New York City welcomes its first ever Panorama Music Festival this weekend and unfortunately, it’s going to be hot. Really hot. Like, it’s going to be so hot that some app Collin uses claimed that we will be living inside of a “heat cloud” for the next few days. What exactly is a “heat cloud,” you might ask? We’ve been debating it all day. Whatever the hell it is, most of the city wants to avoid it by staying inside with the A/C cranked to its coolest setting or laying out at the beach pretending the RNC didn’t happen. As Fiona Apple once pointed out: “This world is bullshit.” And even though she made that declaration 20 years ago, it rings so, so true today. Sometimes all you have left is the music that makes you hopeful, or at least momentarily happy.
“Projection,” like so many PWR BTTM songs, is about being an outsider. Or, more accurately, it’s about being an insider — someone trapped inside a prison of their own anxiety and insecurity, desperate to make contact with the outside world but desperately afraid of the consequences. In the aftermath of Orlando and the weeks of pain that humanity has just been through, there’s genuine fear in a queer person declaring that they’d “probably burn and die” if they leave the house. But PWR BTTM aim more broadly than that, creating an anthem for anyone whose “skin isn’t made for the weather,” for anyone who feels like they don’t fit in, for anyone too exhausted by the effort of trying to try anymore. That might sound defeatist, and there’s a definite weariness in Ben Hopkins’ voice, but the blistering riffage that punctuates the track proves that this is not the sound of giving up. Sometimes, though, you just need a goddamn break. –Peter
Rostam Batmanglij was all over Black Hours, former Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser’s solo debut. But Batmanglij, who recently left his post as the 40 to Ezra Koenig’s Drake in Vampire Weekend, never put his sonic fingerprints on a Leithauser song like he does on the annoyingly syntaxed “A 1,000 Times.” Leithauser brings his signature sloshed swagger, that sense of a man out of time and at his breaking point, howling his best Bob Dylan impression in a rumpled dress shirt he’s been wearing since last night. As ever, Rostam’s contribution is an arrangement that bridges the gap between centuries-old sophistication and modern metropolitan glitz. It’s basically the midway point between each musician’s iconic band, and it rules. –Chris
After hearing “Skeleton” for the first time, I needed some time to relax so I could unclench my fists and make sure I didn’t have whiplash from thrashing my head so vigorously. But for longer than it took me to recover physically, I reflected on the last song I heard that went absolutely fuck nuts on the guitar and still had devastating emotive potency. A day later, I still haven’t come up with one in recent memory. There’s a lot of expertly controlled chaos to parse on “Skeleton,” and even if you don’t, it would be an incredible song based sheerly on arrangement and that psychotically excellent guitar takeover for the last 25 seconds or so. Beyond that though, there’s some devastating sentiment in there about being so wrapped up in someone that you feel like they’re in your fucking bone marrow. And Marissa Paternoster’s guttural, urgent ululations make the feels incredibly piercing. If I could make songs this awesome about being utterly consumed by someone, I’d fall hard for everyone that made eye contact with me on the train. –Collin
“Emo” has probably been a punchline of a word since the moment it was coined, but at least once upon a time, it was short for “emotional hardcore.” Soon enough, of course, it became its own genre, and then its own empire, and then its own free-floating signifier for everything that’s wrong with Kids Today. For more than a decade, it’s signified kids in eyeliner whining about their girlfriends. But when you bring it back to “emotional hardcore,” you’re talking about something like this: Jeremy Bolm, frontman of one of our more powerful post-hardcore bands, howling in rage and fear about losing his mother. “You died at 69 with a body full of cancer / I asked your god you could you but never heard an answer.” That’s the way his band opens the first single of its upcoming album, and it’s musically as bruised and wracked and shattered as those words might lead you to expect. The song ends in just over two minutes, but it’s not short in a punk rock way. It’s short in a “these people might fall apart if they have to keep playing this song” way. –Tom
When I first heard Jenn Champion’s single “No One” I instantly thought of the movie Drive. This song is sleek and eerie, like Champion is slowly exhaling her words onto frigid titanium and watching as it fogs over. There’s a catchy monotony to it that sounds a lot like the Cliff Martinez-helmed soundtrack to Drive, and as it turns out, that comparison is exactly what Champion intended when she produced this song. “No One” was recorded with the films of Nicolas Winding Refn in mind. It boasts that very particular gothic aesthetic that looks really good lit-up neon, and there’s a cinematic, slow-panning quality to it that makes me feel like I am looking at Ryan Gosling’s hot fucking face as he broodingly stares down an LA highway. I’m sorry, but this song takes me places, the same way that movies transport us to alternate realities far from our own. “And there’s no one and there’s no way out,” Champion sings. “And you drag around and you drag around/ And they all want to see you out but you had enough, and you had enough.” “No One” doesn’t tell a story so much as it puts you in a trance. I’ve played it on loop for an hour and I’m going to keep doing so all weekend. There really is no way out. –Gabriela