It has been a hell of a week. We published a list of our favorite albums of the year so far, features on Deafheaven and Nothing, and waited up late for Kanye x Cudi’s new album Kids See Ghosts. We are very tired and can’t wait to bop to the new Snail Mail and Flasher albums all weekend. Check out the five best songs of the week below.
An apocalyptic universe unfolds on Age Of, Daniel Lopatin’s latest studio album as Oneohtrix Point Never. Remnants of human consciousness take form as warped screams and Auto-Tuned croons, mutated under Artificial Intelligence’s reign. It’s clear we’re listening to the inner workings of an alternative reality from the album’s opening harpsichord, spindly and ominous. A dazzling kind of unease lingers, leading up to the fifth song, “Toys 2.” This is the album’s turning point. It’s the climax before the collapse.
Lopatin told Rolling Stone that this song is “proof of concept for how I would score a Pixar film.” I imagine an OPN Pixar film as a dark Wall-E, informed by late-capitalism and smartphone takeover. “Toys 2” sounds like it should guide an army of bedraggled teddy bears and broken action figures, abandoned and looking for their place amongst the rubble. I’d watch it. –Julia
In the world of Father John Misty, salvation is rarely pure. After all, this is the work of a man raised in a stringent Christian household, who later warped religious and cult iconography to recreate himself as a swaggering LA shaman. So when there’s a shot at redemption via true love on I Love You, Honeybear, it’s undercut by self-reflexivity and doubt at all manner of societal expectations; though the absurdity of existence and the cruelty of the universe detailed on Pure Comedy are earnestly countered with the assertion of “Each other’s all we got,” it’s a small consolation prize.
But God’s Favorite Customer is Josh Tillman’s most earnest, naked work under the FJM moniker, and accordingly there are not so many intellectual acrobatics in the way this time. Quickly revealing itself to be one of Tillman’s finest compositions, the title track has a haggard beauty that only increases the longer you sit with it. Fittingly, the song also serves as a crucial moment in the album’s narrative, and perhaps in all the Father John Misty albums.
Salvation doesn’t really seem in the cards when “God’s Favorite Customer” begins. It opens on just another night during Tillman’s lost weekend phase, the self-imposed exile in a NYC hotel that frames much of the album; you can practically smell last night’s whiskey and sunrise cigarettes wafting off of it. But he’s worn out, the mournful instrumentation underpinning lyrics like “’I’m in the business of living’/ Yeah, that’s something I’d say.” He’s tired and bored of the cycle, tired and bored of himself.
So when the chorus arrives, he asks for absolution. He really asks for it this time, seeking an angel. And he’s answered by Natalie Mering of Weyes Blood. As the first duet in FJM’s catalog, it’s hard to underestimate her presence — there is something about her vocals, something that takes the song to a more otherworldly place. Tillman remains beleaguered and conversational throughout. But Mering comes in, and it’s like she’s actually offering him the healing for which he’s searching, offering him a way out of that endless self-destructive spiral. There have been flirtations with transcendence on other Father John Misty albums. But “God’s Favorite Customer” is perhaps the first time where it looks like Josh Tillman might actually be able to save himself. –Ryan
No two songs by Sorry sound the same, but “Twinkle” doesn’t even sound the same from one second to the next. It starts out with a sinister, snaking guitar groove, then falls into a dreamy, lovesick trance, then explodes out into off-kilter pop beauty in its chorus, then takes a brief detour into industrial-tinged noise-rock before starting the rollercoaster all over again. What’s even more impressive is that it all hangs together, with Asha Lorenz’s seductively half-drawled vocals guiding you through the intoxicating haze. With songs this good, no apologies are necessary. Sorry, not sorry. –Peter
There’s a delicate might to Sarah Beth Tomberlin’s song “Self-Help.” It doesn’t purport to answer any big questions or wow you with hooks or a crushing chorus. Instead, “Self-Help” sounds like a homemade meal crafted with the kind of love that no restaurant can replicate. There’s tenderness here, vulnerability that feels refreshing and genuine and really good for reasons that are difficult to describe. “I used a self-help book/ To kill a fly/ I think it worked Mom/ I think I’m fine,” Tomberlin sings, her voice flitting between verses as easily as a bee moves from flower to flower in springtime. This song is lightly underscored by a swirling drone, a suggestion that maybe things aren’t so fine, but they’re bearable. For now. –Gabriela
In Bon Iver and the National respectively, Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner are members of two of the most beloved, profitable rock bands of their generation. They don’t have to busy themselves with every conceivable side project; they are so prolific because they love this shit. That love is the driving force behind PEOPLE, the new collectivist publishing platform they launched this week, and it courses through the four-song EP they just released through that platform as Big Red Machine.
It’s a uniformly solid set — an exercise in fan service that somehow doesn’t feel like pandering — but opener “Forest Green” is hitting the spot in particular today. With a harmonic bass groove as its warm, beating heart, the song is otherwise gently and beautifully chaotic, peppered with understated percussion and ambient flickers, topped off with Vernon’s Auto-Tuned croon tenderly meditating on what sounds like a loved one’s death.
On the page, his verses almost read like rap, like a close cousin to Saba’s Care For Me: “Every bit assaulted/ But lauded and part of the profits/ On account of the coffin/ Don’t call me a maudlin/ Tongue knotted often/ Ya remember when we took apart your closet.” There is longing and regret in his voice, especially on the refrain — “I was gonna go and gitchoo more time” — but mostly what I hear is love for a person finding expression through love for music. May the rest of the PEOPLE archive brim with such humanity. –Chris