Memorial Day weekend is upon us, but for the most part this week’s best singles aren’t the ideal soundtrack for your cookout. (Speaking of which: We’re still waiting for those BBQ bangers you promised, Kanye.) The songs that struck us this week are mostly serious and/or introspective, and even the loud ones are a better fit for climactic movie scenes than jovial backyard get-togethers. Still, what’s great is great, and these songs most certainly are.
Hudson Mohawke has made it clear that he wants to be more than the a man behind the curtain in Kanye West’s camp, more than one-half of TNGHT’s comic-book maximalism, more than another British electronic producer with a hit or two. Mohawke wants to be an artist, someone who creates lovely, lasting work that forces the listener to grapple with life’s deepest secrets and greatest moments. That’s the kind of age-old euphoria “Ryderz” delivered, an iconic, soulful joy dizzied by his Midas touch production. “Indian Steps” is the other side of the coin, a fragile coo of a song that tip-toes through an intimate moment. Antony absolutely devastates on this track, thoughtfully repeating the line “You wanted me/ You wanted me,” examining the significance of desire, then spilling wordlessly into the crushing loss of its absence. This is a song about moving quietly through a room while watching the person you love sleep, but it’s also about the way we move when that room is empty. “Indian Steps” is HudMo treading lightly, a featherweight curveball of gorgeous, grieving pop. –Caitlin
“Never knew I was a dancer till Delilah showed me how,” Florence Welch wails up at the moon, using the name of an Old Testament temptress for who knows what purpose. Welch claims that “Delilah” is about the exquisite agony of waiting for someone to call you, the creeping feeling that this person has fucked around and betrayed you somehow. That’s a small feeling most of the time, but Florence Welch does not do small. So instead, we get a rousing screaming-down-Babylon orchestral banger, one stuffed with stentorian backup singers and hammered piano chords and stomping Broadway drums, Welch soaring up and over all of it with angelic vengeance: “Strung up! Strung out! For your love! Hanging! Hung up! It’s so rough!” It’s blown-out and overstated and unreasonably huge, and that’s the way Florence + The Machine works best. –Tom
Nap Eyes frontman Nigel Chapman cites 11th-century Persian jack-of-all-trades Omar Khayyám as an inspiration. Khayyám was someone who was equally concerned with the arts and the sciences — a mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, poet — and was able to see the overlapping beauty in the two of them. It’s that kind of precocious foundation on which Nap Eyes is built. Chapman spends his days as a biochemist, but his words and ideas have the studied cadence of an English major. For the most part, his lyrics are concerned with big concepts. On “Dark Creedence,” that preoccupation takes the form of “dark shadows” and “heavy iron shawls,” with references to “old NASA” and “astrophysical planes” thrown in to bolster his schooling. The flowery lyrics are accompanied by persistent drumming and a few simple chords to support the Halifax native’s dour voice, but the instrumentation mainly just serves as drapery for his musings. It’s all well and good, but that intellectual facade breaks down with the last line, betraying Chapman’s more human side: “Just get my drinking under control, and I will live again.” The song reveals itself to be much more intimate than its posturing would seem at first and, on repeated listens, the personal begins to stick out like knives. –James
Rocky will tell you that the initials in his new song stand for “Love x $ex x Dreams,” and the lyrics are less about drugs and more about the sensation of losing yourself in someone else, someone new. But the music tells a different story. “L$D” is a digital psych-blues power-ballad, Rocky singing in falsetto over twinkling guitars and womblike bass-throbs. He doesn’t rap a single word on the song. (The rap interlude in the video comes from “Excuse Me,” another song on his new album and one that’s prettily adrift in its own way.) Rocky gave Lil B the video to share, and it has the same starry-eyed in-love-with-the-world vibe that Lil B brings to everything, but executed with a serious budget and a cinematic ear for music. It’s absolutely a drug song, but a drug song can be a love song, too. Both, after all, are about leaving your body behind, about ascending toward something greater. And as with Mos Def’s “Umi Says,” “L$D” is an early indicator that the way forward for Rocky may be to leave rapping behind entirely, to give his voice over to feelings so big he’s not sure how to voice them. –Tom
Poison Season approaching, fuck whatever y’all been hearing. Dan Bejar’s richly luxuriant easy listening phase is officially Kaputt, replaced by the sound of David Bowie highjacking Springsteen’s motorcycle, stealing Wendy’s heart, and speeding away from a city in flames. With its ebullient spirit and incessant driving rhythm, “Dream Lover” could almost pass for one of Bejar’s New Pornographers songs if not for a relentless horn onslaught that recasts Radiohead’s paranoid opus “The National Anthem” as inspirational art-house cinema. It’s the most bombast I’ve ever heard in a Bejar track, tempered only by the eternally casual microphone presence that suggests he’s always three snifters deep. And as long as we’re honoring all the ways Bejar repurposed the classics here, might as well engrave “Oh shit, here comes the sun” on Mr. Destroyer’s marble bust and get it behind glass at the Smithsonian immediately. –Chris