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Top 10 Songs of the Week (7/3)

From dream pop to black metal, this week brings cooler tracks to help you beat the heat.

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When the debate over Song of the Summer really starts to kick up, people tend to focus on the tracks with massive pop hooks, bright colors, and sunny dispositions. But for some, a little shade or a cool breeze would be just what the doctor ordered. Whether it’s the complex songwriting of Owen Pallett, the chilled dream pop of Beach House, or the haunting harmonies of La Luz, this week’s Top 10 should help you beat the heat.

10. Broken Keys – “Power Forward”

Broken Keys

One half of Cleveland’s Smoke Screen, producer/lyricist Tommy Sheridan (aka Broken Keys) continues to enrich the melodies beneath his downtempo, beat-driven language. With a flow fit for LA’s poolside escapism or sweaty Ibiza undergrounds, “Power Forward” is a psy-leaning example of vibrant minimal house. Whether chilling in a teeny bikini or stuck hundreds of miles from the nearest cabana, just close your eyes and let this interplay take you away. This one’s a must listen for those enchanted by the likes of Damian Lazarus or No. 19 Music. “Power Forward” is available to download via the Alloy-X collective. –Derek Staples

09. ProbCause – “I Feel U”

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Whether you’re creeping on his girl or having a rough day, Chicago rapper ProbCause has his eye on you and knows what’s going on. Throughout the chill, horn-laden “I Feel U”, he’s all about understanding and keeping aware — he just draws the line at people bringing their shit to his doorstep. Can’t say I blame him, ’cause if his place is anywhere near as nice as the production here (courtesy of Prob himself and DRO), I’d be worried about people messing up the vibe, too. The iced piano and thin percussion complete the picture, easily bouncing between aggression and ease at a moment’s notice. Probcause’s Drifters EP drops August 4th. –Adam Kivel


08. Statik Selektah feat. Action Bronson, Elle Varner, and Ab-Soul – “All You Need”

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There’s a certain studiousness to Statik Selektah’s beats; the producer cranks out instrumental after instrumental year after year, often reshaping throwback hip-hop sounds. Meanwhile, Action Bronson and Ab-Soul, the two rappers he recruited for “All You Need”, are consummate goofballs when they want to be, and they can’t help but make sure the track has a lighthearted vibe (starting with Action’s absurdist intro). Then again, the romance-themed verses are laser-focused, so it’s really Statik’s lush, soulful beat that gives the track its defining smoothness. Find it on Statik’s guest-heavy Lucky 7, out July 7th via Showoff/Duck Down. –Michael Madden

07. Beach House – “Sparks”

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Even with the sprawling sound we’ve come to expect from Beach House, “Sparks” marks a shift away from the Baltimore duo’s signature dream pop in favor of something even more expansive. It’s an intoxicating rush of calming melodies and shoegaze production that goes on for over five minutes, and while it’s not an earworm like the band’s “Take Care”, you’re in good hands whenever Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally go for vast sonics, even if it means forgoing instant hooks. Credit where it’s due, though: Legrand’s voice might be oddly unrecognizable on first listen, but with a couple more plays, she comes to sound like her impressive usual self. Depression Cherry, Beach House’s follow-up to 2012’s Bloom, is due out August 28th via Sub Pop. –Michael Madden


06. La Luz – “Don’t Wanna Be Anywhere”

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“I think it’s pretty obvious that we’re not only playing surf rock,” La Luz vocalist/guitarist Shana Cleveland noted in our recent CoSign interview with the Seattle quartet. The latest song from their upcoming sophomore LP, Weirdo Shrine, validates that assertion. Sure, the track opens on a bouncy rhythm section and rippling guitar, but the first line makes it clear that this one isn’t about a beach party. “I don’t wanna be anywhere you have not breathed the air,” Cleveland sings, elongating the line to a breathy sigh. Her bandmates add in lush harmonies and purple organ chords, but the space of absence and loss can’t be filled entirely. The song, informed by the death of one of Cleveland’s childhood friends, brims with intimate oohs and aahs, but the shadow hanging over everything makes that intimacy uncanny and strange. Weirdo Shrine will arrive in full on August 7th via Hardly Art. —Adam Kivel

05. Skepta – “Back Then”

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“All my niggas on the rise, man/ It’s a sad time for the KKK,” Skepta raps on his latest release, and it’s not just a memorable boast. The London rapper and grime star is in an ambassadorial position, finding Stateside success with songs like “Shutdown” and making friends with artists including Kanye West, Drake, and A$AP Rocky. On “Back Then”, he travels especially far from home; producer Plastician only slightly tweaks the instrumental to Mike Jones, Slum Thug, and Paul Wall’s mid-‘00s Houston rap hit “Still Tippin’”. It might be a blatant move away from grime’s fast tempos, but it shows that Skepta can turn around 180 degrees and still sound ready for his close-up. Watch for his next album, Konnichiwa, to drop soon. –Michael Madden

04. Owen Pallett – “The Phone Call”

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Owen Pallett’s last album, In Conflict, loved tying itself up in knots. The artist formerly known as Final Fantasy has the kind of compositional skill to get lost in his own arrangements only to trace his way back out, and to make the whole adventure glimmer while he’s at it. But his latest single for Adult Swim keeps things disarmingly simple. Synthesizer chords drone like a dial tone while glitchy figures rain down. Pallett pushes himself to the upper limits of his vocal range on “The Phone Call”, his words masked in echo, all while the same chords loop over and over. For someone so adept at ornamentation, this pale limbo of a song pushes the violinist (who has put down his violin for now) into a space where he can’t pretty up his impulses. Sometimes it’s just you and the keys and a few pedals; sometimes you’ve got to sound alone to really feel your aloneness. –Sasha Geffen


03. Myrkur – “Onde Børn”

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Black metal drums generally preempt a certain kind of singing, but Amalie Bruun isn’t concerned with the human white noise that usually roars out above the blast beats. She wields melody, and in her project Myrkur, she’s happy to layer something a little more delicate over that blackened crust. Her new single “Onde Børn”, from her forthcoming debut LP, M, layers Bruun’s multi-tracked soprano over thorny, distorted chords. The song’s progression doesn’t resolve itself, but melts into a whirlwind of strings as the amps slowly fade from earshot. M arrives from Relapse Records on August 21st. –Sasha Geffen


02. Bad Bad Hats – “Fight Song”

bad bad hats Top 10 Songs of the Week (7/3)

The new song from Bad Bad Hats carries itself like it hasn’t got a care in the world. It’s got punch and spunk and even a few sprays of horns towards the end. Hone in on the lyrics, though, and the breezy summer car ride gets undercut by something more sinister. Singer-guitarist Kerry Alexander spits warning after warning: “Whatever you do, don’t look up at the stars,” she cautions. “Whatever you do, don’t look at me too hard.” Then, at the chorus, she’s thrashing  around against invisible arms, yelling “fight! fight! fight!” while never once dropping her smile. “Fight Song” comes from the trio’s forthcoming debut LP, Psychic Reader, due July 17th from Afternoon Records. –Sasha Geffen


01. Le Butcherettes – “They Fuck You Over”

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Illegal searches, rising living costs, government surveillance: Sometimes it hard to think “the man” is doing anything but trying (and succeeding) at fucking a large portion of the population over. At just over two minutes in length, and comprised of just a few rebellious verses and that infectiously profane hook, Le Butcherettes’ “They Fuck You Over” is simple in theory, yet profound in its delivery. The first taste from their forthcoming Omar Rodriguez-Lopez-produced LP, A Raw Youth, the single hits with the same raw energy as ’80s punk — but here’s hoping we don’t have to keep screaming about oppression 30 years from now. As the song professes, sometimes the only way to compete is “by doing the worst [you] can.” So, go out and make a ruckus. A Raw Youth will be available September 18th via Ipecac Recordings. –Derek Staples

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