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Top 10 Songs of the Week (2/6)

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With the Grammys right around the corner, it’s really easy to get lost in all the glitz, glamor, and hoopla of the big name pop game. But if you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path than T-Swift or “Fancy”, this week’s batch of tunes should be perfect. That’s not to say that there aren’t familiar faces, as folks like Kevin Gates and Unknown Mortal Orchestra also check into the list. Whether your taste leans more toward the indie rap of Dave B or the doomed folk of Windhand’s Dorthia Cottrell, we’ve got you covered. Plus, who knows: These artists’ names might just be popping up when next year’s Grammys roll around.

10. Portico (feat. Joe Newman) – “101”

Portico 101

Sans original member Nick Mulvey and his subsequent replacement Kei Vine — and thus dropping the “quartet” tag from their original band name — London’s Portico have now harnessed their dark ambiance to support a talented cast of guest vocalists. “101”, the second single pulled from Living Fields, features the chilling echoes of Alt-J’s Joe Newman cast against a backdrop of dark celestial grooves. The group’s jazz wanderings are greatly reduced, having shifted into a sort of fluid trip-hop electronic experimentation. Grab what the trio have tagged a new “debut” April 06th via Ninja Tune. –Derek Staples

9. Dave B – “Do That”

dave b

There’s something about the scat-adjacent repetitions of the song’s title, chilled production, and the loose yet in-the-pocket flow to Dave B‘s “Do That” that makes me think of the Pharcyde — jazzy, interstellar, but certainly not lacking in killer instinct. The young Seattleite uses the stuttered guitar and soulful harmonies in the background to keep his jump-stop flow from drifting into the ether, kicking lines about how “if it don’t kill ya, pimp ya shouldn’t even trip.” This one’s a relaxed roller, and a sign of things to come from Dave’s ongoing Loosies collection. –Adam Kivel

8. Kevin Gates – “The Law”

Kevin Gates The Law

Kevin Gates is one of our most emotive rappers, but the supremely distressed “The Law” seems to set a new bar even for him. Over Millz and Zar’s electric guitar-fueled production, Gates flows volcanically, never taking a break for a chorus. “Seen a lotta shit that never happened in the movies,” he goes, and this is a lot of biography, with Gates referencing lows like the paranoia that accompanied his coke dealing days and, during a spoken outro, the deaths of his first daughter and grandfather. Comments sections about Gates are going crazy right now over his admission that he’s been having sex with his cousin (he didn’t know they were related at first), but please: Gates is a great rapper. Let “The Law” be a reason for you to keep up with him until he does something truly unforgivable. Hopefully he never will. –Michael Madden

7. Problem – “Compton”

Problem Salva Compton

When Compton rapper Problem names a song after his hometown a decade into his career (Kendrick and Game both did it on their second album), you know he means it. With great project titles like Million Dollar Afro (a tape with Iamsu!) under his belt, Problem is characteristically funny here, noting that you’d be able to tell he’s from Compton by the way he walks, talks — even by the way he shits. The steeliest part of the song is actually Salva’s beat, an absolute wallop that, apart from some synth flickers, is pretty much all drums. But Problem, lighthearted as he typically is, isn’t going to let his city’s chaotic-but-grievous reputation float by: “A few niggas that I grew with ain’t here.” –Michael Madden

6. Nite Jewel – “Infinity”

Nite-Jewel

Ramona Gonzalez’s new song as Nite Jewel roils through six whole minutes of nerves. She’s at war with the beats on “Infinity”, her voice a salve over the crunching, squealing electronics supplied by BatmanOnTheBeatz. Where you might expect tension and release, you only get tension; the track adopts all the usual trappings of synthpop but totally jettisons all of pop’s traditional mechanics. “Infinity” uncoils like a long, slow grind toward oblivion, or maybe a higher plane. It all depends on how much comfort you’re willing to take from Gonzalez’s smoky vox — or how much terror you get from what slithers underneath them. –Sasha Geffen

5. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Multi-Love”

UMO album

Unknown Mortal Orchestra have broken out some brand new colors. The title track from their forthcoming third album, Multi-Love (due out May 26th via Jagjaguwar), cuts sharp corners with its lithe funk bass and jagged keys. If Ruban Nielson’s previous ruminations on love fell through the air in a kind of self-deprecating haze, “Multi-Love” cooks up some real, unshrouded anxiety. The fuzz is off and the claws are out as the three-piece dig into polyamory and identity fracture. You’ve never heard UMO this clearly before. –Sasha Geffen

4. Dorthia Cottrell – “Oak Grove”

dorthia cottrell Top 10 Songs of the Week (2/6)

Shards of Dorthia Cottrell’s life as the frontwoman of doom metal band Windhand can be heard on “Oak Grove”, but they’re not in the band’s stormy riffs or marathon song lengths. This is a slow, spare psych folk song that’s built on just acoustic and pedal steel guitar, highlighting Cottrell’s haunted vocal tone and lyrics (“I don’t give a damn about what happens to me now/ All my love’s run out”). She retains a sense of her group’s atmosphere even while she does her own thing. That the song works so well shouldn’t be surprising, considering how well a similar (albeit longer) Windhand song, “Evergreen”, played on 2013’s Soma. “Oak Grove” is from her self-titled solo debut, out March 3rd via Forcefield. –Michael Madden

3. THEESatisfaction – “EarthEE”

theesatisfaction 15 Top 10 Songs of the Week (2/6)

Experimental R&B duo THEESatisfaction will release its sophomore album via Sub Pop on February 24th, and this week, Stas Irons and Cat Harris-White offer the second taste from the LP. “EarthEE” is another juggernaut from the pair, a complex machine constantly in motion. With guest features from Shabazz Palaces, Porter Ray, and Erik Blood, the single holds a whole atmosphere inside its four minutes. Steady R&B choruses give way to rapped verses, all while the spacious instrumentation keeps ascending, multiplying, and crashing back down to the ground. –Sasha Geffen

2. Hip Hatchet – “Coward’s Luck”

Hip Hatchet Portland Track Premiere

For long-time fans of Philippe Bronchtein (bka Portland’s Hip Hatchet), the singer-songwriter’s heartbreak during “Coward’s Luck” has most likely already been committed to memory — the track first appeared on BandCamp a few years back. Like the Americana that courses through the song’s veins, the pain and guilt expressed by Bronchtein for his former sins is equally timeless. This is a ballad for all those that have wronged another, and not even the acceptance of a heartfelt apology can numb the shame. With a narrative too rich to be relegated to the digital realm, “Coward’s Luck” is getting the album treatment, and is set to appear on Hip Hatchet’s forthcoming self-released full-length, out in April. –Derek Staples

1. Makthaverskan – “Witness”

Makthaverskan - new 7-inch

The tom roll and splash of feedback that open the latest from Makthaverskan echo the sound of furious thunder and lightning, an ominous portent of what the Swedish outfit is about to deliver. There’s a new wave glisten to the lead guitar, and frontwoman Maja Milner’s aching cries carry a similar composed drama, but there’s a tooth-gnashing fury to the track, too. The Gothenburg quintet runs a fine line where things could fall apart in raw pieces or sprawl out into theatrical pain. Instead, they keep “Witness” on the steely tracks. This song comes on the A-side of Makthaverskan’s new 7-inch, which hits the web on March 3rd via Luxury and will be available physically on Record Store Day (April 18th) via Run for Cover. –Adam Kivel

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