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, Caroline Polachek digs into sun-soaked desire on “Blood and Butter.”
How many pop stars have the audacity to seamlessly stick a bagpipes solo in the bridge of their new single? Very few, and Caroline Polachek has beaten them all to it — but her new single “Blood and Butter,” the fifth off her upcoming album Desire, I Want to Turn Into You (due Tuesday, February 14th), does not possess the carnal shock that its title suggests. Instead, there’s a euphoric freedom that Polachek creates with, a sun-soaked brightness that shines through warm acoustic guitar chords and earthy congas.
“Blood and Butter” seems to blend highlights of previous Desire singles: she brings the fantastical majesty of “Billions,” complete with a larger-than-life chord structure that evokes discovery, as well as the predominately organic instrumentation from last fall’s “Sunset.” If an overarching theme of Desire is “Welcome To My Island,” then Caroline has been slowly building out what this island looks, feels, and sounds like.
But of course, desire itself is a deep focus on “Blood and Butter.” The air of exploring new territory is a perfect backdrop for the adoration she depicts in her lyrics; she isolates these surreal moments of sex, wonder, and feeling wildly in sync with her partner, painting magnificent images of intimacy with an impressionistic pen. It’s not enough for Polachek to be physically close — so she’s diving “through your face/ To the sweetest kind of pain” and getting “closer than your new tattoo.”
Polachek’s lyrics are getting so specific and acute that reading them feels jarring, but hearing them from her tender, versatile voice feels strangely perfect. “Look at you all mythological/ And Wikipediated,” she sings in the third verse, as if the combination of being mythological and “wikipediated” is exactly what she’s attracted to. There’s a luxuriousness that moves far beyond the rich, heavy imagery of “blood and butter” — she sings of a fullness and a sense of being complete with plainspoken detail, requesting in the pre-chorus, “And what I want/ Is to walk beside you/ Needing nothing/ But the sun that’s in our eyes,” and later pointing out, “Look how I forget who I was/ Before I was the way I am with you.”
Throughout the soaring epiphanies of desire in “Blood and Butter,” there’s a thrilling reminder: nobody is making pop music like Caroline Polachek right now. Last month, Polachek reminded her fans and press that she is “Not this generation’s Kate Bush… I, meanwhile, am this generation’s Caroline Polachek.” Though comparisons between fellow avant pop icons will always be abound, each new single off Desire, I Want to Turn Into You falls into Polachek’s fascinating and original vision of pop music. There’s frequently something about her music that feels off — almost like the grey area of artificial intelligence where there’s tension between the pinpoint perfection of her melodies and the unmistakeable humanity at the center of it.
“Blood and Butter” continues digging into this tension, and each time she finds a moment to release — whether that’s through her lilting soprano, the naturalistic groove, or the warm chords of acoustic guitar — it’s appropriately rich and satisfying. If she’s longing to actually turn into desire, well, then this is what it sounds like.
— Paolo Ragusa
Samara Joy – “Someone Like You”
It takes a very brave person to cover Adele, and if anyone is up to the challenge these days, it’s Grammy-nominated vocalist Samara Joy. As part of a spotlight on this year’s Best New Artist nominees, Spotify has unveiled a special edition of Spotify Singles in which each artist shares a cover of a song by an act they admire. Joy’s voice is unbelievably transportive — between the richness of her tone and her masterful technique, she makes the well-worn Adele song sound like it was freshly unearthed on a vinyl from a bygone era. — Mary Siroky
RAYE – “Ice Cream Man.”
RAYE’s star is quickly on the rise — following a string of successful singles and a breakout moment with “Escapism.,” her debut album is finally here. My 21st Century Blues is the perfect reminder that RAYE is the pop act to watch right now, and a great introduction to her inventive, bold, and assured tone. “Ice Cream Man.,” for one, is a straightforward celebration of perseverance and resilience that leaves cliches at the door. Ahead of an extensive headlining tour and dates supporting Kali Uchis, now is the time to get familiar with RAYE. — M. Siroky
Girl Ray – “Everybody’s Saying That”
British indie trio Girl Ray have returned with “Everybody’s Saying That,” an infectious slice of disco that capitalizes on the pop-forward impulses of their previous effort, 2019’s Girl. Though the track starts out in a relatively minimalist fashion, sweeping strings and bustling basslines create a flurry of activity for vocalist Poppy Hankin to dance above. Her wordy chorus is certainly a mouthful, especially given the song’s quicker pace, but she makes it sound easy, ascending and descending masterfully with each phrase. With such an irresistible groove, “Everybody’s Saying That” is a nostalgic and dance-inducing return for Girl Ray, and it’s got us hungry for more. — P.R.
TV Star – “Room”
With connections to bands like Militarie Gun and Regional Justice Center, you might expect TV Star’s sound to be pummeling, mosh-worthy, or hardcore-adjacent. But as proven by the wonderful “Room,” TV Star appears to be aiming for a gentler sound. The tune has more in common with dream pop and ’80s indie than any sort of punk subgenre, and thanks to the beautifully strummed guitar chords, jangly arpeggios, and wistful lead vocals, the act pulls off the quieter style with an incredible amount of grace. With only a handful of singles to their name, TV Star is most definitely a band to keep on the radar. – Jonah Krueger
Geese – “Cowboy Nudes”
Welcome to the new era of Geese. The New York five-piece (and former Consequence Co-Sign) have become beloved indie darlings thanks to their buzzy post-punk, but their jaunty new single, “Cowboy Nudes,” sees the band discard their own musical blueprint to fully embrace, yes, cowboy-core. “Cowboy Nudes” exudes an Americana warmth, the kind of tune you’d want to blast on a road trip across the desert in a bid to fully recreate the entirety of Thelma and Louise. “I’ve got eyes for anything moving/ Fell in love with a tumbleweed,” frontman Cameron Winter croons.
Worry not — the band haven’t fully forgotten their East Coast roots. “New! York City!!! Underwater!” the band cry in chaotic enthusiasm during the middle of the track. Perhaps it can only take the Big Apple being submerged in seawater for Geese to fully embrace the American west. — Cady Siregar
NOVA ONE – “dangerous”
Providence indie rockers NOVA ONE are set to return with a new album, create myself, and have dropped a brand-spankin’ new indie bop, “dangerous,” in celebration. Propulsive, tuneful, and dangerously listenable, the track bursts to life with scuzzy guitars and a dance-y rhythm section. The dynamic between Roz Raskin’s lead and Anjimile’s backing vocals then becomes the cherry on top of this delicious indie rock sundae. If you’ve been looking for the next great song to dance along with while you’re alone in your underwear, look no further. – J.K.
PinkPantheress, Ice Spice – “Boy’s A Liar”
Dance-pop artist PinkPantheress and drill rapper Ice Spice quickly ascended to the highest tier of internet royalty after releasing viral tracks last year — and now, they’re a match made in heaven with a new remix of PinkPantheress’ single, “Boy’s A Liar.” Over a twinkling melodic beat, the artists reflect on relationship insecurities allowing their vulnerability to shine through. “Take a look inside your heart/ Is there any room for me?/ I won’t hold my breath ‘til you get down on one knee,” sings PinkPantheress. Ice Spice seamlessly blends into the track, her flow bouncing off the rhythmic instrumental. — Grace Ann Natanawan
Top Songs Playlist: