Sometimes, it’s ridiculously hard for us to debate our favorite songs of the past 7 days, but this week, the choice seemed fairly obvious. This list comprises singles from artists with an array of genre-inclinations, and as usual, there’s something for everyone. We’re repping jazz-funk, unorthodox pop, jagged guitar-driven folk-rock, and knee-to-the-gut verses that make your skin crawl. We just published our countdown of the 50 Best Albums Of 2015 So Far, but judging by the singles included on this list, there’s a lot of new music to look forward to in the second half as well. We hope you’re as excited as we are — dive in.
The members of Swedish pop group the Radio Dept. are avowed leftists who timed their last single’s release with their homeland’s elections. So when you see the track title “Occupied,” you could be forgiven for expecting some sort of income-inequality anthem. But that’s not how the Radio Dept. work. Maybe “Occupied” is about that sort of thing, but it’s hard to tell. They remain elusive, singing about “shackles on fire” and something being “more than a moral act of joy.” But really, “Occupied” isn’t a song about ideas; it’s a song about textures. The group’s last album, 2010’s Clinging To A Scheme, was loose and hazy enough to fit into the chillwave zeitgeist. But this is colder and bolder and more physical: A seven-minute synthpop dance banger with needling bleeps and florid pianos and drums that really want to bang your head into the wall. It sounds like New Order discovering the Monolith from 2001 and mumbling to themselves because they can’t think of what to say. –Tom
Ryan DeRobertis stopped drinking the Saint Pepsi Kool-Aid and is now gunning for the freak-pop throne as Skylar Spence on his new album Prom King. “Can’t You See” is the second cut off the record, and it’s a heady dose of carbonated self-worship, a golden slice of narcissism designed to cut through the poison of self-loathing. Imagine a cheerful Flashdance, and you’ve got the gist of the new sound. “Can’t You See” grooves like a disco opera, gutted and rewired to pulse with pop effervescence. It’s a song that pirouettes right past arrogance, an indulgent bit of self-love that soothes old wounds without completely writing them off. DeRobertis finds forgiveness in his reflection, for his own flaws and for those who never saw him clearly. Consider this is a funk-float anthem for when you have zero fucks to give about your haters or your own self-hatred. While it’s on, you’ll love yourself, even if it’s just for those four minutes. –Caitlin
In October of 2013, Palehound dropped their Bent Nail EP on Exploding In Sound Records, and that month, I saw them perform at a CMJ showcase and remember feeling my pulse skip when Ellen Kempner sang that devastating line in “Drooler,” the one that goes: “vandalize my body, if it helps.” At the time, Ellen Kempner was a 19-year-old student at SUNY Purchase and already making her mark on that familiar scene, one that readily bleeds into the close-by Brooklyn nightlife and boasts a certain level of cred in its own right. That would have been the easy route. But instead, Kempner dropped out of Purchase and moved to Allston. She got a job and a new band and, through that frustrating, tumultuous period, released the Kitchen 7″ and worked on her debut full-length album Dry Food. With the introduction of “Molly,” we find Kempner poised to take over again, but this time on a much larger scale, with two EPs backing her up alongside a newfound, audible confidence (and a supporting slot on Speedy Ortiz’s recent tour). Like many Palehound songs, “Molly” is lyrically unhinged — a smattering of statements that may or may not be about a particular person, a feeling, a self-reflective moment — but its greater meaning tends to reveal itself through instrumental footwork. This isn’t a dark song, it’s a mocking one relayed with the kind of skill that absolutely stings. Kempner sounds level-headed and in-charge, but maybe she isn’t. Maybe it’s all in her delivery. –Gabriela
Thundercat, Flying Lotus, and Kamasi Washington all circle around the same orbit, similar but separate celestial bodies committed to creating a free-flowing fusion of traditional jazz, funk, and soul with a more modern spin. Throw Kendrick Lamar into the mix, and you’ve got four forward-thinking visionaries who aim to meld the past with the present, and launch ambitious projects to test the limits of their burgeoning sound. In the past twelve months, we’ve been gifted with FlyLo’s You’re Dead!, Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly, and Washington’s debut The Epic, all exploring similar sonic territories and putting a fresh face on an old genre. And now there’s Thundercat, throwing his hat into the ring after a two year absence with “Them Changes,” which utilizes three out of the four of them to great effect. The squelching bass line, the glowing piano tinkles, Kamasi’s saxophone filtering in and out — it all adds up to a thumping, intricately layered composition. And while Thundercat’s lyricism is usually pretty hit-or-miss, the first line here is so evocative that it’s worth mentioning: “Nobody move, there’s blood on the floor and I can’t find my heart.” It sets the mood for the rest of the song, a somber reminder of what we lack. –James
Vince Staples is molten hot right now and his temperature is rising. Staples has fearlessly vaulted into the conversation in 2015 — skipping the radio single route and unconcerned with big name cosigns, he’s opted to release a double album for his full-length debut Summertime ’06. Plenty of new rappers scramble to piece together a single disc, but Staples has so much to say he needs two. “Get Paid” is proof of that, a twist on Compton’s after-hours capitalism that reflects on the system rather than exalting it. This isn’t a song about stacks and gold chains, mansions and expensive cars. Rather, it’s about urgency and survival, the underlying pressures that spur such an emphasis on cold, hard cash. Unsigned Long Beach rapper Desi Mo builds tension, threading a defiant echo of Staples’ flow throughout the song. Like much of this album, it’s a song marked by darkness and the unvarnished reality of his upbringing. There’s no arrogance here, not really. Instead, Staples raps in a spiral over the No I.D. beat, telling us about his life over an endless ticking that mimics the song’s anxiety. Getting paid isn’t a matter of stunting, it’s a matter of survival. –Caitlin