The NYC media landscape is reeling after Gothamist and DNAinfo were unceremoniously shut down yesterday by their billionaire owner Joe Ricketts. Those of us who live in New York read those two sites regularly, and we’re definitely going to be a lot less informed on the goings on about town now. It’s hard out here for a blogger in this hellish media landscape! Please be nice to us ;) and check out the five best songs of the week below.
An entirely arbitrary and personal but nevertheless correct opinion: The best underground metal is the underground metal that sounds at least a little bit like punk. Fortunately, that covers a lot of underground metal, even the unlikely stuff. Case in point: An Austrian black metal duo with a lovably absurd name come up with a proggy eight-minute opus about the darkest depths of despair, all of which adds up to sound like the least punk shit imaginable. But there’s a grainy immediacy to “Tomb Omnia” that unites it with some of the furthest-out, most-expressive screamo and hardcore. The song works as a big, cinematic swat at your emotional jugular, and frontman J.J. — that’s what he goes by, just J.J. — delivers it with the feverish intensity normally reserved for sweaty guys who point microphones at different people’s faces in mosh-pit pile-ups. And that heart-on-sleeve ferocity is what takes “Tomb Omnia” into the realm beyond genre exercise. It’s what turns it into one big, long, deeply satisfying kick to the gut. –Tom
Rihanna The Rapper has been one of 2017’s most delightful minor subplots. This is not exactly a new development, but her mic skills have been front and center this year thanks to a pair of big spotlight singles. RiRi was the only guest MC on Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN., and she sounded natural as hell casually trading bars with Kung Fu Kenny on “Loyalty.” She’s arguably even better on “Lemon,” swagging all over Pharrell’s signature pops, snaps, and bumping bass with lines like “And the truck behind me got arms, yeah, longer than LeBron/ Just waitin’ for my thumb like the Fonz/ Woo! This beat tastes like lunch/ But it’s runnin’ from veneers and it’s runnin’ from the fronts.” The beat itself is a highlight too, which is to be expected, and it’s always fun when Pharrell decides to rap. (Remember “Move That Dope”?) But the big takeaway here is that Rihanna needs to release a rap mixtape yesterday. She can do it mid-aughts style and let her wild out over today’s biggest hits like Weezy in his prime. Can you imagine what she’d do with “Bad And Boujee” or “Bodak Yellow”? I’ll draw up the petition. –Chris
You can hear it in his voice. Specific enough to feel real yet abstract enough to feel universal, “Intrepid” is concerned with distance — physical distance, emotional distance, and the intersection of the two — and that’s reflected in Evan Stephens Hall’s characteristically earnest vocals, pushed back in the mix behind softly strumming guitar and shuffling drums. There’s a tentativeness to the song’s construction, swelling and then pulling back, feeling itself out, all building to the glorious explosion of catharsis as Hall’s voice joins with Nandi Rose’s Plunkett’s in what they call “that good middle,” every percussive chord hitting like the pulse of one giant heart. But that’s not the end. “If we learn to love ourselves better, maybe/ We could commit,” Hall sings, and the song pulls back again, letting the weight of that thought hang in the air. Nothing is resolved or settled, but that one guarded “maybe” still feels like a beacon of hope. Don’t let it get to you, you said? Well, I did. –Peter
New York-based producer Yaeji released her second EP today, a gorgeous blend of atmospheric electronics and pulsing fog machine pop, and “Raingurl,” which came out a few days ago, feels like the slurry come-up to lead single “Drink I’m Sippin On“‘s reflective groove. It’s a bit tighter, more constructed, the part of the party before all inhibitions are released. The hook’s hypnotic chant is aspirational, and the song moves back and forth between and the dance floor and the conversations taking place on the outliers. “Oh, yeah, hey dog hey, what’s up?” Yaeji says to an invisible friend she spots from across the room, her glasses fogging up. “When the sweaty walls are banging, I don’t fuck with family planning,” she quips before heading back to the center of the party, swallowed up by the music and the thrill of it all. –James
“THIS COUNTRY MAKES IT HARD TO FUCK” is a pure, uncomplicated expression of political dissent. Fever Ray’s new album, Plunge, interrogates love as a social construct and asks listeners to reimagine what the word actually means to them. What are the tropes associated with romantic love? What romantic fairytales have we been brought up on? Who is excluded from those fairytales? Who upholds them? How do we derail and subvert them? Karin Dreijer laces her music with social commentary, and one of the most blatant examples on Plunge is “This Country.” It’s a critique of the establishment, a battle cry for those whose histories are defined by “perverts,” a love letter to queer people living in the US in 2017 and pretty much anyone who isn’t a cishet white male.
In the brave new country Dreijer builds for us there are “free abortions and clean water,” we’ve destroyed nuclear weaponry, we’ve obliterated the status quo, and it becomes a little bit easier for anyone existing on the margins to breathe. The production itself sounds like it’s bending and collapsing, falling apart at the seams as collectively upheld but stale social norms do, too. “Every time we fuck we win,” Dreijer declares, her voice dirty and feral. That line repeats on and on as it builds itself up into an anthem. Listen to it and imagine Dreijer leading her chosen people out of a basement at the end of the apocalypse. –Gabriela