Top 10 Songs of the Week (2/21)

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In the music world, transformation is frequently a difficult concept to understand. Fans want to hold on to a specific conception of an artist or song that reflects a special time in their lives, and when artists go beyond that, it can be life-chanigng, for good or bad. Thankfully, our roster of songs this week exemplifies risk-taking at its finest, whether its a rapper honing in on more conservative introspection or synth collective taking on creepier landscapes. This week, rediscover your perspective on change and break out of your comfort zone.

10. Illustrations – “Take My Body Away”

illustrations art

Austin band Illustrations are self-releasing their debut LP, In Vain, on Tuesday, but in an untimely development, some of their equipment (including an entire drum set) was stolen at a show in San Antonio earlier this week. Hopefully it’s found and returned, because Illustrations are that rare band that can deftly operate in the grey area between punk and metal, and you know, having a drum kit helps. On album cut, “Take My Body Away”, the rhythm section evokes the heaviness of Entombed, while the vocalist takes on a more affected metalcore howl. In Vain is available for pre-order (on limited clear vinyl) via the band’s website, and all leads on the missing equipment can be posted on their Facebook–Jon Hadusek

9. Chelsea Wolfe and King Dude – “Be Free”

Chelsea Wolfe - King Dude

Los Angeles-via-Sacramento songwriter Chelsea Wolfe and Seattle’s King Dude (T.J. Cowgill) are a match made in whatever Leonard Cohen’s vision of heaven is. Both are adept at shouldering existential weight, the former with her falling-angel tone and the latter making you wonder if there was some accident at birth that caused his mouth and voice box to end up in his stomach. “Be Free” is a wintry strummer with drums that clop like the hooves of decidedly un-wild horses. The quarrel between the two narrators reads like a once-a-week deal, but the way it plays out magnifies the deadening tension of the prior few days. Theoretically speaking (IRL, Wolfe and Cowgill are surely just friends!) the night will probably end with a round of vaguely mirthful makeup, uh, hugging. –Michael Madden


8. Real Estate – “Crime”

Real Estate band - 2014

“Crime” is the latest single from Real Estate’s forthcoming LP, Atlas (out March 4th via Domino), and touts some serious fretwork. Just watch the accompanying music video, in which guitarists Martin Courtney and Matt Mondanile tab out the whole thing in realtime. Intricate melodies intermingle and jangle in unison while the song drifts by with the same nostalgic, springtime melancholy that made Days such a striking record. –Jon Hadusek

7. Tycho – “Spectre”

Tycho

On Tycho’Dive, many songs teased the gorgeous guitar textures lingering in the background. As made evident by “Spectre”, the producer has taken those strengths to heart and built a new rock-centered arena. His down-tempo demeanor inspires its subtle introduction of bass drum kicks and conversational guitar lines, but the climax breaks when an acoustic drum kit takes over with snaps of explosive percussion. A more pumped-up Tycho should be expected on his upcoming LP, Awake, due March 18th via Ghostly International. –-Sam Willett

6. Mayhem – “Psywar”

Mayhemlogo

Norwegian black metal tyrants Mayhem have announced that they will release their fifth studio album with single “Psywar” — their first new song in seven years. With ferocious blast beats and raw guitars, the track maintains the extreme nature of Mayhem’s past work; however, vocalist Attila Csihar’s lyrics are much more socio-political, albeit still dreadfully nihilistic, as compared to the Satanic subject matter most associated with the band. Coming out during a week of civil and social unrest in numerous countries around the world, “Psywar” is poignant and relevant — rare traits distinctions in contemporary black metal. –Jon Hadusek

5. Low Pros feat. Travi$ Scott – “100 Bottles”

low pros 100 bottles Top 10 Songs of the Week (2/21)

The success of “100 Bottles” — that’s the success of the song itself, not the success that yielded said bottles, if there was a legitimate reason for the 70-proof tsunami in the first place — can be attributed evenly to the three guys behind it. You have Quebec’s A-Trak and Norfolk’s Lex Luger, who form the rave-rap production duo Low Pros, plus Houston rapper-producer Travis $cott, undoubtedly the Bartholomew of all the Yeezus disciples. Scott handles the hook here, his chandelier-dancehall sensibility giving the thing its (by now familiar) exoticism. A-Trak’s expert crowd-gauging, honed as a world-touring DJ and cofounder of Fool’s Gold Records, lends the song its toothy populism, while Luger’s trap rap pedigree is heard in the way the horns burst forth. It’s a song to keep in rotation while awaiting TNGHT’s next move — then again, Low Pros are only two songs deep, so they haven’t yet had the chance to conquer the club circuit as that duo threatened to do a couple years back. –Michael Madden

4. Vince Staples feat. James Fauntleroy – “Nate”

Vince-Staples-and-James-Fauntleroy-x-Nate

Sometimes this version of Vince Staples is a nice alternative. A couple months after dropping Stolen Youth, his mixtape produced by Larry Fisherman (a.k.a. Mac Miller), the Long Beach rapper showed up on Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris flexing harder than ever, his verses conversational but intensely heated. “Nate”, which will be on Vince’s upcoming Shyne Coldchain II, is relatively conservative, laced with time capsule imagery and set to a long Cali drive. Scoop DeVille provided the beat, giving classic East Coast boom-bap the Blu-ray treatment. Bonus points for the continuity: Vinny brags about whipping a Cadillac as he’s rapping over a track from a producer named after a Caddy classic. –Michael Madden

3. Hundred Waters – “Down From the Rafters”

SpaceProject

Considering that Hundred Waters is featured on Skrillex’s record label, it’s baffling to think how their calm intimacy fits in with blaring, sharp dubstep artists. The best part is that they don’t have have to. Hundred Waters lurks with sparse instrumentation and whispering vocals, the creepy, intimidating tones daring you to dance. “Down From the Rafters” twists folk vocal lines into electronic landscapes that continuously uncovers darkness and beauty in all of the right places. — Sam Willett

2. Modern Rivals – “Pins and Stitches”

Modern Rivals

Getting older never feels right. The past gradually fades from memory, and our faces show all that we’ve been through, age rippling out in wrinkles. Modern Rivals know that we’re gradually dying, but that’s not going to hold them back from discovering new joys. “Pins and Stitches” is their optimistic anthem, vocalist Erik Lee pulling off Panda Bear-like vocals, the band building a foundation of Beach House guitar patterns and glimmering synth steps. Modern Rivals’ upcoming LP, Cemetery Dares, is due April 22nd.— Sam Willett

1. The Afghan Whigs – “Algiers”

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Like Mayhem, The Afghan Whigs are also back with their first song in seven years, “Algiers” — a twangy ambler and a strong return for the veteran rockers. Frontman Greg Dulli has a little more gravel in his voice, but he still carries the music with his emotive delivery and lyrics of betrayal and redemption. The band’s first full-length album in 16 years, Do to the Beast, drops April 15th via Sub Pop.–Jon Hadusek

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