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Top 10 Songs of the Week (1/16)

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History folds in on itself, and music history might fold even tighter. Fifteen years into the 21st century, we’re looking at releases from Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, and Sufjan Stevens. Twee is making the rounds again, but even the return of those indie pillars can’t overshadow what the kids are putting out into the world. This week, we’ve been loving fresh singles from up-and-coming artists poised to release their debut LP, as well as growing favorites building up to album two or three. We’ve been spinning noise freakouts from Doldrums and pastel-hued retro-pop from Natalie Prass. 2015 is off to the races. Here we go.

10. Young Guv – “Wrong Crowd”

Young Guv – Ripe 4 Luv

When an artist makes a song that sounds like it could’ve been on Destroyer’s masterful LP, Kaputt, it’s high praise. That’s exactly what Young Guv, aka Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook, did on his new single, “Wrong Crowd”. Stretching out over seven minutes, the track is buoyed by horns, circling bass riffs, and Cook’s breathy voice. In a statement, Cook revealed, “The song is about a man wrongly accused of robbery, writing his wife from prison,” although the whirl of synths and woozy melodies make that point easy to miss. It’s easy to get lost in this sentimental and retro-minded track, which closes out Cook’s forthcoming album, Ripe 4 Luv, out March 10th via Slumberland Records.  –Josh Terry

9. Doldrums – “HOTFOOT”

Doldrums - My Air Conditioned Nightmare album 2015

Brash, chaotic electronics line the first few moments of Doldrums’ newest offering, “HOTFOOT”. It’s not until 40 seconds into the track that Airick Woodhead pulls the leash on the noise and calms nerves with a rudimentary, digitized percussion line. The lead single from the collective’s forthcoming The Air Conditioned Nightmare, available April 7th via Sub Pop, “HOTFOOT” foreshadows the album’s themes as described by Woodhead: “There’s a lot of paranoid sentiment and Dystopian imagery in there. The threat of a mundane reality ties it together, as does an obsession with plasticity.” The effects are real, as Doldrums latch onto the beauty of female vocal delivery to dilute the bleakness of the surrounding instrumentals. –Derek Staples

8. 2 Chainz – “Road Dawg”

2 Chainz Road Dawg

As detailed by the polarizing Nancy Grace earlier in the week, Atlanta’s Tauheed Epps (aka 2 Chainz) is a clever, college-educated family man; one that also happens to smoke weed and enjoys his onscreen ladies a little under-dressed. Unbeknownst to much of the world, Grace seemed to be an undercover fan of the rapper, casually rehashing some of 2 Chainz’s more venomous verses. Just hours after the clip went viral, Chainz let loose another not-so-esoteric tale about the trials of an inner-city upbringing in the form of “Road Dawg”. After verifying his authority with a few verses about the hustle, 2 Chainz reminisces about all his kin still locked away, many for minor offenses. Atop the syrupy Southern hip-hop beats provided by DJ Spinz, 2 Chainz closes out the track by namedropping his new Real University crew. Grab the track, and get an education from 2 Chainz’s new imprint, when the T.R.U Jack City mixtape drops January 27th. –Derek Staples

7. The Dirty Sample feat. Roc Marciano – “Three Sixty Five”

The Dirty Sample

Roc Marciano’s grim, minimalist sound is one of the most distinctive in hip-hop largely because he usually produces himself; by rapping over another producer’s beat, he risks losing some of that familiarity. Thankfully, when he shows up on Calgary producer The Dirty Sample’s new album, Raw Produce, he sounds right at home. The fine points of his style are on display as he stuffs pulpy internal rhymes into his verses (“Picture this, bricks cookin’ like grits”), his raspy voice just barely jutting above the hypnotic, turntable-scratching track. Raw Produce is out now via Golden Triangle Sound/Phonographique Music Company. –Michael Madden

6. Matthew E. White – “Rock & Roll is Cold”

MattWhite_Highres1000_Dec14

“Rock & Roll is Cold”, the first single from Matthew E. White’s forthcoming Fresh Blood (out 3/10 via Domino), is vibrant and playful. Taking inspiration from legends like Randy Newman, the Richmond, Virginia native manages to be reverent but not beholden to his retro influences. The song’s a meta-commentary on music, with lines like, “Rock ’n’ roll? It don’t have soul” and “Everyone likes to talk shit,” which music writers everywhere will probably think is about them. As he proved on 2012’s excellent Big Inner, White and his Spacebomb Records crew have a knack for producing orchestral ‘70s-inflected arrangements and making them feel wholly relevant and delectable.  –Josh Terry

5. Hanni El Khatib and Freddie Gibbs – “Satin Black”

Freddie Gibbs Hanni El Khatib

This collaboration between garage rocker Hanni El Khatib and rapper Freddie Gibbs, arranged by Converse, isn’t so surprising when you consider El Khatib has been lacing hip-hop into his presentation for a minute now (see the GZA remix of his recent single, “Moonlight”). Sure enough, the track leans more rap than rock on the strength of Gibbs’s two (profanity-free!) verses. But in a move that can only be so surprising to Freddie Caine’s fans after last year’s expansive Piñata with Madlib, El Khatib takes over the last minute or so as the song rides out with a psychedelic groove. Find it on CONS EP Vol. 3, out in the spring; El Khatib releases his third album, Moonlight, January 20th via Innovative Leisure. –Michael Madden

 4. The Districts – “Peaches”

the districts 15 Top 10 Songs of the Week (1/16)

With A Flourish and a Spoil, out on February 10th, CoSigned Pennsylvania rockers The Districts have a chance to cement their reputation as an established force to be reckoned with rather than just buzzy, fresh-faced newcomers. With “Peaches”, the latest single off the LP, that task might already be close to finished. The guitars are ridiculously fuzzy, courtesy of the band’s new producer John Congelton, who’s known for bringing his proclivity for fuzz to Angel Olsen’s Burn Your For No Witness. Here, vocalist Rob Grote showcases why his passionate yelps make him at the head of the class of exciting young frontmen, and the wailing leads from new guitarist Pat Cassidy prove his transition into the band has been smooth.  –Josh Terry

3. Purity Ring – “Begin Again”

Purity Ring

When Purity Ring emerged from hibernation late last year, they’d shaken off some of the blear that coated their enigmatic 2012 debut, Shrines. They’d come around clear. Where their first album shimmered and blurred, “Push Pull” cut through the air with sharp production and tightly coiled melodies. Megan James even toned down the shrouding effects on her voice. Now, their second new single “Begin Again” cements the tone of their forthcoming sophomore record. James and producer/multi-instrumentalist Corin Roddick have trimmed the tassels from their songwriting, honing in on strong pop melody and brash, bright electronics. Due March 3rd from 4AD, Another Eternity already sounds like a fresh start. –Sasha Geffen

2. Waxahatchee – “Air”

Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

Waxahatchee jumps from punk rock label Don Giovanni to indie powerhouse Merge this April, and our first taste of her upcoming full-length shows she’s been prepping for the switch. “Air”, the new single from Katie Crutchfield’s third album as Waxahatchee, rings with a hi-fi warmth and a newly expanded sense of space. The drums tower, the guitars shiver, and Crutchfield’s pocked, expressive voice lilts over what sounds like a whole landscape, not just a bedroom. She’s taking up more room, but her writing feels as tightly knit as ever. “You are patiently giving me everything that I will never need,” she sings in what could be a love song bound up in anxiety and regret. Waxahatchee’s next album, Ivy Tripp, arrives April 7th; expect more gems in the months ahead. –Sasha Geffen

1. Natalie Prass – “My Baby Don’t Understand Me”

Natalie-Prass-SB006-Cover-Art-Lo-Res-1

Though their back catalog is small for now, the folks at Spacebomb Records know how to put their mark on an artist’s sound for the better. Case in point: Nashville/Richmond songwriter and Jenny Lewis backup singer Natalie Prass’s “My Baby Don’t Understand Me”. The five-minute song benefits greatly from Spacebomb’s house band, especially the brass section. Both a whispered prayer and a cry for help, it’s the most exuberant-sounding song we’ve heard from Prass yet, but that doesn’t mean her lamentations (“our love is a long goodbye”) won’t strike you in your nerve endings. “My Baby Don’t Understand Me” is the opener on her self-titled debut, out January 27th via Spacebomb. –Michael Madden

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