It’s been a great week for rock music. Normally this list spans a variety of genres that coalesce to form a Frankenstein playlist of sorts. This time around, our list is made up entirely of rock songs. Maybe we OD’ed on Carly Rae Jepsen over the course of the past few months? JK, that would be impossible. Dive in.
Sweden, for whatever reason, seems to produce people capable of writing huge, soaring melodies the way the Dominican Republic produces baseball players, or the South Pacific islands produce great pro wrestlers. And that melodic command extends to just about every genre of music. Gothenburg, the hometown of the Sun Days, is famous in underground metal circles for the Gothenburg Sound — a soaring, triumphant, catchy-as-hell version of death metal. And that holds true of indie-pop, too. Like fellow Gothenburgers Love Is All or Makthaverskan, the Sun Days know how to weld hooks into scrappy, immediate lo-fi music. But he hook on “Don’t Need To Be Them” isn’t just a hook. It’s a surging, crashing, life-affirming endorphin rush of a chorus, an anthemic call for self-reliance that blasts any shred of doubt away from your soul. It’s a beautiful sound and I have a hard time imagining it coming from anywhere else. –Tom
We all struggle, and yet we all think we’re alone in our struggles. Sometimes we can’t see the pain behind our loved ones’ eyes, either because we’re not looking or because they don’t want us to see — because they feel just as alone. “I saw you smile/ But I must’ve mistook it/ Sometimes we hide ourselves,” Cam Boucher sighs. In “Either Way,” he chronicles two parallel battles with depression, each unaware of the other’s existence, one ending in triumph — or at least a step in the right direction, which qualifies as triumph — and the other in tragedy. The song exists in the small yet infinite gap between “I saw my chance and I took it/ saw the chance to leave the life I couldn’t lead” and “You saw your life and you took it/ saw a chance to leave a life you couldn’t lead.” It’s both an elegy and a love song, lamenting a heartbreaking failure to connect and affirming the unconditional acceptance that could’ve provided a way out: “You know that we would love you either way.” Boucher doesn’t offer any easy resolutions, because there aren’t any; he sits and stews in his emotions and all their messiness. But if he is offering something, I think it’s this: We think we’re alone, but we’re not. Too often, we run parallel, but maybe, if we let ourselves, we can intersect. And maybe that’s enough. –Peter
By the time they’re Colin Newman’s age, most legendary musicians have either moved on to making terrible blues-rock records or retired from the game altogether. Instead, Newman and Wire are still cranking out vital music at a rapid pace, exploring new extensions on the radioactive post-punk sound they pioneered four decades ago. The latest fruit of their inspired perseverance is the muted yet pulse-poundingly urgent “Nocturnal Koreans.” Wire reportedly used the studio as an instrument this time around, and it yields serious dividends here, infusing a nervy but straightforward rock song with a translucent neon glow. It makes me feel like I’m trapped inside a dystopian 1980s action movie and loving it — or, you know, happening upon a sequel to Chairs Missing and also loving it. –Chris
When Car Seat Headrest released their Matador debut, 2015’s Teens Of Style, the band’s mastermind, Will Toledo, told us, “I figured this would be my last chance to do something that still sounded and felt like the ‘old’ Car Seat Headrest before we started doing bigger work.” The “old” Car Seat Headrest sounded and felt like the bedroom recordings of one dude with a Wilson-ian approach to studio perfectionism — which is also exactly what it was. This year, we get the “new” Car Seat Headrest; CSH’s second LP for Matador will be titled Teens Of Denial, and while the title echoes that of its predecessor, the first single delivers on Toledo’s promise of a “bigger” sound. Where Teens Of Style was densely layered, building ever-upward like a Jenga tower, “Vincent” sprawls expansively in every direction — it’s controlled chaos that sometimes feels like actual chaos. Toledo never lets it get to that point, though; he’s not giving up control, just finding ways to let his music grow. Says Toledo, “Vincent” is about, “Fighting to hold one’s place in the crowd, to hold one’s drink. Shouting to be heard, but what’s the point, no one’s saying anything worth listening to. Wanting to leave, not wanting to go home. Music is too loud.” He’s got a point there. This one goes to 11. –Michael
If I were a baseball player tasked with choosing a walk-up song, I would pick “Down It Goes” off of White Lung’s 2014 release Deep Fantasy. Form follows content seamlessly on that song; it’s an intimidating, pummeling two and a half minutes of aggression that forces you into submission and keeps you there. “I’m not as strong as you,” Mish Way asserts. “But I am EVERYWHERE!” That same omnipresence is felt in “Hungry,” but it’s more welcoming. Softer, even. The guitar work on “Hungry” glimmers in comparison to some of the band’s earlier recordings, and Way’s delivery is almost soothing when she sings: “Baby you’re weak/ Baby you’re starving.” This is a gentler confrontation, but it’s an arresting one all the same. –Gabriela