If we approached this column with a more literal set of guidelines, there’s a good chance you would see a different list before you, one including five songs from Sleater-Kinney’s No Cities To Love. (But which five?!) That album’s not in stores till next week, but we got the stream this past Sunday, and yes, it contains some of the best songs of the week, some of the best songs of the year, in fact: both the year so far and the year to come. The five songs we chose, though, are no less awesome for arriving the same week that brought us the return of a legend. They deserve to be called “best,” too.
Calling a song “catchy” isn’t necessarily high praise, but catchiness in the case of JEFF The Brotherhood’s explosively hooky “Coat Check Girl” propels it to an upper tier from the onset. Real-life brothers and fuzz-rock explorers Jake and Jamin Orrall coat their latest single in Dinosaur Jr.-inspired riffs to set up its premise: an unsure glance at the title gal, a drink, some tattoo show-and-tell, potential sparks. Thin keyboard whistles and pre-chorus pondering rush-deliver the elation — “Forcefield/Is this real?” — and the inevitable gut punch that comes with new love. “Coat Check Girl” is a romantic, catchy slice of sludge-pop. The Orrall brothers can own it. –Patrick
Raury covered a lot of stylistic ground on his debut Indigo Child mixtape, but “Fly” sees him taking on a folksy singer-songwriter approach that feels deeply intimate and personal, apropos to the subject of the song. It was written after Raury found out that Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the murder of Mike Brown and, as such, it’s raw and unfiltered. “I’m afraid I’ll die, and you can look at me and never wonder why/ Because I’m brown and young and my hair, it is nappy.” But the song comes across less as rallying cry and more as a rumination on the current state of society, and exploring whether there is hope for the future. It seems foggy. “The words and music didn’t even feel like mine,” he wrote in a Tumblr post, and it sure does feel as though he was the muse of something greater. Take the outro, for instance, talking about his dreams for his future son: “I hope he never becomes a hashtag, I hope to never see him on the back of a T-shirt, I hope that no man in no uniform assumes he’s reaching for something in his pocket.” It’s even more universal than that: “I hope he knows it’s okay to love, I hope he’s a daydreamer, I hope he flies.” Powerful stuff, and it feels like exactly the song the world needs right now. –James
It’s no coincidence that two out of the first three singles from Natalie Prass’ forthcoming debut have big, flashy titles. “Why Don’t You Believe In Me” and “My Baby Don’t Understand Me” are grand, definitive statements, proudly boasting Prass’ flair for the theatrical. That theatricality pervades her music, all rising brass and horns and drums that pound like a beating heart. These songs are for the end of the world, and every line is a bold gesture. She comes in with all the histrionics and bravado of a Broadway show or a 1960s movie musical, betraying a playfulness that gives way to a type of emotional clarity that’s only possible through this style. “Our love is a long goodbye,” she repeats, chronicling the slouch toward an inevitable end. It’s clear why this song caused an eventual breakup, but if songs like this are what we get out of it, then she’s definitely better off without him, and so are we. –James
Coming from someone who never completely fell in love with the mystic video-game siren songs of Shrines, I couldn’t be happier with the “trap-rave Chvrches” direction Purity Ring have taken with Another Eternity. Everything entrancing about the old Purity Ring can be found within the aptly titled “Begin Again” — the sleek production, Megan James’ mesmerizing sing-song, the sonic equivalent of a fantastical light show bursting into the darkness — but the beats hit harder, the melodies shine brighter, and everything about the sound is more marvelously pristine. It sounds like the logical culmination of a lot of trends in indie and electronic music, and it makes that culmination sound exciting. “You be the moon, I’ll be the Earth,” James sings, and I’m happy to oblige. Who wouldn’t want to get caught in this band’s orbit right now? –Chris
Here’s Katie Crutchfield’s unique gift: She can take complicated and contradictory and confusing feeling and make them ring. She can give them heft and dimension. She can make them sound beautiful and triumphant enough that they could soundtrack Judd Nelson’s fist going up as he struts across the football field at the end of The Breakfast Club. And she can do all that without cleaning those feelings up, without feeling like she needs to make them make sense. Case in point: “Air.” On the first single from Ivy Tripp, Waxahatchee’s first album for Merge, Crutchfield’s guitars sparkle and chime, and her voice wells up like a warm, strong wind. But that voice still has a quaver in it, and it should. She’s singing about not knowing where the fuck she is in a relationship, about fucking things up and knowing she’s doing it while she’s doing it. “I left you out like a carton of milk,” she sings. And: “You were patiently giving me everything that I will ever need.” –Tom