As of yesterday, we’ve officially entered fall 2016. This shit is flying by, people. Apparently some of us got new Zodiac signs this past week, which is kinda cool. It’s been a while since they updated that thing. We also got a new Weeknd song, and that’s cool, too, because it’s a banger. It’s in the list below, along with the other four best songs of the week.
“Impregnable Question” ends on a steadfast declaration: “You’re my love/ And I want you in my life.” It’s a song about wanting to keep a partner around despite your differences of opinion — because of your accrued shared experiences, because of a mutual respect, because they’re always on your mind. On “Keep Your Name,” Dirty Projectors’ first new song in four years, a harmony from that Swing Lo Magellan track is twisted: “We don’t see eye to eye” serves as a harbinger, the sample is a ghost of a feeling. What was a throwaway observational doubt ends up sowing the seeds for a relationship’s end; the signs were there all along.
Sampling a song from your previous album about the strength of a connection on a track about the devastating aftermath of that connection is a bold move, doubly so when the relationship in question has been part of the band’s DNA for the last decade. I’m not going to speculate about what happened between David Longstreth and Amber Coffman, but it’s notable that “Keep Your Name” is the first song in a long while without her voice present. In fact, Longstreth himself isn’t really here, at least not in the way we’ve known him previously. His signature wail is pitched-down in the verses, sped-up in the spoken-word interlude. He sounds like a shell of his former self, despondent and wallowing. Form mirrors function.
“Keep Your Name” details a breakdown in communication over divergent paths of artistic commerce. “A band is a brand and it licks at our vision of dissonance,” Longstreth sings in the breakdown, stretching out his voice to mimic one of Coffman’s passionately high notes, hinting at her absence. “What I want from art is truth/ What you want is fame.” But even beyond wanting something different out of art, this song is about a relationship between two people who want something different out of life: “You always hurry to grow up/ I think I’ll always just feel kind of the same.” “Keep Your Name” operates as a dialogue between Longstreth’s instinctual and rational halves but, at the end of the day, he’s still just talking to himself, and it sounds impossibly lonely. –James
Last year, we, the people of America, took two songs that were about being completely numb — coked-out, fucked-out, incapable of love for another human being — and we put them at the top of our charts. We made the man who sang those songs very rich, and we made it a whole lot less likely that he’ll find anything resembling a happy, healthy life. And so what we get is a song like “Starboy” — sleek, expensive, covered with dark glitter, emotionless to the point where it almost sounds evil.
Abel Tesfaye spends “Starboy” singing about cars and women like they’re possessions or status symbols, which, to him, they are: “Main bitch out of your league, too/ Side bitch out of your league, too.” But what keeps it compelling is that there’s a fundamentally sad lost kid in there, both in the voice and in the words he chooses: “House so empty, need a centerpiece/ 20 racks a table, cut from ebony/ Cut that ivory into skinny pieces/ Then she clean it with her face; man, I love my baby.” (The lost little kid might even be a fucking nerd: “Star Trek roof in that Wrath of Khan.”) The chrome-and-leather could come from anyone, but it doesn’t. It comes from Daft Punk, whose participation feels like just one more status symbol. What a soulless, effective machine of a song. –Tom
“I am miserable with you/ Miserable without you.” That’s how Anika Pyle opens “TV Dreams,” her clear voice elongating that first syllable into a wistful sigh. It’s the kind of plainspoken yet cutting line that her old band Chumped specialized in, and it’s the reason why so many were heartbroken when the title of their fantastic debut Teenage Retirement proved all too prescient. Katie Ellen’s “TV Dreams” is a little more delicate than Chumped’s ragged punk anthems, but the emotion is all there, and so is the heart-on-sleeve urgency of their pleasure-center guitar work. It’s about the phantom limb sensation that permeates the aftermath of a breakup, the ache of two people being so connected and disconnected at the same time, the haunting ambiguity in lingering feelings. And it ends just as it begins, with Pyle’s nakedly vulnerable voice fitting a world of significance into a few short words: “Call me.” –Peter
If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game. If you are the healer, I’m broken and lame. If thine is the glory, then mine must be the shame. You want it darker, we kill the flame. Leonard Cohen has a bottomless voice, and when he delivers lyrics like this in his signature drawl, they sound straight-up sinister. Cohen is one of rock n’ roll’s greatest poets, and even back in the ’60s when he was writing folk-inclined songs about beautiful women and relationships falling to pieces, there has always been an edge in his voice, a sense that something’s not quite right. “You Want It Darker” is a spiritual of sorts, and Cohen uses the language of religion to conjure up something sinful or holy. It’s unclear which. –Gabriela
Atrocity Exhibition gets better and better with every drop. It’s shaping up to be an incredibly varied body of work that showcases Danny Brown’s versatility. He’s known for his urgent, frantic energy and the high-pitched uniqueness of his voice, but it often masks how superbly the dude can rap. We’ve already heard from nasty Danny, wild banshee Danny and a more chill, introspective Danny, but on the lyrical onslaught that is “Really Doe” we get wordsmith Danny. He stepped up his bars to jump the beat along with the LA takeover of Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt, and (to a lesser degree) Ab-Soul. Brown should be commended just for getting K-Dot and Earl on the same track, but then the three of them turn in some damn near impeccable verses. Pour some Black Milk on it with the menacing, hard-as-adamantium beat and it’s scarily good.
For the record, I recently wrote that I couldn’t remember when someone got the best of K-Dot while he was in destroy mode on a track, but why you got your couch on Earl’s chucks, Kendrick? –Collin