Last week’s 5 Best Songs split the difference between chill and fidgety. The week before that, we had golden pop mingling with blaring bombast. This week’s offerings are once again eclectic, but that’s really the point. It’s why we put this list together week after week, mixing up liquid dance jams and exultant gospel-hop, or fragile acoustic vibes and throwback neo-funk, or whatever other combinations the music realm delivers. We love listening to it. Here’s why.
As soon as I heard this song, I wondered how it could exist. “The rain is ours and we are lovers of heavy weather,” Billie Marten pronounces these words with such authority that she might be speaking the scene into being that very moment. “Heavy Weather” is filled with a knowledge of intimacy that seems beyond her fifteen years, but then again, the pastoral scene she conjures up is too mystical to come from anywhere but the imagination. A curious sorcery lurks in lines like “come on lightning, try to strike us” evoking an epic, lovers-against-the-world tension that inhabits all the worthiest romances, all the most searing tragedies. The song is willfully constructed to mimic the storm it idolizes; drums pound in and out, shakers swell like squalls, and her uncanny voice shimmers, an evaporating mist. But it doesn’t seem constructed. It seems like it just appeared out of nowhere, an organic thing that emerged from the earth after some particularly fierce gale. It’s too seamless, too fully formed to have been written or labored over. It seems to exist in the same way a flower does, without guile and without sentience. Except, it doesn’t. When a guitar is closely-mic’d, you can hear this strange sluicing sound as the player changes chords, moving their hand up and down the neck to different frets. It’s one of the most precious sounds on earth to me, and it’s what brings this song back into reality. Maybe she’s just another girl playing guitar. Maybe a storm is just a little rain. –Caitlin
Early rumors suggested Currents would be Tame Impala’s most electronic outing, and so far that’s proving to be true, but not how I expected. I don’t know what I expected, actually — dubstep drops? — but “Let It Happen” pleasantly confounded me, “‘Cause I’m A Man” even more so. Kevin Parker has managed to infuse festival-ready electronics into his psych-pop majesties in a completely organic way, to the point that I wouldn’t be surprised if the entirety of Coachella ascends into heaven and/or outer space when Tame Impala take the stage this weekend. In the case of “‘Cause I’m A Man,” he’s constructed the easy listening arena-rock power-ballad of the future, a marvel of composition and technology entirely too detail-perfect to support Parker’s thesis that he’s a big dumb brute who answers only to his testicles. Then again, he wouldn’t be the first musical genius to use that excuse. –Chris
“True Colors” travels through movements that remind me more of the sounds of a galloping horse than any of Johanna Warren’s earlier singles. Her guitar work is ominous, but it’s propulsive, shoving the listener into a half-rendered mythological tale. There are dozens of striking images to pluck out of this song, all of which sound like distant anxious memories, the thoughts that surface when you’re trying to fall asleep. But Warren isn’t some wayward starry-eyed damsel. There’s a steadfast sense of self-assuredness that tumbles out of this song’s chorus, dampening any lingering apprehension. “Wherever you are, you’ll never get where you’re going if you’re wound so tight/ Forget the duality of wrong and right,” she sings. Warren’s forthcoming album n?m?n sounds like something my mom would like, and that’s in no way derogatory. My mom has excellent taste. What I mean is: Warren isn’t gazing into the future and trying to innovate and make something avant or “different.” She’s not trying to alienate people. Warren is writing acoustic-driven folk songs that can be held up along singer-songwriters of past generations, as well as the ones to come. Maybe this is cheesy, but to me, Warren’s sound is timeless. Her lyrics leak out of old anthologies and descend from the cosmos. Brooding and boundless. –Gabriela
I still remember exactly how I felt when I first heard the opening swells of Acid Rap. I had newly fallen in love and that gleaming, jubilant bop seemed to swell and expand, filling every moment with floating exultance. I get that same feeling in a fresh way when I listen to “Heaven Only Knows” — the kind of joy that’s absurd, unsustainable, combustible. Towkio is in the Save Money crew, so the Chance references are pretty obvious, but even with a Chance cameo he completely owns this song. His voice has this glorious, smooth caramel sound that makes a refrain as simple as “I love it I love it” sound like it has strident purpose. The squeaky, warped organ bubbles and boils like molten gold, and there’s such a cast of characters on background vocals, beats and adlibs that it feels like a congregation on a carnival ride. “Feel like the intro but better than it’s ever been,” Chance raps on his verse, passing the torch with his signature righteous squawk. If the rest of Towkio’s tape is this good, his ascent is imminent. –Caitlin
Let’s address the elephant in the room: The fact that “I Really Like You” didn’t become the song of the summer that we predicted it would be is total bullshit. Its failure can be attributed to a few different factors: a bungled radio promotion rollout, an unwilling populace who can’t get over that this is the chick who did “Call Me Maybe,” and a decent serving of bad timing and luck. It’s a flawless pop song on every level, but it seems destined to go down in the history books as an under-appreciated gem rather than a chart-stomping monster. Whatever, so be it. With that firmly in the rearview, it’s a smart business move that Carly Rae Jepsen’s team is pivoting to market her as an indie darling. I think this strategy was always on the back burner — they didn’t let us interview her for nothing — and there’s no reason she couldn’t slip into the exalted underground pop world next to the likes of Sky Ferreira and Solange. Which brings us to “All That,” written and produced by none other than Dev Hynes and Ariel Rechtshaid, the team that helped those two ascend to their status as indie-friendly icons. That Jepsen worked with Hynes and Rechtshaid (not to mention Rostam Batmanglij and Tegan And Sara and Jack Antonoff) for this album is enough to sell it. Add to that the fact that it’s a powerhouse of a song, and you’re golden. Jepsen sells this song completely: It requires the kneeling on the floor, wine stain on your prom dress, mascara running down your cheeks kind of desperation that comes with unrequited love. This song is an open wound, and the way Jepsen hits on every syllable in the hook as if her life depended on it drives the point home. Just like the protagonist of the song, “All That” is patient, but the gradual build-up is worth it for the incredible payoff at the end, when the song punches its way through to a heart-wrenching conclusion. It’s a track that’s destined to go nowhere on the charts — there’s a reason it’s not being marketed as a single, an important distinction in the pop sphere — but, for most, its potency should completely justify the Carly Rae Jepsen hype. –James