Each of this week’s 5 Best Songs will send you skyward, albeit in very different ways. The tiny, fragile songs here are emotional behemoths, shooting off 10 different dialogues inside your head. And the celebratory tunes rightfully shout for themselves, prompting gleeful outpourings like head nods and body shakes and incendiary smiles. Trust us: This is the good stuff.
Providence punks Downtown Boys know how to make a racket. “Future Police” is a song about order-enforcement structures and systems of oppression, but it sounds like a vulture attacking your fucking face. Over the song’s 86 seconds, Downtown Boys scrape and pummel and scream at each other while a honking saxophone does X-Ray Spex/Essential Logic things in the background. It’s fast and loud and angry and fun and inventive. When the song’s onslaught is over, you might be a little short of breath, but colors might pop a little brighter, too. –Tom
The first thing I adored about “Monster Movie” was the way its finger-plucked guitar line lovingly borrowed from Big Star’s “The Ballad Of El Goodo,” reframing it in a hushed context first perfected by Alex Chilton disciple Elliott Smith. The next was Fred Thomas infusing his vocal with a wobbly, conversational tenderness that solidifies the song’s in-your-face immediacy; you feel like he’s sitting on the couch singing directly to you. Then there was this stunning lyric, which completely did me in: “In a whisper on a front porch: ‘Could you be more? Could you be more for me?'” I was so taken by the power and mystery of the picture Thomas painted that it took me a few more listens to realize what a stirring synthetic bridge he built into the middle of the song, a miniature symphony stuffed inside a ballad built for house shows. The song is Thomas’ album All Are Saved in a nutshell — exploratory yet intimate, full of resonant notes and pleasant surprises. –Chris
Even when he’s in the passenger seat Killer Mike manages to wrangle the steering wheel. MNDR is pop music’s Patty Hearst, a velvet-voiced, shit-talking boss-turned-mercenary who careens through the Alchemist-produced “Lock & Load” like an apocalypse princess. Seriously, when I listen to this song I imagine her in a hot-pink, glittery Cadillac, cruising low through film noir Sin City streets, that huge, nasty beat bumping out of a subwoofer in the backseat. We already know she has good taste in rappers, but it was checkmate clever to get on a song with Killer Mike — it doesn’t matter if you get murdered on your own song when a rap purist kingpin like Mike is doing the killing. “Shit’s fucked up say the cards of the Tarot,” he begins, letting you think that maybe fate has some power in the GTA V universe, then jerks the tablecloth right out from under the fortune teller setup: “I exact revenge at the end of a barrel.” Mike lets his flow pick up momentum, pedal to the floor until it gets so viciously, specifically violent that it becomes euphoric. “Lock & Load” is a vaunting crosshatch of glitter-and-tar savagery — an executioner’s psalm turned all the way up on a drive-by shooting through the valley of death. Killer Mike doesn’t ride shotgun. –Caitlin
“I Admit I’m Scared” starts with a quiver, one that gradually builds to an incredible, soaring payoff. The song goes through three distinct motions — the muted beginning, the elated middle, and the stratospheric end, all before plummeting right back down to where it started. It’s the kind of sonic gymnastics that wasn’t possible on Eskimeaux’s earlier recordings, a journey that could only be taken with a full band behind her. It’s a song that makes tears well up in my eyes almost every time I listen to it, and I can’t even really pinpoint why. There are so many emotions packed into this song that it feels overwhelming at times, like the only thing that I can do is let them spill out. And it all starts with that first line, which feels so great to let roll off your tongue: “I admit I’m scared.” How often do we really get to say that? To be honest with ourselves and acknowledge the fear that we walk around with every day, when we’re normally so good at brushing it aside? Life is fucking terrifying. We’re all out here and none of us have any idea what we’re doing ever, and we all just have to hope that everything will turn out OK. But Eskimeaux’s here to tell you that that’s all normal: “If I had a dime for every time I’m freaking out,” Gabrielle Smith wails at the climax. “We could fly around the world, or just get out of your parents house.” It’s all about the small victories, the tiny accomplishments we make every day. This song gives me the confidence to confront my fear, to hush the voice in the back of my head that’s telling me that “everything I think should be buried in the ground.” Because even if what comes out seems ugly, it’s better than having no voice at all. –James
The first time I listened to “Puffer,” it felt like someone scooped up my hardened, 20-something rockist body and dropped it back in the fourth grade. Nothing about the new Speedy Ortiz song reminds me of Major Arcana, nor does it explicitly remind me of the band’s exhaustingly referenced ’90s alt-rock forebears. “Puffer” sounds like friends enlisting me to sing back-up as they performed Destiny’s Child, TLC, 3LW on the blacktop at recess. It sounds like the music I grew up on and have since strayed from, save the occasional party when someone puts on “No More (Baby I’ma Do Right)” for old times’ sake. The playful choral call-and-response paired with layered “Yeah yeah yeah” vocal tracking makes Sadie Dupuis sound like she’s got an entire girl group recording next to her. When we talk about Speedy Ortiz, we talk about rock music. We compare Dupuis’ lyricism to Steven Malkmus, the band’s unconventional melodies to Kim Deal, but we’re reluctant to step outside of those boundaries and name-check anything Top 40. When “Puffer” dropped yesterday, Dupuis tweeted that the song was “supposed to sound like Kelis,” and only then did anyone attempt to sift melodic sparkle out of the track’s overcast instrumentals. “Puffer” owes more to pop radio playlists of our shared childhood than it does to any of the indie outfits they might’ve pledged allegiance to as young adults. It’s comfortable to keep holding this band up against their prescribed cannon, but we’re going to have to move beyond that. Speedy Ortiz already has. –Gabriela