Back in 2013, we decided to start counting down The 5 Best Songs Of The Week and, boy, has it been a wild ride! If our calculations are correct, this marks the 200th edition of this column. That’s a lot of songs. Some would say thousands! (It’s a thousand exactly, actually.) The first #1 song ever wasn’t even a real song at all — it was a live rehearsal video from DIIV of “Dust,” a track that wouldn’t show up in final recorded form for another three years. Our eligibility standards have become a little more stringent since then, but our enthusiasm for bringing you the best new music that’s released in any given week hasn’t waned whatsoever! We’ll keep doing it as long as you keep showing up. The best songs of the week are below…
Right now, French Montana is riding the success of “Unforgettable,” the ghostly Afropop pastiche that he made with Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee. That song is a bona fide smash. It just snuck into the Billboard Hot 100, and it’s by far the biggest hit of Montana’s career. When you make hits, you get to do what you want. And French Montana wants to rap over Harry Fraud beats. He wants to rap over regal horns and the Bob James sample that animated a whole lot of ’80s and ’90s rap classics. He wants to get Pharrell on there, rapping like it was “Move That Dope Again,” rapping about “Chanel scarf like rainbow barf.” He wants to drawl about Morocco and Revolver and Carlito’s Way and Reggie Miller and Ed O.G. and living in Calabasas. He wants to make ’90s-style New York rap Tunnel bangers! It’s been a long time since anyone tried to do that, and it’s been even longer since anyone did it this well. –Tom
The first time I saw Melkbelly perform they were so loud that I felt nauseous. The Chicago band makes hooky noise rock that upends your stomach, and their newest single “Kid Kreative” has the backstory to make it the shortest go-fuck-yourself anthem of all time. Melkbelly’s Miranda Winters describes the song as a sound-off to dudes who climb the ladder of success by stepping on her toes and stealing her ideas. “You took tea and toast, no work required,” Winters mouths before the song’s inescapable hook mocks her nemesis. “Called him Kid Kreative, Kid Kreative!” Melkbelly’s lyrics generally read as a spread of jumbled-up puzzle pieces, but when you know what a line like that is all about, it feels so good to sing along with it. –Gabriela
Not The Actual Events was a brutal collection of music, five diverse songs that represented Atticus Ross-era Nine Inch Nails indulging their aggressive and experimental impulses. “LESS THAN” suggests that ADD VIOLENCE, the second in NIN’s EP trilogy, might counterintuitively swing back toward pop accessibility. Or maybe the rest of the EP will be straight-up chaotic noise, but these three and a half minutes could almost be mistaken for Garbage if not for Trent Reznor’s vocals beaming and slicing across the mix. It’s propulsive from start to finish, with ’80s synth-pop burbles building to hard-charging ’90s guitars, everything catapulting forward at fearsome speed until it ends with a sudden jolt of silence. The musical thrill ride seems to be a delivery system for a call to action, with Reznor urging his listeners, “So what are you waiting for?” If he’s condemning complacency among the masses, he bolsters his case significantly by continuing to release music this contagiously replayable nearly 30 years into his career. –Chris
The perpetually under-appreciated the Blow always manage to do a lot with a little. “Get Up” is built around one of the duo’s characteristic rubber band beats, complemented by an alien noise that Melissa Dyne made while messing around with a modular synth. It’s sleek and cool-sounding, and Khaela Maricich’s impassive spoken word dances around with resolve, becoming more passionate as she gets increasingly frustrated with the state of the world and her nebulous space within it. It’s a mass of words and analogies about the commodification of location, the way that capitalism refuses to let anyone just exist and demands participation. “Literally everything’s been all bought up by a handful of desperate hoarders/ They’re like more more more/ Until the whole world looks like Mordor,” she says, invoking the Lord Of The Rings region overtaken by evil. It’s about fighting back against those forces that take away our physical space, pushing us into digital realms as they figure out ways to make money off of those, too. But “Get Up” serves as a rallying cry, the title repeated in frantic fashion as Maricich insists that the world cannot be taken from us: “We’re all standing on a planet spinning around a ball of fire/ Inside the planet there is also fire/ And nobody can own it ‘cus it’s way too hot.” –James
“Interstates are not what I want/ Headlights scare me into visions,” Hannah Read sings at the beginning of “Interstate Vision,” her expressive voice first harmonizing with itself, then falling into a conversational lilt. “I saw an angel fly on bright white wings, guiding me home.” Behind her, a dusty guitar and drums shine softly, less like high-beams and more like the comforting glow of a distant star. The open road has long been a source of spiritual awakening in American mythology, but Lomelda’s fascination with travel is less Kerouac than small-town Texas, where one needs a car to get anywhere and where one might spend an evening “[sitting] with you in parking lots/ Acting like I’m not falling for it.” The song unfolds like a hazy memory, conflating romantic uncertainty with the liminal space of a late-night drive, its romantic sheen turning mundane activities into otherworldly experiences. Activities like, say, a car ride — or like listening to a song.