Last night was Stereogum’s third annual Christmas party. Were you there? We were! Up late. Here’s the best songs of the week.
I have pretty strict seasonal listening habits. Certain sounds or styles just make more sense in certain weather or times of year. It is entirely subjective and not something I have totally logical reasoning behind. Rap is almost always summer music for me, but every now and then an outlier comes along and upends it. Czarface and Ghostface’s “Iron Claw” is one of those unique situations. Currently, it’s very cold in New York and my street has turned into this hellish wind tunnel situation full of horror movie howls. And “Iron Claw” sounds perfect in those circumstances. Between its brittle graveyard lurch, eerie synths and vocal samples, and each MC’s icy precision, there’s a haunting intensity to “Iron Claw” that sounds just like the freezing, deadened surroundings of December in New York. Both relatedly and tangentially, hearing a veteran like Ghostface do his thing is the exact kind of comfort food you want around the holidays. –Ryan
Much like love, you can’t hurry a Jessica Pratt song. They unfold at their own pace, according to their own idiosyncratic rhythms, but they always arrive at unparalleled beauty. Although Quiet Signs is the folk singer-songwriter’s third studio album, it’s the first to be recorded entirely in an actual professional studio, with her minimalist guitar parts augmented by simultaneously lush and barely-there chamber-pop arrangements. As “Poly Blue” and its dreamy, inchoate bossa nova lilt proceeds, Pratt’s hazy strums are joined by languid piano chords, soft flutters of flute, even a lightly pinging synthesizer. It’s like one long, graceful, exceedingly lovely and contented sigh, melting into the air and leaving it just a little warmer. –Peter
If the 1975’s A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships was a startup, Matty Healy’s pitch might be something like, “We want to make the OK Computer for millennials.” It’s an ambitious album in sound and concept, parsing through modern life behind the confines of a computer screen, fusing genres from trip-hop to acoustic pop. The final track, “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes),” is an apocalyptic kumabaya, the song we’ll all join in a circle to sing while we watch the world go up in flames. “There’s no point in buying concrete shoes / I’ll refuse,” Healy sings over weeping strings. “If you can’t survive, just try.” –Julia
Deerhunter are true fuckin’ freaks. “Element,” the hypnotic second single from Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?, is grounded by loping guitars and a rattlesnake shake. It plays with the dual meaning of elemental: in the fire, wind, and water sense and in the larger-than-life way of something inside that’s primal and inescapable. “It’s elemental how I move,” Bradford Cox drawls with swagger in the song’s last lines. And earlier: “Comes a time/ Reborn until you die/ Lay these plans out on the paper.” It’s a song about being swept up by something much bigger than yourself and being unable to stop it or plan for it, but they approach the end with a mawkish grin. –James
Tired: “Oh say, can you see?” Wired: “Say, Can You Hear.” Apologies for shoehorning a stale meme and an even staler national anthem into a discussion of such a fresh song, but Men I Trust are inviting the Francis Scott Key comparison with that title.
Based on that bass line, the Montreal trio has certainly studied up on their post-punk and new wave history. The low end lends a pulsing, bouncing, subtly vibrant undercurrent to an otherwise atmospheric palette of sounds. Dreamy keyboards and drowsy vocals ensure “Say, Can You Hear” feels like a New Order classic gliding straight out of the ’80s and into liminal space. For a critique of self-absorption, the song is all too easy to get lost in. –Chris