Top 10 Songs of the Week (1/29)

Amidst the week's flubs and bumbles, here's another batch of excellent tunes.

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Whether we’re talking Kanye’s meltdown (#WizWearsCoolPants) or the botched release of Rihanna’s new album (Seriously, TIDAL?), this week’s music news was full of internet breakdowns. In the midst of the flubs and bumbles, though, we were gifted yet another massive batch of excellent new tunes. As usual, we narrowed those songs down to a Top 10 that’ll make you forget all the nonsense and get back to what really matters: the music.

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10. PJ Harvey – “The Wheel”

PJ Harvey 2016 album

Polly Jean is back! After a five-year wait, PJ Harvey returns with a tight two-minute jam to preview her upcoming album, The Hope Six Demolition Project. There’s a Village Green Preservation Society feel to “The Wheel”, though decidedly updated for the modern city, thanks to lyrics about zombie-like drug addicts, death statistics, and a “blind man singing in Arabic.” Choral backing vocals, rich horns, and a ripping guitar solo combine for an enchanting taste of the long-awaited follow-up to Let England Shake–Adam Kivel


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09. Operators – “Cold Light”

Nina Corcoran, Operators

We were pretty damn excited when we heard that Wolf Parade were on their way back, but the latest track from Operators (fronted by Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner) is so good that it might even overshadow that big news. The lead single to the forthcoming Blue Wave (due April 1st via Last Gang Records), “Cold Light” is an immediately familiar new wave epic, driven by giant hooks and a dance floor-ready groove. But, as usual, Boeckner’s vocals shine at the core. “So do you, do you wanna dance?/ Do you wanna take the long way home?” he calls out through the fuzzy synths and bouncy bass. Imagery of running away with a beloved, even out “into the cold light,” will put an it’s us against the world! fervor in your gut and a smile on your face. –Adam Kivel

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08. Islands – “Charm Offensive”

islands band new albums 2016 Top 10 Songs of the Week (1/29)

Come May, Islands will release not one, but two new albums, Should I Remain Here at Sea? and Taste. The first single off the latter is “Charm Offensive”. With Thorburn’s pinched, nasal vocals and lonely synths, “Charm Offensive” scans as cold, sometimes even clinical. But it’s by no means boring — Thorburn’s lyrics are opaque but intriguing (“I know the way out isn’t the way in/ We’ll play the ending at the beginning”), and the track slides into a “House of the Rising Sun”-esque segue in its last 30 seconds. It jars slightly, but that just makes you want to know what comes next. –Karen Gwee

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07. Gioia – “Circling”

Gioia Circling

“Circling” takes its time curling itself into a corner. A one-off collaboration between Eddi Front’s Ivana Carrescia and Nick Sylvester of GODMODE, the track never bursts out of its skin, but crawls claustrophobically around the same words, the same disjointed notes, the same haunted mood. Carrescia’s voice stays at a whisper, augmented by trailing effects and offset by glitchy patches of noise. Gioia suspend the threat that something will happen, something will attack out of the murk, but all we’re left with is the extended, unresolved anticipation. —Sasha Geffen

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06. Big Black Delta – “Kid Icarus”

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The smack of Jonathan Bates’ kiss during “Kid Icarus”, the latest from Big Black Delta, does more than just feel good on the lips. That pucker intensifies into an immersive synthpop experience. A remark on the pressures of love, happiness, and despair, light and darkness are difficult to separate amid the waves of percussion, uplifting organ melodies, and minor digital electronics that coalesce during this four-minute offering. Whether one chooses to be “up” or “down,” it is too often predicated by environmental and interpersonal factors. In the end, one can only choose to “be” amid all this noise. The story will continue to unfold when Big Black Delta’s third album, Trágame Tierra, arrives in early spring. –Derek Staples

05. Flume feat. Vince Staples and Kučka – “Smoke & Retribution”

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Hazy rooms from Sydney to Eastside Long Beach are set to erupt with the first few future-bass blips of Flume’s “Smoke and Retribution”. While the flow of Vince Staples begins to march in unison with the Australian producer’s low-end exploits, it’s the grace within the vocal delivery of Kučka that tames the beat and commands attention. In essence, it’s Staples and Kučka (fictitiously entangled in a lover’s quarrel) that represent these two elements — Staples’ aggression symbolic of retribution and Kučka embodying the weightless attributes of smoke itself. The single is available now via Flume’s Future Classic imprint. –Derek Staples

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04. Jessy Lanza – “It Means I Love You”

jessy lanza new album oh no 2016 Top 10 Songs of the Week (1/29)

Canadian producer Jessy Lanza knows how to shoot straight pop, but her songwriting works even better when she takes on the syrupy stuff at an angle so oblique you’re not even sure where your frame of reference is anymore. The first single from her upcoming album, Oh No (due out May 13th on Hyperdub), is a love song that dodges the trappings of love songs at every opportunity. Lanza doesn’t sing without effects or pitch-shifting until two-thirds of the way through the track, and even then she frames her desire as passive. “If you want it, come and find my love,” she invites between stretches of a humid and minimalist beat. The song won’t extend itself to you either, but if you’re willing to step inside, it’s got plenty to share. –Sasha Geffen

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03. PUP – “DVP”

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Toronto punks PUP have kept silent since their self-titled debut in 2014, but they’ve returned just in time to soundtrack the close of your exhausting work week with the beer-soaked “DVP” (which is the acronym for the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto). This first glimpse at their second album, due out by the end of summer, is an injection of electrifying punk rock reminiscent of, but more melodic than early FIDLAR. At two and a half minutes, it’s short and absolutely upfront about the fact that booze only lubricates your wheels on the road to shame and self-loathing. But after “DVP”, there’s still no one else you’d rather ride with on that highway than PUP. –Karen Gwee

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02. BJ the Chicago Kid – “Love Inside”

bj the chicago kid new album 2016 Top 10 Songs of the Week (1/29)

“I want you to feel the love I have inside me.” So begins the new single from R&B crooner BJ the Chicago Kid. That sounds sweet enough, but he takes a sharp turn towards the sly and sexy: “Inside you tonight.” Is it a cheeky pickup line or a sincere dedication of love? BJ’s voice is silky smooth enough to sell the sweetness, but there’s a bump-n-grind grittiness to the beat. Oh, and wait, it gets clearer: “I know you’re used to rain, but tonight you gonna pour/ They might hear you scream while I’m giving you more.” Yeah. That’s some sexy shit. Anyone jonesing for the slow-jam R&B of a bygone era need look no further. BJ’s debut album, In My Mind, drops February 19th. –Adam Kivel

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01. Njomza – “Move to Your Beat”

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You can’t use a beat as a metaphor without backing yourself up with a solid one, and Njomza’s latest more than justifies its own conceit courtesy of production by 1st of Fki. On “Move to Your Beat”, piano and percussion switch their traditional roles; three chords loop endlessly to keep the song’s central rhythm, while drum machines skitter playfully in the foreground. Love can be maniacal and terrifying, especially when you’re trapped in it; “It’s not the same no more/ But I still move to you,” the Chicago songwriter sings, caged in by the music she can’t escape, the beat that won’t stop pounding in her ears. –Sasha Geffen

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