Song of the Week breaks down and talks about the song we just can’t get out of our head each week. Find these songs and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist. For our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, The National help us cut through the noise with “Tropic Morning News.”
January is unofficially a time to reset. Particularly in recent years, it’s become a month of new routines, setting intentions, and light reinvention — for better or for worse. While many of us are trying to embrace more healthful practices, some habits are harder to break than others: Rolling over, grabbing the phone off the bedside table, and beginning the obligatory morning doomscroll is the focus of “Tropic Morning News,” the new song from The National.
Co-written by lead singer Matt Berninger and his wife, Carin Besser, the first single off The National’s forthcoming album, First Two Pages of Frankenstein (due April 28th), makes a plea for a pause, encouraging us to cut through the noise and embrace what’s happening right in front of us.
The deceptively sunny title is matched with a deceptively upbeat sound, not quite as melancholy as some might expect from the band, but still heavy with the drama of modern man. It’s in the lyrics that Berninger makes the true mood clear: “The idea of referring to the darkness of the news in such a light way unlocked something in me,” he shared in a statement. “It became a song about having a hard time expressing yourself, and trying to connect with someone when the noise of the world is drowning out any potential for conversation.”
Recorded partly in Hamburg and featuring light orchestral flourishes, the song chronicles and reflects the repetition we all seem to be living in day to day. It might have been easy to lean harder into the gloomy theme, but there’s still a hopeful thread running through “Tropic Morning News,” particularly before the last chorus arrives: “I’ll be over here lying near the ocean/ Making ocean sounds/ Let me know if you can come over and work the controls for a while.”
While the star-studded track list of First Two Pages of Frankenstein promises songs with Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers, and Sufjan Stevens, The National chose to lead with a track that cuts to the heart of this current moment and urges us to try to prioritize meaningful connection, too.
— Mary Siroky
Black Honey – “Up Against It”
Black Honey are back, and in a big way. Their new single “Up Against It” –– taken off their forthcoming album, A Fistful of Peaches, due March 17th –– is a rollicking grunge anthem harking back to the sonic natures of ‘90s alt rock that would make Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins fans proud. Izzy Phillips’ airy vocals swirl around heavy distortion and fuzz as she urges listeners to “give yourself a break,” the song itself written as a gesture of kindness towards her former self. “Give yourself a break, kid/ You were up against it, don’t you know?” sings Izzy. It’s a nice reminder. — Cady Siregar
Easy Star All-Stars – “Starman”
It’s been 20 years since Easy Star All-Stars released Dub Side of the Moon, the reggae house band’s inspired take on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. In the two decades since, they’ve dropped three more cover albums: Radiodread (Radiohead’s OK Computer), Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band (The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), and Thrillah (Michael Jackson’s Thriller).
Just like those previous releases, Easy Star’s David Bowie cover is no mere novelty. Instead, it’s a loving, creative spin on an iconic artist’s work, crafted both for diehard reggae fans and as a gateway for more casual listeners. This bass-heavy cut featuring vocalist Maxi Priest pays homage to Ziggy Stardust without coming across as an ersatz tribute. (Full disclosure: My first internship in college was with Easy Star Records — my mom once made a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for bassist Ras I Ray when I drove him to play Camp Bisco). — Spencer Dukoff
Dizzy – “Birthmark”
“I can’t get over it,” Dizzy repeats throughout the new track, “Birthmark.” It’s a new chapter for the singer-songwriter — one in which she’s opted to wear a mask that covers her face entirely — and “Dizzy” places us in an era of perpetual twilight. Even if someone knows they’re better off after a relationship has ended, Dizzy understands that it’s not always easy to stop caring or flip a switch. The light pop track almost feels like she’s trying to convince herself of that reality at moments, too: “God, I swear I’m fine/ But it’s when I go to bed.” — M. Siroky
Eloise – “Drunk On A Flight”
London-based singer-songwriter Eloise has a transportive quality to her music, instantly placing you in a daydream. Her new release, “Drunk On A Flight,” is no exception — simultaneously indulgent and grounded, the breakup song is a slow burn, building with layers upon layers of Eloise’s vocals. Like many other songs in Eloise’s canon, “Drunk On A Flight” is soulful and honest: “In every man I meet, I look for you,” she sings. The dynamic music video is worth spending time with as well, featuring vignettes of relationships between various fellow travelers and building into choreography that brings these strangers together as a whole. — M. Siroky
Softcult – “Dress”
Softcult have never shied away from tough topics. In fact, it seems to be the express mission of the band to take them head-on. “Dress,” from their upcoming EP see you in the dark, is no exception, starkly confronting the horrific realities of rape culture. “It’s a dress, not a yes,” twins Mercedes and Phoenix Arn-Horn sing before detailing the very real trauma sexual assault can cause. The lyrics, though, are sung over a surprisingly catchy, upbeat goth-rock tune — and that’s by design. For Mercedes and Phoenix, cultivating a space where survivors know they’re not alone is just as important as calling out abusers. “Dress,” anthemic and crushing, accomplishes both in spades. — Jonah Krueger
The Tubs – “Wretched Lie”
The Tubs’ debut album Dead Meat is only a week away (out January 27th), and to celebrate, the London-based group saw fit to sneak in yet another jangly, incredibly catchy indie gem, “Wretched Lie.” This time around, the band injects a bit of goth into their already eclectic mix of post-punk, traditional folk, and classic indie. Matching the Cure-esque title, it’s the moodiest we’ve heard The Tubs let themselves be yet. Unsurprisingly, a little bit of angst sounds pretty damn good on the band (who also made our Artists to Watch list for 2023). — Jonah Krueger
Fenne Lily – “Lights Light Up”
With a twinkling, busy lead guitar, a shuffling beat, and beautiful lead vocals, Fenne Lily has kicked off a new album cycle with one of her best tracks yet, “Lights Light Up.” The lead single from Big Picture (arriving April 14th), the song envelopes you in a contemplative indie folk soundscape, over which Lily spins a story of a burgeoning but temporary love. It’s thoughtful, expertly written, and extremely easy to listen to, boding incredibly well for the rest of Big Picture. — J.K.