So it has been one hell of a week. And just when we thought it was all wrapped up, Thom Yorke comes outta nowhere and hits us with a whole new album. That’s not even fair! Is it? Well, fair or not, Thom was too late to be eligible for this week’s 5 Best Songs. He’ll get his shot next week. This week, this is what we got.
First of all, Snootie Wild is an awesome name for a Memphis rapper, and he imposes his will on this twinkling, thumping beat like a rapper named Snootie Wild should. Second of all, the original “Made Me,” which repeatedly served as a banging soundtrack for summertime cruising, is arguably the best of many promising singsong hooks by Atlanta upstart K Camp. Thirdly, ascendent Jeremih and recently released Lil Boosie are exceedingly fashionable guests on a 2014 hip-hop remix, but damn if they don’t validate their respective hype here. Jeremih makes a sport out of riding producer Big Fruit’s sonic waves, and Boosie’s resplendent raspy cackling ramps up the fun quotient of a song that was already a blast. Good job all-around. –Chris
If you’re into metal, this was a pretty fucking good week to be alive, and if you’re not into metal, this was a pretty fucking good week to get into it. On Monday the universe dealt us a new song from Swedish death metal gods At The Gates; on Wednesday, a new song from Richmond, VA sludge/doom smoke monsters Windhand. That was not all we got, but that would have been enough — those are a couple great songs from a couple great bands, and they coulda/shoulda/woulda been on this list, too. But then, on Thursday, the stakes shot into the stratosphere when France’s Blut Aus Nord released the first song from their upcoming LP, Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry. And just like that, all bets were off. On their last set of albums — the 777 trilogy, which came out between 2011 – 2012 — Blut Aus Nord were mining a rich, melodic vein of industrial black metal that might represent the best work of their career. But on Saturnian Poetry, they’ve returned to a more traditional style of atmospheric black metal, and it’s somehow … even better. The new song is called “Paien” and it’s basically a masterclass in the form. Over roughly 8 minutes, BAN mainman Vindsval builds a castle of magnificent, howling, breathtaking sounds, but somehow, no matter how big it gets, he just keeps taking it higher: catchier, harder, faster, more beautiful, more terrifying, more awesome. “Paien” is just one song, but it might be the single-best thing black metal has produced this whole year. –Michael
“Snow In Newark” begins with a warbling synth that sounds like a cry for help from some digital beast, cutting across space and time. It’s a deeply lovesick song, cavernous in its loneliness and desire for reconnection. The beat pitter-patters like a Postal Service B-side as Dawn Golden gives a detached vocal take, sing-rapping and mumbling over his words with breath-taking clarity. It’s a sigh in song form, detached but not despondent. Hemsworth prefaced the song with the introduction of a new emotion: “happysad,” a contradictory amalgam that manages to perfectly capture the mood of the track. Sure, it’s an emotion for the #feels generation, but it rings true in a world where everyone is instantly accessible even when they’re “a million miles away.” The desire for a physical connection still trumps all, and that desire comes through even clearer when it’s wrapped up in sounds from the very technology it’s deriding. With “Snow In Newark,” Hemsworth cashes in on the promise of Guilt Trips in an impressive way, expanding his range while still keeping his charm. –James
In about the first 10 seconds, “Foulbrood” delivers everything you could possibly want from a band on the cusp of breaking out. For those who loved Two Inch Astronaut’s overlooked debut, and for those who may be hopping on board right now, those jerky stop-start riffs will either hook you right in or let you know that what you were already hooked on is only getting better. From that intro to the explosive rush of the chorus and a sudden hypnotic comedown in the last minute, Two Inch Astronaut are throwing haymakers, but with the nimble quickness of a featherweight. No wonder they put this song right at the beginning of the new album AND named the new album after this song. It might be a spoiler to say that what follows is even better that what you’re hearing now, but that’s not a slight against this song. Rather it’s a testament to how incredible Foulbrood is — with this as the first triumphant charge. –Miles
That “i” Soundcloud had only been online a few hours before the second-guessing started. On Tuesday, people in my Twitter timeline were getting reckless. Kendrick sounded like Will Smith, they said. He’d made his “Happy.” His “i” wasn’t as good as Petey Pablo’s “I.” (They might’ve had a point on that last one; that Petey song is great.) Basically, Kendrick was cashing in his chips, going full cornball, courting the crowd that gave Macklemore his Grammy rather than the ones who complained that Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City got shut out. But consider this: The same morning Kendrick released “i,” Mike Brown’s memorial burned in Ferguson, Missouri. “I love myself” isn’t a bland nothing of a statement. It’s an important thing for almost anyone, anywhere, to be able to say. And when you’re a black man in America, saying that in public, on the grandest stage, when you’ve got the world’s attention, is audacious. “I’ve been dealing with depression ever since an adolescent / Duckin’ every other blessing, I can never see the message”: Those terms might be indistinct, but they’re far from meaningless. And anyway, in the bleep-snap era, Kendrick is hardly chasing a pop hit by going into verbosity overdrive over a lush, lithe Isley Brothers interpolation with a motherfucking Thundercat space-jazz solo on the breakdown. Kendrick is speaking to bigger crowds now, and when you speak to bigger crowds, you have to project. That means the form of his music is changing. But the content isn’t. Kendrick hasn’t made his “Happy.” He’s made his “We Don’t Care.” –Tom