New Robyn! New Boygenius! New Nicole Dollanganger! New Miya Folick! New Thom Yorke! The world is scary and strange but at least we’ve got some new tunes to put on while we hang in there. Have a great weekend and dive into the five best songs of the week below.
5. Toro Y Moi – “Freelance”
The back-to-nature song is a classic trope. People get so caught up in the stresses of present-day living that they just want to disappear into the woods and just let themselves breathe for a minute. That’s a common impulse, and it’s also a common reason to write a song. Usually, songs like that are done on acoustic guitars, in yarly voices. But Chaz Bear doesn’t do things the usual way.
For one thing, “Freelance,” Bear’s new Toro Y Moi single, is the most straightforwardly disco thing he’s done in a long time. It’s a crisp, genuinely funky dancefloor bump, and it’s sleek and propulsive rather than rustic and elliptical. And when Bear sings about walking in the woods, he does it by describing what he’s wearing — Patagonia, camo, sandals — rather than whatever enlightenment he’s finding. It’s a profoundly millennial song, confused and jangled: “Mystic staring at his phone for oneness / Silver or black mirror, what’s the difference?” He keeps talking in money terms. And when it’s over, he wonders, “What just happened?” Same. Good song, though. –Tom
4. Thom Yorke – “Unmade”
“Just bear in mind it’s a soundtrack for a horror film, not a studio album.” When I cracked open the Suspiria soundtrack, those words from Thom Yorke’s publicist proved so true that a conventional album review seemed out of the question. There’s just too much spacious nothingness to experience most of the record as anything but a movie score. That said, the soundtrack does have some proper Thom Yorke songs on it, and if he were to corral them into an EP or “mini-album” or whatever, it would compete with The Eraser as his best solo work.
“Unmade” is a major contributor to that excellence. Like the awe-inspiring “Suspirium,” its key ingredients are Yorke’s singular voice and a piano. But the prior song’s neoclassical stateliness gives way to a gracefully swooping classic pop feel, Yorke’s right hand plinking its way through a wistful melody as his left drifts through plaintive chord progressions. “Come under my wings,” he beckons, believably promising that it’s safe to draw near.
Eerie choral vocals and keyboard drones spring up intermittently in the background to reinforce the song’s dark, supernatural context, and Yorke is no one’s idea of a Randy Newman or Harry Nilsson disciple. Yet I like to imagine “Unmade” as a heavily produced 1970s ballad that somehow passed out of this world and became a ghost. It will haunt you, but tenderly so. –Chris
3. Jessica Pratt – “This Time Around”
Some musicians talk about the fact that they don’t exactly sit down to write — things just come to them. When Jessica Pratt releases a song like “This Time Around,” you have to imagine that’s how it works for her. Built on a small circle of a guitar part and Pratt’s distinctive vocals, it sounds like the wind passing through trees on a hazy afternoon, like Pratt managed to corral the elements themselves for just a couple minutes.
It’s fitting that the song sounds like something beyond daily life, because Pratt has always sounded that way. Her voice, of course, is very much older than her — she sounds as if she’s lived dozens of lives and you can hear the ghosts of each one in every note she sings. And yet, it isn’t haunting. She is drawing on the sounds and wisdom of the past alike on “This Time Around,” emerging with a song that embodies a deep sense of peacefulness. –Ryan
2. Beach House – “Alien”
Beach House have always had more than a little shoegaze in the DNA of their gauzy, guitar-swirling dream-pop. But on “Alien,” a B-side from the same sessions that produced their recent album 7, they go full shoegaze.
7 is a tightly sequenced album, and maybe the band thought that “Alien,” with its old-school My Bloody Valentine distortion and its driving Krautrock momentum, didn’t quite fit. But the song’s status as an outtake should in no way be seen as a referendum on its quality — because it’s really, stupidly good, an all-encompassing flood of melody and noise that lets Beach House show off their skills as an honest-to-god rock band.
“Sorry, sometimes I get carried away,” Victoria Legrand sings on the chorus, a searing guitar arpeggio mirroring her vocals. If this is what it sounds like, then maybe Beach House should get carried away more often. –Peter
1. Cardi B – “Money”
Cardi B really likes listing off the things that she likes. Her Invasion Of Privacy hit “I Like It” checks off “texts from [her] exes” and “those Balenciagas, the ones that look like socks” and “going to the jeweler.” On her latest single, “Money,” she’s more into “boarding jets and morning sex,” her daughter, and of course, money.
The former track found the New York rap superstar in the midst of her rapid rise, flaunting her newfound luxury with playful nonchalance. Now, she has the power, she knows that she deserves it, and she’ll fight you if you try to come for it (*cough* Nicki Minaj). If I’m reading these lyrics correctly, Cardi B will straight up shoot your dad and request extra leg room on a flight. Menacing piano keys and throbbing bass add fire to her flex, as if she needed it. –Julia