Greetings, fam! We skipped Five Best last week since it was a national holiday, but now we’re back in full force. Songs from the past two weeks were eligible for this list — see who made the cut below.
“Fucking money, man!” is a sentiment everyone can relate to — we crave it, we resent it, it sustains us, it destroys us — so it’s fitting that Rosalía turned her poppiest song ever into a sarcastic tribute to lavish wealth. For all its approachable major-key zest, though, “Milionária” is just as steeped in Rosalía’s cultural context as the futuristic flamenco of last year’s El Mal Querer. Maybe even more so, given that this one trades the history of Spain at large for a more localized focus on her native Barcelona.
The skittering syncopated rhythm driving “Milionária” originates from Rumba Catalana, a strain of Romani party music that has been a Barcelona mainstay since the 1960s. Other than the profane English outbursts that punctuate the track, its lyrics are all in Catalan, the region’s dominant language. You don’t have to understand this context to recognize “Milionária” is a bop, but the deeper I dig into Rosalía’s music, the more I appreciate her ability to defy the notion that effortlessly fun pop music must be shallow by default. –Chris
Up until now, every Bon Iver album has been a radical departure from what came before. But from the songs we’ve heard thus far, the forthcoming i, i seems like a gooey, ecstatic melting-pot combination of every previous album — For Emma, Forever Ago’s quiet expressionist desolation, Bon Iver, Bon Iver’s lush introversion, 22, A Million’s sputtering glitchery. And “Faith,” the best of the new songs, is also the most fully realized combination of those past phases. That can’t be a coincidence.
The bones of “Faith” are in blues-rock choogle, but Justin Vernon and his various collaborators — here, they include Jenn Wasner, Bryce Dessner, and Francis Starlite — have blown it out, piling the song with choral uplift and orchestral whoosh and expansive prog noodling and electronic frippery. It’s a towering construction, all in service of what amounts to a gospel song about having no gospel. Justin Vernon sings about seeing “no design,” about “not knowing the road I’d known as a child of God.” But he doesn’t sound lost. He sounds exultant. –Tom
Jenny Hval has infiltrated the dreamworld throughout her discography. In her songs, subconscious slippage produces thoughts at their most primal and unchecked. On “Ashes To Ashes,” a dream about a “beautifully written” burial ritual becomes an erotic meditation on the creative practice. The ideas presented in this song are not new for Hval, but their method of delivery certainly is. “Ashes To Ashes” might be Hval’s most accessible and least melodically skewed song to date; it’s a bit of dark synth-pop that is far more fun to dance to than dissect. Still, Hval finds ways to skirt convention by the close. “I am digging my own grave in the honeypot,” she sings over a heaving techno pulse. “Like ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” —Gabriela
Pharmakon’s forthcoming album Devour is built around the idea of self-cannibalism. Its lead single, “Self-Regulating System,” loops on a laborious pulse, eating itself to stay alive. Margaret Chardiet’s stifled screams grind into a fury of industrial noise. She sounds at odds with the clamoring beast until she becomes it, her humanity soaked in static and feedback. A grunting conveyor belt, a breathing machine. –Julia
The music video for “Paramour” is great. It’s a continuous fisheye-lens shot from the perspective of a Lego train set, zooming along its tracks as Anna Meredith and her band bash out the song alongside it. It’s a perfect visual encapsulation of her music: playful, propelled by a relentless forward momentum, a daring experimental concept rendered as fun and accessible as humanly possible.
“Paramour” charges out of the gate with strobing pinwheels of synthesizers, and it only picks up speed from there. Meredith approaches her music like a hyperactive kid playing with the Legos in the video — adding and discarding layers of electronics and instruments like modular toys, building it up into exultant Battles math-rock maximalism and stripping it back down. By the time its five-minute rollercoaster ride is over, you’ll be ready to get right back on. –Peter