Can you believe we’re almost mid-way through August? Summer is coming to a slow, steady end, and in New York the weather has been pretty idyllic as of late though it is supposed to rain tomorrow. While we’re tucked away inside ignoring impending nuclear war, we will be listening to these songs.
Moses Sumney has already made a strong case for himself as one of today’s most exciting young artists, but “Quarrel” is the kind of achievement that ought to immediately put him on every music fan’s radar. It’s a six-minute suite that sounds like D’Angelo covering late-period Radiohead, one that works its way from shapeless reverie to muscular post-rock to spare acoustic balladry before finally drifting off into a psychedelic jazz thunderstorm. “Don’t call it a lover’s quarrel,” Sumney intones. Do call it Sumney’s most spectacular work to date. –Chris
Sioux Falls made a strong first impression last year with their debut full-length Rot Forever, and a few months and one name change later — hi, Strange Ranger! — they made another strong first impression with the Sunbeams Through Your Head EP. On “House Show,” the lead single from their upcoming sophomore LP Daymoon, they combine the former’s angsty guitar pyrotechnics with the latter’s sense of muted atmosphere, crafting a bittersweet rocker that alternately sears and soothes. Frontman Isaac Eiger’s lyrics are a string of vivid and economical snapshots, seemingly disconnected but affecting in their plainspoken poesy. But the song gets them out of the way early — “He’s the kind of high where he’s not talking a lot,” Eiger sings — letting the music do the talking for the song’s entire back half. It comes across as more feeling than thought, an explosion of fiery guitar catharsis and then a long, twinkling cooldown. And yeah, it’d kill at a house show. –Peter
At this point, everyone knows what the National do well. They have their anthems, and they have their meditative and/or brooding ballads. There are actually a lot of left turns on Sleep Well Beast, but “Carin At The Liquor Store” is an example of them doing something they’ve done (many times) before, but doing it better than before. They have a lot of songs in this vein, and whichever ones are best or worst probably depends fan to fan. Plenty of people love “Slipped” from 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me, but it never went anywhere for me; “Carin At The Liquor Store” moves more, with a subtle push from its piano figure and drumbeat and a melody that conveys the kind of ragged weariness the National have become so adept at capturing in their middle age.
As a lyricist, Matt Berninger often traffics in abstractions or slight alterations of reality that don’t always make a ton of logical sense but wind up deeply evocative thanks to how he strings images together and the natural gravity of his vocal delivery. That’s part of what makes “Carin At The Liquor Store” a striking new National song. It’s a reference to his wife Carin Besser, who was also the subject of Alligator’s “Karen.” Once portraying her as slightly fictionalized, here Berninger goes naked, specific, and literal. It’s not the only time he’s done something like that—he’s also mentioned his daughter and uncle by name in various National songs—but there’s something so banal and daily yet also potentially dramatic about the image. By the time Berninger sings the title for the single time in the song, the gravel in his voice makes it sound both momentous and intimate, magnifying a small detail so that it feels cinematic. And no matter what kind of song it is, that’s what the National always do well. –Ryan
“Perplexing Pegasus” is the best fucking name for a song. It’s so great that it almost doesn’t even matter what it actually sounds like. What a combination of words. The way it rolls off the tongue puts a smile on my face, makes me want to call up every radio station in a 100-mile radius just so I can request it and get the privilege of saying those two words back-to-back. But it helps that “Perplexing Pegasus” is also a great song. The brothers Sremm exude the same sort of effortless, magnanimous cool of the title; they display the same sort of wordplay ingenuity in the hook: “All kinda reckless the necklace/ All kinda reckless, I flexed it.” It’s a classic flex track that drips luxury, and it doesn’t even matter that the Mike WiLL Made-It beat is basically a carbon copy of their biggest hit to date when it’s got ritz like this. It makes me want to go buy a sleek black car with suicide doors and speed down some highways with this blasting out of the speakers. That’s doesn’t seem too feasible (sadly), but at least Rae Sremmurd are great at projecting that sort of opulence. Also, whatever, the song’s called fucking “Perplexing Pegasus.” That’s enough. –James
With any Horrors record, you’re guaranteed an epic: “Sea Within A Sea” from Primary Colours, “Moving Further Away” from Skying, “I See You” from Luminous, and now “Something To Remember Me By” from the forthcoming V. They excel at these songs, often starting big to begin with, and then somehow ratcheting it up when you think it can’t go any higher, and then ratcheting it up again one last time for good measure. In the context of V, “Something To Remember Me By” is particularly crucial. It’s a mostly brooding, dark album with some heavier, almost industrial-leaning tinges than past Horrors records. It’s almost unfair to hear “Something To Remember Me By” alone, out of that context, because it is such a holy shit moment when it comes on at the end of the album for the first time.
One of the most infectious, upbeat-sounding songs the Horrors have ever released, it’s something like a sunrise at the album’s conclusion, or at least a more resolved finale. A song built on a chorus of “Now all that’s left behind/Something to remember me by” is, of course, not exactly a happy one. But while they’ve gone synth-driven and groovy before, it’s something else to hear the Horrors go all-in on taking their melancholy to the dancefloor. In doing so, they’ve added another masterwork in their collection of epics, a song that promises nearly-nonstop catharsis for seven minutes straight. –Ryan