2018 is really picking up steam as far as new music goes. This week, we got a Chvrches x Matt Berninger collab, a Lorde x Run The Jewels remix of “Supercut,” a phenomenal new LP from Lucy Dacus, and there’s a fresh Kacey Musgraves album on the way. Wonder who made it into five best this week? Check out the list below.
This crazy triple-LP gambit just might work. “Powerglide,” the new Rae Sremmurd single, is aptly titled: a wave of mutilation built to sweep across radio frequencies and streaming platforms with unrelenting purpose. I heard it on the radio last night, less than 24 hours after its release, and it sounded every bit as irrepressible as the rest of their signature hits, except this one’s irrepressible like a steamroller. “Brxnks Truck,” released concurrently, is as hard-hitting as you’d want a Slim Jxmmi solo track to be and assuages some of my doubts that he can carry a full-length project on his own. And as expected, the best of the three new singles the Brothers Sremm unleashed this week is Swae Lee’s solo showcase.
“Hurt To Look” reminds us why Swae’s been Rae Sremmurd’s creative beacon and breakout star. He has a gift for melody that allows him to slide between singing and rapping with a fluidity rivaling Drake, and here he’s found his “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” a misty pop-R&B canvas that allows him to lock into hook-slinger mode and emote. “I can feel the weight of what you say/ I had explanations for days/ Don’t think you’re the only one that’s sane/ It seems like we’re not on the same page” — a very Aubrey-like sentiment, yes? Yet Swae is his own force of gravity, with a voice and perspective compelling enough to make every gesture distinctly his own. Dude is already carrying hits for his own group (“Black Beatles”) and other artists (French Montana’s “Unforgettable”), so it’s about time he got a song every bit as irresistible to call his own. –Chris
In hindsight, Ryley Walker’s 2016 release Golden Sings That Have Been Sung was a transition: The haggard, nocturnal middle point between the psychedelic jazz-folk of 2015’s Primrose Green and his forthcoming Deafman’s Glance. Walker’s positioned the new album as his attempt to get away from the “jammy acoustic guy” archetype, and the response is a collection that, while perhaps focusing on structuring songs more, is also diffuse and strung-out and weathered.
Those qualities also lend Walker’s new music quite a bit of bleary beauty, like on “Telluride Speed.” The track mostly exists in a state of worn reverie, Walker barely rising above a ragged mumble as rock flute swirls and glides around him. You could initially mistake it is a more restrained outgrowth of where Walker was a few years ago, but along the way it’s ruptured by discomfiting jazz-rock breaks, like the dial got knocked over and two disparate channels are at war with each other. It’s tempting to read those polarities as a representation of Walker’s journey to this point, battling himself and battling the pull of various directions. As ever, though, he’s found something immediately alluring in the process, once more reminding us that even the guitar troubadour types he’s lumped in with aren’t making music quite like him, and that he’s a young talent that’s still searching and locating stunning new discoveries. –Ryan
When we were first introduced to Natalie Prass in 2015, she was making retro-pop songs that felt operatic and theatrical, a callback to an earlier time that still managed to sound entirely fresh. For her sophomore album, she’s still throwing back but her frame of reference has changed a bit, pulling from funk and R&B and disco. But Prass has the sort of voice and charisma that can support pretty much whatever her heart desires to make — don’t forget about her goddamn perfect “Realiti” cover — and her latest, “Short Court Style,” is stylish and sleek and irresistible. It’s one of those songs that almost feels like a cover because it comes across as so natural, like it’s an impossibility that no one has ever hit on this exact sequence of notes and words. But Prass comes across as renewed here, a kaleidoscopic vision of a love too colorful to ignore. And even though its title hints at the impermanence of this sort of ups-and-downs relationship, for a cool four minutes Prass luxuriates in the warmth she feels. –James
On 2014’s Plowing Into The Field Of Love, Iceage slowed down and opened up, allowing some haunted Americana and baroque romanticism to creep into their ferocious punk assault. Over the next few years, frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt further explored that impulse with his Marching Church project, growing into his role as a louche, drunken troubadour. And now with “Catch It” and especially “Pain Killer,” he seems to be collapsing the distance between his side gig and his day job and accepting his destiny as a vampirically sexy rock god. Bursting out of the gate with a blast of triumphant horns, “Pain Killer” finds Rønnenfelt leaning into the raw magnetism of his throaty moan as he continues the time-honored rock ‘n’ roll tradition of conflating physical desire with narcotics. “Honey honey you’re my medication,” he drawls, his voice joined in a cool echo by Sky Ferreira’s. “Like love, you take everything/ And this static yearn makes me rue the day/ You became my painkiller.” It’s intoxicating. –Peter
The first “Space Cowboy” was released in 1969 by the Steve Miller Band, and he took it on as a kind of nickname. It’s famously referenced on his still-inescapable song “The Joker,” when Miller talk-sings: “Some people call me the space cowboy.” In the ’60s, “space cowboy” was a name for someone who smoked weed. For Miller, that label connotes a person who’s a little lawless and detached, a loner who evades the status quo. It’s fitting that Kacey Musgraves borrowed the term for what is unmistakably one of her best songs to date.
On “Space Cowboy,” Musgraves sends a lover on their way, hinting at their detachment without actually endowing them with such an epic titled as “Space Cowboy.” Instead, she engages in a bit of soul-crushing wordplay: “You can have your space, cowboy/ I ain’t gonna fence you in.” The production sounds like it descended from an astral plane; gentle percussion, a bed of synths, and a twangy guitar motif twinkles like stars in the darkening sky. There are elements to this song that recall some of Lana Del Rey’s spacier epics, but Musgraves’ lyrical mood board is grounded right here on earth; it’s all Silverados and small towns and fading sunsets and horses running free. –Gabriela