You know it was a pretty good week when we got new songs from Jessie Ware, Zola Jesus, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, and Angel Olsen (among others), and none of those songs were included in 5 Best Songs. And this? This was a pretty good week, Check it out.
I got déjà vu this week when Holly Herndon can back into the picture following her stunning Chorus EP from last winter. I realized I was reminded of her because she was one of the only musicians name-dropped by Richard D. James in one of his first new Aphex Twin interviews, and with good reason: In a year filled with music examining the uncanny valley, it seems like the rest of the world is catching up with what Holly Herndon has been doing for years, yet there’s still something definitive about “Home.” It blurs so many forms at once that Herndon’s music would keep you off balance even if it wasn’t paired with its disorienting video. A political rejection of the NSA that’s presented as a break-up song to her tech devices and privacy, it all gives a strange double meaning to lines like “I know you know me better than I know me.” And then there’s Herndon’s incredible vocal performance — butchered to pieces through her digital abattoir — yet with just enough untouched rawness and beauty to remind you that this is in fact a human being (her gasp of air and chuckle at the very end practically mimics the listener’s sensations). The only downside is that for now it’s a standalone song, but “Home”‘s break-up techno reminds us that when she does feel like making a new album it will be an event. Can you even imagine what it’ll sound like if she writes a love song? –Miles
Rappers tend to either arrive fully formed with nowhere to go but down (e.g. Nas), or they begin by feeling out a signature sound on a series of undistinguished releases until finding their form deep into their career (e.g. 2 Chainz). DJ Quik doesn’t fit either of those narratives. The rightful starting point for aspiring Quik fans remains Quik Is The Name, his storied 1991 debut. But you could still have a hell of a good time starting with “That Getter,” the snarling, rock-hard gangster rap single he released this week, and working your way backwards. The production has evolved with the times, but Quik’s ice-cold authority is exactly the same. (Awesomely, he credits himself as a guest performer and raps in a different voice on the second verse, like if Eminem released a song “featuring Marshall Mathers.” How did Eminem not think of that first?) –Chris
As someone who found Stereogum’s interview with Ryan Adams way more interesting than the self-titled Adams album my coworkers have been checking for, I’m all-in on Jacksonville, the second 7″ in a monthly series that kicked off with the punk-as-fuck 1984 EP. At the very least I’m all-in on the well-worn title track, a jangly lo-fi-folk-rock tune that feels like some AM gold Adams might have encountered on the airwaves growing up in the titular North Carolina town. The darkness that lingers around the fringes of his new LP is audible here too, but it starts out further in the background, edged out by soft-focus nostalgia. Eventually the night does start to close in on Adams as he beautifully bridges the gap between passive-aggressive ’70s rock foes Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd. There are so many sounds fighting for attention in the Adams’ crowded headspace, so be thankful he found time to exhale this lovely elongated sigh. –Chris
Last night’s episode of the great FX assholes-in-love comedy You’re The Worst ended with a montage set to one character’s karaoke rendition of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work.” It was funny and dark and devastating, and it’s been bouncing around in my head all day. If there was a better TV moment all year, I didn’t see it. (Did you watch it? You should watch it.) The Canadian singer and songwriter Lydia Ainsworth doesn’t really sound anything like Kate Bush, even if she is a great admirer. But on “Hologram,” her voice has that same sense of glacial drift and nebulous beauty. The song plays like a long exhalation, Ainsworth’s processed coo gliding over her wafting synths and clanging pianos. Ainsworth studied film scoring, and in some way, that’s what she’s still doing. “Hologram” will soundtrack a great montage one day. –Tom
Here’s El-P: “Style violent, don’t give a fuck if you deny it, kids/ You can all run backwards through a field of dicks.” And now here’s Killer Mike: “Schoolyard bully with a fully automatic/ Heart full of pain and a head full of havoc.” Honestly, what the fuck more do you want from me? What else can I say? Here, we have two grown men — men in their late 30s, men who have been making rap music on a national stage since the ’90s — making a beat so synthetic and otherworldly and punishing enough to be light years beyond anything that almost anyone else is making today. They’re doing it without concepts, without hooks, without any purpose other than to lyrically and musically slice off the upper portion of your skull. And there’s nothing anyone can say about the end result that these two mean fuckers can’t say themselves. –Tom