Look, we gotta observe protocol over here. Everybody knows that new Pope track is fire, but it dropped too late to be eligible for this week’s list. Sorry! We can get into that one next week. This week, though, this is what ya got.
Everybody’s got one. That person who can change your whole mood, your whole day with a single word. That person who somehow wields an immense amount of power over your thoughts and feelings, who reduces you to your most vulnerable self with silence or absence. When that person moves in and out of your life, it can powerfully alter how you see yourself, and by extension, how you see the world. In real life this process is not a beautiful one. It’s ragged and painful, and often brings out the worst in us, causes us to sabotage ourselves and others. But when the story is told in Kelly Zutrau’s pleading, plush voice, it becomes a pleasurable, sumptuous kind of sadness. Listening to Wet’s “Weak” is comforting, because hearing Zutrau bare her weakness with such vulnerability reminds you that it’s like this for everyone. Everybody has a love that makes their life beautiful, or one that is currently fading and complicating into something beyond that. And if you think you’re the only going through that, you’re a fool. Love, and the end of it, is precisely what makes the heart of every Wet song beat so fiercely: “Don’t Wanna To Be Your Girl,” “You’re The Best,” and “Deadwater” — these all long and lurch toward the limitless expanse of losing yourself in emotion, consequences be damned. Each song unspools with an overarching majesty founded on tiny details, like here, that tiny vocal blip when Zutrau draws out her second “youuuu,” the beat right before Joe Valle comes in on percussion, Marty Sulkow’s flickering guitar line on the back half of the chorus. By the time this song has swung into its sumptuous, orchestral plea for you to stay, you’ll feel like you have your power back. Even if they leave. –Caitlin
Palm got their start playing at house shows and in basements, and the elbow-to-elbow claustrophobia of that environment translates over to how they carry themselves and how their songs hang. So even when Kasra Kurt’s vocals wail on “Ankles” in what has to be an intentional homage to Noah Lennox’s Tomboy-era yodel, they’re afforded none of the grandeur or space that the best songs on that album possessed. Instead, any feeling of openness is replaced with a nauseous, rolling, unpredictable rhythm — it’s the kind of interplay that necessitates a physical response. “Ankles” slips to life in an improvisational fever. At its most volatile, it’s reminiscent of the swagger of Dirty Projectors’ more propulsive songs; at its most obtuse, Palm occupy a space all their own, one where there’s no oxygen to spare. As Kurt offers up his refrain of “I don’t need you/ I don’t need you anymore than you need me,” the music swells and squawks at him, responding argumentatively and putting him in place. It’s a forceful pushback, as if to say: “Yes, you do.” –James
There are billions of songs about falling in love with New York City, but there aren’t nearly as many about falling in love in New York City. Maybe I’m cynical, but it’s fucking hard to meet anyone worth spending inordinate amounts of time with when you’re too busy hustling to pay rent, go to the show, hang out with friends, etc., etc. It’s very easy to be jaded in a place where everyone is so frazzled and career-minded that they don’t have the time or patience to cast a sidelong glance, let alone go out on an actual date with anyone. That’s what makes this Frankie Cosmos song such a special, New York love song. It’s about falling head-over-heels into springtime, while simultaneously falling for someone special, roaming around the city doing a whole lot of Nothing. It’s little moments — like touching the weathered pages of used books lining the shelves outside of the Strand book store — that are impossible to forget. They bring with them the giddy feeling that anything can happen when the world is alive and in bloom. –Gabriela
Have you ever been around someone who was wearing a whole lot of diamonds? I’m not talking about a diamond wedding ring or even a necklace. I’m talking about one of those ostentatious rapper displays, where diamonds are just everywhere you look, all of them catching light and doing strange things with it. Maybe they look tacky as fuck in videos or photoshoots, but if you’re actually around those diamonds — glinting and throwing off light, creating their own comic-book glimmer effects — then you know that they can create a weird dream-state in you just by existing. “Diamonds Dancing,” the best song on the new Drake/Future album, What A Time To Be Alive, isn’t really about anything beyond Future’s lean dependency and Drake’s disappointment in you for not calling him. But its sonic soup — warm-bath delayed guitars, hovering synth patches, Future’s secret-weapon falsetto — throws you into the same state of mind that those diamonds can. –Tom
[If you actually want to listen to “Diamonds Dancing,” you gotta do so via Apple Music.]
Can it be? Could Joanna Newsom have possibly topped herself again? Against all odds, advance singles from Divers suggest chamber-pop’s most beloved ethereal creature might still be ascending to the peak of her powers more than a decade deep into her discography. Last month’s “Sapokanikan” was stunning, this week’s “Leaving The City” even more so. It begins like your average Newsom track — harp, vocals, the feeling that you’ve stumbled upon Earth’s coolest renaissance faire — but then the pageantry scales back, and Newsom steps forward to whisper something simple and beautiful into the sadness: “I believe in you/ Do you believe in me?” Then, just when the song has settled into a gorgeous lament, the drums(!) kick in, and “Leaving The City” achieves liftoff. What once was only true in the most general sense has now become literal: Joanna Newsom rocks. –Chris