The 5 Best Songs Of The Week
Linkin Park is not a “cool” band, but they’ve definitely helped a lot of people through some shit. Chester Bennington’s untimely death hurts, regardless of whether or not you actually care about the music he made. We shared essays about how Linkin Park were truly America’s last huge rock band and turned nü-metal universal. We also had a fan write about how Chester Bennington made his struggles with mental health issues public, and the people he helped in doing so. It’s been another long week in the Land Of ‘Gum. Did you hear that Arcade Fire are trying to troll us yet again? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! Check out the five best songs of the week below.
Just a couple months ago, Gainesville punks UV-TV released their impressive debut full-length, Glass, an album that kicked off with a mess of ripcord guitars and punchy tracks before giving way to a melodically-rich and surprisingly pretty back half. They’re already back at it again with a new EP next month, and first single “Go Away” finds them operating in that more breathless mode but with a rickety sweetness that shows off how good they can be at building atmosphere, even on a track that’s barely over a minute long. Rose Vastola’s voice is firm and derisive: “Your thoughts aren’t too special/ It’s all the same/ I wish you’d just go away,” she sings, the band playing her out with energetic spunk. It’s a quick-hit of confidence, and it sounds great. –James
“To me the Safdies are doing something really unique and yet drenched in tradition. I think of Jarmusch, Tarantino, Carax — directors whose love of the history of cinema is too strong to keep out of the filmmaking itself, but remain totally idiosyncratic anyway.” That’s Oneohtrix Point Never’s Daniel Lopatin on Ben and Josh Safdie, the directors of the upcoming crime thriller Good Time, but he could just as easily be describing his own work on the film’s score. Lopatin has been making challenging, cerebral music for so long that it’s easy to forget this is the same guy who once made relatively uncomplicated B-movie soundtrack pastiches on early albums like Drawn And Quartered and Betrayed In The Octagon. On the Good Time score, he returns to that well again — albeit with another decade of experience and an added clarity of purpose under his belt — and the result is something special. “Leaving The Park” is a retro-futuristic arpeggiated synthscape that slowly amasses an apocalyptic force behind it, first eerie ambience creeping in and then a sparse, ominous beat, culminating with the analog-synth equivalent of a wailing hair-metal guitar solo. It sounds familiar and strange and sinister and beautiful all at once, which is to say, it sounds like Oneohtrix Point Never. –Peter
“Beer-commercial lead-guitar shit.” It’s a lazy diss, but more to the point, an inaccurate one. Beer commercial? Since when? Man, the motherfucking Sundays were in a motherfucking Budweiser commercial in 1995. (Here are some beer commercials from 2014 — the same year Koz issued his dumbass assessment of the War On Drugs — if you want to feel truly embarrassed for the guy.)
Still, if you allow yourself to ignore, like, facts, you can kinda-sorta see where he was coming from: Mark Kozelek heard the War On Drugs’ music from a distance, in the air, and it briefly shot an unexpected light on an otherwise dark spot of his psychic periphery. Buried someplace in the recesses of Kozelek’s unconscious mind, among ancient discarded experiences and Jungian archetypes, is the foggy childhood memory of a beer commercial that sounded like “Don Henley meets John Cougar meets Dire Straits meets Born In The USA-era Bruce Springsteen” (his reference points, fwiw). In that instant, Kozelek experienced an actual Proustian moment. That is a scary, wondrous, magical thing. And that is, somehow, what Adam Granduciel’s music does. It feels like something you remember from somewhere, even if you can’t quite place it. A half-asleep ride home in the backseat of your dad’s Oldsmobile? A scene from a movie you saw on TV in the middle of the afternoon in the summer between second and third grades? A beer commercial from 1984? Maybe ’85? It doesn’t matter. Those wistful, ghostly textures and tones are immediately transporting, but they are not the point: Granduciel employs all this atavistic ambience in the service of monument-solid compositions built around bold, heartrending hooks.
I first heard “Strangest Thing” not as a standalone single, but in the context of the War On Drugs’ upcoming LP, A Deeper Understanding, and when that magnificent wordless chorus rose up from the bridge, it hit me like a fist. That section — holy shit, that section — sounds like one of those devastating orchestral climaxes from Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space as played on a fleet of synths. Again, though, if you’re focusing on the sounds, you’re losing the songs. The guitar leads on “Strangest Thing,” for instance, are these gnarly, feedback-swollen howls that hover over the song’s plaintive beauty like storm clouds on a summer day. They remind me of the band who soundtracked this Gap commercial back in 2000. I don’t think of “Strangest Thing” as “Gap-commercial lead-guitar shit,” though. If anything, I cherish it even more for unearthing those reminiscences in me. I really love those sounds, because I really loved that band. And man oh man, do I love this. –Michael
“Gas stations, I laughed in, I noticed fucking everything,” Tamara Lindeman sings on “Thirty,” the first single from her new album as the Weather Station. “The light, the reflections, different languages, your expressions.” That ability has served Lindeman well. “Thirty” is, on the face of it, a look back at a pivotal year, at the time when most of us have to start dealing with the idea that we are adults and there’s nothing we can do about it. And flowing easily from one idea to the next, Lindeman touches on all these things happening in her life. The economy is fucked. All her friends have kids. “And my dad was raising a child in Nairobi/ She was three now, he told me.” There’s no chorus, no resolution, just Lindeman firing along from one thought to the next, the music beneath her a pulse-quickening rockabilly chug that gives an urgency to her folksinger inflections. “That was the year that we lost, or we won,” she remembers. And then: “That was the year, now here/ Now here is another one.” –Tom
Waxahatchee’s Out In The Storm is her boldest album yet. It chronicles the days/weeks/months a relationship starts to take a turn for the worst, when you realize someone is bringing you down instead of lifting you up. “Hear You” is the epicenter of Katie Crutchfield’s earthquake; it describes that moment in time from which all of the surrounding chaos is born. “I don’t want to dry your tears,” she opens, her voice climbing to a spiny falsetto over a bassline that could make the floor shake and the walls cave in if you play the song loud enough. It’s the boldness of that sonic design, the sheer physicality of it, that makes “Hear You” feel powerful. It’ll make you feel powerful, too. “I stand up on the stage/ You sink your teeth, build your own cage” Crutchfield sings while a crystalline guitar part swirls around her. “Wait for the coolest girl/ You break her down/ Make her hear you out.” Here, Crutchfield offers her fans a song about the dirtbags in the world that want to make their fucked up problems yours. It’s a kiss-off and it sounds like it could upend the universe and change the course of your life if you crank it all the way up to 100. –Gabriela