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Top 10 Songs of the Week (1/30)

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Besides quality, there aren’t many threads that connect this week’s batch of top songs. Each track occupies its own genre niche and career trajectory. Sure, there are the grungy and acerbic offerings from Courtney Barnett and Torres, but the rest are little more varied. Meanwhile, rocker Mikal Cronin seems to be jumping away from his Dinosaur Jr. fuzz-laden sensibility to something more jubilantly pop-oriented. There’s Dan Boeckner, who’s sounding revitalized as he’s indulging his synthpop impulses with Operators, and Ryshon Jones, a hardworking rapper who seems pegged to finally have his moment. Even though these tracks may not be related, diversity and change are good things, and these artists prove it.

10. Lapalux feat. Szjerdene – “Closure”

Lapalux Closure

The warm female voice that wanders through Lapalux’s “Closure” will be familiar to fans of downtempo electronica: London’s Szjerdene has been Bonobo’s preferred live vocalist for years. Like Bonobo, Essex’s Lapalux is never in a hurry to deliver his beautiful motives to the yearning masses. Coming from one of the more accessible producers on the Brainfeeder roster, this single, off Lapalux’s Lustmore LP (out April 7th), infuses some depressed R&B stylings into the imprint’s expected broken textures and interstellar musings. Delicate, passionate, and unexpected, this is the love so many look for. –Derek Staples

9. Open Mike Eagle – “Raps for When It’s Just You and the Abyss”

OpenMikeEagle

Listen closely as Open Mike Eagle pulls the hook from Broken Social Scene’s 2002 song “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl” (“Used to be one of the rotten ones and I liked you for that”) and repurposes it to fit his signature decelerated art rap flow. Reminiscent of Dark Comedy’s bleak instrumentals and twisted humor, it’s the enigmatic producer lo-phi who offers up a plodding beat for Eagle to slide into. The flow may be casual, but the dude has a knack for pulling out some crazy rhymes — ever heard the word “tesseract” get thrown into a verse about one’s label hopes? The track is set to appear February 3rd on Mike’s A Special Episode Of EP via Mello Music Group. –Derek Staples

8. Ryshon Jones feat. Somewearmasks – “What iDesire, iProtect”

ryshon desiresingle Top 10 Songs of the Week (1/30)

Philadelphia’s Ryshon Jones is a reason to believe that his city’s alternative rap landscape post-Roots is as vibrant as the indie rock scene that’s produced Kurt Vile and The War on Drugs. His new track, “What iDesire, iProtect”, is booming and menacing, with glitchy bass and noise that makes it seem like Jones is rapping from a dystopian hellscape. It’s a disorienting and awesome effect, and it highlights Jones’ keen ear for creating a dark atmosphere. The song will appear on his upcoming free album, You’re Safe Now, which is due out in March. –Josh Terry

7. Operators – “Ecstasy in My House”

operatorsbandphoto Top 10 Songs of the Week (1/30)

Really, the better question is what isn’t Dan Boeckner up to these days? The musical polymath has done time alongside Spoon’s Britt Daniel in Divine Fits, and he’s known for having played with the mid-aughts indie powerhouse Wolf Parade, too. But like so many indie rock dudes before him, Boeckner has found new life in synths. His new band Operators hits synthpop right in its squelchy, arpeggiated heart, letting currents of electricity power the music all on their own. “I’m talking in my own voice now,” Boeckner sings on “Ecstasy in My House”, and though the settings might be a little unfamiliar, it’s tough not to believe him. –Sasha Geffen

6. Shlohmo – “Buried”

Shlohmo - Dark Red - Album

It’s very easy to get lost in “Buried”, the new track from rising producer Shlohmo, who you’ll probably recognize from his collaborations with How to Dress Well and Jeremih. He’s releasing a new album called Dark Red on April 7th via True Panther, and as a first taste, “Buried” is a sprawling and dense ride. Spanning nearly seven minutes, the track is a cornucopia of disparate influences ranging from IDM to sludge metal to R&B and post-rock. It’s wonderfully off-the-wall, complete with a slow build that more than pays off over the course of its elongated runtime. It feels like a lost Godspeed You! Black Emperor track, something that would fit excellent in the score of an edgy film. –Josh Terry

5. Kaytranada feat. Vic Mensa – “Drive Me Crazy”

Katyranada Vic Mensa

Some are going to come to know “Drive Me Crazy” as a Vic Mensa song, and for good reason: Between his animated delivery, his subtle but effective wordplay (“I’m buyin’ Nike stock when I see these checks”), and his woozily melodic chorus, the Chicago rapper took full advantage of his feature here. But it is a feature — find it on the forthcoming XL Recordings debut of Haitian-born, Montreal-raised producer Kaytranada, whose beat whooshes and glints for two surreal minutes after Mensa caps his second and final verse. Following one of last year’s Top Songs, “Wimme Nah” (which Mensa references here in his opening bars), consider Kaytranada and Mensa two for two. –Michael Madden

4. Torres – “Strange Hellos”

Torres-Sprinter-Album

What starts as empty space soon goes up in flames on the first taste of Torres’ new album, the heavy, molten “Strange Hellos”. The single’s introductory seconds are broken up only by Mackenzie Scott’s hushed voice and a few muted strokes of guitar. And then hell breaks loose. “Strange Hellos” marks a fierce, surprising turn for the young songwriter, who sings about love and inadequacy with a new rawness and at new volumes. It taps into grunge, but not Hole or Nirvana’s quadrant; “Strange Hellos” owes more to Alice in Chains and the life-or-death stakes that governed their music. “Strange Hellos” is the opening track on Sprinter, which comes out May 5th on Partisan Records. –Sasha Geffen

3. Mikal Cronin – “Made My Mind Up”

Mikal Cronin - new album MCIII

Garage rocker Mikal Cronin’s leap from the raw power of his first album to his more orchestrated second couldn’t have been more pronounced, but despite promising that he’ll “go big” with his upcoming MCIII (set to feature, among other instrumentation, the tzouras, a Greek string instrument he bought on tour while in Athens), first single “Made My Mind Up” is far from cluttered. It blasts off with a near-constant electric guitar lick that’s really all the ornamentation the song needs; the only grand instrumental flourish is the piano progression that bubbles up during the bridge, bringing to mind nothing so much as Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”. Otherwise, it’s a straightforward stomper from a guy who recognizes when keeping it simple is his best option. MCIII is out May 5th via Merge. –Michael Madden

2. Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian at Best”

courtneybarnett new album Top 10 Songs of the Week (1/30)

On the first song to emerge from her debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, Aussie singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett tempts fate by nearly drowning in a sea of grungy distortion, letting her greatest strength — her irreverent lyrics — drift to the background. That said, following songs like “Avant Gardener”, it’s hard to hear Barnett’s voice without leaning in in hopes of more lines as self-deprecatingly hilarious as “The paramedic thinks I’m clever ‘cause I play guitar/ I think she’s clever ‘cause she stops people dying.” As it turns out, “Pedestrian at Best” is as witty as anything Barnett’s released to date, but like her “David”, it also has bite: “I think you’re a joke but I don’t find you very funny.” Sometimes I Sit… is out March 24th on Mom+Pop Music. –Michael Madden

1. Lower Dens – “To Die in L.A.”

Lower Dens – Escape FroM Evil Cover

The last we heard from Lower Dens, they were navigating the dense and bubbly channels of good old-fashioned krautrock with songs like “Brains” on their 2012 album, Nootropics. “To Die in L.A.” isn’t krautrock. The tightness of its synth riffs is only emphasized by the loose, easy way the song’s guitars ring out, and when Jana Hunter’s voice coils up on the chorus, Lower Dens inject a thicker sugar syrup than they’ve done in a while. This sounds like Cocteau Twins broke down and started listening to Madonna. This sounds like pop. Find it on the band’s upcoming Escape from Evil, out March 31st via Ribbon Music. –Sasha Geffen

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