The 5 Best Songs Of The Week
The week in headlines: Drake’s New Album Scorpion Is So Fucking Long, Beavis And Butt-Head Make Fun Of Portugal. The Man, We Tried To Edit Kanye’s Wyoming Albums Into Cruel Summer 2, Gabriela Met Hayley Williams, Katie Crutchfield Wrote An Essay About Lucinda Williams For Us. All the regular news headlines are trash, so maybe these ones will bring some joy to your weekend. Dive into the best songs of the week below.
Slothrust cultivate a bluesy, ‘90s-indebted breed of grunge. Ten years ago, Leah Wellbaum’s androgynous voice would’ve been a welcome diversion from the macho-grunge Seethers and Puddle Of Mudds that dominated the alt-rock radio station I grew up listening to. Even the album art from their forthcoming The Pact — its gothic color scheme and Twilight-esque font — looks like it could’ve been plucked out of a CD store in 2008. The Brooklyn trio’s sensitive grit and nostalgia flourish on the LP’s lead single “Peach.” A twangy riff thickens into a coarse slow-burner as Wellbaum shouts: “But damn you’ve got the sharpest teeth/ And I am soft as a peach!” It sounds perfectly timed to the album’s mid-September release date, when the weather is crisp and seasonal depression is just around the corner. –Julia
Emma Ruth Rundle makes music that could loosely be termed goth-folk, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Rundle plays in the experimental post-metal band Red Sparowes, and she tends to tour with extreme-music trailblazers like Deafheaven or the Melvins’ King Buzzo. She has heavy music wound through her DNA, and you can hear it all come out on “Fever Dreams,” the first single from her forthcoming LP On Dark Horses. There’s beauty in the song, but it’s a mystic, swirling, vaguely threatening beauty. Guitars, drenched in fuzz and reverb, rise up, as if they’re emerging from some primordial ooze. Organs wail like ancient Greek mourners. And Rundle’s voice floats above the seething morass, graceful and triumphant, an angel welcoming the apocalypse. –Tom
Mitski calls her new album Be The Cowboy a character study about “a very controlled icy repressed woman who is starting to unravel.” She elaborates, “Because women have so little power and showing emotion is seen as weakness, this ‘character’ clings to any amount of control she can get. Still, there is something very primordial in her that is trying to find a way to get out.” Based on those comments, it’s easy to speculate that Mitski herself is the icy, unraveling protagonist. Maybe, maybe not, but the hypothesis is certainly reinforced by the radical vulnerability of her lyrics for “Nobody,” words that course with aching, lived-in experience.
“Nobody” is a lounge-y disco gem that will inevitably result in communal bliss whenever Mitski plays it live — a neat trick for a song about longing for that sort of connection yet finding it hopelessly out of reach. “My god, I’m so lonely,” she begins, “so I open the window to hear sounds of people.” It’s a stunner of an opening line, striking in its frankness, and the rest of her lyrics maintain its standard of excellence. Her plea for “one good honest kiss” morphs into “one good movie kiss.” She alludes to the way our desire can destroy not just us but the world around us. She strives for even the most fleeting intimacy as a temporary balm.
The implied futility of it all is depressing, but Trojan-horsed amidst the desperation is a flicker of possibility. At a time when technology has allowed people to become more isolated than ever, when mental health has never seemed like more of a crisis, there’s real power in hearing the singer on an upbeat dance track admit, “And I don’t want your pity/ I just want somebody near me/ Guess I’m a coward/ I just want to feel alright.” Perhaps whenever someone hears this song and identifies with it, they will feel understood, and therefore less alone. –Chris
Some time ago, a friend from Toronto’s music circles was telling me about Dilly Dally’s forthcoming album Heaven, leading with the unlikely assertion that on this one “you can really hear their love of U2.” Now, “I Feel Free” is still too raw and anguished to sound quite like U2. And it isn’t as if Dilly Dally’s 2015 debut Sore was lacking for hooks: They basically sounded like long-lost ‘90s alt-rock greats from the start.
But “I Feel Free” is also something new for Dilly Dally, three years and a near-breakup removed from the first time they caught our attention. There is a soaring, anthemic quality on display here, albeit one that feels rooted in a moment of desperation. When Katie Monks growls the title in the chorus, it sounds defiant, as if she needs to prove it to herself as much as anyone listening. So maybe there is a bit of a U2 sensibility here, reaching for the sky to seek transcendence. But when Dilly Dally gets there, it’s something different — in “I Feel Free,” they sound like they’re trying to set the sky on fire. –Ryan
“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack/ In the concrete?” a Harlem native named Tupac Shakur once wrote. On “Rose In Harlem,” Teyana Taylor makes damn sure you’ve heard about that rose. After signing to Pharrell’s Star Trak imprint and introducing herself to the world via an episode of MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen way back in 2007, Taylor kept grinding, but she never really broke through to the mainstream.
A decade later, when she starred in Kanye West’s “Fade” music video, a lot of people probably had to google her. And when she sings about the obstacles she’s overcome on “Rose In Harlem,” she’s candid about her long path to success: “Oh no, what a shame/ 10 years in the game/ Niggas like, ‘You ain’t hot? You ain’t pop yet?/ What’s up with you and Ye?” What’s up with her and Ye is that together, they’ve crafted a perfect ode to resilience and a kiss-off to the haters, the grit in her rap-adjacent flow revealing the struggle behind the rose from that transcendent Stylistics sample. It’s finally bloomed, and it’s not going anywhere. –Peter