Guys, you know the deal by now: “Look What You Made Me Do” was NOT ELIGIBLE for this week’s 5 Best Songs. It dropped too late! The polls had already closed! It’ll be eligible next week. Would that song have made this week’s list if Tay-Tay had delivered six hours earlier? Impossible to say. No way of knowing. No point debating hypotheticals. Will it make next week’s list? Again…we’re all pretty familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the democratic process, are we not? And anyway, why are we getting so far ahead of ourselves? Let’s all just cool down and talk about the five best songs of THIS week.
Fuck Buttons’ last album, 2013’s great Slow Focus, had plenty of moments where it could be unnerving and haunting. Andrew Hung recently announced his first full-fledged solo album outside the duo, and the first song we heard from it, “Say What You Want,” suggested another direction: Yes, he was singing, and it all sounded almost like a blissful, synth-driven indie track. “Animal” is, well, a different beast. It starts out darkly pretty, with strings and a little bubbling house rhythm. Then it turns ugly in the best way. That house DNA plays out like it’s been left in storage for some 30 years to rust and corrode, and Hung makes it even gnarlier by injecting it with a ton of post-punk snarl. Compared to “Say What You Want,” he sounds like a completely different performer, copping some of PIL’s cadence and bite for lines like “You don’t know what/ I would do to you” before barking “I’m an animal! Animal!” across the chorus. It’s a strange hybrid: “Animal” is violent and foreboding, but it’s also gripping, consuming. You should want to look away, but it makes you want to dance instead. –Ryan
The best kinds of songs are the ones where it feels like the medium is the only possible way to convey the message, the ones about not being able to say what you need to in real life. For musicians, the only recourse is to write down what you wish you could say and sing it out. Common Holly’s “Nothing” is one of those songs, something that had to be committed to song because the alternative would be damaging. It takes place at the end of a relationship — after it’s over but before it starts to feel natural not to talk to this person that used to be a part of your everyday life. Brigitte Naggar confronts the dis-communication that’s necessary in order to move on in a series of pointed declarations that practice admirable restraint: “If I had another moment/ To do what I want to do/ I’ve got nothing to say/ Because I’m done hurting you.” In order not to open her mouth or reach out, she just has to write a song, and that palpable compulsion not to say anything at all is what fuels “Nothing.” –James
They finally got it out — a brand new Brand New album, eight years in the making. As for a positive message, Jesse Lacey will have to continue working on that one indefinitely. Science Fiction suggests it’s a painful process but one with significant rewards, musically speaking. After frequent revisitations this past week, slow-churn anthem “Can’t Get It Out” has proven to be the album’s most welcoming entry point, but the feel-good hit of the summer it is not (except maybe by Queens Of The Stone Age’s sardonic standards). Against a neanderthal undertow closer to Nirvana than New Found Glory, Lacey spouts the kinds of world-weary couplets that made him poet laureate for a legion of emo kids. This is a song about the pressures of that vocation, of straining to deliver music that will (a) live up to all those people’s impossible expectations and (b) convey some degree of hope rather than merely reinforcing their mutual despair. Ever the cynic, Lacey recognizes the egotism inherent in that struggle: “I thought I was a creator/ I’m here just hanging around/ Got my messiah impression/ I think I got it nailed down.” But the fact that the song exists and is magnificent should lift some of the weight off his shoulders; and with any luck, the mere act of once again lifting the curtain on his own perseverance through depression will inspire others to keep fighting, too. –Chris
When Quicksand were first (and last) an active recording outfit — i.e., the front half of the ’90s — bandleader Walter Schreifels delivered his vocals in hard staccato clusters, as if his voice were a percussion instrument. On the band’s first new song in 22 years, Schreifels sounds like a different man. To my ear, he sounds like a younger man, but that’s merely an incidental function of his updated approach to singing. Which is: singing. Even when he hits the hoarse regions of his register, he’s not attacking like he once did, like a kick drum or a Bullmastiff or Ian MacKaye. There’s a fluidity here, a frailty, a sense of scale that’s almost unrecognizable. At first, the shift is jarring, but after a few spins, it feels entirely natural. And it is. The dude has lived a life since Quicksand split. He sees the world differently, occupies a different space, has a different presence. But he hasn’t abandoned his innate sense of rhythm. It doesn’t announce itself as ferociously as it did two-plus decades back, but it’s all the more stunning for its subtle reveal. Once you hear it, you hear it everywhere in his delivery, but for me, it’s most immediately evident when the song goes quiet, when Schreifels gets to the part “And when it’s gone, it’s gone for you like all of us…” I mean, goddamn. That is a clinic right there. Seriously: I literally ripped off the rhythm of that line at the beginning of the very sentence in which I quoted that line (three sentences back, if you wanna check me) because it is so fuckin’ nice. He does it better, of course, but he’s Walter Schreifels. As for everything else about the band — the grinding-metal guitars, the syrup-thick bass, the landmine-loud drums — well, all that stuff still kicks righteous ass. That hasn’t changed at all. –Michael
It’s not your imagination. Brockhampton have been on this list a lot lately. We can’t help it. Every few days, it seems like, these kids come out with another burst of energetic swagger — another goofy, loping posse cut full of talented young rap voices pushing each other to be their best selves. “Sweet,” with its clipped lo-fi bounce and its giggly immediacy, might even be the best of the bunch. This time around, the MVP is probably the skittering, eccentric Joba, ending the track with a darting, eerie singsong verse that flashes back on *NSYNC fandom and uncomfortable conversations with high school guidance counselors. Just a reminder: Brockhampton have, as of today, released two albums full of tracks like this in summer 2017, and they’re not done yet. And when they’re in the Whataburger, all the kids know who they are. –Tom