As we settle into winter and the year begins to wind down, there are fewer new releases to talk about a whole lot of old ones to dig through. This week brought in an array of singles suggesting that 2015 has some exciting releases to look forward to. There might even be a new Pusha T album on the way. Check ‘em out.
A$AP Ferg might have summed up his entire career when he rapped, “That shit make no sense/ I got taste.” His wild rambling on “Doe-Active” — about how he has a $100 bill for every bump on your face, especially if you’re (the notably smooth-faced) Adam Levine(?) — is essentially incomprehensible. But it sounds exquisite, Ferg showing unforeseen aggression over Stelios Phili’s bleeps, claps, and ominous digital alarms. And if you don’t like it, well, he’s got a $100 bill for every bump on your face, he’s got a $100 bill for every bump on your face, he’s got a $100 bill for every bump on your face, etc., etc., etc. –Chris
The Scottish expat behind American Wrestlers once released music “under a different name,” so maybe someday we’ll find out he’s somebody we’re already familiar with. In the meantime, his music feels like something we’ve known for a long time, as though he filtered our collective memories into his 8-track recorder. There’s a confidence and grace to his multicolored slapdash — confidence because how else would you jam all those genres in there, grace because how else could it all hang together so well? –Chris
As a card-carrying introvert and someone who is admittedly pretty terrible at talking to people I barely know, “Pay Attention” hits pretty close to home. Colleen Green breaks down the inanity of feeling obligated to carry on small talk with a crisp incisiveness: “I can’t ever pay attention to anything you ever say to me/ It’s an awful affliction, don’t know why/ It’s just never come naturally/ …Apologies.” Green is glib about the whole idea, saying “sorry” as a tossed-off aside. She understands holding a conversation is something that you’re “supposed” to be able to do, but I don’t get the sense that she cares all that much. In fact, she seems to find it all pretty stupid: “Small talk at the Smell/ Talk so small you need a microscope to discern much at all/ And just as well.” She’s more comfortable in her own head than around others — “My concentration weakening, thoughts reverting back to myself again/ You understand.” On her forthcoming album, I Don’t Want To Grow Up, she thoroughly explores the self-destructive nature of that kind of attitude in the long run, but on “Pay Attention” her unwillingness and inability to engage is supported, bolstered by a bratty punk sensibility. The guitar licks are sharp, the drums kick you in the ass, and Green’s voice sounds as good as it ever has: bubblegum sweet with a tart undertone. It’s the lead single from her first studio-produced album and it comes across crystal clear — and it only makes too much sense that it’s all about wanting to be alone. –James
The vast majority of songs about Hollywood adhere to a similar sentiment and storyline: Achieving actual stardom in the district is as elusive as the city’s landmark sign shrouded in smog. Tobias Jesso Jr., who hails from Vancouver, has followed this mythologized trajectory, and his song “Hollywood” is a kind of testimony to the exhausting process of trying to “make it” in an unforgiving city. When I first heard Jesso’s single, I was immediately reminded of System Of A Down’s “Lost In Hollywood,” with its consistent refrain, “You should have never trusted Hollywood.” Jesso’s song is better, but his lyrics echo the same feeling of betrayal, which escalates several minutes into the track when he sings, “But I don’t know if I can take it/ ‘Cause I never understood/ How everybody lies in Hollywood.” What’s so remarkable about this moment, and about the song overall, is how alone Jesso sounds despite having access to a vault of pop-culture reminders that Hollywood is a terrible place. Like his lyrics, there is something almost antique about Jesso’s production. The soundscape is minimalistic, beginning only with a plodding piano before merging with an unimposing drumbeat. “Hollywood” comes to a close as an unanticipated, but not unwelcome horns section takes the place of Jesso’s voice and warbles out the last notes of resignation. Like exhaling a sigh. –Gabriela
“E.V.A.” is a 1970 composition from the French synth-music pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey, a weirdly funky instrumental that builds a distinctive lope out of electronic burble-ripples that were, at the time, new to the world. On Pusha T’s “Lunch Money,” Kanye West becomes the latest in a long line of producers to sample “E.V.A.” But the producers who did it before — most notably, DJ Premier on Gang Starr’s immortal “Just To Get A Rep” — seized on a particular aspect of it, the ridiculously fly moment where the introductory wobble kicks into the beat. Kanye taps into something else: the disorienting haze of that synth sound itself, beefed up and looped into infinity, given some monstrous drums and a rapper whose voice can smash through all that haze like a cinderblock. The result: a leftfield space-rap masterpiece that’ll end up getting radio play anyway just because of who the fuck made it. Near the track’s end, as Kanye finally lets that funky bit kick in, it’s a hell of a flourish: He’s showing us how much easier this track might’ve once been. And then: back to space. –Tom