In other news: Here are the best songs of the week.
When he’s doing a guest verse on somebody else’s song — and he’s still doing so many guest verses on so many other people’s songs — Young Thug has lately been pushing his delivery further and further out into the ether, his voice freaking onomatopoeiac pings and swooshes. But on his own new single, his first since he released Jeffery last year, Thug adapts a sort of radical vulnerability, presenting a beautiful and fascinating tangle of bravado and anxiety. He’s still talking about money and cars, but he’s considering the possibility that it could all go away, either through bankruptcy or through untimely death. “I spend more on security than I make,” he creaks on the hook, sounding anguished. “Just to be safe.” “Safe” sounds like a love song — maybe to a woman, maybe to family, maybe to Thug’s friends, maybe to himself. He’s singing as much as he is rapping, as if the distinction even matters anymore, and Wheezy’s murmuring and melodic tracks floats into beauty, a distant cousin of the Art Of Noise’s “Moments In Love.” –Tom
I’m not going to claim to know a lot about love, but I do know this: When you truly love someone, you’ll aim to please them even when doing so directly contradicts your self-interests. If the relationship is healthy, that reasoning should extend to both parties. Alex G’s new single “Bobby” is an expression of devotion relayed with a country-ish twang, and it sounds timeless in both its instrumentation and its sentiment. Side by side, Alex G and his collaborator Emily Yacina sweetly offer up a series of gestures, each of which end in an assertions like “I’d leave him for you/ If you want me to” or “I’d clean it for you/ If you want me to” or “I’d burn them for you/ If you want me to.” “Bobby” isn’t fussy; it’s arranged on a guitar and fiddle, and its lyrics are vague allusions to things that listeners won’t necessarily “get” no matter how many times they read them over. But that chorus is what makes this song so memorable; it’s a catchy, no frills reminder of the things we’re willing to do for the people we love. –Gabriela
“Slide” is a fantasy come to life. Imagine if Frank Ocean was making effervescent summer jams on the regular. Imagine if every rap act’s pop crossover move was this smooth. Imagine if every entry in EDM’s soft-rock sweepstakes glided so gracefully. Imagine if every time artists from disparate worlds aligned their talents, instead of a forced jumble of incongruous ideas, they came away with an epiphany. On this song, all of those things happen so naturally that it almost obscures what a miracle they’ve achieved. And for just under four minutes, you don’t even have to imagine it; you just get to enjoy it. –Chris
Charly Bliss’ impeccably curated aesthetic is a wholly borrowed thing. Their upcoming debut LP — which is perfection, incidentally — doesn’t have much interest in the 21st century, and it doesn’t pretend otherwise. Its obvious musical reference points are obvious: There’s enough Veruca Salt, Weezer, That Dog, and Letters To Cleo on this thing to fill an entire used-CD bin at Empire Records. But the atavism goes beyond the music itself. The album’s paint-on-a-Polaroid cover art and its elliptical one-word title — Guppy — are abstruse, nostalgic, and ironic in precise ratios unique to Gen X. This brand of imaging was inescapable for about three or four years in the 1990s, yet virtually nonexistent at any point in history either before or after that brief span.
But Charly Bliss aren’t merely wearing the clothes of an elder generation; they’re inhabiting its body. In fact, it often seems as though they’re possessed by its ghost. More than anything else, Charly Bliss remind me of countless little, lost alt-rock bands who weren’t notable enough in their own era to merit a reunion in this one — random bands with random names like Red 5 and Fig Dish and Dig and Magnapop. These bands were the hidden heart of the Weird ’90s. They burst out of rehearsal studios in the immediate wake of grunge, when major labels were signing any and every group of Clinton-voting, corporate-averse white kids rocking choker necklaces, horizontal-striped shirts, and guitars. These bands were assembled in front of a fisheye lens, shot, and summarily thrown, first into a studio and then a van. And just as soon as the van was safely back on the lot, the labels dropped these bands like cigarette butts, leaving their component parts free to pursue lives as librarians and graphic designers and PR reps. The people in these bands are still with us — raising kids, refinancing mortgages, reading George Saunders — but the bands themselves vanished even faster and with less fanfare than they had arrived. These bands had the approximate lifespan of … well, a guppy.
These bands weren’t by any means great — they were, in fact, pretty mediocre on balance — but they had a few great tracks, some evidence of which I submitted via the links above. Listen to the songs at the other end of those links, if you don’t remember them, because they deserve to be remembered. And I’m willing to bet you don’t remember them, because, like, nobody remembers them. But Charly Bliss resurrect them. Press play and you’ll see. It all rushes in, and it all comes rushing back. The infectious melodies and insanely huge choruses. The jangly quiet-loud guitars, quick to kick on the distortion pedal or launch headlong into a white-knuckle lead. The thick, thudding bass and the crisp, bright rhythms and the oddball time shifts and the occasional synth. The dream of the ’90s. To be clear, Charly Bliss are more likely than their forebears to “make it,” due to a variety of factors, most notably: Charly Bliss are not a mediocre band, and Guppy offers nothing but great songs. I don’t know if “Percolator” is the very best of the batch, but it’s way up there. It opens the album and introduces you to the world in which Charly Bliss will submerge you for the next half-hour. It’s a world that doesn’t exist anymore. The members of Charly Bliss were born into that world, but by the time they hit puberty, it was long gone. So there’s no way they could even possibly remember the cultural moment that informs Guppy, much less recognize its nuances and reference its tiniest details. There’s no way. It’s not possible. Yet somehow, Charly Bliss understand it. They know it. They’re there now. Charly Bliss have borrowed a whole lot, no question. But this, they own. –Michael
The first heartbreak is hard. That Ella Yelich-O’Connor turned that pain into something as enthralling as “Green Light” is harder. The anesthetized pop of Lorde’s 2013 debut has become ubiquitous on pop radio in her absence, which means that her big comeback single couldn’t just be a return to form — it had to soar above it. “Green Light” doesn’t rewrite the pop rulebook — its building blocks come from the likes of Grimes, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Tegan And Sara (it’s no coincidence that Jack Antonoff had a hand the latter two) — but the song does synthesize the last few years of pop development into a sharp adrenaline rush of conflicted emotions and one barreling cannonball of a hook that spirals brilliantly as it goes along.
On “Green Light,” Lorde is in a prison of her own creation, waiting for her heart to finally give approval to let go after her mind’s already decided that it’s time to move on. This music exists in that middle space, a liminality that was present on Pure Heroine as well, when Lorde was trapped between traditional adolescence and fame’s harsh spotlight. Yelich-O’Connor thrives in this arena. Here, she’s in between first-love naiveté and adult cynicism: “Thought you said that you would always be in love/ But you’re not in love no more,” those last two words slipping out like the vestiges of that feeling slipping away. The pre-chorus builds like a sudden realization, the cheesy piano creeping in from the far-off horizon: “I hear new sounds in my mind/ Brand new sounds in my mind.” It’s not there yet, but it’s coming. –James