It’s been a big week for music! We got Kendrick’s war-ready return, Broken Social Scene’s first song in seven years, and there’s a new freakin’ Slowdive album on the horizon! There’s also an album of Disney metal covers and Father John Misty stopped by the comments section of his own Premie Evie, so you gotta take the good with the bad. Crazy times we’re living in… The 5 best songs of the week are below.
There’s a lot to like about Show Me The Body’s latest mixtape, Corpus I. The songs on it are varied enough that it’s hard to pick just one to highlight, but “In A Grave” feels like it encapsulates the spirit of the project. The Queens-based hardcore trio lucked into two months of free studio time in Lower Manhattan, and decided to use the opportunity to pull in a bunch of up-and-comers and underground stars to spotlight their potential and talent. The guest list is stacked for any listener of the experimental persuasion, and “In A Grave” alone features dextrous Florida rapper Denzel Curry, the haunting coos of electronic magician Eartheater, and the gruff confrontation of Philadelphia’s Moor Mother. Those three are intro-ed by SMTB’s Julian Cashwan Pratt before each are given a stage to show off their own set of skills. Everyone delivers, and the track’s aggressively slithering beat sounds almost celebratory, if only the messages everyone’s espousing weren’t so dark and full of conflict. But that’s where the magic happens, and Corpus I is filled with a lot of that same power. –James
Maximalism has always been Broken Social Scene’s M.O. They’ve tackled all sorts of emotional territory — anger, fear, lust, tenderness, angst, exaltation — and they’ve rendered almost all of it bigger than life. So it’s no surprise that their first new single in seven years swings into the frame at full blast, all engines go, everyone howling at the top of their lungs. It feels good to have them back together again. They feel good about it, too: The primary feeling here is of a family reconvening, falling back into their old rhythms, remembering what they love about each other and in turn reminding us. As ever, it sounds huge. –Chris
There’s not a single inessential bar, beat, or breath on “Sugar For The Pill,” the second new song from the reunited Slowdive, but there’s one particular moment that stands out for me. It comes on right around the one-minute mark, when the synths burst to the front of the mix and the ghostly verse shifts to the gently cascading chorus. That moment? I feel that in my body, like summer heat on my skin. My posture relaxes; my pulse is suddenly in exact sync with the rhythm, and my head is bobbing with it, too. “Sugar For The Pill” arrived alongside the details of Slowdive’s self-titled fourth album, their first since 1995’s godly Pygmalion, but the real announcement is delivered in that moment, that rush of sound that tells you, assures you, “We are back.” They are back! “Sugar For The Pill” is an objectively great song. It would be a great song no matter who it came from or when it came out. But it’s 2017 and it’s SLOWDIVE. Which means, y’know, it’s me, too. I’ve got a lot invested in this relationship, and I want to be very careful here, because I could get hurt pretty bad if the reunion doesn’t live up to my expectations, my memories. But in that moment, when the sound hits, I lose my capacity for caution or moderation. My excitement spills over, demolishing reason or rational thought. I feel unrestricted, absolute joy. I’m not alone in any of this, of course. There are a lot of us with a lot on the line. You’re here; maybe you feel it too. Maybe not that same moment, but that same joy. Do you feel it too? Maybe it doesn’t matter whether you cared at all before now, but you’re here now, and you can’t deny this music. Can you? I don’t think you can. “Sugar For The Pill” is a perfect song. It uses so little and delivers so much. It’s just a wisp of a thing, really, but man, it flattens me. –Michael
The set and the spike. With “The Heart Part 4,” Kendrick Lamar reemerged out of the ether, riding at least four different beats and aiming his withering eye in every direction. The song twists and wriggles, and Kendrick sees signs of apocalypse everywhere. Weak rappers are running rampant. Donald Trump is radiating resentment in every direction. Russia is up to something. And the only thing he can do is face all of it down with his own boundless skill and confidence: “More bars, no peers, no scars, no fear / Fuck y’all, sincere.” It’s a restless piece of music, breathtaking in its urgency and ferocity. But its real point isn’t the world-gone-wrong lamenting or the attention-grabbing shots that Kendrick throws at Drake/Big Sean/whoever. The real point lies in the final line: “Y’all got till April the seventh to get y’all shit together.” What we have here is the most artful release-date announcement in the history of the music industry.
As it would turn out, we didn’t even have until April the seventh. A few days later, Kendrick came out shooting with “Humble,” the song that made good on everything “The Heart Part 4″ promised. With “The Heart Part 4,” many of us wondered what could happen if Kendrick reenaged with the rap rat race, taking on his mainstream competitors and grabbing the crown that maybe should’ve already been his. With “Humble,” we don’t have to wonder anymore. This is Kendrick leaving behind the astral, funk-historical sound of To Pimp A Butterfly and attacking a Mike Will Made-It banger, one driven by a heavy piano thunk that recalls peak ’90s G-funk. The vengeful relish in Kendrick’s voice, as he attacks this monster, is such a wonder to behold. He makes all sorts of sly lyrical allusions and language-drunk wordplay gambits, but the message is right there in the chorus: “Sit down. Be humble.” And just like that, the entire rap universe got put on notice. April the seventh cannot possibly come soon enough. –Tom