Top 10 Songs of the Week (2/20)

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This week, we learned about a 16-year-old boy in Detroit who has been running his own record label for the past two years. So, we figured, if a teenager can comb through the myriad artists on the internet and pick out the ones worthy of printing to vinyl, we shouldn’t have any trouble putting together a list of songs this week. Right? Well, not so fast. In another crowded week of contenders, we struggled with our decision before cutting down to a 10-pack of tracks that ranges from the return of Blur to the debut of “salsa-punk” from San Diego outfit Crocodiles. Whether you’re looking for hip-hop in the vein of Chicago rapper Alex Wiley or something avant garde a la Colin Stetson teaming with Arcade Fire’s Sarah Neufeld, this list’s got something for you.

10. Big Sean feat. Jhené Aiko – “Win Some, Lose Some”

Dark Sky Paradise

There aren’t many things wrong with Big Sean’s incredibly fun “I Don’t Fuck with You”, his biggest hit since “Dance (A$$)”, except that it makes him sound shallow. “Win Some, Lose Some”, on the other hand, presents a more complete image of the increasingly interesting Detroit rapper. One of three songs from his upcoming Dark Sky Paradise to officially premiere this week (the album, out February 24th, has already leaked), it features a cooing Jhené Aiko and woozy production from T-Minus and Boi-1da, adding to Sean’s somberness as he laments the downside of fame. Sean has often come across as one of rap’s most hedonistic stars, so it’s hard to feel bad for him, but “Win Some, Lose Some” humanizes him like no other Dark Sky Paradise track yet. –Michael Madden

9. Du Blonde – “Black Flag”

du blone

Beth Jeans Houghton is Beth Jeans Houghton no longer. The songwriter has drawn out her rock ‘n’ roll alter ego, Du Blonde, and she’s wasted no time blasting the power chords. Her first single under the new name, “Black Flag”, hints a little at the classic hardcore band of the same name in its loose, throaty bass, but the similarities stop there. The focus rests on Houghton’s voice, and the broad, powerful lines she cuts with it. Du Blonde has an as-yet-untitled full-length arriving later in the year via Mute. –Sasha Geffen

8. Remy Banks feat. Nasty Nigel – “rem.”

Remy Banks

There’s some truth to the notion that East Coast revivalism is supposed to sound tricky and earned, but “rem.”, the latest from Queens rapper and World’s Fair member Remy Banks (plus WF’s Nasty Nigel on the hook), makes it look easy. That’s partly due to Left Brain’s beat, a shimmer of keys and thumping drums that retains the fluidity (if not the West Coast sensibility) of the producer’s stoner aesthetic in Odd Future duo MellowHype. But Remy himself also sounds laid-back and in control even when he’s talking about bringing the opposition to fisticuffs. “Most of these niggas’ styles is rented,” he goes, and despite the song’s familiar sound, he’s no hypocrite. “rem.” is the first single from higher., his upcoming album. –Michael Madden

7. Purple – “Extinction”

Purple Extinction

As a member of the WeDidIt collective alongside the likes of Shlohmo, Ryan Hemsworth, and Groundislava, Purple is bringing new noise to the more emotive aspects of electronica. “Extinction” is a continuance of Purple’s exploits in dreamlike sensuality. Although the structure of the track has more in common with the PBR&B vibes of 2014, the twisted layers pull sonic qualities from trip-hop, future house, and UK garage. As the latter established over a decade ago, there is beauty in this electronic decay. “Extinction” lands this spring on Purple’s debut LP, Silence & Remorse–Derek Staples

6. Alex Wiley – “Ready”

Alex Wiley

In the dark, cold Chicago winter, it’s good to know somebody out there has some optimism. That somebody this week is Alex Wiley, as proven by his new track, “Ready”. Over a serene, wobbly beat from jeffRx, Wiley lets you know he’s “ready for the good shit coming our way.” That’s right, he’s out there “really living posi” and he gave the world his heart and “hope you think it’s beautiful.” Though he’s hit the big room-ready jams before, this one’s more a relaxed track for passing something around with your closest ones on a quiet afternoon. The single is available on iTunes, and this past Sunday, Wiley promised on Facebook and Twitter that a new mixtape would be out within 30 days. –Adam Kivel

5. Blur – “Go Out”

Blur New Album

Just a few months ago, Damon Albarn teased the return of his animated band Gorillaz, who have lain dormant since 2011. So we weren’t exactly expecting anything new from his main band, Blur, which hasn’t released an album since 2003’s Think Tank. Looks like the Gorillaz bit was just a sly misdirection from the frontman; Blur’s back, and it’ll release its eighth album, The Magic Whip, on April 27th. We got our first taste of the ice cream-themed release, “Go Out”, this week and it layers Albarn’s dry monotone over piecey, simmering arrangements. It swells and it crunches like Blur; it sure must be Blur all over again. –Sasha Geffen

4. Crocodiles – “Crybaby Demon”

crocodiles_boysLP

For their upcoming LP, Boys, San Diego’s Crocodiles traveled south of the border to Mexico City to hash out the specifics of the album’s so-called “salsa-punk” sound. The first taste of that new musical concoction, “Crybaby Demon”, certainly bears shades of both of those styles: the winding, thinly serrated high-end guitars recall the Velvet Underground at times, and the syncopated bass-percussion groove takes the normally straightforward act out of the pocket. This song and the rest of Boys will hit shelves May 12th via Zoo Music. –Adam Kivel

3. METZ – “Acetate”

METZ Band Photo

“Acetate” is a particularly crushing song, even for Toronto punk/noise band METZ, whose self-titled 2012 debut thrived on its sheer indestructible nature. The guitars, bass, and drums are alternately slithering and unforgivingly in-your-face, frontman Alex Edkins’ vocal delivery growing to a soul-purging howl as the instrumentation gets louder. The band didn’t release any new music in 2014, so it makes sense that “Acetate” is bursting at the seams: It’s a full minute longer than the average METZ track, making it a perfect glimpse of this band’s ability to lure you in with a burning riff and keep you transfixed with an ensuing groove. Find it on METZ II, out May 5th via Sub Pop. –Michael Madden

2. Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld – “The sun roars into view”

stetson neufeld 001 Top 10 Songs of the Week (2/20)

These seven and a half minutes of turbid interplay may very well consume the entirety of your afternoon. The work of saxophonist Colin Stetson and violinist Sarah Neufeld (both of whom have been a part of the extended Arcade Fire collective), “The sun roars into view” is pulled from the duo’s debut collaborative album, Never were the way she was, out April 28th via Constellation Records. While the title hints at some bright awakening, the instrumental track arrives bleaker — Neufeld’s violin finally easing into the ambient tension 30 seconds into the offering. Neufeld’s work is the focal point of this lead single, Stetson’s horn arrangements creating an uneasy floor on which the violin strings anxiously bounce. For those removed from the work of contemporary ensembles, this works as a springboard into a timeless, yet exploratory, realm. –Derek Staples

1. Sufjan Stevens – “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross”

Sufjan Stevens

There has always been a darkness coursing beneath Sufjan Stevens’ music, but it rarely lays itself this bare. You hear it in glimpses: in the last lines of “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” or in the menace curling around the edges of “To Be Alone with You”. Stevens is known for his embellishments, his whimsy — his twee. He drops that here. “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross” is pretty only in the starkest sense, its melodic phrases swooping upward, its guitar frail and brittle. Stevens’ voice cracks in each overdub. He aches behind that microphone, and it’s no wonder: He lost his mother, for whom his upcoming album Carrie & Lowell, is in part named, two years after the release of his last album, 2010’s The Age of Adz. He’s had a lot of time to wrestle with himself since that beautiful, maximalist work, and it only makes sense that he would come out the other side spare, haunted, and yearning for peace. Carrie & Lowell is out March 31st via Asthmatic Kitty. –Sasha Geffen

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