The week in headlines: We Met Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson Is Available In Dildo Form, Courtney Love Def Watches Riverdale, and the Good, The Bad And The Queen Are Reuniting. Check out the five best songs of the week.
5. Open Mike Eagle – “Every Single Thing”
Open Mike Eagle is funny, and he’s funny in that fast-moving and reference-drunk way that so many of us internet denizens appreciate. Consider the moment on “Every Single Thing” where he leaps from a New York indie-wrestling mecca to the “U Can’t Touch This” intro in one simple step: “I’m coming off the top at the Hammerstein / I won’t even stop when it’s Hammer Time!”
But OME uses that comic timing for powerful ends. On “Every Single Thing,” he’s working these jokes into a larger point about the queasy, terrifying state of 2018 life, especially 2018 black life: “Everybody here stressed, can’t understate / Everybody that I know got a stomachache / And can’t tell the undead from the unawake / You can’t impeach, at least give us summer breaks.” “Every Single Thing” is a punchline avalanche, a virtuosic workout, and an incisive political statement: “You should be on the floor crying / How is both sides? We ain’t both dying.” –Tom
4. Jamila Woods – “Giovanni”
The Giovanni in Jamila Woods’ “Giovanni” is Nikki Giovanni, the acclaimed black poet, activist, and educator whose 1972 poem “Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why)” provides a template and the hook for Woods’ song. Like “Ego Tripping” before it, “Giovanni” is both a self-empowering flex and a celebration of the long lineage of black womanhood: “My ancestors watch me/ Fairytale walking,” Woods sings. “Black Goldilocks, yeah/ My naps just right.” The crisp drumbeat and rippling synth groove will get your feet moving, but the real star is Woods herself, the precise diction of her voice dripping casual confidence and poise. After putting out one of the best albums of 2016 in HEAVN — and one of best songs of the week with “Giovanni” — she’s earned it. –Peter
3. Tiny Ruins – “Olympic Girls”
With its fervent fingerpicking and weary, lilting melody, “Olympic Girls” feels like an old(e) English folk song, like something Fairport Convention or Nick Drake might have plucked from the archives of the ancients. But Hollie Fullbrook is alive in 2018, and she breathes her own spirit into this timeless style, even as she’s touching on equally timeless themes.
Fullbrook hails from New Zealand, half a world away from my home in Ohio. Her lyrics on “Olympic Girls” are a reminder of the commonalities between us and every human in between, the predicament and potential we share. “Weren’t we born to break out/ To feel the muddy bank swell?” she sings. “We were only inches away/ Still have a long, long way to go.” It’s an expression of that familiar frustration that arises when we come up against our limitations, one that feels hopeful yet weighed down by experience. In the comfort of this music’s graceful sway, Tiny Ruins’ tempered optimism feels realistic. –Chris
2. Empress Of – “I Don’t Even Smoke Weed”
Us is populated with love songs of all stripes. There’s head-over-heels romance and early infatuation jitters and ones dedicated to a supportive and enveloping community. And there’s songs that occupy an awkward middle ground, like “When I’m With You,” filled with obsessions that feel right in the moment but might turn out bad in the long run.
There’s hints of that in the swirls of “I Don’t Even Smoke Weed.” “I’m in the palm of your hand/ Eating out the palm of your hand,” Lorely Rodriguez sings, a sentiment that sounds sweet but turns kind of sour the more you dwell on it. It’s ostensibly about finding that special someone who you’re entirely comfortable around, comfortable enough to allow yourself to fuck up sometimes and let go completely. But Empress Of tempers that with a filter, even in a song about letting that filter fall away. Her love songs are more realistic that way — reflecting on how great it feels in the moment while anticipating its potential absence. –James
1. Julia Holter – “Words I Heard”
“Words I Heard” sounds almost Björkian. Strings vibrate and whine with Julia Holter’s fragmented cries. Words are secondary in the thick sonic atmosphere, but one phrase sticks out: “Save our souls.”
The rest of the lyrics read like medieval nonsense — “Fortune throwing candy slow like a death crawl / Face me gliding like a serpent and smile / Hear the hocket babble” — but sound like earthly incantations when laced into Holter’s yelping chant. Violins tangle and tighten. The song references Dante’s Inferno’s concept of “the City of Man,” a radical, hopeless version of the world: “Ancient king deflecting blame / I love you in the City of Man.” Holter mourns the tragedies of our time, but her voice remains hopeful. –Julia