Tom Petty died this week and the world feels a little darker, a little less joyful, without him. In honor of the great American songwriter, we looked back on his greatest moments, shared some thoughts on why everybody loves him, and honored his pure rock and roll spirit. As a staff, we collected our favorite Petty songs and wrote a bit about why they mean something to us, and Scott asked 74 artists to do the same. It’s time for this hellish week to end — here are the five best songs to enjoy the weekend with.
The rhythmic underpinnings of “Cosmonauts” churn with such visceral weight and density that it’s no wonder Walter Schreifels felt it necessary to record under the name Quicksand again. This song sounds like being lowered ever deeper into a deadly, inescapable muck — a sensation we’re all becoming familiar with in 2017, on an existential level at least. “Do you like where you are?” he sings, sounding very much like he does not like it at all. Despite the doom and gloom, there is some small flicker of hope in this document of hardcore flattening into an elongated sigh. As “Cosmonauts” cycles on, Schreifels lifts his voice skyward, as if struggling valiantly to achieve liftoff toward some better place out in there among the stars. –Chris
It’s not like everything was OK before Trump. He’s such a cartoonishly obvious villain that it can be easy to forget, but our country has problems far deeper and more insidious than one power-drunk orange maniac. Meg Remy remembers. “Mad As Hell” is the rare Trump-era protest song to not focus on Trump, instead calling out the Obama administration’s normalization of drone strikes and glad-handing politicians more generally, framing the relationship between president and constituent as a particularly telegenic form of domestic abuse: “We can never know the hands we’re in until we feel them grip, choking off our air supply.” She’s mad as hell, but the message is Trojan-horsed into one of the most infectious, least haunted songs she’s ever released under the U.S. Girls name, a self-consciously retro girl-group-gone-disco anthem that snaps and gleams in all the right places. America, on the other hand, is snapping and gleaming in all the wrong places. –Peter
Jake Ewald writes songs that will completely destroy you if you hear them on a day when you’re not 100% self-possessed and ready to take on the world. While he’s best known for taking on half the songwriting in Modern Baseball, Ewald’s mellower side project Slaughter, Beach Dog showcases his singular talent for punching you in the heart and making you feel like you’re 16 again. On “Acolyte,” Ewald sings about the rapid passage of time and the way life only seems to complicated itself the older you get. “Man, it cuts like a dull knife when you’re young and you’re told, ‘Makes sense when you’re older.’/ Darling, let’s get old,” he sings. The thing is, the adults are lying when they say everything make more sense the older you get. If anything, everything makes even less sense when you’re an adult. “Acolyte” makes me wish I was newborn, which is a good feeling, I guess. –Gabriela
Last Friday, the deeply charismatic Oakland rapper Kamaiyah posted her video for her new song “Successful” on YouTube. It was everything great about Kamiayah distilled into video form. In the clip, she stands up in the back of a fancy convertible, her hair blowing in the wind. She beams from the back of a jet ski. She wears full camo while partying at an indoor pool. It’s a monument to the excess of ’90s rap videos and to the joy that they can bring. The song itself worked the same way, with its burbling bassline and its woozy ripples of synth and guitar and its giddy fuck-you hook. Kamaiyah’s whole sound is a streamlined, breezy update on the West Coast rap of the ’90s, particularly the stuff from the Bay, and “Successful” is one of the strongest realizations of that sound yet. Soon after that video showed up online, it disappeared, and the song with it — bootleg YouTube streams are, as I’m typing this, the only ways to hear the song. Hopefully, it’ll be back up soon. The world needs that video and that song. But someone, it would seem, doesn’t want Kamaiyah successful, no matter now bright the diamonds all on her neck glow. –Tom
The New York City-based producer Kathy Yaeji Lee, who records as Yaeji, has been accumulating an impressive back catalog over the last few years, and her latest, “Drink I’m Sippin On,” feels like a watershed moment for the young artist. It’s not so much that it’s a huge departure from what’s come before, just that it’s fine-tuned to an impressive degree. The same Yaeji elements are still in play — space-water beats, dissociative free association, a fine glaze over the whole enterprise — but “Drink I’m Sippin On” is slower, methodically paced, more exacting. Her heady dance music evokes a beguiling sense of coolness that’s difficult to pin down, but one that’s projected in its accompanying video: late-night meandering bike rides, hanging out with friends in neon-lit spaces, furtive glances and fleeting moments where you feel larger than life. “Bringing out the colors in me/ I feel so fine,” Yaeji sings at one point. It’s a sentiment that applies to the transformative power of a night spent traversing the streets, but it could also apply to the morning-after, when the curtains are drawn to block out the sun and you’re hunched over a laptop figuring out exactly what makes a song like this tick. It’s oddly reflective, like trying to capture a feeling after it’s already gone, and it’s in expressing that which is indefinable where Yaeji really thrives. –James