We’re apparently on a collision course with a pretty serious snowstorm here on the East Coast. It’s gonna be the #BlizzardOfTheCentury, according to Slate’s hysteria-farming weather dude Eric Holthaus. It’s not just him, though. The weather media loves this stuff the way the music media loves year-end lists, and the public responds similarly to both: outrage, disbelief, curiosity, agreement, snark, panic, rebuttal, and most of all: conspicuous consumption. New York City’s shelves are bare of bread and milk — people are gonna be eating a whole lot of French toast over the next couple days — but we’ve still got songs.
Mykki Blanco’s music is at its most potent when it’s railing against the industry, espousing tales of compromised integrity and giving up what you deserve in order to get ahead. “I came to New York actin’ real light-skinned/ I came to New York fuckin’ rich white men,” Blanco recounts on “Scales.” Over a murky and menacing beat from Jeremiah Meece, Blanco matter-of-factly postures: “I’m a Hebrew, a shemale, a female, a nigga without a deal — and yet, somehow, I deal in five-star suites, five-star eats, first class-flights, out all night.” Blanco’s living that life now, and that’s because of a refusal to kowtow to the pressures of the industry to lessen yourself. Blanco even started a record label and community to ensure people get what they are owed. “My scale is fair, I’m living that good life, raja,” Blanco stretches that last syllable out breathily. “This wild child lifestyle/ Yo, it’s priceless.” –James
The glitchy computer intro is so telling on Naps’ rumination on millennial habits, “Social Skills.” If millennials’ trusted technological companions were to go haywire permanently, there’s no predicting the calamity that would ensue. I am technically one of them, but my sensibilities don’t match. I lasted on Tinder for all of three days because I prefer to meet people in person instead of through backlit rectangles and thumb taps. It’s also far too easy to curate an online identity and start to believe in it, creating some weird delusional feedback loop or a mild multiple-personality disorder. Even children enter this world with their parents’ followers as a built-in fanbase without having any knowledge of how anything in this world works. Let me not get too tangential, but this is the type of contemplation that “Social Skills” inspires. Naps uses an aesthetic millennials most likely have no taste for to gently critique their social ineptness. The song is a beautiful, mid-tempo pat on the butt with just the right amount of force. The lush instrumentation (particularly that pretty flute flourish) and introspective floating harmonies like “Three full days without speaking” and “I don’t know what to feel” make me want to sit down a few social media-obsessed friends and press play on them one time. –Collin
According to Guerilla Toss frontwoman Kassie Carlson, “Diamond Girls” is about “the desire to disconnect from the material properties of social interactions and boil it down to pure elemental form.” That description is perfect, because “boiling it down to pure elemental form” is exactly what they’re doing to their sound. The exuberant free-for-all chaos has always been a big part of their charm, but ever since the Boston noisemakers signed to OG dance-punk label DFA and shipped off to Brooklyn, they’ve showed a new focus, a surprisingly streamlined tightness in all that sound and fury. That’s not to say they suddenly sound like an LCD Soundsystem clone or anything — the scrapyard-meets-carnival clangor that opens “Diamond Girls” should make that abundantly clear. But the eminently danceable grooves that always lurked beneath the roiling noise have finally bubbled up to the surface, and to these ears, it’s a huge leap forward. I’ve never been to one of their legendary live shows, but I’ve always liked Guerilla Toss; now, I might be ready to love them. –Peter
Lyrically, “In Heaven” is stuck on Earth, combing through the belongings of the dead and mourning their departure. Michelle Zauner does her best to stay grounded in her grief, toying with the hope of some future reconciliation but not quite convincing herself there’s reason to believe. The music tells a different story; it could not sound more heavenly if it tried. Zauner taps into the same celestial rhythmic reverie that landed Amber Arcades on last week’s list, but she blows it out to the size of the horizon by way of patchwork beats and samples worthy of the Avalanches or the Go! Team at their peak. The resulting music seems to float up, up, up into the great unknown, streams of joy spilling out in its wake — which is quite a sound for a song about how a loved one’s death renders you “an empty fucking hole.” –Chris
A few days after dropping “No More Parties In LA,” Kanye West couldn’t resist jumping on Twitter and pointing out the voice sampled on Madlib’s splintered, kaleidoscopic beat for the song. That voice belongs to Larry Graham, the slap-bass pioneer and former Sly & The Family Stone member. Larry Graham happens to be Drake’s uncle. And so here we have two of the rappers jockeying for the most-important-rapper-alive title, both going in over a beat with a weird DNA connection to their greatest competition. Kanye knows he’s getting away with something when he does this kind of shit. He’s doing it to entertain himself, and “No More Parties In LA” is the sound of West having fun, doing shit that entertains him. You can’t help but love the story of why the song was late, why it turned Kanye’s second G.O.O.D. Friday of 2016 to a G.O.O.D. Monday: On a plane trip to Paris, he got inspired and wrote 90 bars. After all, he had to keep up with Kendrick and his furious, kinetic, tourettic verse about the rap-star sex economy. And he did it, going long on whatever’s on his mind. He calls himself “a 38-year-old eight-year-old,” confesses his fear of texting and driving, kvetches about his assistant crashing his Maybach, and once again brings up the cousin who stole his laptop. Best line: “Thank god for me/ Whole family getting money, thank god for E!” “I know some fans thought I wouldn’t rap like this again,” he confesses at one point. And then: “The writer’s block is over.” –Tom