Sleater Kinney “Price Tag”
The iconic rock warriors wouldn’t have descended from Mt. Olympia without planning a strong first strike. The leadoff track from Sleater-Kinney’s comeback record keeps double-jumping to new levels of intensity. Janet Weiss’ precise drum blasts—like controlled explosions used to trigger ski-slope
avalanches—provide their perpetual spark.
Colleen Green “Deeper Than Love”
An unexpectedly vivid concept album about twenty-something ennui, Colleen Green’s I Want to Grow Up is deeply funny and totally fucked up. Its neurotic peak is this slinky kraut-pop epic, which departs from her usual hooky alt-rock to let conflicting fears of loneliness and intimacy dance a dead-eyed tango.
Rabit “Bloody Eye”
The metal shard landscape and ray-gun zips that make up this Texan version of British “grime” production suggest a laser tag duel that’s a little too real. (Its startling gun shot percussion is the sound of at least one player who isn’t playing.) This is experimental electronic music at it’s most
The Brooklyn neighborhood, home to bougie gift shops and boiled pierogi, is recast as an existential nightmare by Dominick Fernow’s long-running noise project Prurient. It starts with unexpected acoustic strumming, dangling something pretty for the coming dread to swallow whole. The drone builds slow behind Fernow’s sober narration of an alcoholic in ruin. It’s not rage-red but ice-cold; a poison frost freezing a flower from its roots.
Blanck Mass “Dead Format”
Ben Power’s other band, Fuck Buttons, are too often adrift in their own psychedelic fantasmagoria to make dance-floor fillers as straight as this solo jam. And even this is just a hair more propulsive than it is creepy. “Doom rave” is on the rise!
Kendrick Lamar “King Kunta”
Politically charged and just extremely goddamn funky, this badass single from Lamar’s trippy opus, To Pimp a Butterfly, is a frontrunner for song of the year. His last album updated the sounds of 90s gangsta rap. Here he struts like James Brown. And as the song says, “If he gives you the funk, you’re gonna take it.”
Kamasi Washington “Cherokee”
A collaborator to Kendrick, Lauryn Hill, Snoop Dogg, and Flying Lotus, Washington has unusual mainstream visibility for so young a jazz bandleader. The Epic, his buzzy triple LP, summarizes the form’s late-20th century highlights without becoming a stale tutorial. It’s warm, gracious and pop adjacent. “Cherokee” could easily have been the b-side to a killer downtown NYC disco 12” circa 1978.
Vince Staples “Norf Norf”
A few clicks and some sea-sick feedback are the only things backing up young Mr. Staples sing-song taunts here, but that doesn’t make them ring empty. “I ain’t never ran from nothin’ but the police,” he claims (a stance that currently seems sensible). Super catchy, if not nearly carefree.
Bjork “Black Lake”
The autobiographical hurt rippling through Bjork’s Vulnicura is too soul-bare to enjoy as light celebrity gossip, and almost too overwhelming to bear at all. Brutally specific and emotionally devastated, this 10-minute expanse best stands in for the album as a whole. Its combination of classically building strings and cutting edge percussion is now as characteristic of the artist’s work as her unmistakable voice, which gives relatable pain such otherworldly release.
Fred Thomas “Bad Blood”
In which an indie-pop lifer cries out from under a collapsed ceiling of cult success. As frontman for Saturday Looks Good to Me, Thomas recreated the tics of past pop triumphs but lost himself in perfect reverb. Raw, noisy, self-deprecating and more than a little bit bitter, his new songs are
honestly messy and finally distinct.
Malportado Kids “Bruja Cosmica”
Cumbia, an utterly massive style of Latin American dance music that’s nearly absent from the U.S. pop consciousness, is a foundational element for Malportado Kids. Though a side-project from a couple members of the righteous Providence punk band Downtown Boys, this is their more radical endeavor. It kind of sounds like Le Tigre bum-rushing a street festival float (but only kind of).
Kero Kero Bonito “Picture This”
Though not as committed to living out a tonally baffling performance art prank as their pals in PC Music, this London trio is better able to complete a thought and land a joke. Here, they give the shame and glory of the perfect selfie the bubbly J-Pop anthem it deserves.
No Joy “Moon in My Mouth”
These Montreal shoegazers have finally reached that ultra-rare sweet spot for the genre, where disorientation isn’t achieved at the expense of articulation. At its heart this is a bright, clear song that just keeps on sliding ever-so-slightly out of sync.
Holly Herndon “Chorus”
This is a mosaic of digital fragments that seem semi-random at first, but eventually reveal a careful architecture. Herndon’s cerebral conception of a pop song may be futuristic, but it’s not alienating. A cyborg’s glitches are weirdly humanizing.
Courtney Barnett “Depreston”
The Aussie rocker stretches out on this lovely countrified ballad, which goes into graceful short-story specifics on the secondhand sadness of making a new start by sliding into some ghost’s old home. Barnett’s ability to conjure up an entire life from a few stray lyrical details is something else.