This week brought a small avalanche of new songs from big-ticket names. And four of the tracks that made our list of the 5 Best Songs Of The Week come from such artists — it easily could have been a full five-for-five if we weren’t divided on the new Iceage single … or the new Julian Casablancas single … or the new Interpol bonus track. It was a big week! And still, somehow, #1 was so obvious that as far as we were concerned, it didn’t even have real challengers. Let us know if you agree/disagree in the comments.
If songs were judged exclusively on the number of potential AIM away messages they could have inspired had they been released in 1999, “Chewing Ghosts” would instantly be a contender for the greatest song of all time. Presumably some emo fans do judge songs on that basis — the genre’s lyrical introspection is often as elaborately twisty as its gleaming guitar equations — which explains why New Jersey duo Dads have become such a cause célèbre among those who hold Jade Tree Records in reverent regard. That said, there’s more to “Chewing Ghosts” than killer lines like “We could be unhappy together/ We could be drunk together/ We could be punk together/ We could be friends again.” There’s also nimble guitar work, crisp drumming, expertly honed dynamics, and a singer who’s figured out how to convert his genre’s trademark whines and whimpers into something dignified. The result is a carefully honed outburst, each individual component staying out of each other’s way, all of them serving the song rather than flailing wildly. “Chewing Ghosts” is about actually maturing as you grow older, and it’s evidence that that’s exactly what Dads are doing. –Chris
Just as every individual Flying Lotus song is simply one component of a larger composition (like all his album promos, You’re Dead! came to me as one 38-minute track), Steve Ellison’s LPs too feel like they’re parts of the whole of his discography. Until The Quiet Comes may have disappointed some with its softer, dreamier textures following the inner-/outer-space battle of Cosmogramma, but look at it in hindsight: That album was like the meditative calm preceding the gigantic haymaker that is You’re Dead! — and Kendrick Lamar helps lead the charge with “Never Catch Me.” The drums are dizzying flurries while the piano moves with a relaxed ease, and Kendrick weaves death-obsessed lyrics through every nook and cranny of the track. Pink Floyd once envisioned a human life as a rabbit running away from an inevitably setting sun; on “Never Catch Me,” FlyLo and Kendrick are faster than any rabbit, but they’re not running away from death: They’re sprinting right toward oblivion. –Miles
Jessie Ware’s muted soul cuts have always had a seductive quality to them, but gently moaning, “I wanted to show you/ I want to control you”? Damn. Damn! Is “Want Your Feeling” about Ware exerting her will on a lover, or is she the one under somebody else’s spell? Things are rarely so clear in the grip of this much swirling allure. Here’s one thing that is clear: Dev Hynes is exactly the right guy to make Ware’s featherweight funk simmer until it boils over into disco delight. May they join forces for many more such pleasures. –Chris
TVOTR’s last album was more than three years ago, and it was a soft, warm, insular shrug of a thing. Nine Types Of Light was, in its way, a beautiful piece of work, but it was the sound of a band settling into a quiet sort of complacence. So “Happy Idiot,” the first single from the comeback LP Seeds, comes off like the band shaking off that languor as forcefully as they can. “Happy Idiot” is big and loud and focused and driven. And even if the song’s lyrics are about trying to find numbness in the wake of a bad breakup, its sound is vast and triumphant. Nobody does nervy propulsion quite like this band, and it’s good to hear them locking back in again. –Tom
20 years ago — more than that, even — Richard D. James was making music that still sounds like the future today. So it follows that he could roll through after years of silence with a new track that sounds like something he might’ve knocked out on a lazy afternoon in 1996, and it still seems beamed in from some alternate universe where people have learned to think like robots without losing their souls. James recorded his new album, Syro, at home with his kids in the British boonies, and there’s an appealingly casual genius-tinkering-at-home vibe to “Minipops.” He actually sings on the song, sometimes without even running his voice through fifteen filters, and his voice is a soft coo, like a dad humming a lullaby to the baby in his lap. But that voice is only one layer in a deep symphonic mix, and it sinks right into all the bleeps and blorps and pings and thumps running through the thing. The track manages to be soft and comforting and discordant and confusing and melodic and jarring and minimal and maximal, all at once, and it’s almost too much to process. In all the years James has been away, all sorts of budding magicians have been trying to retro-engineer his spellbook, but the wizard just woke up and schooled us all. –Tom