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Top Songs of the Week (5/29)

Throwback tones and forward-looking chaos compete for the week's best tracks

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This week’s selections gave us several throwback tones to enjoy. It makes sense given the spirits following Memorial Day sentiments. Be it a weepy classic rock guitar vibe beneath the fire of Mick Jenkins, the continued evolution of UK garage from Disclosure, noise-pop sweetness courtesy of Oberhofer, or Sarah Neufeld bringing fresh ears to the violin, these artists find new life in familiar sounds. But don’t get too comfortable in the acoustic bliss of Chris Weisman; there is definitely some chaos promised by the likes of Son Lux and Ecstatic Vision, too.

10. Oberhofer – “Memory Remains”

oberhofer1 Top Songs of the Week (5/29)

Brad Oberhofer is back, and he’ll release his second album under his surname this August. Chronovision, the follow-up to 2012’s Time Capsules II, arrives August 21st through Glassnote Records. Our first taste of the album comes in the form of “Memory Remains”, a glam rock ballad that sees Oberhofer reassuming his role as a reliably charismatic frontman. He hits somewhere between David Bowie and Robert Smith in this take, which also draws blood from early aughts post-punk like the Killers and Hot Hot Heat. It’s an unabashedly campy swinger — Oberhofer doesn’t let his retrospective vision sap any of the color from his glitter-coated sources. –Sasha Geffen


9. Girlpool – “Cherry Picking”

Girlpool - BTWWB - Press pic by Alice Baxley
Photo by Alice Baxley

Philly-via-Los Angeles duo Girlpool — comprising just Cleo Tucker’s and Harmony Tividad’s voices, Tucker’s guitar, and Tividad’s bass — make rock music that’s minimal only in terms of the actual number of parts. Their power comes from the life-affirming unity of the two young women at the center. “Cherry Picking”, a standout from their upcoming debut album, Before the World Was Big, is less startlingly raw than other Girlpool songs we’ve heard, with the pair’s vocal delivery entering with a relative calm. There’s serious tension eventually, though: “Yes, I am picking cherries/ I have a hard time staying clean,” they sing. Before the World Was Big is out June 2nd via Wichita Recordings. –Michael Madden

8. Ecstatic Vision – “Astral Plane”

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You might want to grab yourself a snack before partaking in this 12-minute epic courtesy of Philadelphia trio Ecstatic Vision. Set to appear on their June 30th full-length release Sonic Praise via Relapse, “Astral Plane” listens like a three-track experimental psych metal endeavor that has congealed into some beautiful atrocity. Commencing with a continuously building primal drum pattern and dueling guitar melodies, “Astral Plane” screams in excitement as it transforms into a Southern rock hybrid before twisting its way through the rasping delivery of guitarist/singer Doug Sabolic. More than the length itself, it’s surprising how three men can somehow also layer in a series of horns. And even after 11 minutes and 48 seconds, you’re left wanting more of that hissing riff and churning bass guitar. –Derek Staples

7. Sarah Neufeld – “We’ve Got A Lot”

sarah neufeld Top Songs of the Week (5/29)

Sarah Neufeld just released a joint LP with bass sax virtuoso Colin Stetson, but she’s got more of her own music ready to see the light. This week, she offers up “We’ve Got A Lot”, which allegedly was written somewhere in the woods. Neufeld brings on Arcade Fire drummer Jeremy Gara to lend some percussive weight to her voice and violin composition, which sways back and forth between tense, gnarled chords. Hans Bernhard textures the bottom end of the song with a light touch on the bass guitar, while Stetson reappears for a few choice notes on his beluga whale of an instrument. –Sasha Geffen


6. Chris Weisman – “Nothing More But You”

chris weisman Top Songs of the Week (5/29)

Vermont’s Chris Weisman seems to have an endless supply of strange, small pop songs hidden in his vaults. In February, the prolific outsider artist put out his first full-length of the year, The Holy Life That’s Coming, followed by the previously unreleased CD Living With Poison. Now he’s returned with a third batch, a 13-song LP called Chaos Isn’t Single released via Hidden Temple Tapes. That album’s single “Nothing More But You” is both a subtle love song and a great example of Weisman’s peculiar lyricism. He sings like he’s rattling syllables off the top of his head, but then the chorus goes, “I believe in nothing more but you.” Not “nothing else,” which would be the obvious choice, but “nothing more,” as if there could be nothing greater or more worth believing in than that “you” he’s singing to. –Sasha Geffen


5. Mick Jenkins – “P’s & Q’s”

Mick Jenkins

Chicago’s Mick Jenkins has built a substantial buzz on his complex, literary style of rapping. “P’s and Q’s”, then, is his way of stunting, as Mick looks to start every word he can with one of those two letters. You can call it self-indulgent; he knows most rappers wouldn’t want to play this game, if they could even win at it. But what’s impressive is that he never actually sounds limited here, coming up with incisive phrases while still playing by the rules (“Quantum leaps ahead of my peers”; “I pack it full of quotes”). Be on the lookout for Mick’s Wave[s] EP, out sometime soon. –Michael Madden


4. Rob Made – “It’s Like That, Yeah”

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G-house is the next underground vibe about to surface, and London’s Rob Made plus his cross-continental Sleazy Deep imprint are leading the charge. An intentionally retro blend of nu-disco and Detroit’s ghetto-tech, “It’s Like That, Yeah” is pure electronic bliss. The track, available now via Altus Project, strips a 1988 Wee Papa Girl Rappers sample (“Heat it Up”) of all the extra lyricism and concentrates that energy on its rotund bottom end. Even at 2 a.m., the body can’t help but groove to these mid-tempo electro tones — which are still getting dusty at most record shops. And kudos to Made for shouting out such an influential acid project. –Derek Staples

3. Son Lux – “You Don’t Know Me”

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The latest single from Son Lux echoes both Lesley Gore’s classic, defiant rendition of “You Don’t Own Me” and Klaus Nomi’s brilliant, alien cover. It bunches time up and spits it back out as something fevered, chaotic, and undeniable of the present. Guest vocals from Moses Sumney and Hanna Benn fold up in gauzy layers, while the project’s lead figure Ryan Lott sings through an audible case of bronchitis. The cracks across his voice only make “You Don’t Know Me” that much stranger and all the more urgent — it’s a tower rising from the horizon only to collapse back in on itself at the finish. The track comes from Bones, Son Lux’s forthcoming album due June 23rd from Glassnote Records. –Sasha Geffen


2. Disclosure – “Holding On”

disclosure faces2 Top Songs of the Week (5/29)

Even in at your lowest, just go ahead and attempt to listen to “Holding On” without eventually breaking out into a grin from ear to ear. The first single pulled from Disclosure’s highly-awaited sophomore LP, this five-minute garage flashback is buttoned-up in a five-piece suit and exudes class thanks in part to Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Gregory Porter. As we approach the summer months, many of us await the kind of love that is bound to break hearts, and Porter embraces that passion. Successfully earning the continued support of legends in the industry while entertaining youthful festival audiences across the globe, the Lawrence brothers have quickly established themselves as trusted taste-makers and purveyors of radio-ready club music. –Derek Staples


1. Willis Earl Beal – “Flying So Low”

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“Flying So Low”, from Chicago-bred soul man Willis Earl Beal’s upcoming Noctunes (out August 28th via Tender Loving Empire), is quiet and understated even for a guy who’s always dealt in humble musical forms. Still, its central sigh (“I’m flying so low”) lands a blow each time Beal sings it; he sounds truly haunted. It’s heartening to see an artist who arrived with so much clear potential — he’s likened listeners hearing his 2012 debut, Acousmatic Sorcery, to walking in on someone in the bathroom — still get such heart-stopping results from an unassuming woosh of sound. With the death of B.B. King earlier this month, it’s hard not to hear “Flying So Low” as a sort of tribute to artists who’ve said a great deal without flashy methods of doing so. –Michael Madden

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