We’re now living in a world where the President of the United States takes time out of his day to thank Kanye West and Chance The Rapper on Twitter. Let that sink in while you listen to the five best songs of the week below.
I’ve always had a penchant for pop-punk. For me, it embodies the restlessness and hyper-awareness that govern my being. It marvels at the awkwardness of existence, the anxiety rumbling beneath an optimistic exterior. It mourns and celebrates fading youth. Retirement Party derived their name from that sort of quarter-life crisis. And their latest single, “Passion Fruit Tea,” delights in its unease. The lyrics are self-aware, mocking their self-pity. “Everybody owes me,” Avery Springer sings as if rolling her eyes. “Tell that guy that I’m sorry that I lied to you and made everyone upset again.” Above all, the song is about following what drives you. Springer admits that she doesn’t have a job, but she has something better — a passion. That passion, as you might guess, is the passion tea she keeps sipping “to just get the taste of it.” Brimming with hooky riffs and rose-tinted angst, it exudes a sunny nervousness, just in time for spring. –Julia
“Black Snow” opens with labored breathing, the kind that is so slow and spaced-out that it seems calculated. It sounds like the intentionally spooky exhalations of a killer phoning from inside the house to tell you that you have 30-seconds left to live, or a doomsday prepper steadily breathing through a gas mask as they observe the remains of the apocalypse. Daniel Lopatin’s voice cuts in like a transmission from the past, a narrator to carry us through this scary new reality. Though he’s sung on OPN songs before, the way Lopatin’s voice overtakes this sparse production feels totally new, and it’s a welcome departure from 2015’s jagged Garden Of Delete. The production on “Black Snow” is icy, but it steadily warms as Lopatin’s narration escalates. He sings about a wave of black snow overtaking our surroundings, of moon ruins and dried up seas. It’s an abstract story of ecocide wrought by technology’s failings, and it ends with an innocent question: “What’s at the bottom of a black hole?” The answer is bleak. –Gabriela
A lot of the best pop songs aren’t showy. They make themselves seem simpler than they actually are, hiding the immense amount of craft and talent that goes into them behind things like immediate hooks and catchy melodies. But after “Pristine” and now “Heat Wave,” one thing should be absolutely clear: Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan knows how to write a good fucking pop song. Her songs sneak up on you, taking the basic building blocks from the past few decades of guitar-based indie-rock using them to craft subtle, individual moments that smack you upside the head and force you to pay attention.
On “Heat Wave,” that moment might be when the rest of the band kicks in and searing flashes of fuzzed-out guitar fork across the track like heat lightning. (Fun fact: Mary Timony of Helium/Wild Flag/Ex Hex was Lindsey Jordan’s guitar teacher.) It might be the cracks and wobbles in Jordan’s voice as she relates her tale of romance gone sour. It might be the venomous bite in lines like, “I hope the love that you find/ Swallows you wholly/ Like you said it might.” It might be all of the above. All of those moments add up. And then, almost before you know it, you’re listening to another great pop song. –Peter
What do you think goes through an artist’s head when they write a riff like the lead synth line in Hatchie’s new song “Sleep?” They have to know immediately, right? They have to realize they just walked into something so pure, addicting, and immediate that it’s probably not even possible to overuse it. You can just have a whole song propelled forward on that lick, and that’s exactly what “Sleep” is. Other things happen, and those are great, too — as soon as you get to know that riff, the guitars churn in and Harriette Pillbeam launches right into the chorus, laying all the song’s cards on the table right away. But it’s that first riff that fuels it all, a melody that’s sheer ecstasy. Really, that riff is what the whole world sounds like when you’re on ecstasy. And if you can write something that gives you that feeling without the heart palpitations and depressive serotonin-depletion aftermath, well, that’s a hell of a thing. –Ryan
On paper, it looks like a sad song. Maybe it should be a sad song. “No Tears Left To Cry” is the first single that Ariana Grande has released since a horrific terrorist attack on her Manchester show killed a bunch of fans, many of them kids. If she were to go into maudlin ballad mode after that — if she were to spend the entire rest of her career in maudlin ballad mode — everyone would understand. But that’s not the type of pop star that Ariana Grande is.
Her astonishing voice moves best when she’s investing all of those virtuosic R&B runs with liquid joy. And that’s what she does here. As with most things from co-writer and co-producer Max Martin, the song mashes down on every possible pleasure center, and it does it all with the aid of a big, honking early-’90s breakbeat. It’s a song about moving past heartbreak, about finding happiness. And that feels like a stronger rebuke to all the bad things in the world than any drippy piano-ballad could. –Tom