This week, we saw two bizarre-yet-totally sensical collabs from !!! with Main Attrakionz and Icona Pop and Zebra Katz, and they are talking points, for sure, indicative of how there are truly no longer any barriers to break when it comes to genre melds — that even the most bombastic performers can link up with weedy etherealists (the former) and that makers of the most bright and enthusiastic pop can get together with a nightclub menace, appropriate Lesley Gore, and make it work (the latter). But much more newsworthy is that an effing Beatle put out new music. And in a year with so much of the old guard present (you can stream Hesitation Marks now!), why not hear it from the old-old-old guard? See if that new Paul McCartney made the cut and the rest of this week’s roundup below.
It’s not like the Walrus dropped off the face of the earth or anything: He put out a solo album in ’07, a Fireman record in ’08, and was rocking out with Grohl and Krist late last year. So … can we call it a comeback? He’s been here for years! But it’s been many more years since Macca dropped anything as instantly satisfying and exciting as “New.” Although … can we can call it new? This song would’ve fit just fine on Magical Mystery, and while Mark Ronson’s fucking gorgeous production does give it a tastefully burnished update optimized for Beats By Dre earbuds, it’s not like Ronson is Kanye West when it comes to musical innovation. But everything here works just about perfectly: cane-sweet melody, cochlea-tickling instrumentation/arrangement, and one of the historically great pop voices in top form. Just call it a pretty great song, I guess. Sounds all right to me. – Michael
The problems with Chris Brown are so legion and consistently part of the conversation, his unrelenting and dastardly nature might as well be burned into our collective pop culture emotional makeup. But what rarely gets discussed is the problem of what to do not just when he’s on a song that’s good, but when his contribution is hard to turn your nose up at. Such has been the case before, prime examples include Juelz Santana’s “Back To The Crib” and Gucci Mane’s “Cyeah Cyeah Cyeah Cyeah,” both produced by Polow Da Don, who is seemingly the Breezy Whisperer. But the difference here is how distant Brown feels from the song, wafting over the hook like an apparition. And there’s a ton to say about the rest of it: Its barebones beats giving firm resting ground to Pusha T’s bellicose precision, which delivers with a such poignant cruelty his nonchalance still snarls. That this track even exists to prove Pusha’s solo record My Name Is My Name may actually see the light of day is reason enough to give this song a nod — but I can’t help but go back to the chorus. And it’s because it’s not like most hooks — it won’t bang in the club because it’s neither celebratory and anthemic, it’s because on it Chris Brown sounds like a ghost and it gives hope to the fact that someday soon he might just go away. – Claire
O.G. British punks the Damned recorded the original version of this song, but they did it in their mid-’80s goth-rock phase, and it plays like their failed audition to be the band in the opening credits of The Lost Boys. It’s really bad. And that somehow makes Frankie Rose’s accomplishment, turning this hunk of caterwauling fake-Bauhaus bullshit into an uncanny heart-rush new-wave twister — even more impressive than a great original song might be. Those oooh-oooh-ooohs freeze time. – Tom
Chillwave will never die, at least not when there are talented producers willing to use the sound to make bounce-rock-roll-skate anthems. The vocal reverb, the soft synth-dissolves, and the general nostalgia-soaked atmosphere of this song share a ton of DNA with that first Washed Out EP, but the classic-house pianos and the irresistibly sproingy bassline turn this into something else: An instant late-summer barbecue classic, a dance banger for that moment when you’re slightly drunk in the middle of a weekend afternoon. If you don’t make serious use of this one over Labor Day weekend, you’re crazy. – Tom
Would ya look at that? “Mercy” capped this list the week ending 8/2, and now, TVOTR close out August with another chart-topper. The two songs couldn’t be more different — “Mercy” is “Wolf Like Me” cut down Gosling-lean; “Million Miles” is Tunde-crooning-Neil Young writ Galactus-large. The new one is a total honeydripper with a sweet sway and even-sweeter falsetto, and it builds over four-and-a-half-ish minutes — higher, more elaborate, and more intricate — like a Jenga castle to the moon. I’m not even gonna press ‘em for a new album if this is how it’s gotta be: If they’re cool just dropping great tracks out of the sky whenever the mood strikes, that’s fine by me. Just stay in the mood, guys; just keep ‘em coming. – Michael