Panorama Fest starts today at New York’s Randall’s Island and some of our local staffers are headed there to finally watch Frank Ocean perform. Or will he? You never know with that guy. The five best songs of the week are all extremely good; we had a heck of a time ranking them. Dive in!
There’s a scene in a lot of coming of age films that goes like this: A kid sits in the backseat of a car and looks up at the sky, or the trees, or the passing telephone lines. Usually this moment is shot from the outside in, the windowpane glare distorting our view of the passenger in a way that suggests a sense of isolation. This is the place we find Lomelda’s Hannah Read in at the beginning of “Out There”: sitting in a car, listening to a voice whisper out of the stereo, and experiencing the kind of melancholy that can only really be described as existential. “I choke I don’t know I don’t know,” Read sings. “Do I sit in darkness waiting for what’s out there, out there, I don’t know what’s out there.” She repeats those “I don’t knows” over and over again as if admitting you don’t know everything provides any real sense of comfort. “Out There” is a snapshot of that indescribable dread we’ve all had when you’re momentarily protected by the confines of a car and still feeling too small for this world. –Gabriela
At this point “sorry not sorry” is becoming a modern cliché — just ask Beyoncé, Demi Lovato, or, uh, Stereogum — but some of the greatest country music is built on clichés. And anyhow, there’s nothing boilerplate about the neon-tinted, punk-informed Midwestern roots rock that has become Jessica Lea Mayfield’s signature sound; having evolved her music beyond most conventional genre tropes, she can afford to lean hard into one of them. It’s a good thing she has something to lean on, too, because on “Sorry Is Gone,” she sounds exhausted from apologizing for life on her own terms. It is the musical embodiment of a long, decisive sigh followed by a throwing up of hands, Mayfield stretching out her gentle drawls with casual expertise as her all-star band evokes a feeling of steady forward motion — toward somewhere better, assuredly. –Chris
Can you believe it’s been five years since Shrines? I’m not sure if that feels like a long time or not very long at all, which sort of speaks to the timelessness of Purity Ring’s music. While their minimalist moodiness has seeped its way into the pop mainstream, they still sound very much like themselves, something that’s evident on “Asido.” It sounds a little bit like a throwback to their first era and a bit like a progression from 2015’s underrated Another Eternity, which makes me wonder where exactly on the timeline the ideas for this track stemmed from, though I guess it doesn’t much matter because “Asido” is proof that the duo is still out here doing what they do best and doing it very well. Megan James’ grotesquely poetic imagery is as captivating as ever — “How my tongue dried into dust/ How my skin willed a life” is an especially evocative couplet — and Corin Roddick’s smooth and pulsating beats provide her words with a macabre and unsettling undercurrent. But as esoteric and otherworldly as those elements are, Purity Ring always manage to tie their songs back to a universal human emotion, in this case the isolation of being alive: “Feel as lonely as I do.” –James
Converge made their name on frenetic, furious songs that fused hardcore and metal into roaring bursts of guitar-freak insanity and cold-eyed violence. But my favorite Converge songs are the ones where they change gears, shift from screaming psycho blasts to sprawling dystopian vistas, building to a slow boil instead of throwing you headfirst into the scalding water. Those songs — e.g., the title track from Jane Doe or “Coral Blue” from All We Love We Leave Behind — tend to provide a respite when they’re sequenced into Converge LPs, and as such, they’re not necessarily seen as intrinsic to the band’s core sound. But the band’s new 7″ has only two songs — an old-school burner called “I Can Tell You About Pain” on the A-side, and a sludgy, atmospheric, post-metal epic called “Eve” on the flip — and when you hear them in that context, it feels almost unfair. “I Can Tell You About Pain” is a really good song: If you like Converge, you’ll like it, no question. And then, “Eve” will make you forget it ever happened. “Eve” opens with a minute of industrial-ambient clanging, and it gets going in earnest with a taut tribal rhythm, a snaking single guitar line, and a desert-dry vocal; the combined effect here reminds me of midwestern carnage machines Cobalt and Planes Mistaken For Stars. Now, I LOVE Cobalt and Planes Mistaken For Stars. But at this point, Converge are just building the tension, tightening the cord. When they finally let it snap, the goddamn thing EXPLODES. And then it proceeds to immolate everything in its surrounding radius. “Eve” creates a whole world and then burns it the fuck down. It doesn’t even feel like a song; it feels like a Kurosawa film projected directly onto your consciousness. I mean, it is a song — it rocks like a vengeful ancient god and it rips like hell unleashed upon the Earth — but how do you listen to this and then listen to something else, anything else, and identify the two subjects as being of the same species? “Eve” may not represent the sound for which Converge are best known, but nobody else makes this sound better than Converge. –Michael
The “Boys” video is iconic. There’s no getting around it. The video is going to dominate the conversation surrounding the song, and that’s OK — it’s a great video, a fun, flirty boy parade that gets to have its objectification cake and eat it too. But the song is also great, a subtly synthetic daydream that unfolds like one long, breathy sigh: “Boys.” Minimal but deceptively intricate, with its rhythmic ticks and electronic burbles and weirdly satisfying video game plinks, the song plays into Charli’s party-girl image while cleverly subverting it at the same time: “I’m sorry that I missed your party/ I wish I had a better excuse like/ I had to trash the hotel lobby/ But I was busy thinkin’ ’bout boys…boys…boys.” It’s an unabashed embrace of a universal form of teenage girlhood, tapping directly into the flighty, easily distracted crush-monster that lies somewhere within all of us. And me? If you need me, I’ll be busy thinkin’ ’bout “Boys.” –Peter