Summer’s finally here, which means that soon we will have to figure out what THEE song of the summer is. Polls won’t be open for a while, but hop in the comments with your predictions. Maybe something from this week’s five best list will make the cut? Check out these hot traxxx below and enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!
“The Ghost Ship” is Farao’s first song since the Norwegian musician’s 2015 debut, and Kari Jahnsen sounds more confident than ever. The song has a ton of moving parts that absolutely work in sync, skittering beats and echoing harmonies and watery asides that feel equally lush and chaotic. But that confidence comes at a cost, and here Jahnsen is being pulled in two directions at once, afraid of being defined by someone else but equally fearful of being indefinable alone. “I tried to make things better/ But my brutality has always been out of my command,” she sings. “It’s either now or never/ I gotta get my shit together to be worthy of a man.” There’s vitriol that drips in that last line, an exaggeration of a real emotion, but that core is powerful. “The Ghost Ship” sees Jahnsen cycling through past relationships, treating the memories of each one as vapor disappearing as you move onto the next one, hoping for that final connection that will solidify and make everything stable. –James
California has long been a place to escape to. I wrote about this a few years ago while reflecting on Joni Mitchell’s “California,” a song that I listen to whenever I’m missing home. Fog Lake’s “California” is about losing someone to that state. It starts in a haze, like Aaron Powell has just woken up and is trying to figure out exactly why the dream he had the night before was so disturbing. There’s elements to the production that recall one of Grouper’s less-ambient songs, and the fuzziness of its rendering helps cloud some of Powell’s heartache. Longing for something that once was and will never exist again is an especially difficult, unfixable feeling, and Powell describes it in brutal detail. “And when you fled to California/ I was somewhere at home/ Just trying desperately to brush it off,” he sings. –Gabriela
Flasher’s forthcoming debut Constant Image is overflowing with ideas, only the band is too controlled for the sort of spillage that phrase would suggest. At 10 tracks and just over 30 minutes, Constant Image is a ruthlessly tight barrage, each guitar line and synth flourish and interlocking vocal part balanced perfectly within the band’s effervescent take on post-punk and new wave. And the whole thing is just deliriously catchy. Flasher made the album quickly, and there’s no room for bullshit, just hook after hook piled on top of each other. They’re one of those bands who can write a verse more infectious than most people’s choruses.
Case in point: “Who’s Got Time?,” their latest single and one of Constant Image’s best songs. It grabs you immediately, and never lets up; “My life as a seminal fake,” Daniel Saperstein drawls at the beginning, before quickening into a sing-speak flurry. “Who’s Got Time?” might be non-stop propulsion from that point on, but it’s also full of tiny moments that stand out and stick in your mind, too — like the additional emphasis of the third verse when all the instrumentation briefly drops out and Saperstein barks above only a synth part until everything comes crashing back in harder.
But a big factor in the the band’s new songs being not only irresistible but unshakeable is the way they stick like-sounding words together into these little tongue-twisters that shouldn’t work and yet make the songs more percussive, tactile. It’s “I never listen / List something missing/ Have my permission wishing/ We’ll never know” in one verse, and “My mind in the terminal phase/ And it’s all without feeling just some cynical shame” in another. The lyrics could come across as tangled on paper, but they’re crucial to what makes a lot of Flasher’s melodies unfold with this whiplash force, like each singer having to wrap their mouths around so many syllables ensures the constant punch in their vocals. “Who’s Got Time?” is the best example of this aspect of Constant Image. In the couple of months since I’ve had the album, I’ve gotten this song stuck in my head pretty much every single day. And I’m not remotely close to being sick of it yet. –Ryan
Even when Ovlov were broken up, there was never really a question of whether Steve Hartlett would keep making music, and his follow-up project, Stove, definitely scratched that same scrappy guitar-rockin’ itch. But still, after their time away, it feels good to see the Ovlov name attached to new music again. It’s now been five years since Am and nearly 10 years since the band’s humble beginnings, and their relative old age suits them. The midtempo “Spright” sounds a little cleaner, a little smoother, and a little more comfortable than their debut’s ragged Dinosaur Jr. worship, shaping their trademark ocean of fuzz into something that envelops instead of confronts. It’s an appropriate move for a song that’s about about growth and the passage of time, looking back at the past in order to move forward from it. “Eat well, feel well/ Try on neon/ Feel another way/ When I run for better days,” Hartlett sings, his voice introspective yet soothing. It sounds like Ovlov’s best days are still ahead of them. –Peter
A year and a half ago, Brittney Parks, the Ohio-born singer and violinist who records as Sudan Archives, used her violin and an iPhone app to put together “Escape,” a roving and exploratory eight-minute improvisational piece. She wove together a few different violin figures (some plucked, some not) underneath her own otherworldly voice, making this levitating piece of beauty that somehow never resolves into anything even slightly familiar. Parks ends her new Sink EP with “Escape,” but it’s not the same version of “Escape” that made its way into the internet back in 2016. Instead, she’s cleaned it up and shortened it, cutting its length in half and giving it the crystalline production that it always deserved. Now, it sounds something like a pop song, or a folk song (though not a folk-pop song) that’s been beamed back from a more benevolent future, a time when sonic traditions can more freely and breezily intermingle and learn from one another. –Tom