The 5 Best Songs Of The Week
Two of our beloved columns went up today! Our covers column Gotcha Covered and our jazz column Ugly Beauty are a great source of pride for us here at Stereogum dot com, so if you haven’t spent any time with either, we think you should. In other news: we blogged a lot about shitty men this week. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Oh, and speaking of rubbish: Ivanka Trump says she used to be punk. Check out the five best songs of the week below — there are some real monsters on this list.
We could accurately trot out a lot of different reference points to describe “Burn.” We could sum it up as, say, “Throbbing Gristle meets Deftones” and we wouldn’t be off base. But let’s be honest: This song is functionally a tribute to early Nine Inch Nails. And what a pretty hate machine it is! “I can’t control myself!” is Luis Vasquez’s mantra here, but the relentlessly cycling industrial rhythms and post-punk guitar figures are the work of a musician with a tight grasp of his formidable powers. “Burn” is so grimy, so intense, so much like purifying flames that despite its obvious lineage it more than holds up on its own terms. It’s got us fired up about NIN’s past, yes, but also the Soft Moon’s future. –Chris
“Give It To Me” opens with a slow, steady guitar strum that recalls the opening moments of the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin.” In the same way that iconic rock song builds into an explosive, freeform frenzy, Miya Folick’s single works itself up to a tempest just as easily. Hers is a voice that would sound comfortable, even confident, working with any genre, but the ragged and impulsive rock ‘n’ roll she’s constructed on “Give It To Me” is a cosmic match. You know when you hear a song and you think to yourself: “Fuck yes this is a song”? That’s the feeling Folick’s totally uninhibited roar leaves me with. On “Give It To Me,” she pleads with someone to make her happy “like you said you would.” The chorus comes in like a crescendo, and in that vulnerable moment of admission Folick’s voice is so big that it sounds like it could shatter every barrier that’s preventing her from getting what she really wants. —Gabriela
When you think of SOPHIE, the first thing that probably comes to mind is abrasive plasticity. PRODUCT is a project that revels in artificiality and external pleasures, hammered home with slapping beats and precise fizzy pops. “It’s Okay To Cry” — the first new song we’ve heard from SOPHIE in two years — is less product, more person. It’s a reintroduction that upends your expectations of what a SOPHIE song might sound like, opening up the project to more expansive possibilities. There’s not much context for “It’s Okay To Cry” in the artist’s (admittedly small) discography, save for maybe “Just Like We Never Said Goodbye,” the gluey ballad that closes out PRODUCT. But the emotion that’s laid bare on this song is as immediate and visceral and knowable as any big metallic drop. It’s a twinkling, starry-eyed affirmation that you should be free to be you. “I hope that you don’t take this the wrong way/ But I think your inside in your best side,” SOPHIE sings, as earnest and confessional in that moment as PRODUCT was snarling and guarded. The vulnerability on display on “It’s Okay To Cry” is breathtaking, the complete opposite from what we’ve come to expect from SOPHIE, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. –James
When we talk about Screaming Females leader Marissa Paternoster, we tend to lead with her absolutely monstrous guitar skills. This makes sense. Nobody plays like Paternoster. But nobody sings like Paternoster, either, and “Glass House” works as a reminder that we’ve got an all-time expressive rock wailer walking among us today. Paternoster has explained that “Glass House” is a sort of social-media-era lament, a freaked-out scrawl about the way our devices are altering the way we perceive reality. That’s a problem that we’re all facing, and none of us has an answer. But one way to combat that feeling is to let loose with something primal and visceral, and that’s what Paternoster does when she howls the song’s raging conclusion: “My life in! A glass house! Impossi-baaaaaaal to get out!” Underneath, her own guitar roils and rumbles and growls, sounding like it was beamed in from some lost era when phones still had rotary dials and hooks on the wall. –Tom
Here’s a silver lining about the Knife seemingly having disbanded: We get new Fever Ray music from one half of the duo, Karin Dreijer. “To The Moon And Back” is one of the only bits of music Dreijer’s released under the moniker since the project’s acclaimed and beloved 2009 debut, and it’s fucking awesome. It’s also pretty surprising. Given the foreboding, claustrophobic atmosphere that dominated Fever Ray and the alternatingly skeletal and abrasive nature of the Knife’s 2013 release Shaking The Habitual, it’d be easy to assume that a new Fever Ray record could be an equally haunting excursion. And it isn’t that “To The Moon And Back” doesn’t have a certain disorienting quality to it – especially when you take into account its way-out-there video – but it also just happens to be shockingly catchy.
Of course, this is still a member of the Knife we’re talking about, and we’re 14 years removed from the (relatively) straightforward synth-pop jams of Deep Cuts. The antecedent “To The Moon And Back” is most reminiscent of is the other-dimension pop the Knife perfected on Silent Shout, and it might even be a bit more direct than that. As opposed to the mournful drones on Fever Ray, Dreijer’s vocal approach here is sensual, almost exuberant when paired with the song’s backing track. About that instrumentation: It makes the song. “To The Moon And Back” doesn’t have a sung chorus; it’s one of those tracks that has a riff that’s just so insanely immediate and expressive on its own that any human presence would simply get in its way. The way that synth riff bends and twists its notes makes it sound like a strange hybrid, as if Dreijer captured sounds from nature and then warped them through ones and zeroes. It makes “To The Moon And Back” one of the most instantly accessible songs Dreijer’s ever been a part of, while maintaining that inherent psychedelic nausea that’s always been a part of the Knife and Fever Ray’s skewed interpretations of the pop canon. Let’s hope there’s a lot more where this came from. –Ryan