THE WEEK IN HEADLINES: Father John Misty Is Up To Something, Este Haim Probably Was Drunk At The BRIT Awards But She Says She Wasn’t LOL, Liam Gallagher Gets Grilled By Some Cute Children, and Someone Seriously Booked An All-Ska-Punk Festival In 2018. The world news is too heavy to bear right now, so we hope some of our recent reportage puts a grin on your face. Check out the five best songs of the week below.
Appearance, presentation, perception. Those have been SOPHIE’s fixations since she got her start a few years ago: how something is packaged manifests how you hear it. And SOPHIE recognizes the importance and power in that — it’s what makes her music so meticulously, grotesquely pristine. “Faceshopping” is about the way we present ourselves to the outside world. “My face is the front of shop/ My face is the real shop front/ My shop is the face I front/ I’m real when I shop my face.” What you see is what you get. Or is it? What’s real, what’s fake? Who gets to decide that and why? Those are questions that SOPHIE has consistently raised, inverting the line between what’s seen as beautiful and what’s seen as ugly. “Faceshopping” is filthy as fuck, with a beat like rusty scalpels, and intermittently gorgeous, an assist from Cecile Believe (formerly Mozart’s Sister) providing the song with a soulful respite. It’s what slips in between the cracks that challenges expectations, feels subversive, and “Faceshopping” occupies a space all its own. It’s probably the best song SOPHIE’s put out since PRODUCT, and it bodes well for the full-length that it’s attached to. –James
Although “Hands Out” just hit the internet this week, it isn’t exactly a new song. Along with “Ballin On The Low,” it was one of two bonus tracks that Wiki included on the vinyl edition of last year’s No Mountains In Manhattan (and its accompanying 8-bit video game), the former Ratking leader’s album-length portrait of New York City life in all its grimy urban glory. But it makes sense to treat “Hands Out” as a separate entity. For one thing, where No Mountains was careful to keep its guest MCs local, “Hands Out” features up-and-coming London rapper Suspect shit-talking everyone trying to ride his coattails. For another thing, it just sounds different. Where No Mountains was all warmly psychedelic soul samples and staggering block-party rhythms, “Hands Out” is something icier and leaner and more focused. Its beat is a vaguely trap-adjacent slab of tingly melodic menace, and Wiki rides that beat comfortably, sublimating his natural gap-toothed charm into a flow that’s equally icy and lean and focused. He was good at what he was doing before, and he’s good at this too. He’s just good. –Peter
Last year, Nika Roza Danilova released another great Zola Jesus album, Okovi. There was a lot of strong material there, songs that could suffocate you in their darkness but were all the more beautiful for it. Even so: If you have a track like “Bound” in the chamber, how the hell do you consign it to B-side status!? The only justification that comes to mind is that Okovi was dominated by wintry, blackened soundscapes; “Bound,” meanwhile, is a goth-pop banger that sounds like it should soundtrack a club scene in The Matrix. Danilova has always operated at a high level, so “Bound” isn’t an outlier overall, but just another example of her careful attention to the architecture of a song. The first time that low-end synth swoops in is a complete what the shit moment — it makes you feel like you’re in free-fall being flipped around and upside down by the wind. Then the beat clatters to life and that same anti-gravity riff, the one that’s so disorienting initially, becomes the hook that propels the whole thing forward. It’s a song that reminds you just how intoxicating the haunting luster of Zola Jesus’ world can be. –Ryan
Since when does recording with Danger Mouse make a band sound more ferocious? Parquet Courts have always embodied a punk-rock history lesson of sorts, and contrary to a pair of song titles suggesting barely restrained anger, this two-headed monster of a lead single makes that premise sound more fun than it has in years. First they’re the world’s jauntiest hardcore band jovially bashing you over the head. Then, having done their damage (or is that Damaged?), they hop into Jonathan Richman’s Roadrunner and peel out (or is that Peel out?), howling out the windows as they speed away. Altogether it’s the most exhilarating exercise from New York’s reigning indie-rockers laureate since their legend-making “Stoned And Starving” — as if you didn’t already have reason enough to be on high alert for Wide Awake! –Chris
There were discussions: Which of the two new Janelle Monaé songs should we put on this list? Should we put both on? (I thought so.) “Django Jane” certainly seemed worthy. We’d never heard Monaé rap before — at least not like that — and some of those lines (“We gon’ start a motherfucking pussy riot / Or we gon’ have to put ‘em on a pussy diet”) were instantly iconic. But no: “Make Me Feel” is the one. A clear Prince homage co-written with Julia Michaels and a pair of Swedish pop wizards, “Make Me Feel” is pure, electric pop music. But it’s not a market capitulation or even an attempt to fit Monaé’s messy, explosive brand of Genius into any particular Spotify playlists. Instead, it’s liquid and joyous and genuine, a song of sexed-out exuberance and drunken romantic rapture that slices precisely even as it swoons. It’s so real, so good, so fuckin’ real. –Tom