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Smoke drifts through the trees like a premonition. Everywhere the scent of burning pine, so sharp it stings. Tongues of flame lick at rotting timber; an inrush of wind stokes the glow on the horizon. Everything burns. The rains come too late to save anything worth saving, and what’s left in the end? Soggy ash, smoking ruins, devastation wrought. And … scene.

There were a ton of great songs released this week, but let’s take that fact out of the equation for a second. This might be the most eclectic group of tracks we’ve featured in 5 Best Songs; the only thing they have in common is that they’re all great. We’ve got searing punk rock rubbing up against a proggy synth odyssey, Zach De La Rocha alongside Taylor Swift. Check ’em out below.

“The Mekons are the most revolutionary group in the history of rock ’n’ roll.” — Lester Bangs

Years before the term “collective” became a convenient and gradually more irritating shorthand for bands seeking a novel descriptor, there was the Mekons: a genuinely anarchic co-mingling of multi-media artists rampantly talented in the disciplines of music, visual arts, prose writing, and general hell-raising. Convened at Leeds University during the first wave of punk rock and eventually relocated to their adopted home of Chicago, the Mekons are a group of thinkers, agitators, political muckrakers, and brilliant songsmiths who have quietly generated some of the greatest music of the past forty years. That music has unfailingly been rendered on their own terms, and on their own timetable. To the extent that this has inhibited their commercial fortunes, it can mainly be seen as going to plan. Inculcated with a punk band’s proud paranoia regarding the music industry at large, and coupled with an aggressive (but hardly naïve) socialist bent, the mainstream option for the Mekons was likely foreclosed from the gate.

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