We published our 50 Best New Bands of 2015 list this week, which is exciting! We love to debate things here at the ‘Gum, and putting together that thing took a lot of back-and-forth emailing and maybe even a few IRL conversations. The best songs of the week this time around doesn’t boast any “new” artists per se — everyone on this list is a heavy-hitter, a star in their own circles. Check ‘em out below.
Spooky Halloween song! No, really, “Red Sun” benefits from having come out just a few weeks before the holiday, as the air begins to chill and ghosts are on everyone’s mind. Merchandise and Dum Dum Girls are a bit of an odd pairing, but their sonically chameleonic tendencies end up working well together — both bands have undergone rehauls of their sound in between album cycles, and they seem to relish in that ability to adapt and change. “Written after midnight,” the press release for the track declares, and the murky brown smudges of the track very much feel like the result of a late-night of inspiration. The long, arching chords of the song reach up to the starry sky; a whirpool drum feels like kicking sand. The plot: Dee Dee is a desert-siren, Carson Cox her bait, but all of that takes a backseat to the mood, which is perfectly fine because this is one gorgeously haunting piece of scenery. –James
Divers already has a rep as being Joanna Newsom’s most restrained and approachable album: Only 11 songs! No 15-minute multi-part suites! You can maybe listen to the whole thing during your morning commute! The album’s title track is both its longest and loosest song, stretching over seven minutes and fluttering freely, with no real sense of structure to pin it down. And yet “Divers” isn’t a challenging song — not exactly, anyway. Instead, it plays like an extended sigh, its strings and woodwinds swirling and twisting gently around its central metaphor. Newsom is singing about love as a dive into the dangerous, beautiful aquatic unknown. Here, we are to understand that the “Dick In A Box” guy is the one “who takes one breath above for ever hour below the sea” and “who gave to me a jewel worth twice this woman’s life, though it cost her less.” That’s not an easy sell, but the song splays itself out so beautifully that you can’t really come back with “I’m sorry, but I just don’t think Brooklyn Nine-Nine is very funny.” That harp glows bright enough to melt away any J-New cynicism reserves you might have built up since “On A Good Day.” –Tom
“Divers” isn’t available to stream, but you can read our Premature Evaluation of Joanna Newsom’s new album here.
As Tom pointed out earlier this week, “All My Friends” is already the title of a revered song by LCD Soundsystem. It’s a song that we wrote a long essay about way back in 2013, and it’s one that I like to listen to every New Year’s Eve because it has the happy-sad tinge that feels appropriate when you’re drinking André with … all your friends. That’s a song about feeling like you’re alone in the universe even when you’re surrounded by those closest to you, and Snakehips’ new single circles the same drain, though Tinashe and Chance’s verses border darker territory. They’re talking about getting way too fucked up way too often and feeling like an empty, sloppy vessel by the end of the night, about knowing that you’re wasting your potential getting wasted all of the time. “We reinvent the wheel just to fall asleep at it,” Chance casually drops into his verse. As good as his rapid-fire lyrics are, Tinashe’s voice lilting in and out like a flickering neon sign on the Vegas Strip is what makes this song. It’s sad, but anthemic — another really good song about being alone, together. –Gabriela
On their debut album, Savages perfected an especially muscular version of post-punk, infusing that antsy, angular Gang Of Four sound with beastly rock ‘n’ roll swagger. The many resulting anthems revealed what might have happened to Siouxsie And The Banshees if exposed to Bruce Banner’s gamma rays. On “The Answer,” their next album’s opening track and lead single, they give themselves over to that brute force completely. The song somehow plunges deeper into hardcore and arena rock all at once, a breathless churn punctuated by machine-gun drum fills and Smashing Pumpkins harmonic drops that hit like Molotov cocktails. “Love is the answer,” and when properly understood, love is an explosive. –Chris
I’m in the middle of reading the great new book The Song Machine, which is all about the craft of the perfect pop song, and it’s making me particularly attuned to picking up instances of Max Martin’s concept of “melodic math” — that is, fitting the words around a hook through the use of a rigid syllabic structure, usually by sacrificing meaning. (Think Ariana Grande’s “Now that I’ve become who I really are.”) “Vroom Vroom” doesn’t have the perfect symmetry of a “California Gurls” or a “22,” but it is a bastardization of that idea, though nowhere near as refined. We’re coming up on the first generation that has been subconsciously raised on Martin’s formula dominating the charts and, out of the second-tier pop stars, Charli XCX feels like she’s the one that’s absorbed it the best. Pretty much no words on this song make sense — “ice cubes on our tongues because we like to keep it freezy?!” — but everything is expressed through cadence, emphasis, and a feeling. Coupled with SOPHIE’s penchant for the onomatopoeic — see see “bipp, “le•mon•ade,” “hey • Q•T” — and Charli’s own history with it (“boom clap”), they’ve created a track that worships the idea of words as sound. It’s calculating: Beep beep boom boom vroom vroom zoom zoom. — every syllable counts, and it’s executed flawlessly. If we follow along with the line of thinking that SOPHIE and PC Music are poking holes in pop conventions — and I don’t completely agree with that sentiment, but hear me out — then “Vroom Vroom” is a deconstruction of Martin’s melodic math, one that both adheres to the formula and demonstrates how ridiculous it can be. It’s a well that the two probably shouldn’t return to that often but, for this track, it’s irresistible. –James