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Top 10 Songs of the Week (10/31)

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This time of year brings a certain anxiety to music writers: It’s time to start thinking about year-end lists. It’s particularly tough to decide on our top songs of the year, even with a barometer like iTunes play counts to go off of. Sifting through these lists for past No. 1s helps, though. For now, it’s exciting enough to replay each and every one.

10. Baauer feat. AlunaGeorge and Rae Sremmurd – “One Touch”

Baauer AlunaGeorge

Since shocking nearly all of social media with the drop of “Harlem Shake”, NY transplant Baauer has been on a mission to prove his artistry is more profound that just one viral single. Some results have been a bit painful, like the disorienting “Clang”, but the producer has found a new sweet spot with “One Touch”, featuring AlunaGeorge and Rae Sremmurd. Although putting the spotlight on some of the brightest up-and-comers out of the UK and Atlanta, respectively, the track creeps from the underground stylings of garage and trapstyle. The vocals courtesy of Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy run excessively raunchy, the textures are pulled through the grime, yet Aluna Francis manages to leave an indelible mark of innocent flirtation on the collaboration. –Derek Staples

9. PJ Harvey – “Red Right Hand” (Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds cover)

PJ Harvey Nick Cave

We’ve heard little from PJ Harvey since she released one of 2011’s best albums in Let England Shake, but on an episode of BBC’s Peaky Blinders, she makes a resounding return with an interesting take on Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand”. Removing the original 1994 Let Love In cut’s slinking riff and Cave’s staccato delivery, Harvey’s rendition instead replaces it with somber piano and astute ear for dark atmosphere. With producer Flood behind the boards, it elegantly keeps the spooky vibe and morphs it into something beautiful. –Josh Terry

8. Blended Babies feat. Asher Roth and Buddy – “Sayin’ Whatever”

Blended Babies Sayin Whatever

While many people may pigeonhole Asher Roth for his frat rap party single “I Love College”, the Pennsylvania-born rapper has excelled in his discography since, especially with his 2013 mixtape The Greenhouse Effect Vol. 2 and this year’s album, RetroHash. On “Sayin’ Whatever”, he’s teamed with the rising production duo Blended Babies for a minimalist yet enthralling track also featuring Compton MC Buddy. It’s a winning collaboration, with dexterous wordplay from both Roth and Buddy expertly soundtracked by blips of vocal samples and a sauntering bass line. –Josh Terry

7. Damien Rice – “The Greatest Bastard”

Damien Rice - The Greatest Bastard

“I helped you open out your wings/ Your legs, and many other things/ Didn’t I?” Damien Rice mourns over his weeping guitar melody. The thought of Rice having a fruitful romantic relationship with anyone, or anything, other than his acoustic guitar almost seems like an impossibility at this moment, as if him doing so would somehow deliver too much happiness into the world. No one ever wants to feel lost or sad, but Rice has been a companion on that journey for many over the last decade. Despite serving as an emotive comrade for some, Rice wears “The Greatest Bastard” tag heavily on his tear-soaked sleeve. The saga continues with the release of My Favourite Faded Fantasy November 11th via Warner Bros. Records. –Derek Staples

6. Drake – “How Bout Now”

drakesixLP

Can you hear Drake now? On “How Bout Now”, one of three songs he debuted last weekend following his 28th birthday, the endlessly on-fire rapper taunts an ex, remembering that she didn’t even appreciate it when he drove through the snow to get her to her bar exam. The beat samples the buttery Jodeci ballad “My Heart Belongs to U”, which lends a distinct R&B melancholy to Drizzy’s smirking delivery. –Michael Madden

5. Theophilus London feat. Kanye West – “Can’t Stop”

Theophilus London Vibes

Kanye West not only served as executive producer on Theophilus London’s new album, Vibes, but he also showed up on “Can’t Stop” to lay down a killer guest verse. The song locks into a euphoric groove from the first few bars, finger snaps colliding with synths — and then Yeezy lays down a verse that hearkens back to the albums that padded his meteoric rise, like The College Dropout and Graduation. Theophilus’ chorus does the tough job of dusting off a phrase that Miley Cyrus wore into the ground a year ago, but his tuneful, choppy vocals make “we can’t stop” a mantra worth repeating all over again. –Sasha Geffen

4. The Dead Weather – “Buzzkill(er)”

Dead Weather 2015

Nashville supergroup the Dead Weather teased another cut from their forthcoming album this week, and it’s a lean slice of stripped-down rock that doesn’t let any gimmicks cloud its mood. Queens of the Stone Age’s Dean Fertita winds a sour lead guitar figure against Alison Mosshart’s smoky vocals, while she counters with a mean crunch of rhythm chords. Like the best songs in Jack White’s catalog, “Buzzkill(er)” leaves plenty of space for its minimal elements to duke it out. Guitars dogpile on guitars until the single simmers to a close, never quite reaching a resolution, just reveling in its own tension. –Sasha Geffen

3. Belle and Sebastian – “The Party Line”

Belle and Sebastian Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance

In addition to their mellower side of hushed, acoustic-based indie pop, Belle and Sebastian have also occasionally explored livelier, almost disco-inspired territory. With “The Party Line”, the first taste of the Scottish band’s upcoming ninth studio album Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance (out January 20th via Matador), they let loose even more. Where jaunty past singles like “I’m a Cuckoo” featured horns and a catchy riff, this song goes even further with funky guitars, electronic flourishes, and a danceable chorus. It’s an exciting and compelling new sound for such a veteran act. –Josh Terry


2. Angel Olsen – “May As Well”

Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen sounds devastated; “May As Well”, the latest song to appear from the upcoming deluxe edition of her Burn Your Fire for No Witness (out November 18th via Jagjaguwar), is lined with the softest strums you’ve heard this week and a hushed vocal delivery to match. “One could say it’s complicated,” she sings of an achy-breaky relationship, an understatement that’s reflective of her wit. You’ll have to head to Burn Your Fire proper for her more raucous side, because this is a spectral folk number in the vein of Vashti Bunyan. Listen over at NPR–Michael Madden

1. Nas – “The Season”

Nas 2015

J Dilla was busy making beat after beat until the day he died in 2006; it’s no wonder his spirit lives on through reverent MCs like Nas. Shockingly, “The Season” — which recycles the horn-powered “Gobstopper”, off Dilla’s Donuts — marks just the first time Nasir Jones has hopped on a beat by the Detroit producer, and he wants to be clear: “Dilla lives on; it’s like he wrote it with me.” It’s odd to hear such a technical and innovative rapper sound this relaxed, but that’s the point: “I just put it down for a second/ Damn, can a king lounge for a second?” he asks anyone who’s impatient with his artistic process. “The Season” may or may not appear on the Queensbridge legend’s next album, the yet-untitled follow-up to 2012’s excellent Life Is Good–Michael Madden

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