PSA: “SLIDE” WILL BE ELIGIBLE NEXT WEEK!!! So please: Do not get all whiny in the comments about “Slide”‘s omission. Anyhow, it’s about 70 degrees in New York City today, and when it’s that nice out in February, blogging feels like a real punishment. Still, James listened Frank Ocean’s kinda-sorta radio show and reported back, Gabriela filled you in on an important breaking news story, and Chris managed to crank out a great anniversary piece on Elliott Smith’s Either/Or that you should definitely check out. Dive into the five best songs of the week below.
“Grudge” is more immediate and anthemic than almost anything on Slingshot Dakota’s most recent album, Break, but with good reason. While the duo spent their last record exploring the stressors of settling down into adulthood, this new song acts as a denunciation against those who put you down. Vocalist and songwriter Carly Commando said that the track is “an ode to all of my experiences in which I have been written off, ignored, spoken over, steamrolled and treated unfairly because of my gender,” and those situations are painted with sparkling clarity: “Every time that I try to speak my mind/ You shut me down, I guess that I ran out of time,” she sings. Her words in the chorus feel like a defeated struggle — “I’m trying hard to keep my head above water, but my legs they won’t carry me” — but the music does a fantastic job of lifting her up, and keeping her from feeling completely cut off. –James
You get the sense that Future heard what Metro Boomin cooked up for 21 Savage on Savage Mode and demanded some of that pan flute action for himself. Mr. Hndrxx’s deep, cavernous wheeze sounded so good on “X,” after all, and it continues to sound like splendorous death here. “Mask Off” is another in a series of bleak dispatches on which Future basks in his own ruthless, hopeless villainy. As our own Tom Breihan wrote this week, “Future’s greatest skills are still his ear for music and his ability to make his hoarse moan of a voice dissolve into those incredible beats.” He succeeds yet again at those endeavors on this latest paean to nihilism. Your mileage may vary, but if this guy just wants to keep reciting his pill rotation over whatever Atlanta’s finest producers keep throwing at him, I’ll happily keep listening. (Maybe not happily, but you get the point.) –Chris
Plenty of artists would turn Farrah Abraham, the former 16 And Pregnant/Teen Mom star famous largely for having a sex tape and being a constant presence in the tabloids, into a punchline. Plenty of others would treat her as a sad cautionary tale” — “Look, this is what our gross fame-obsessed society does to people.” But Mathew Lee Cothran, the guy behind Elvis Depressedly and Coma Cinema, extends her genuine empathy, even acknowledging her deeply weird 2012 dance-pop album My Teenage Dream Ended as a personal influence and a source of solace. All of Cothran’s musical projects specialize in a kind of downcast warmth, his warped strums and muffled vocals projecting the aural equivalent of a crooked smile. On “Farrah,” that warmth turns “If I could end the world, I would end the world” into an oddly comforting mantra, a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of hardship. –Peter
Lana Del Rey owns old-timey schtick more than any other pop artist, and nothing about the first few lines of “Love” sound all that revelatory when you refer back to her catalogue. There are mentions of fleeting youth and vintage music accompanied by a video starring a few good-looking kids driving around in a Chevy. But something that does feel different about this song is how little Lana lounges in heartbreak. Instead, she’s sharing a song about the in-betweenness of young adulthood, that feeling you have when you’re 20-something and barely employed, wondering if you’re lacking in opportunities or just a total disappointment. And overall: wishing there was more time to fuck around. “You get ready you get all dressed up,” she sings, “to go nowhere in particular.” This song is listless, and the whole “young and in love” aspect of it is almost an afterthought. LDR is imparting wisdom here, which sounds refreshing partnered with production that harkens back to Born To Die-era songs; the sound of a cocked handgun accompanied by strings, a series of gauzy “uh uh uh uhhhhs” trailing her. I listened to “Love” on the train yesterday while worrying about something that felt well beyond my maturity level, and as we pulled out of the underground tunnel and into Queens, I looked out at the Manhattan skyline at sundown just in time to hear some reassurance. “Don’t worry baby,” Lana sighed repeatedly at the bridge. Sometimes living to see another sunset is enough. –Gabriela
In a recent interview with Wolfgang Tillmans, Alejandro Ghersi describes his forthcoming Arca full-length as such: “If I think of the album as a color, it’s very sugary, sweet and vulnerable and I’m attracted to a character that’s like that but one who’s also bleeding; like a very beautiful song coming from a wounded creature.” That’s a vivid image, one that feels apt for “Piel,” the first official single from the album. Ghersi’s voice is front-and-center like it never has been before, but in some ways it feels like just another tool at his disposal. It sounds like he’s silently weeping, a liturgical violence that feels at once captivating and cavernous. On albums past, Arca has been focused on making the ugly beautiful, but here he’s scraping at beauty and showing the ugliness underneath the surface. It’s a slow, haunting build — a private reverie that could pass for a nightmare if you hear it from just the right angle. –James