We’re living in hard times, but every now and then, a little light shines through and brightens the darkest of days. Yes, we are talking about Beyoncé’s pregnancy. We’re so #blessed to welcome two new Carters into the world, along with those meme-ready pregnancy announcement photos. If you’re looking for more distractions this weekend, you can tune into the Super Bowl on Sunday to watch Lady Gaga perform with Tony Bennett during the halftime show. Or don’t! Here are some songs you can bop instead.
On Metallica’s classic records, there would be moments of delicate and beautiful quiet. Kirk Hammett would break into a virtuosic, filigreed classical guitar solo, and then, when the band would once again drop the hammer, they’d keep some thread of that old melody. On the first single from the coming Heartless, Arkansas doom monsters Pallbearer do something similar. The song opens with a heavy lockstep Sabbath riff, and things get gooey and melodic and bongwater-sloshy from there. But those moments of quiet come in, drawing on the weird tranquility that the band’s thundering trudge offers, setting it off. When, just over halfway through the song, the lovely little interlude ends and the fire returns, it doesn’t just sound more kickass than it did before, though that’s a part of it. There’s also a new melodic warmth, a beauty within the grandeur. –Tom
Jay Som’s Melina Duterte has range. None of the singles we’ve heard from the 22-year-old musician have sounded the same — from the deadpan romanticism of “I Think You’re Alright,” to the first single we heard from her forthcoming debut album. Everybody Works will be our first real introduction to Jay Som, and though her influences span from the life-affirming pop of Carly Rae Jepsen to the quiet platitudes of someone like Phil Elverum or Elliott Smith, nothing about her output feels scattered. Duterte is the kind of artist who can do a lot, and doesn’t hinder her ambitions to come across to listeners as any one thing. “1 Billion Dogs” is a noisy, crushing rock song, but we already know Duterte can do quiet and introspective, too. It’s exciting to listen to her music and know that you’re never going to hear the same thing twice. —Gabriela
Tara Jane O’Neil has been releasing quiet, enchanting music for decades now, and “Sand” is about as quiet and enchanting as it gets. An impressionistic swirl of horns and guitar that thrums under her trancelike vocal melody, its effect is both elegiac and calming, and attempting to decipher the oblique poetry of her lyrics feels almost beside the point. This is the kind of song that just washes over you, little fragments of meaning glimmering up at the surface before being submerged once again by the tide. All you can do is fall under its spell, and after the last echo dies down, some vast, uncommunicable significance remains. –Peter
“’83 Foxx And I” comes in around the late teens mark in the narrative of the 50 Song Memoir, Stephin Merritt’s autobiographical year-by-year account of his own life. It’s an intense period of self-discovery and transformation, and on this track Merritt pays tribute to John Foxx, the original leader of British new wave band Ultravox. He makes it sound like they’re just two buds hanging out, taking on life side by side, and in his warped dribble, he speaks with the adulation and congenial familiarity that comes with being young and impressionable. “I can’t wait to be sixteen,” Merritt sings yearningly before the song jumps ahead in time to a scene “years later at my DJ night,” and the meaning snaps into focus. It’s about how a musician can lead us through different periods of our life, always reminding us of who we were when we first discovered them. And when we put them on years later, it’s like conversing with an old friend. –James
Nandi Rose Plunkett penned “Frost Burn” on a writer’s retreat in picturesque Western Massachusetts, an idyllic backdrop she sought out after feeling stifled by life in Brooklyn. In seeking escape from her familiar settings in the pursuit of peace, she mirrored the logic that inspires one of the most dependably abject human patterns: to fool yourself into fits of faux self-realization, arising from the declaration of an arbitrary turning point — the moment from which things will get better, starting now. You’ll quit that job, leave that relationship, reach the end of the hour, and you expect to suddenly start again renewed, detached from the shackles of your past, specifically from whatever it was that was so unnecessarily holding you back just beyond that self-imposed discontinuity point. Then you take a deep breath, cross your fingers, and anxiously wait to be proven wrong — for the kindling of doubt you couldn’t completely smother to inevitably ignite into an unsettled submission.
Changing pace didn’t shake off the persistent fears and frustrations that plagued Plunkett prior to returning to her childhood hometown; retreating to this “island” couldn’t keep at bay her instinctive self-destruction. “Can I change or am I past that?” she asks during a familiar bout of discontentment, the music reflecting her uncertainty through the juxtaposition of those churning buzzsaw synths giving way to long bass drones and flickering arpeggios reminiscent of the Postal Service. The previous single from Half Waif’s forthcoming form/a EP saw Plunkett wondering if her significant other will put in the time to get to know her as she is, and learn her distinct language and rhythm in spite of how it might initially turn him off. On that song, she dreamt in dismay of being abandoned in response to further revealing her complications. But on “Frost Burn,” she finds comfort in “a dream that I wasn’t me in,” believing herself it would simply be easier to just leave behind such a messy existence rather than confront it on her own. “Will I be okay?” she intones remorsefully, sounding dismayed each time she again is unsure. — Pranav