The 10 Best Songs of the Week

The 10 Best Songs of the Week
This week certainly began with a downhearted stretch, as Grouper and Damien Rice released new songs that were a bit gloomy. Throw into the mix Vince Staple’s new cut about police brutality and you might start to get a bit depressed. But, through all the darkness, some songs did shine through. For instance, Chief Keef let us all know about his 24s and Sweater Beats enhanced Flume and Chet Faker’s “Drop the Game”. Regardless of the atmosphere, this week had a fantastic collection of new songs. Check out the list below and let us know where we went wrong in the comments.

10. “This Is Happening Now” – Parquet Courts

Parquet Courts are good music to listen to when you aren’t feeling like listening to music. Or doing anything else, really. Their often-lethargic lack of energy clouds and eschews the emotional moment for which many other retro rock bands strive. Nothing is ever happening. Their use of the classic “man with amplifier and questions” works for everyone who’s ever asked a question about why they were going through the motions of a dead end day. On their new split with Future Punks, the Brooklyn bummers sing of a wasteland where home used to be, how a space so meaningful can turn to dust right in a short amount of time. The song picks up at its halfway point, turning from meandering distress to impressionistic litany of the dilapidated city block. The strength of Parquet Courts here—as well as on much of Sunbathing Animal –is how the Andrew Savage makes the mundane into more than its shitty experience through his clever turn of phrase. He sings: “Dollar stores all smell a certain way/ like plastic half-life speeding toward decay.” I’m there. I don’t want to be, but I’m there. – Michael McDermit

9. “The Mile” - Cool Ghouls

While the Cool Ghouls are no doubt infinitely cool people, it's really the overwhelming sense of warmth in their music that transforms their songs into feel-good jams. The San Francisco-based band, a mainstay of the Bay Area scene, is dropping their second LP A Swirling Fire Burning Through the Rye in November (recorded by SF local Sonny Smith of Sonny & the Sunsets), and if the first single "The Mile" is any indication of the quality of the record, it's going to be quite the charmer. The 60s jangle rock aesthetic the the Byrds championed so well is a prevalent influence, and the Cool Ghouls boys take this sensibility in a fresh modern direction. A cymbal-tapping intro is soon joined by a jaunty bass groove and minimal guitar chords that play off each other throughout the song. Once the vocals come in, a reverb-heavy haze elevates the song to a blissful peak. The vocals are breezy but hard to understand, and the chorus brings in a couple other bandmates to lend their voices to some lush harmonies. The final product is sweet and full of heart, which is the perfect combination for a song sounding like this. – Hailey Simpson

8. “What You Need” (Jacques Greene ’11 Edit) - The Weeknd

The enigmatic Jacques Greene has gifted fans with a freebie of a 2011 remix he did for The Weeknd’s breakout tune “What You Need”. With a sample that basically speaks for itself, the edit admittedly does not do too much except add a vocal sample (“baby”), bass and stuttering garage percussions. Yet, an affinity seems to exists between Abel Tesfaye’s haunting voice and garage productions (as seen in Cypriot Vibez’s remix of the same song), and the remix still sends shivers down the spine despite being three years late. Jacques Greene’s transformations are more apparent towards the end, when tech bleeps and hi-hats lighten the step of The Weekend’s melancholia. – Justin Kwok

7. “Bitter Truth” (feat. Raekwon) - Cavalier

Well, this just makes sense. Early last year, Cavalier played Ghostface to Quelle Chris’ Raekwon on the latter’s Niggas is Men, the below-the-radar prelude to Ghost at the Finish Line. “Bitter Truth”, the single from Cav’s Chief, out this week, is head-nodding neo-Dilla, made for smoky porches and backpacks with guns in them. The Wu-Tang veteran is at his delightful weirdest (“As I sit around with more blow than Bill Bixby”), slipping in and out of Technicolor vignettes about girls he might have to kill passing out on his lawn. For his part, Cavalier is reliably energetic. His most impressive quality as a writer is a studied understanding of how and when to shift rhyme patterns: in the first verse, he raps “Codependent, codefendant, heroin, lean/Metal magazines will make you the top story/Without the glory or the allegory, shit is soft”. – Paul Thompson

6. “Almost Vince” – Lubec

A swell of damp basement piano opens “Almost Vince” by Portland’s Lubec, followed by a nice blend of cushy reverb and alternative knowhow centering us before the drain. Channeling remnants of The Lemonheads and My Bloody Valentine, this tender rocker is a blessing in disguise, ridden with open-ended harmonies, gripping guitar work and lyrical prowess reminiscent of long lost encounters and the unfortunate mishaps that follow. Lubec is a band that bounces well off the walls, forming the occasional bruise or bloody mark, but usually in the shape of something beautifully deceiving. The outro leaves the listener wanting just one more scab before bed time. – Christopher S. Bell

5. “The Devil is a Liar” - Kode9 & The Spaceape

There are few collaborations in bass music that match the stature and output quality of UK artists Kode9 and The Spaceape. Both giants in the field, the duo pioneered a dubbed-out leftfield soundscape that countless other producers and emcees have since followed. Their latest offering, “The Devil is a Liar”, off of The Killing Season EP due at the end of next month via Kode9’s Hyperdub label, features The Spaceape’s familiar mechanized drawl spitting prophetic poetry over a slowed-down dubstep beat. A pseudo-spiritual affect seems to be present in the track, most evident in the tribalism evoked by flute-synths and The Spaceape’s facepaint in the accompanying music video. Indeed, The Spaceape has been influenced by voodoo culture in the past, and this track suggests that these themes will be continued in The Killing Season EP. Thus, despite its namesake, the song is not righteous; instead, The Spaceape questions the nature of attributing your moral acts to angels and demons, when “the only demon and the only savior lives in the human heart.” – Justin Kwok

4. “24” (feat. ManeMane) - Chief Keef

Chief Keef is growing into himself. When you stumbled onto him two years ago, when he was a bona fide local star without a shred of national press, he was still getting in his own way. Back from the Dead, for all its brilliant menace, left you waiting for the hook. The verses were stilted, mumbled, clipped takes on the conventional rap format, disheartening qualifiers on songs that were otherwise undeniable. But as of late, the young Chicagoan—still with almost a full year left in his teens—has figured it out. “24” blurs the line between hook and verse, slurring and stretching syllables until they reach their maximum effect. If Bang 3 ever emerges from the ether, Keith Cozart might send the rap world scrambling—again.– Paul Thompson

3. "Drop the Game (Sweater Beats Remix)" - Flume & Chet Faker

Sweater Beats’ remix is a heady dose of electro crossed with Chet Faker’s distinctly raspy, titillating voice. The dizzy, funky twist on Faker’s track adds a considerable amount of flourish and mechanized vocals on top of the track’s looped beat. It loosens up the serious tone of the original and takes the song in a new direction while retaining key recognizable traits like the lyric, “I’ve been feelin’ old,/ I’ve been feelin’ co-o-old.” Sweater Beat’s, or Antonio Cuna, plays on soulful sounds and adds his own signature spin reworking it into what he dubs “future R&B”. The early favorites that brought him to EDM attention were Rihanna's "Cake" and Ciara's "I'm Out” circa 2013 and found his big break in Los Angeles when he played in the Boiler Room. - Shelby Tatomir

2. “tell me” – dd elle

Opening with regal horn effects cross-sectioned by ambient synthesizer and garnished with ribbed bass swells and wood block, “tell me” sounds like the latest Jai Paul emission—a song that’s travelled far and wide to reach us, and never quite does, just manifests as a mirage at arm’s length—only, whereas Paul forked left toward swagger, dd elle went right toward stoicism. “tell me” is the tenth release on Ryan Hemsworth’s “Secret Songs” SoundCloud page, which is apparently supposed to be a subversive way to release music (see page strikethroughs of label involvement, blog premieres, and A&Rs). The intimate vocals are twice reflected by seamless glo-notes so laryngeal they could pass for uncanny falsetto. dd elle feels recessed in the soundscape, as if he can’t find his way to the foreblips. Late analog guitar sweeps (accompanied by the ribbed bass from the beginning), tom pops, and tinkles of piano conspire to affect an analog climax, but an anachronistic maneuver back to the opening horns and a reverse reverbed stretch of stretch, reveals “tell me” is in eternal return, a sonic ouroboros. – Lawrence Lenhart

1. “Hands Up” - Vince Staples

By the end of this month, Vince Staples will be your favorite rapper. His upcoming Def Jam debut, Hell Can Wait, is bound to be one of the meanest, smartest, most vital records out of Los Angeles in a decidedly left coast-leaning year. “Blue Suede” was a bone-rattling existential party song; “Hands Up” is an intoxicating “Fuck the Police” for Staples and his fellow millennials. As if choked by the L.A. smog, “Hands Up” is busy and atmospheric. With a few strokes of the pen, it could be a straightforward street rap song, the kind Staples can fire off before breakfast. Instead, he invokes the names of slain men of color from Los Angeles and puts various police departments on notice. Because fuck them, you know why. – Paul Thompson

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