonable response. Algiers are just the band for the job, and with “Cleveland,” they’ve turned in a fiery condemnation worthy of its subject matter. “I wanted the song to sound like the Final Judgement in the Bible,” writes Franklin James Fisher in a note accompanying the song. Rarely has an artist so effectively lived up to his mission statement: As Fisher wails impassioned gospel laments against a harrowing Detroit techno backdrop, it really does sound like the end of the world — and in a society that in many ways has already gone to hell, it sounds a lot like right now, too. –Chris
When Emily Haines released Knives Don’t Have Your Back in 2006, she was processing the death of her father (a jazz poet) through a collection of sparse and tender songs that felt like a world away from the glistening rock that her main band Metric was making at the time. As Metric’s sound opened up over the years, I wondered if Haines would ever feel compelled to return to her solo endeavor or if she would just incorporate the compellingly deep songs that she made as the Soft Skeleton into her main project. But, thankfully, we have a new album coming from Haines in the fall, and “Fatal Gift” is a welcome return. There’s a few new wrinkles to her sound here — the dance beat that transforms this from a delicate piano ballad to a persistent thump that could play in some shadowy club — but Haines still uses her solo material as an outlet for her headier concept, which allows them to land with more of a haunting punch. Here, she’s crouching under the dark shroud of capitalism: “Paying for a living wage/ Know it’s a deceptive deal/ We accept the fatal gift/ They hover over where we live.” As the song picks up, its central hook — “The things you own, they own you” — turns pervasive and inescapable, much like how society won’t let us exist without engaging in a system that smothers our freedom. –James
Chelsea Wolfe’s music has always brought the darkness, but now it’s bringing a whole new type of darkness. For years, Wolfe has been making swirling, hypnotic, ambient tracks. But on her forthcoming Hiss Spun, she’s teamed up with the greatest underground metal producer working today, Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. “16 Psyche,” the album’s first single, is a slow and rapturous doom steamroller, with a massive, corroded guitar riff from Queens Of The Stone Age member Troy Van Leeuwen. Ballou’s great gift is that he can make music sound huge without compromising its grimy, fucked-up intensity, and that’s what he does here. But in the sausage party of underground metal, we almost never get to hear female voices, let alone voices as incandescent as Wolfe’s. And what Wolfe does on “16 Psyche” — bringing her own rapturous, gauzy aesthetic to a merciless sludge trudge — is a minor miracle. She’s new to this metal thing, and she might already be one of the genre’s most vital voices. –Tom
“That is my greatest fear: that if, if I lost control, or did not have control, things would just, you know I would be… fatal.” SZA’s debut album CTRL opens with a crackly audio recording of her mother, before the hollow plucking of strings takes over and SZA begins her confession. “Supermodel” is a bold introduction to an album that pillages SZA’s own fears, most of which stem from fractured self-esteem and relationships turned ugly. “Wish I was comfortable just with myself/ But I need you, but I need you, but I need you,” she admits on the song’s chorus. CTRL is a remarkable album for a lot of reasons, but SZA’s honest delivery, her totally uninhibited lyrics, stand apart. “Supermodel” is about a major breakup, and it’s also about a major fuck-up. “Let me tell you a secret,” SZA sings to a soon-to-be ex. “I been secretly banging your homeboy/ Why you in Vegas all up on Valentine’s Day?” Her confessions ooze with intention. She doesn’t withhold information from listeners, and she doesn’t sugarcoat it. Take the most striking line on this song, which surfaces in the second verse: “That’s why I stayed with ya/ The the dick was too good/ It made me feel good/ For temporary love.” SZA puts herself on trial throughout CTRL, and the result is an open-hearted, painful, beautiful album about figuring out how to take hold of your own destiny. –Gabriela
“Sober” isn’t about being sober at all — just the opposite, in fact. Instead of the inevitable Sunday morning come-down, “Sober” is Getting Fucked Up: The Prequel, a document of the kind of hedonistic escapism that works perfectly right up until it doesn’t: “Oh god, I’m closing my teeth around the liquor-wet lime/ Midnight, lose my mind, I know you’re feeling it too.” But even in the throes of Melodrama’s messy teenage house party, Lorde can’t quite shake the disquieting light of day, the sense that none of this is real and that tomorrow-Lorde will have a lot to contend with: “We’re king and queen of the weekend/ Ain’t a pill that could touch our rush/ But what will we do when we’re sober?” she asks. Lorde and Jack Antonoff capture the highs and the lows of a night out by crafting a banger that feels both understated and anthemic, its dizzy keyboards and skittering beat punctuated by stabs of triumphal horns. And Lorde, queen of the weekend herself, presides over all, layering her own voice into a Greek chorus of Lordes: tonight-Lorde, tomorrow-Lorde, sober-Lorde, zooted-Lorde, teenage-Lorde, grownup-Lorde, all jockeying for position. In the morning, “you’ll be dancing with us,” she sings, seemingly to herself, and the reckoning will begin. But tonight, it’s time to party. –Peter