As the holidays draw nearer, the quote-unquote music industry grinds to a halt, meaning fewer and fewer new songs from artists who are bound by traditional album cycles. Surely to some extent as a result of that practice, this week’s 5 Best Songs may be our most eclectic to date. But we weren’t scraping by any means — this week’s list is loaded with gems; these are just rarer than usual. So what did we unearth? See for yourself below.
Psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll music, like all rock ‘n’ roll music, can inhabit any number of permutations. It can sound nauseous or triumphant, unhinged or neatly assembled, lucid or barely awake. So when I say Temples trades in psych-rock, it might not elicit a clear mental picture. That’s unfortunate because “Mesmerise,” the band’s lead single, is clean, crisp, and tightly assembled. To listen is to hop on board a high-powered machine in flight, wind blasting you in the face at increasing velocity, eyes widening with every airborne pirouette. It’s the kind of joyride that has you cackling the whole way even as you instinctively clutch the armrests. Then it levels out and cruises home motorik-style. It’s the kind of psych that feels very much alive in the here and now, the sort where only the exceptionally colorful scenery tips you off that you might be dreaming. It’s rad, understand? –Chris
Four Tet’s sparse, apocalyptic production practically demands Yeezus comparisons. But then again, Cherry was singing over sparse, brutal, state-of-the-art rap sonics nearly a quarter century ago. Here, she’s singing about the glories and hardships of longterm romantic love, and, in the process, getting as far as she can from traditional love-song ideas. The tumbling, rumbling backing track makes it clear that marriage isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world, but then Cherry sighs “I love it all,” and everything makes sense. –Tom
Ignore Mark McGuire’s experimental music pedigree for a moment. Forget about Emeralds, the glowing reviews in the Wire, the early records on Hanson, and the performances at the defunct noise music mecca No Fun Fest. When you listen to the first few seconds of “The Instinct” there’s really only one thing that comes to mind: “Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor. It might just be a coincidence that McGuire is jamming on almost the exact same riff that opens the Rocky III theme song, but it also feels completely appropriate. His work, both in and out of Emeralds, hasn’t always just been straight guitar drone — there’s a certain maximalism to the way McGuire composes, and “The Instinct” shares the excitement of that fist-pump anthem. Jamming on that tense riff, moving vertically, he lets it build and rise minute after minute, like a pressure cooker, only to release near the end in a grand fashion. There are many moments on McGuire’s very personal and very complex upcoming album, Along The Way, that aim for your heart or your head. “The Instinct,” however is all muscle and anyone would be lucky to have it soundtrack their training montage. –Miles
One of the highlights of YRN, Migos’ 2013 breakout mixtape, was “Jumping Out The Gym,” which basically served as an excuse for the Atlanta trio, and guests Trinidad James and Riff Raff, to giddily toss basketball references back and forth. On the first single from the can’t-come-soon-enough YRN 2, they’re doing the same thing again, just switching the sport up. The voices still frantically jump back and forth, the hooks still land with crazily immediate force, and the syllabic rush remains deeply impressive. Warning: You will want to sing along with that hook, loudly, and it’s a bad idea. –Tom
With chillwave’s VHS fixation in the background and the best flute loop since “Flute Loop” out front, Gardens & Villa and producer Tim Goldsworthy have constructed a weird and wonderful little track right here. Ghostly disco verses give way to a lush New Wave chorus worthy of Duran Duran, carried along by the sweet synchronicity between that nasty guitar figure and the less-is-more synth part. Despite the title, there’s nothing speedy about “Bullet Train”; it’s too smooth and sinewy for that. We’d better hope Chris Lynch is wrong about the young dying young when they work too hard because no matter how easy Gardens & Villa make it look, a song this elegantly conceived doesn’t just happen by chance. –Chris