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No polling place volunteer has said, “thank u, next,” which is a missed opportunity!
— bobby finger (@bobbyfinger) November 6, 2018
5. Envy – “Marginalized Thread”
As someone with only a glancing knowledge of Envy’s catalog, I remain eternally grateful to the Japanese blackgaze pioneers for inspiring so many other acts near and dear to my heart. All those people who said Deafheaven were cribbing liberally from this band were not wrong. Many others have grafted in generous portions of Envy’s musical DNA — the harsh blast beats, the even harsher vocals, the gorgeously grandiose guitar orchestration — and rather than be mad about it, I’m just glad the sound has spread so far and wide. They invented fire; others are carrying the torch. What’s not to love?
Still, it’s nice to go back to the source and hear the originators still soaring after all these years. “Marginalized Thread,” the back half of a new EP they dropped last Friday, is everything you’d hope a new Envy song would be: breathtakingly intense, spine-tinglingly cathartic, unbound from gravity yet constantly threatening to go down due to violent turbulence. It’s the auditory equivalent of a blaze of glory. –Chris
4. Ellis – “All This Time”
Ellis’ new EP The Fuzz was forged from a “metaphorical place” in the Hamilton-based musician’s mind, “that noise, like the fuzz on a TV screen when it’s not on a channel — it’s sort of this void…this place where you feel lost, or you just haven’t quite gotten your feet on the ground.” It’s an omnipresent rumble that she parses through with delicate cadence, soft and heavy.
“All This Time” finds Ellis in the thick of the storm. Sludgy guitars thunder, dissipating on the fringes of her words: “Do I scare you?” There’s a moment where she clears the sonic fog, her voice outlined in synth: “All this time I thought that you were trying to change me / You were trying to strip away the parts you knew were never me at all.” The clouds come back in as she repeats these lines, layered with fuzz, growing stronger with each utterance before losing shape and fading into the void. –Julia
3. Conor Oberst – “No One Changes”
Picture it: It’s a hundred years from now and Conor Oberst has managed to slipstream through time. He now spends his days as a grizzled lounge singer, taking the same stage night after night, sunglasses on, digging deep into a catalog of songs that have consistently documented humanity’s inability to change for the better.
Even though we’re only two decades into Oberst’s career, he’s always sounded eerily prescient. On his latest, “No One Changes,” he bemoans a lack of progress in a simple key. He fades in and out of character throughout the song, the smoke and mirrors of his narrator never quite taking shape. He’s someone that’s been beat down from the beginning, who’s “been hating myself since I was a little kid.” He’s seen the immutability of existence and no longer has the energy to be surprised at everyone else’s, at his own, capacity to stick to old habits. In an era where we’re hoping against hope that maybe the bad world we’ve created can get back on a better track, Oberst’s refrain is, sadly, probably closer to our reality: “No one ever changes/ No one ever does.” –James
2. Ariana Grande – “thank u, next”
Pete Davidson tried, he really did, but Ariana Grande won the breakup. After Davidson “proposed” to Maggie Rogers on SNL in an attempt to seem blasé and over it, Grande came back at him with a song that does the opposite. “thank u, next” is the perfect potion of petty and reverent dolled up as an R&B song right out of the ’90s. Grande shows appreciation for the men she’s loved all while pointing out that, in the end, they didn’t make the cut.
“Thank you/ Next/ Thank you/ Next,” the chorus goes. It’s cheeky and almost a little mean, but it does point to a truth that is often absent in pop music: The people we love shape our sense of self-worth in immeasurable ways. Instead of being angry, Grande is just so fuckin’ thankful for her ex. Fittingly, the accompanying lyric video looks like a cross between a ransom note and the Mean Girls Burn Book as if to remind Davidson that he is but a lowly comedian and Grande is the Woman Of The Year, lest he forget. –Gabriela
1. Vince Staples – “Don’t Get Chipped”
Vince Staples’ new project FM! works as radio-friendly, windows-down party rap. It works as a dark, unflinching portrait of life on the gang-filled streets of North Long Beach, where the threat of violence is always lurking around the corner and that party might well be interrupted by the sound of shots ringing out. And it works as a deconstruction of the way the latter is packaged into the former, tales of survival and death turning into bangers for white audiences to lose their shit to at Coachella.
“Everybody say it’s lonely at the top/ I want my homies at the top, my little homie he got shot/ And now I’m moving by my lonely with the .40 in the mop/ Finna pull up early morning and somebody getting dropped,” Staples raps on highlight “Don’t Get Chipped,” his sing-song flow riding over an eerie, earwormy synth squiggle from producer Kenny Beats. “Starting yelling out requests so I shot in the crowd, pow/ You a fan, I’m the man, it’s a difference.” Jay Rock shows up to sing the hook, repeating the song’s title as a gruff warning: “Don’t Get Chipped.” And you know what? Unlike the National Anthem, it still slaps. –Peter