We published a lot of features this week, and if you haven’t checked them all out you definitely should! We put a lot of time and energy into this stuff and your commentary is always welcome. Here’s a list in case you missed out:
- Stronger Than Death: Here’s Why We’re Excited For The The’s Comeback
- You Should Go See Turnstile
- My Son, Have You Grown: Braid Talk Frame & Canvas 20 Years Later
- The 10 Best Wye Oak Songs
- 10 Of The Best Elton John Covers
- A Decade Of Gaga: Looking Back At “Just Dance” On Its 10th Anniversary
- An Interview With Michael Imperioli About His New Lou Reed Novel
- It’s The Freakin’ Weeknd Baby, I’m About To Have Me Some Crushing Nihilistic Despair
- Here’s To 20 Years Of Kittie
- BlocBoy JB Is Ready To Take Over
- A Different Kind Of Buzz: Beholding Lorde’s Unconventional Pop Stardom On The Melodrama Tour
- Remembering “Hipster Metal” & The Sword’s Gods Of The Earth 10 Years Later
*Phew*. Needless to say, we’re kinda beat. Check out the five best songs of the week below.
“A$AP Forever” really, really should not work. It’s about the laziest song imaginable: Just A$AP Rocky rapping, in pure cruise-control mode, over the dazed synth-washes from Moby’s head-spun 1999 single “Porcelain.” That’s it. Nothing else. Rocky doesn’t even say much of consequence. And there’s a moment at the end where the song just straight-up turns into “Porcelain.” It’s not a sample. It’s a wholesale hijacking, albeit one that may well earn Moby a big pile of money. It’s a step beyond late-’90s Bad Boy obvious obliviousness, into some bold new world of unoriginality.
But on the other hand: Whoo! Part of it, of course, is that “Porcelain” is a great song. It’s probably the second-best Moby song. (The best Moby song is “Go,” which itself was an obvious jack of the Twin Peaks theme music. I don’t know if anyone could turn “Go” into a rap song, though I’d like to see someone try.) And Rocky floats lazily, beautifully over those gorgeous synth tones, making a heretofore undiscovered connection between Moby’s original and his own cloud-rap roots. Somebody listens to techno! –Tom
The power of vintage dream-pop was often rooted in its elusiveness — the music could be so impressionistic, the themes so indecipherable, that it could conjure up whatever place or memory you wanted it to. And when it comes to modern artists that revive the idiom, there can be layers to that vague set of references. On Hatchie’s new single “Sugar & Spice,” Harriet Pillbeam seems to be giving us a perfect tribute to the moment where dream-pop seeped into the mainstream via ’90s indie-pop crossover hits. But at the same time that it feels like an echo of something that happened, it also feels like an echo of something that never really existed.
There are trademark dream-pop elements here: the churning guitars, the fact that it sounds like one long elated sigh, the fact that Pillbeam’s Australian accent warps the words of the chorus into multiple interpretations. (The lyric is “We could outlast it all,” but it sounds like she’s singing “We could’ve lost it all.”) But at the same time, those cooing punctuations at the beginning feel like a more contemporary indie trick and the melodies are (ahem) sugary pop hooks, more like those a straight-up mainstream pop songwriter of the time might’ve written. Sometimes dream-pop elicits memories and images from the ether. Speaking as a child of the ‘90s, “Sugar & Spice” elicits a fictional memory for me, a montage in some futuristic shopping mall that’ll never exist, soundtracked by this song’s giant, glittering refrain. I guess that’s what dreams, and songs like this, are supposed to do anyway: take the elements we think we know and scramble them into something new but semi-recognizable, wistful but euphoric. –Ryan
“Over my dead body.” In Miya Folick’s voice, those words become a war cry, an indictment, an affirmation, and an exorcism all at once. Written after Folick read a Lupita Nyong’o interview about Harvey Weinstein, “Deadbody” details the kind of chillingly casual exploitation that comes all too easily to men in power: “It’s my sunny disposition that you liked/ You poured me coke and vodka/ Drink it baby, be nice/ And you knew you would get away/ So you didn’t try to hide/ I watched them shake your hand/ Their obedient laughter cut my mind.”
But the song’s not about Harvey Weinstein, or any other nameless abuser like him. Instead, it’s a display of power, a refusal to be silenced, and an act of defiant self-love, Folick’s powerful voice growling and shaking like a gathering storm over the song’s martial drumbeat. When it’s over, that huge, world-conquering voice is what you remember. –Peter
Few songs are this holistically excellent. Plucked violin trills cycle up and down like strands of musical DNA. The rhythmic foundation shifts subtly but constantly: from organic upright bass to low-end techno keyboards, from finger snaps to programmed trap. Brittney Parks sings in confident sighs, raps in fervent whispers, harmonizes with herself in controlled psychedelic jabs like Lemonade spiked with Sung Tongs.
What Parks does on the musical axis is obviously incredible, reducing umpteen reference points from around the globe into a genre all her own, and “Nont For Sale” is a supreme example of that synthesis. Just as impressive, though, are her lyrics. Every line in “Nont For Sale” is casually quotable, whether she’s dismissing a friend who’s turned parasitic or picturing herself triumphantly traversing African terrain with a more agreeable companion. And on the rare occasion when she breaks from concise, evocative realism, we get something of a thesis statement: “My strings propagate through space and time/ Here and there at the same time.” That about sums up what Parks is doing, and my God is she doing it well. Stay out of her flight path. –Chris
Beach House have spent over a decade crafting the kind of intense, hypnotic music that sounds like it should be emanating from a dark and presumably haunted cave. “Maudlin” is how you would describe most of it, thought “undeniably pretty” follows directly after. Even a seemingly sweet song, like my personal favorite “Wedding Bell,” casts a shadow. Is this a relationship on the verge of collapse or is it one that will continue on until death do us part? It’s unclear, and that lack of clarity and unwillingness to evoke any concrete storyline or emotion is what makes Beach House a band that people return to over and over again. They’re not telling you how to feel, they’re just making you feel it.
“Dark Spring,” by contrast, is a buoyant song. You might even describe it as a fun song. The lead track on Beach House’s forthcoming album 7, it opens with a clamor and instrumental swell that sounds like an awakening. The lyrical themes of “Dark Spring” are as opaque as one would expect, and on paper, they read like an incantation, the initiation of a ritual. “I want to lie in/ They call Orion/ The colors missing/ Upon the dark spring,” Victoria Legrand sings.
Springtime is a season most often associated with color; pastel Easter candies and bright orange tulips and pale green baby leaves returning to their branches. Beach House investigate the inverse; the way a night sky changes as the weather warms, how you can lay down in a patch of grass again in order to look up at it without freezing to death. Of course, I don’t really know if this is what “Dark Spring” is about, but that doesn’t really matter. I feel it. —Gabriela