The 5 Best Songs Of The Week

The 5 Best Songs Of The Week

Another week over, another exciting revelation to reckon with. Here’s one: Did you know that there are actually four distinct species of giraffe? For a long time, scientists thought there were only three. Do better, science! The music world has even more genres to offer than our long-necked mammal friends, and we’ve got a diverse showing in the list below.

(P.S. did you know this thing about spiders?)

5. Mannequin Pussy – “Romantic”

Our individual definitions of what is or is not “romantic” vary. For example, if someone tried to woo me with red roses and candles I would probably feel sad and embarrassed for them. I would think they were creepy. I would run the fuck out that door. But some people love that dorky shit! To each their own. Mannequin Pussy’s latest, “Romantic,” considers the word to be wholly insignificant; it doesn’t really mean much when you’re being treated like a dumpster by someone who’s supposed to love you. “You’re in a bad mood every time you wake up with the bees,” Marisa Dabice addresses her subject, before she absolutely howls. “STOP TAKING THIS SHIT OUT ON ME!” She’s got a lot of heart even when she’s spewing bile, and whoever this song is about better run. –Gabriela

4. Melkbelly – “Mount Kool Kid”

Sometimes a sick riff is all you need. “Mount Kool Kid” is constructed around one such transcendent guitar figure: It begins as hallucinatory blues in primordial ooze, Son House by way of Modest Mouse. Then, when Melkbelly flip the power switch, that same melody shoots violently upward, a swarm of ballistic bumblebees attacking in synchronicity. (Their target, presumably, is the self-appointed “kool kids” vocalist Miranda Winters so confidently dispatches here.) There is, of course, all kinds of other ruckus swirling about the song’s jagged spine. That central motif functions as a through-line as the band builds from a quiet lurch to an insane, sky-punching, “Fuck yeah!”-extruding glory bombast that will either breathe new life into your lungs or kill you on the spot. But you’ll die happy. –Chris

3. gobbinjr – “Firefly”

“What do you think of leaving Earth and everyone we know?/ We can go anytime you want, just let me know/ I just wanna be a firefly/ I just want the human race to die.” That’s a dark thought, sure, but there’s also a childlike innocence to it, especially in the sweetly earnest way that Emma Witmer lets the syllables tumble out of her mouth over a sparkling cascade of synths. This isn’t some doomsday plot hatched by a maniacal supervillain; it’s an escapist fantasy constructed by an anxious young mind, an imaginary retreat to a world that’s simpler and easier and smaller. Still, there’s a desperation that gradually creeps into her voice, an urgent, contradictory desire to both be completely isolated and to forge a meaningful connection with another — after all, fireflies only light up in search of a mate. And by the end of the song, despite her protestations that “I like everybody more than they like me,” you’ll be ready to take her up on that offer. –Peter

2. Zack De La Rocha – “Digging For Windows”

Zack De La Rocha was always a rapper, not a a rock singer, in Rage Against The Machine. But he always rapped like he was still in his teenage hardcore band Inside Out. It’s a very specific thing that he does: a percussive roar, a braying precision scream, a German-engineered primal bugout. It seems simple, but it’s impossible to replicate — one of the reasons that even rap greats like Chuck D and B-Real are struggling when forced to stand in for the man. Right now, in 2016, De La Rocha has been in something like seclusion for years, still processing what it was like to be one of the biggest and least understood rock stars in the world, to be targeted by government agencies for being (maybe correctly) perceived as a threat.

You can hear all that in “Digging For Windows,” the solo Zack De La Rocha single we’ve been waiting for for a solid decade and a half. De La Rocha’s lyrics are opaque and mysterious but they’re tendon-ripping urgent, too. He’s rapping about looming dystopia, about prescription drug prices and survivors’ guilt and latent violence like his absolute fucking life depended on them. He’s rapping about watching a world decaying right in front of him, and he’s treating the track like it’s a pressure-release valve.

It’s hard to imagine a better circa-now collaborator for this man than El-P, a producer with an unparalleled ability to turn aging-rapper angst into apocalyptic boom. El’s influences are the great rap producers of yore — the Bomb Squad, Mantronix, Rick Rubin — but his tracks don’t sound like theirs. Instead, they sound like a vroom and a clatter — like actual industrial sounds translated into music (though not really like industrial music). His track here skanks and scratches and shudders, and De La Rocha immediately sounds more at home amid its splintering grind than he ever did over Tom Morello’s big-riff thunder. We’re going to get a whole album of this. Hold your fucking breath. –Tom

1. Isaiah Rashad – “Dressed Like Rappers”

At the end of “Dressed Like Rappers,” TDE President and all-around utility man Dave Free has a realization in Isaiah Rashad’s voicemail box: “Bro, you was born in 1991, my nigga. That’s weird, dog. That’s creepy, man…You talk about all this nasty shit in your music, all this crazy shit in your music, all this life shit in your music, dog.” I’m with him.

It’s easy to forget Isaiah Rashad is 25 years old. He had the weariness of someone much older on Cilvia Demo two years ago, and he’s matured even more through some trials and tribulations since then. He drank too much of the liquor “pouring from the faucet” on Cilvia’s “Heavenly Father,” and we get all the despair, worry, and lessons learned on The Sun’s Tirade.

Rashad isn’t a struggle rapper, but he doesn’t shy away from speaking on his inner turmoil. His comfort expressing discomfort in a state of confusion and anguish is what melds the album together throughout the eras, regions, and aesthetics of rap he traverses. “Dressed Like Rappers” showcases his uncanny ability to draw you into his sadness better than any track. He owns up to things most ascendant rappers would never reveal. For instance: “I can admit, I’ve been depressed/ I hit a wall, ouch / I hit the bank, you hit the dab/ I hit the ball, out” and “Praying God, pay my cable” followed by penetrating introspection with “Little boys, dressed like rappers/ Can that road, make them daddies?

Zay is really a man of the Delta blues tradition disguised as a rapper himself. The ease of his melodic cadences and lure of his sorrow are like Muddy Waters or Mississippi Fred McDowell over boom-bap, trap, and Dirty South sonics. To embody everything he does on this song and album is crazy for a rapper of any age, but with the reminder that he’s just 25, it’s even more incredible. –Collin