If you were expecting to see some spooky songs in this week’s 5 Best, you might be a little disappointed. Yes, it’s Halloween, but nothing here is particularly Halloweeny. This week did bring the return of the holiday-appropriate Marilyn Manson, and he was nominated, but he didn’t make the cut. Da Mafia 6ix, the resurrected zombie of Three 6 Mafia, also treated us to a horror-filled new mixtape, but that arrived too late for consideration; they’ll have to wait till next week. The only thing spooky about the songs here is how great they are. Check ‘em out and have a happy Halloween!
It might be a mistake to refer to “Dog Park” as dreamy. The music made under the Soft Fangs moniker by songwriter John Lutkevich sounds more like it was conjured between waking and dreaming. You know that feeling: talking in pleasantly confused circles with a friend in the early morning, letting the plot of a movie warp based on when you can keep your eyes open to watch, or simply taking an aimless late-night walk while your thoughts wander. “Dog Park” shambles along in that spirit as drums sleepily shuffle and the guitars blur and glisten like dew on a streetlight. Lutkevich has been justly compared to Elliott Smith, but “Dog Park” whispers the same hushed reflections as Avey Tare at his most intimate (think early Animal Collective tracks like “Penny Dreadfuls”). Lutkevich’s weariness sounds less like sadness and more like he’s stunned with wonder. Listen to “Dog Park” tonight and you’ll feel that, too. — Miles
For as loud and in-your-face as they are, Big Ups spend most of their time looking inward. “Not Today” is denser than almost anything on Eighteen Seconds Of Static — and a little softer than “Rash,” the other track that appears on their upcoming split with Washer — but, as always, the New York punk band is interested in funneling all of their hell-bent frustration into their music. On “Not Today,” they try to evade how they feel about themselves and the world around them, to step around their self-loathing and contempt — when Joe Galarraga first sings “not today” in the chorus, he sounds scared, almost like he’s on the edge of a breakdown. But as unhinged as they sound, I don’t get the sense that they’re totally out of control. It may feed into chaos, but “Not Today” is very deliberate: they’re aware of their problems, but in no way do they feel (or sound) defeated. They couldn’t make music this confident if they did. — James
Communions have already proven that they can pull off a mean Stone Roses impression with “So Long Sun.” Turns out they do a killer Smiths/Sundays pastiche as well, albeit with a wild disposition befitting Avey Tare. “Love Stands Still” is an idyllic guitar-pop tune that sounds like it’s about the fly off its hinges and into a world filled with only warm feelings and reverb. It must be a lovely place. — Chris
“Harlem Shake” could’ve easily been a career-killer, and it was probably smart for Baauer to leave some time to let the viral dust clear before making his next big move. But “One Touch” succeeds in part because it has nothing to do with the trap-rave that made Baauer so YouTube-inescapable for so long. Instead, it shows he knows how to make pop music, and how to make music pop. The two chirpy-voiced kids in Rae Stemmurd, the two Mississippi brothers who escaped one-hit-wonderdom this summer when their “No Type” turned out to be as good as their “No Flex Zone,” excitedly bellow hornball pickup lines out into the world. Aluna Francis, prim and precise, answers them right back. And the real star is that beat, a springy, wobbly organic space-funk thing with exactly zero sampled tiger roars. –Tom
Early Shamir singles “If It Wasn’t True” and (especially) “I Know It’s A Good Thing” were uncomfortably vulnerable, the Las Vegas kid deploying his falsetto in piercingly raw outbursts with an intimacy that verged on close-talking. Now that he’s made the jump from DIY scrapers Godmode to become labelmates with Adele, he’s delivered something utterly smooth and confident to match. The production is exquisite, a disco-house onslaught somehow both minimal in effect and insanely intricate in construction. It’s a wonderful piece of music, but not many artists would skip double-dutch all over it like Shamir. “On The Regular” is our first taste of his rapping, and good lord can he rap. Forget for a moment his tuneful, explicitly effeminate delivery, an aesthetic weapon in and of itself, and just read these words: “I come with the click, with the blow, with the boom/ And if you’re in my way, there’s nothing but doom/ Ain’t got no time for you ratchet-ass goons/ So just settle down and listen to my tunes.” Gladly! I could’ve cited just about any of the lyrics because they’re all phenomenal. He turns clever phrases repeatedly and elevates them with unflappable panache. And when he does finally sing, on that glorious disco-diva bridge about how you’d be wise not to cross him, he sounds like the most devilish little angel. If this is Shamir Bailey on the regular, he will be with us for a long fucking time. — Chris