Picking the best songs of the week is an inexact science. I mean, obviously we’re always 100% objectively correct, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some behind-the-scenes debate about what makes the cut and what doesn’t.
For example: This week, we revisited our policy on whether individual tracks from an album that came out last week deserve consideration on the list. We’ve gone both ways in the past, and we’ll probably still play it fast and loose in the future, but in case you’re wondering about where the heck Ariana Grande and Mitski are, you can refer to our Premature Evaluation and Album Of The Week reviews for our thoughts on that.
We as a staff love a lot of different tracks from both of those albums, but we also love to highlight music that we haven’t gotten a chance to go as in-depth on yet, so here are the five best songs of the week below…
5. Shannen Moser – “Haircut Song”
The way Shannen Moser throws her voice around on “Haircut Song” mimics centuries of folk singers from around the world. She imbues those melodies with a twang that could only be American. And she approaches her songcraft from a distinctly modern, metropolitan perspective. (She is based in Philadelphia, after all.) Moser’s album is called I’ll Sing, which is fitting because the dynamic texture of her vocals is the first thing that grabbed me about this track. But don’t sleep on her lyrics, which interrogate the passion and anxiety of loving someone so bad it hurts. Against a steady acoustic loop, she rolls out detail-rich scenes with a raw messiness worthy of her subject matter. “None of this is so poetic,” she sings, “but sometimes pain is not poetic.” Fair enough, but I always preferred prose anyway, and “Haircut Song” packs a novel into under three minutes. –Chris
4. Sir Babygirl – “Heels”
Sometimes an artist comes out of nowhere and just bowls you over. “Heels” is Kelsie Hogue’s first official single as Sir Babygirl, and it’s the sort of infectious, evocative introduction that makes you take notice of a new voice immediately. Hogue wrote the song based on her first forays into the queer dating scene, and as a result it’s a composition that traces beginnings and endings, frustrations and exuberance, in equal measure.
Almost the entirety of “Heels” plays out in a moment that’s open to interpretation. That beat in the beginning is propulsive, but subdued — like the throbbing reverberations echoing from within a club as you approach, or as you flee. Throughout the minor mutations of “Heels,” that’s the feeling Hogue captures, a feeling that’s also pretty universal to dating in general. The half-starts, the flickers of hope that can get so abruptly extinguished, the exhilaration of meeting someone you actually feel linked to. That beat, and the slight way it modulates through the song, almost sounds like a heartbeat reacting to all those emotions and twists, flinging itself between extremes.
And as Hogue’s vocal intensifies above it, you could read it as a person throwing their hands in the air, fed up. But the tone of it doesn’t translate that way. If Hogue is saying goodbye to someone or something in the climax of “Heels,” she’s doing it with the nervous overflowing energy, the joy, of considering what new possibilities await on another night, on the horizon. –Ryan
3. Hermit And The Recluse – “Sirens”
Ka, the 46-year-old Brooklyn rapper who spends most of his time working as a firefighter, recorded his latest album under the name the Hermit And The Recluse. This makes sense. Despite his past in ’90s New York rap, Ka is a solitary figure, almost hermetically sealed off from any current rap scenes or circles. His music reflects this — arcane muttering over dusty, minimal, self-produced instrumentals that could hardly even be called “beats.” On Orpheus Vs. The Sirens, though, Ka isn’t actually alone. The “Recluse” part of the Hermit And The Recluse equation is Animoss, the Los Angeles producer who works with people like Roc Marciano. He adds some richness and texture to Ka’s sonic world — there are even some tracks with drums! — but for the most part, he’s content to meet Ka on his wavelength and let him do his thing.
That thing, on Orpheus Vs. The Sirens, is remembering his hardscrabble youth on the streets of Brownsville through the lens of Greek mythology. The album’s leadoff track, mission statement, and pseudo-title track, “Sirens,” begins with a sample from the 2000 made-for-TV movie Jason And The Argonauts and goes on to reference harpies, Cerberus, the Furies, the Hydra, the Chimera, the Sphinx, the Minotaur, the Cyclops, and Medusa. Ka uses those references to explore grand ideas about fate, tragedy and triumph, the weight of history, and the infinite, imbuing his own past with an epic scope. But more than anything, the pleasure of listening to Ka is in giving yourself completely over to his dark, insular world, letting the language and the atmosphere take over yours for a little while. This is one siren song that shouldn’t be ignored. –Peter
2. Empress Of – “When I’m With Him”
Lorely Rodriguez crafts dance floor meditations as Empress Of. Her words beg motion. Candid streams-of-consciousness hit your ears, bones, and brain all at once. On “When I’m With Him,” her latest single, she leads by example, escaping her mind by digging in and dancing through it. She feels stuck in a relationship— paralyzed by indecision, cycling through familiar anxieties. But for these three minutes, she lets the thoughts flow. Contradictions melt into glowing synth and her falsetto shoots them into the sky. Rodriguez has relinquished control to the cosmos, “going back and forth like branches in the breeze.” –Julia
1. Boygenius – “Me & My Dog”
Supergroups are a novelty act. Whether the music turns out well or is a pile of trash, people are going to want to hear renowned musicians get together to make something that combines their disparate talents. Sometimes those sessions produce magic, other times they prove that there can be too many cooks in the kitchen. But Boygenius is the kind of supergroup that stands on its own. If I didn’t know who Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus were, “Me & My Dog” would still be #1 this week.
Bridgers, Baker, and Dacus have a lot in common. All three are young women who recently broke out and are signed to highly regarded indie mainstay labels. They all deal in their own versions of Americana, making folk-influenced, emotive rock that speaks to people of all ages. They are, for lack of a better cliché, “old souls,” songwriters that tap into their darkest thought patterns seeking a spark.
“Me & My Dog” is a time-lapse. It opens with the giddy beginning of a relationship and ends with the narrator (in this case, Bridgers) anxious and alone, trying to find a way to escape her circumstances. There are, of course, an insurmountable number of tragedies a person might face in their life but heartbreak is one of the most devastating. It lingers, it can absolutely wreck your world for a long, long time. That’s the feeling that Boygenius try to honor on “Me & My Dog,” the fear that you’ll never feel that same high again, that you won’t find anyone else that compares. “I wanna hear one song without thinking of you/ I wish I was on a spaceship/ Just me and my dog and an impossible view,” Bridgers, Baker, and Dacus harmonize at the end, and together they sound massive.
That one little verse distills a very specific sensation, the one you get when you’re pulled out of a depressive rut for an instant. Maybe you’re on a plane watching rows and rows of suburban tract homes pass by, or staring up a starry night sky, or looking out on a horizon, or driving down a highway going someplace new. Those moments serve as a reminder that world is so much bigger than you, than whoever it is you just broke it off with. Those moments are tiny morsels of hope. –Gabriela