The 10 Best Songs of the Week

The 10 Best Songs of the Week
This entire list seems a bit like a lost cause with Thom Yorke dropping a new album out of nowhere. That being said, we must persevere and move on (Yorke will be eligible for next week). This week it was all about the relative unknowns. Rather than pick the low-hanging fruit with fantastic new songs from Kendrick Lamar and Weezer, our list was filled with substantially more artists still trying to make a name for themselves and define their sound. Regardless of their respective prowess, each of these songs is incredible in its own right.

10. "Chasing Time" - Azealia Banks



It's somewhat ironic that Azealia Banks channels 90's house on her latest single, seeing as she's an artist whose temperament might've been better suited to the decade when artists didn't have a platform as immediate as Twitter to express their various frustrations. But as with past hits like "212" and "Liquorice Bitch", the excellent "Chasing Time" supersedes the behind-the-scenes pettiness for at least the duration of it's runtime, fluidly mixing radio-ready throwback electronica hooks with Missy Elliot-style R&B-flavored raps for a solidly enjoyable listen. It's easy to get caught up in blog-fodder B.S., but it's just as easy to get caught up in the smoothness of this track and forget all the stuff on the sidelines. - Jack Spencer


9. On the Back of a Golden Dolphin (Artifakts Bootleg) - Blockhead



Powerful, extraterrestrial commotion bustles in the background as an electronic keyboard holds a few eerie, introductory chords. The song sends chills down your spine with its intangible likeness to Pretty Lights, prior to Vincent-Smith’s inclusion of the live band. The funk-ified, jazzy electro soul track relies on a down beat borrowed from the baseline of the hip-hop world. The Artifakts bootleg on Blockhead’s “On the Back of a Golden Dolphin” minimizes the haunting vocals of the original, which are something along the lines of, “May you never take a journey by yourself.” The original conjures visions of a perilous police chase in a gritty 1940’s film noir. Artifakts's removal of cowbells erases the aimless tropical vibe, and he reworks the initially flustered middle, creating a more succinct, enchanting jam. The Artifakts team, Garret Meyer & William Thompson, found each other via Soundcloud and recognized the collaborative potential of their combined talents, which have since been proven fruitful. - Shelby Tatomir


8. “Dutty Lead 4 Dread” - Commodo



War a gwan, and no soundboy is safe. Between shots fired by the likes of Sully, Epoch, Gantz, Kahn and Om Unit (to name just a few), UK dubstep producer Commodo arranged a “little welcome home present” for Deep Medi boss Mala. Though heavier shells have no doubt been dropped over the past few days, “Dutty Lead 4 Dread” keeps it classy—even showing some mercy by offering Mala one last chance “to confess” and “give yourself some peace” before lacerating his eardrums. In all seriousness, the war dub’s use of violent, impending-doom motifs is actually quite poetic: “The Imperial March” intro, for instance, is made from disfiguring the vocals in Mala’s “Changes”, as if Commodo’s army banners are strewn with the mutilated corpses of his enemies. Then there’s the actual massacre, where high-octane jungle percussions rattle endlessly like gunfire, ensuring that no man is left standing when the smoke clears. However, though the dub ends with a taunt (“nobody likes the records that you play”), it is Commodo who better watch his back now; I, for one, am anxiously waiting for the return send. - Justin Kwok


7. "White Noise" - The Hand in the Ocean



Finger-picked freshets of banjo and guitar coalesce to form a lucent pool vocalist Nate Tapling etches with lines of tremulous grace. A fluttering plea arced to listless gods amid a spring rain swollen with bloom—"White Noise" is desperate but measured, an open wound salved with honey and pestled lavender. The Hand in the Ocean has the chops to match their intrepid, post-folk vision; not since Yeasayer's debut "All Hour Cymbals" has a group crafted soundscapes this intricate and original with so little in the way of instrumentation. "White Noise" is a premium cut by the best band from Detroit you've never heard of. - Benjamin Evans


6. "Life Jacket" (feat. Suga Free & Dom Kennedy) - DJ Quik



New DJ Quik music is always a blessing, and the smooth, playalistic "Life Jacket" is a breath of fresh air among a deluge of cookie-cutter trap and lowered-bar hip-hop songwriting. Quik's beat mixes funk guitar, airy synth, and an ear-catching sung hook with raps from longtime collaborator Suga Free, and the perpetually laid-back Dom Kennedy, and himself to great effect, crafting a throwback single that manages to avoid the pitfalls many old heads find themselves repeating. Between this and last week's released single "That Getter", Quik's upcoming album Midnight Life sounds like more of the man doing what he does best, which would be a disparaging comment about anyone else. What Quik does best is remain classic, current, and forward-thinking simultaneously, with a slickness that makes it look easy. - Jack Spencer


5. "Better Plane" - J Mascis



The record’s ultimate track is perhaps the finest. It’s as if Mascis was listening to Harvest while writing this. The vocal performance is perfected, as that tricky transition from mid-range creak to falsetto rings brilliantly in harmony. Mascis finds a NeilYoung-ian balance in making a weird voice sound great. Every melody is perfect; every layer leavens the song. Listen for that eight-note counter-melody Mascis plays on the acoustic’s lower strings at 2:38, or the intentionally simplistic electric lead that occupies so much space in the song’s final half. “Better Plane” is a mosaic without a single piece missing. It’s not to say that J Mascis sounds like Neil Young, mind you; this is unquestionably a work his own. - Ethan Milner


4. "Dying to be Dead" - Mike Flores



Saginaw, Michigan songsmith and recovered heroin addict Mike Flores lays it all on the table in this bare-bones gem chronicling his lowest point as a user. In a whispery voice riddled with ghosts, Flores melds the hardboiled realism of Johnny Cash with the numbed detachment of Elliot Smith to produce a sound wholly his own. The shame that seems to pervade "Dying to be Dead" is both unsettling and captivating, conjuring images of unsheathed mattresses, decrepit houses, and broken dreams. Flores' portrait of addiction is never redeemed by revelation or knowledge hard won. We are shown oblivion and nothing more. It is enough. - Benjamin Evans


3. "Lost Prophet Report" - Ka



Released as part of the Adult Swim Single Series, Ka's "Lost Prophet Report" is a nice summation of his dark, plodding approach to survivalist rap. His quiet, internal rhyme-heavy philosophical bars hit the same down-tempo tone and heavy, world-weary subject matter that infused last year's superb The Knight's Gambit, with a cavernous, snareless beat that marries drudging bass with a high-pitched but joyless synth line. "Don't need nothin', just percussion and a gem-drop" he raps at one point, highlighting his basic aesthetic concept: beats stripped to nearly nothing, raps nothing but powerful jewels in intricately-crafted rhyme patterns. - Jack Spencer


2. "Disorderly" - Baths



Will Wiesenfeld's artful brand of electronic music has always managed to feel smoothly crafted yet effortlessly captivating. As Baths, Wiesenfeld's latest single "Disorderly," which will appear on the upcoming Friends of Friends-curated compilation "What's Good LA?," combines the best features of his two studio records to date. Tight beats skitter over the tranquil surface of atmospheric noise and piano riffs, making a product that prides itself on subtle textures. Wiesenfeld's anxious vocals contrast the comparatively uniform track underneath, which puts his lovelorn lyrics in a spotlight of vulnerability. Such a focus on intricate detail makes this track feel positively intoxicating. - Hailey Simpson


1. “On the Back of a Golden Dolphin” - Blockhead



The second track off of trip-hop producer Blockhead’s forthcoming Bells and Whistles LP, “On the Back of a Golden Dolphin” sounds nothing like its namesake (at least, from what I know of golden dolphins) but is a welcome return to the messy, psychedelic sound galleries that have characterized his previous solo efforts. In particular, the tune layers cult-ish chanting, raw guitar-distortion and soft leads on top of off-kilter hip-hop beats. Yet, Blockhead’s style is such that one does not really concentrate on any single one of these elements; instead, his samples often seem to come from the same bizarre scenery, and he merely alternates and blends between them to create some trippy progression through this world. Somewhat of a slow burner (though many of Blockhead’s tracks might be characterized this way), “On the Back of a Golden Dolphin” promises more eclectic soundscapes to come from this instrumental hip-hop veteran. - Justin Kwok



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