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Top 10 Songs of the Week (3/21)

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We all get something different out of the music we consume. Some listen for entertainment, while others put on a record for emotional and mental stimulation. There are even those strange few who don’t actively listen to music at all. It’s fascinating and complex the way a song can affect our brains, the number of endorphins triggered, which is then translated into what we call “personal taste.” This week’s countdown traverses the musical spectrum of colors and tonalities, from the pitch blacks of Triptykon, to the bright jangles of The War on Drugs and William Tyler. Each is an exemplary representation of its respective genre — a true collage when culled into a list of 10. We can’t guarantee that you’ll like every song, but we do know that you will feel something when you listen to them.

10. Sleep Party People – “In Another Wrld”

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At first glance, Sleep Party People seems like a cookie-cutter EDM act. Not to mention, the “electronica” tag on their BandCamp page doesn’t help their case. The opening seconds of “In Another World” prove otherwise, wearing a dark, experimental complexion. Its whispered acoustic guitar weaves beautifully amongst its drums, psychedelic feedback, and screeching string arrangements, making it seem fitting for a haunted house. Brian Batz, the man behind the project, only adds to that effect with his falsettoed fairy tale lyrics, forming a reoccurring nightmare that’s hard to shake. Batz will narrate more haunting tales on his upcoming LP, Floating, due June 2nd via Blood and Biscuits. –-Sam Willett

09. Metallica – “Lords of Summer”

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It’s about time we stopped judging Metallica based on music they released nearly three decades ago. Aside from being totally unfair, it’s just bad criticism to dismiss something as “too much like Kill ‘Em All” or “not enough like Kill ‘Em All” (even if Death Magnetic did suffer from being stuck in the middle of that sonic quandary). Inversely, it’s also time Metallica stopped sacrificing artistic freedom to appease whiny fans who feel obliged to dictate what their favorite band does or doesn’t do. While the Motörhead-ish demo “Lords of Summer” isn’t Metallica’s most accomplished work, there’s a looseness and energy to the recording — the sound of a band just playing for fun rather than money or expectations. Like, it’s a happy song about sunshine splitting the clouds. Not quite METAL, but here’s a band that’s earned the right to fight that word, embrace it, define it. An infinite number of angry YouTube comments are nothing compared to owning an entire genre. –Jon Hadusek


08. James Blake x Chance the Rapper – “Save Yourself First”

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“Save Yourself First” is an effective second-half to James Blake and Chance the Rapper’s initial remix of “Life Around Here”, but steps with more feel-good flavor familiar to the Chicago MC’s 2013 mixtape, Acid Rap. Blake’s synths are minimized to accommodate soft piano keys and vocoder tones to celebrate their seamless collaboration. “Life can’t be indefinite,” according to Chance, so there’s always a good reason for a “Good Ass Outro”. –Sam Willett

07. Vince Staples feat. Jhené Aiko– “Oh You Scared”

vince staples jhene aiko oh you scared Top 10 Songs of the Week (3/21)

“Oh You Scared”, from Vince Staples’ new Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2 mixtape, intersects two of the Long Beach rapper’s favorite subjects: money and guns. “Niggas never had a shot unless you talkin’ .38,” he says, which is his persona in a nutshell; he’s like the smart but stubborn kid in class who didn’t raise his hand until the conversation was minimum wage, gun control, or, um, slavery. Getting his fill of stare-down intimidation during the verses, he passes the playground taunt of a hook (“Oh you scared, ain’t ya?”) to Drake and Kendrick Lamar collaborator Jhené Aiko, who also pads the modestly swirling beat with soft exhalations. –Michael Madden

06. Fucked Up – “Paper the House”

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Having more or less made a Toronto weed lounge his second home, Fucked Up frontman Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham has been at risk of implementing stoner-friendly textures into his hardcore band. Maybe it’s a stretch, but the lead guitar here, almost as gorgeous as Madeline Follin’s vocals on 2011’s David Comes to Life, does radiate like the synth whirs of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. Then again, who are we kidding? It’s still a wallop thanks in no small part to the monstrous backbeat and Abraham’s vein-popped bark (not popping – popped). Yes, he lost a ton of weight after David Comes to Life, and that’s endlessly awesome. But it subtracted none of the sheer magnitude of his caterwaul, always a focal point of FU. –Michael Madden

05. Triptykon – “Breathing”

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Even though Celtic Frost is no more, the evil spirit of that band lives on in Tom G. Warrior’s Triptykon, which is set to release its sophomore album, Melana Chasmata, on April 14th (via Century Media). While many of his old contemporaries from the primordial days of extreme metal have either perished or faded into obscurity, Tom G. seemingly gets better (and more misanthropic) with each release, composing complex, focused material that’s never convoluted or lacking in menace. “Breathing”, a cut from the new LP, is as heavy as anything he’s ever written, with punishing, minimalistic doom metal sections that fester into climaxes of crashing cymbals and double-time rhythms. Alien artist H.R. Giger (Warrior’s friend and frequent collaborator) once again provides a striking piece for the record’s artwork, which is a perfect visual companion to these grim sounds and an early favorite for best metal sleeve of ’14. –Jon Hadusek

04. tUne-yArds – “Water Fountain”

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After unleashing her activist side on her bombastic sophomore album, w h o k i l l, we knew that tUne-yArds’ Merrill Garbus can preach. The lead single from her upcoming LP, Nikki Nack, brings back that shameless confidence and inspires her listeners to scream in the same fashion to those stealing water from the “Water Fountain” and handing out blood money soaked in cherry pie. Her frustration with immoral government is evident through the track’s industrial electronics and enthusiastic vocal harmonies, pumping up the track to staggering heights. “Water Fountain” is one of tUne-yArds’ most danceable tracks thanks to the undying energy, making it near impossible to refuse to dance along. Keep an eye out for Nikki Nack on May 5th via 4AD. —Sam Willett

03. William Tyler – “Brand New Dude”

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The structured formlessness, the spontaneous journey with no destination: William Tyler’s improvisational guitar playing drifts in a calm, ceaseless wind of twangy arpeggios and scales. His lengthy songs don’t go anywhere fast, but there’s never a fell note or a sense of meandering boredom. Rather, a track like “Brand New Dude” — recorded alongside Tyler’s touring band — is engaging on a cerebral level, passive listening music for the active mind. Thoughts tangle with Tyler’s spiraling Chet Atkins-inspired fretwork, absorbed for 13 minutes (though it feels more like five). As the final notes fade out, you’re suddenly dislodged from this momentary aural retreat, back into the chaos of reality. –Jon Hadusek

02. Wye Oak – “Glory”

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Those of us who were introduced to Jenn Wasner through her guest appearance on Titus Andronicus’ 2010 piano sweeper “To Old Friends and New” couldn’t have foreseen “Glory”, the latest single off Baltimore duo Wye Oak’s “guitar-free” Shriek (due April 29th).  Here, Wasner’s chorus is vastly elongated and and placed so that you’re anxiously anticipating its arrival, a minute and a half in, the next time you listen. The darkroom lunge is characteristic of the Italians Do It Better label, made so famous by Nicolas Winding Refn’s thriller Drive, and it’s a good look on this band. –Michael Madden

01. The War on Drugs – “In Reverse”

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The War on Drugs has been the talk of the town this week. Lost in the Dream is a beautifully-organized masterpiece that illustrates emotional turmoil, uncertainty, and yearning for triumph. “In Reverse” illustrates that relief is possible. Instead of walking aimlessly, frontman Adam Granduciel aims to reconstruct hope and march with a “grand parade in our path.” He takes risks as he struggles and “[lets] the darkness in,” but it’s worth the chase. With that in mind, “In Reverse” could not be a more perfect conclusion. –Sam Willett

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