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Top 10 Songs of the Week (4/18)

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Simply put, we were shocked at the amount of fantastic new material this week. A particular mood may not stick out in this mix, but May 13th should be marked on your calendars immediately. Packed with new albums from both alternative rock juggernauts and returning indie favorites, many of which grace this list, it’s bound to give record stores a nice boost in sales. Though Record Store Day is right around the corner, there’s nothing wrong with looking forward to even more.

10. Little Big Bangs – “Armada”

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Slugging it out in the St. Louis underground, Little Big Bangs are the Midwest’s best kept secret: a scrappy four-piece with fat hooks and plenty o’ fuzz. The band just re-released their self-titled full-length on vinyl, and lead track “Armada” is a scorcher reminiscent of early Smashing Pumpkins and Sebadoh. A thick bass line guides the arrangement, while guitars claw at the edges of the stereo field, fighting to be heard over one another. Underlying the abrasion are some pretty brutal musings on the chaos of modern society and politics. “Who invades, who enslaves… Who persuades, who gets raped… There ain’t no point in a white flag/ Burn every flag till it turns black.” This is music straight from the disaffected youth of America — no frills, no bullshit. –Jon Hadusek 

09. Mimicking Birds – “Bloodlines”

Mimicking Birds

Similar to their mentors, Modest Mouse, and Moon & Antarctica highlight “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes”, Mimicking Birds track “Bloodlines” concludes with a beautifully orchestrated outro, just a simple guitar line clouded by sweet harmonies. It’s evident that the trio has undergone a tremendous transformation, stretching their acoustic guitar focus into something more expansive and beautiful, with bold grand piano steps and soft synth lines. Their return, Eons, is due May 13th via Glacial Pace Recordings. –Sam Willett

08. G-Side – “Statue”

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Nothing else that Alabama rap duo G-Side have released since reuniting in November sounds as rejuvenated as “Statue”, which should be on their upcoming Gz to Godz later this year. Their point here is that national obscurity can’t prevent them from going down as two of Huntsville’s proudest sons. ST 2 Lettaz snatches most of the best lines (“Spend the whole night blowin’ strong/ I wake up and flex again”), but there’s no blocking Clova’s shine, digitally altered like never before. Blocka Beattaz’s track bumps with hi-hat tremors, but still levitates like much of their previous production. It’s a compatible contrast, which is fitting considering G-Side’s own renewed chemistry. –Michael Madden

07. The Black Keys – “Turn Blue”

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As learned from this array of opinions on “Fever”, the new material from The Black Keys isn’t exactly guitar-centric, perhaps the result of Danger Mouse’s electronic touch. Their latest resurrects some of that string-loaded rhythm that was lost, though. “Turn Blue” injects funk reminiscent of the grooviest highlights of Brothers, turning things into a sullen, lullaby-like performance. Psychedelic layers coat the song’s chorus to allow listeners to explore Dan Auerbach’s painstaking complexities. Maybe he’s still down about the Bob Dylan hair. Check out Turn Blue when it hits shelves on May 13th via Nonesuch Records. —Sam Willett

06. Mastodon – “High Road”

mastodon Top 10 Songs of the Week (4/18)

The lead single from Mastodons forthcoming LP, Once More Around the Sun, “High Road” is the first studio track we’ve heard from the band since 2012, and once again they’re distancing themselves from the Kafkaesque progressions of Leviathan and Crack the Skye. In contrast, this is as pop as metal can get — verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, chorus — picking up where The Hunter left off. But even with the template song structure, Mastodon bring the bludgeoning riffs and strong melodies, sung in a clean tenor by Troy Sanders. The chorus kinda sounds like something off an old Ozzy solo record, catchy and triumphant. The style might frustrate some, but it’s one Mastodon have begun to master. –Jon Hadusek

05. Cut Copy – “Like Any Other Day”

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The acoustic strums and swishing rock disposition of “Like Any Other Day” are not things we expect from Australia’s Cut Copy, but the song’s immediacy isn’t surprising considering the band’s resume as first-tier synth-pop stylists. “We believe that we’re rising above the clouds,” sings Dan Whitford, typically blurry but arms outstretched. He can leave it at that. The song’s practically oceanic sweep is infused with the kind of optimism that can only follow doubt. This is the B-side of Cut Copy’s Record Store Day 10-inch, with the relatively bonkers “In These Arms of Love” as the A-Side. —Michael Madden

04. Lykke Li – “Gunshot”

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“The shot goes through my head and back,” sings an eloquently haunted Lykke Li on the first single from I Never Learn, the upcoming third album by the Swedish pop artist (er, singer-songwriter). Her point-blank catharsis demands equally blunt accompaniment, and thankfully, “Gunshot” aspires to the grandeur of, oh, say, Pat Benatar’s “We Belong”. “Like a shotgun, I can’t be outdone,” Li sang on 2011’s “Get Some”, but on “Gunshot” she’s defenseless: “My heart cracked, really loved you bad.” Listen here–Michael Madden

03. Sigur Rós – “The Rains of Castamere”

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Mild Game of Thrones spoilers ahead…

Icelandic group Sigur Rós made their acting debut with a cameo in last week’s episode of Game of Thrones, playing musicians at King Joffrey’s wedding. Before the little fucker hurled coins at the trio and shooed them away, they were performing their haunting version of the Lannister house anthem, “The Rains of Castamere”. Although last year’s rendition by The National was solid, Sigur Rós give George R.R. Martin’s composition a mystical, melancholic quality that aligns with the show’s bleak mood. It sounds like the chamber music one might actually hear were they to set foot in the Red Keep, with Jonsi’s coos piercing through a veil of atonal drones. –Jon Hadusek

02. Swans – “Oxygen”

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When “Oxygen” was recorded for the first time (as a live, in-concert recording), Swans vocalist Michael Gira showcased preacher-like chanting and arm-flailing dance moves to lift the song from dirt and into the sky above Pitchfork Music Festival 2013. Its studio recording, to be featured on their upcoming LP, To Be Kind, adds more insanity and unnerving sounds into the mix, including bursts from brass instruments and arrays of scattered percussion. Gira’s screams of “Feed me now!/ I still love the oxygen” are further intensified by nonsensical barking and dozing into the microphone and multiple layers of malicious guitar distortion. To Be Kind will unlock more intimidation and fright on May 13th via Young God Records. –Sam Willett

01. Deftones – “Smile”

deftones Top 10 Songs of the Week (4/18)

Deftones were recording what was supposed to be their sixth studio album, Eros, when bassist Chi Cheng was injured in a horrific car accident in November 2008 that left him in a coma. All production on the album ceased, and as Cheng’s condition worsened, the music was shelved (where it remains to this day).

Cheng passed away on April 13th of last year, and as a tribute to his fallen bandmate, frontman Chino Moreno shared one of those unreleased tracks earlier this week along with a short message on Twitter: “Chi, We miss you today and everyday.” Hinting at the serene atmospherics heard on the excellent Diamond Eyes and Koi No Yokan, “Smile” is a heartbreaking piece of music, context aside. The guitars ebb and flow to the pulse of Cheng’s bassline, building up and then collapsing into bliss. Moreno’s refrain rings especially poignant: “Smile, you’re born again.”

In one of the more despicable major label acts in recent memory, Warner Bros. pulled the song from YouTube for copyright infringement after Moreno shared it with fans. Thankfully, it’s already proliferated throughout the Internet. —Jon Hadusek

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