Another week, another development in the ongoing saga of the notorious Pizza Rat here in New York. Today, New York Magazine reports that rats across the city are now vying for our measly online attention spans by fighting over delicious dollar slices in the Subway…
…we know, it’s hard to look away, which is why writing up the 5 best songs of the week was especially trying this go-round. That, and we can’t stop debating whether or not LCD Soundsystem is getting back together (if you happen to know the answer to this confounding question, please lend us your valuable insight by voting). Still, we managed to pick out the hottest tracks of the week and tell you what we liked about them — dive in!
When snap music emerged from Atlanta strip clubs in the mid-’00s, discerning music-head types treated its arrival like the fucking apocalypse. The conventional wisdom went something like this: A track like D4L’s “Laffy Taffy” is so knowingly and toxically dumb that its inexplicable popularity will inevitably lead to the steep decline in the time-honored art of hip-hop. The word “minstrelsy” was tossed around a lot. A full decade later, though, historical distance lets us hear snap music as what it was: A whole new form of minimalism, one that suddenly made it possible to build a whole club anthem out of a few artfully arranged pings and finger-snaps. Snap’s influence on rap music, especially on the West Coast, has been reverberating ever since; the current Mustard wave would be unthinkable without it. And now we get to hear what happens when the dazzling pop scientists of Copenhagen take snap music and turn it into chiffon-sneer pop music, using its sonics to propel this excellent little bubblegum jam about knowing you deserve better than the shitty asshole that you’re crushing on. –Tom
Often, it feels disrespectful to trace a band’s lineage instead of focus on their present. All that backward-glancing undermines the fiery creative act of the present, so there will be none of that here. Pill are a singular entity like their namesake, an enclosed unit of post-punk petulance wandering into free jazz and the ravenous selfishness of desire. “Hot Glue” pushes itself toward you, sticky and sharp as a breath exhaled in disgust. “My fingers my elbows / Smell of the sacrifices I’ve made,” Veronica Torres glowers, as if it’s your fault she’s up to her ears in loss. Her voice rages in duet with Ben Jaffe’s savage, veering saxophone; twinned wails that pass down bitter prophesies over chaotic rock fury. “I can get myself there, but I want you to,” Torres explains, lifting the veil on her vulnerability for a split second. Close listeners know that final admission is the song’s strongest moment. –Caitlin
“Vacation” is deathly gorgeous from a sonic perspective, exporting the weary bedside manner and gleaming guitar figures from Wilco’s “Muzzle Of Bees” into a trembling DIY context worthy of the Microphones’ The Glow Pt. 2. But as with all the best diaristic music, Florist’s gentle surges and retreats are mostly a backdrop for lyrical reflections that surpass the beauty of the sounds themselves. “I don’t know how to be what I wanted to be when I was five” sets the stage for many knockout lines, each one grasping at foundational concepts of home and family that don’t seem so secure this side of childhood. When Emily Sprague was a kid, “a swimming pool and a hotel was a gift from God.” Now phone calls with her mom double as reassurance that her parents are still breathing. She wonders if starting a family of her own would renew that lost sense of peace or just delay the next existential crisis. (“Maybe I just want to get married,” she posits, “or maybe I just want to fall asleep.”) These are all smart and insightful and deeply human sentiments, and they render Sprague as an immensely likable narrator. But they all take a backseat to one of the finest lyrics of 2015, which works as genius punctuation but offers only the faintest resolution: “If I’ve been in love before, and I’m pretty sure I have/ Then I’m pretty sure my house could burn down, down to the ground tomorrow.” The second time through, Sprague shifts from being “pretty sure” to knowing these truths outright, finding a kind of stability in the notion that love is real, but so is loss. –Chris
“Times To Die” is a 7-minute long epic about trying, and failing, and trying again to get ahead — a Gilgamesh for the 21st-century artist seeking ever-elusive “success,” whatever that might mean to them. Car Seat Headrest answer towering life questions with a steadfast sense of humor, and “Times To Die” is one of the finest examples of that. Will Toledo introduces the song with a list of things he has-not, “All of my friends are getting married, all my friends are right with God/ All my friends are making money,” before tumbling into his own predicament: “But art gets what it wants and art gets what it deserves.” From there, Toledo panders to the gods of artistry on-high, making references to Heaven and Satan and shrines and temples and divine councils. The song moves in three separate movements, and all of the lyrics attempt to force open very real questions of what it means exist as a working artist with seemingly insurmountable dreams, begging the spiritual realm for answers. One of my favorite lyrics of this year arrives in the apex moment when Toledo describes the fate of his leading character, who’s either about to be fed to the devil, or sign a record deal (he shouts out Matador founder Chris Lombardi in the moments before). As Toledo sings: “And when they took him to the temple,” he’s met with a divine greeting. “Hey man, we listened to your demos…” –Gabriela
The emotions that Devon Welsh digs into on Are You Alone? don’t ring as true for me as they did on Majical Cloudz’ 2013 LP, Impersonator (which I loved dearly), but “Downtown” is the exception to that rule. It’s a great big beacon of hope — I could listen to it on repeat for days and never get sick of it. It’s a song that’s good enough to justify the entire record’s existence. Welsh plays it straight and sincere here, which is why a line like, “There’s one thing I’ll do if it ever goes wrong / I’ll write you into all of my songs” hits so hard. There’s a self-awareness and immediacy in “Downtown”; it’s still about being isolated and with your partner, but it shines because it at least attempts to engage with the outside world instead of being closed off. Welsh admits his sanity is slipping; he understands how everyone will perceive him: “That he was obsessed and it was okay,” a fitting epitaph for someone who writes almost exclusively about love. Matthew Otto’s always on-point production supports the cyclical, dream-like nature of the song. It’s as crystalline and comforting as ever, transporting you to a feeling just as strongly as Welsh’s words do. The balancing act between the two of them is a hard trick to pull off, but when they get that chemistry just right, there’s nothing better. –James