Because Thanksgiving cut off last week at about the halfway point, we didn’t do a 5 Best Songs. So for this week’s column, we considered for eligibility anything that came out last week, too. So you could call this column “The 5 Best Songs Of The Past 2 Weeks” if you wanted to do so. We’re not gonna do that, but you could, and you’d be right. And here they are.
I like music that makes me anxious — songs that sound tightly coiled, that I’m unable to ease into. Listening to tracks that are almost impossible to hum along with, or remember exactly when the bridge falls into place, is an experiment in rediscovery. Warehouse’s debut album, Tesseract, is laden with moments like these; its structure so precarious that every time I listen to it I find new pieces to focus on. “Omission” is the record’s first single, and in four minutes it spans a fitful landscape that’s just sloppy enough to sound interpretive while maintaining off-kilter time signatures that demonstrate the band’s obsessive craftsmanship. Despite its abrasive and hardened quality, Elaine Edenfield’s voice cradles “Omission” through its various movements, making sense of the song’s clutter without giving away too much of its underlying structure. I’m sure that a studied musician or a mathematician would gladly take my hand and explain away the song’s shape-shifting, but I prefer the confusion. It means I’ll never tire of it. –Gabriela
Before he became a crucial part of Kanye West’s production machine, Mike Dean was known, to a certain breed of rap nerd, as the Guitar Center-looking white guy who produced an unholy number of great underground Texas rap tracks. There’s a generous handful of classic Scarface albums that just wouldn’t sound the same without Dean. “Sellin’ Dope” is the first time I’ve seen Dean given equal billing with a rapper, and it’s a great showcase for him, with its fluttering beeps and its apocalyptic clouds of bass. It’s faster and choppier and more electronic than the tracks Dean might’ve made once upon a time, but in an EDM-damaged 2014, it kicks right in the gut. Meanwhile, Gibbs is exactly the type of rapper who would’ve torn up a Dean track back in the day: Hard, conversational, unpretentious, devoted to the intricacies of dirt-doing. His flow is built for a track like this. –Tom
Time has treated Shrines well and, while the jury’s still out on how Purity Ring’s complete sophomore effort will end up sounding, “Push And Pull” is a promising step in the right direction. It opens up the duo’s sound in expected but satisfying ways, letting a bit more light into the once-murky corners of Purity Ring’s fantastical world. There’s a magnetism to the track, tied to the opposing forces in the title — Corin Roddick’s production sounds like it’s careening off into space, a pop song dosed up on narcotics, tightly coiled around Megan James’ taut and impalpable vocals. Her lyricism is, as always, an absolute pleasure: There’s talk of constellation lairs and moaning plains, and James’ obsession with dismantling the corporeal form is present in full force. Even though this is probably their most straightforward song to date, it’s still wonderfully esoteric. From what I can gather, it’s about finding shelter in someone else and having a world that you once saw with a childlike wonder fall down into darkness around you. But that’s just a guess: Purity Ring have never been about the easy answers, and they’re best when they’re a little ambiguous. –James
“I am an artist, and I have been drinking!” sings Jeanette Wall, and the rumbling, rampaging indie-rock anthem that springs up in her wake bears that out. “Band Practice Theme Song” is one of those runaway-train songs, steadily picking up steam until they’re playing so fast and furious that the only thing holding the song together is the sheer force of urgency. The drums are battered and bruised, the voices are triumphantly bleary and barely in sync, and the guitar eventually spirals into a simplistic little melody that’s both clumsy and completely brilliant. You can almost hear former solo artist Wall willing a band into existence around her, and it’s a good thing she did. –Chris
There are those of us who maintain that The Woods, the final Sleater-Kinney album until January, is the band’s second-worst album, just behind their not-yet-fully-formed self-titled debut. With its wooly classic-rock fixations and its everything-in-the-red Dave Fridmann production job, The Woods sacrificed the trio’s tight harmonies and homespun hooks and plainspoken truths to scream at the sun, a role that maybe didn’t entirely fit the band. But saying “second-worst Sleater-Kinney album” is like saying “second-least delicious Ben & Jerry’s waffle cone”; it’s not like you’re going to turn it down in the middle of a hot day. And Sleater-Kinney’s new “Surface Envy” brings back everything that was great about The Woods: the fearsome urgency, the lions-wrestling guitar interplay, the utter lack of restraint in Corin Tucker’s howl. “Surface Envy,” if I’m hearing the lyrics right, is a song about needing one another to pull ourselves out of our own muck — a poignant statement from three great musicians who always sound best together, and who might only be realizing that now that they’ve reassembled. “Bury Our Friends,” the first song Sleater-Kinney shared upon reuniting, was great. This is better. –Tom