Top 10 Songs of the Week (7/31)

While Drake and Meek continue to go at it, other artists' patience is being rewarded


Last night, Meek Mill finally clapped back at Drake with the diss track “Wanna Know”. No other music came out this past week that was as anticipated as Drake’s two tracks against Meek or Meek’s inevitable retaliation, but there were plenty of songs that presumably took longer to put together. Sure, Drake made it look easy with “Back to Back Freestyle”, but whether it’s the poetic touch of Craig Finn or Angel Haze or the intricate teamwork of Disclosure and Sam Smith, this week’s list has tracks that suggest creating great music is hardly an instant, automatic process.

10. Kylesa – “Lost and Confused”

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Psychedelia is often resigned to the hazy corners of the music world, the nostalgic ’60s vibes where the worst things get is a little woozy. When Savannah, Georgia sludge metal trio Kylesa go psychedelic, though, it’s a decidedly bad trip. “Lost and Confused” lurches back and forth between tempos. Straight-ahead rhythmic chugging gives way to slow, eerie strolls, and then everything gets sewn together with brain-itching guitar riffage. Kylesa will release their upcoming album, Exhausting Fire, October 2nd on Season of Mist. –Adam Kivel

09. Big Awesome – “Wookie Blaylock”

Big Awesome Party On

For a while, we had to debate whether we were having an emo revival. Then we had to debate whether to use the phrase emo revival. Instead of fighting, can we all just agree that bands like Big Awesome are putting out rad tracks like “Wookie Blaylock” that share similarities with bands that embodied the best of emo decades ago? You’ll have Victor Villarreal flashbacks on some of the guitar wrinkles on this one, and the South Carolina trio play with a raw energy that gets you swept up in every shouted lyric. “There’s no punker punk band than Propagandhi,” a kid says in the party white noise closing the track, and songs like this bring back the youthful insistence and certainty that come with assessments like that. Big Awesome’s upcoming album, Party On, is due August 7th via Jetsam-Flotsam.  –Adam Kivel

08. Justin Jay feat. Chris Lorenzo – “Storm”

Justin Jay Storm

The youngest member of the Dirtybird family, Justin Jay has momentarily stepped away from the label and its infectious booty bass sounds to pursue new textures and styles. Joined by Chris Lorenzo, “Storm” sits on the fringes of house music, blending stuttering breakbeats, deep bass line rolls, and ethereal female vocals. With the sound of thunder in the distance, these six minutes are like the calm before a torrential downpour — when the wind delivers the fragrances of summer and adds a subtle chill to everything it touches. Download “Storm” for free now via Black Butter Records. –Derek Staples

07. vōx – “Claws”


“There are wild things in me,” seethes Sarah Winters at the chorus to her latest single as vōx. She sings around a synthesizer’s rendition of plucked strings, bright and sharp and sterile, while a subtle, itchy beat mutates beneath the swell of her voice. “You can have me like a beast/ All it really takes is your/ Claws out, claws out.” Winters’ lyrics oscillate between threat and submission; she urges an unseen “you” to draw closer, but never really makes it clear who’s wearing the claws. –Sasha Geffen

06. Craig Finn – “Maggie I’ve Been Searching for Our Son”


Craig Finn (The Hold Steady, Lifter Puller) has always been a thoughtful lyricist, but in his solo work, his words take on even more importance than usual. Case in point: “Maggie I’ve Been Searching for Our Son”, a pastoral slow-burn that brings to mind Bruce Springsteen’s The River. Here, as he’s done in the past, Finn seeks to make the personal universal. A snare drum keeps pace as he sings about “someone who’s been flailing around spiritually looking for answers,” as he put it when announcing his second solo album, Faith in the Future, out September 11th via Partisan. It’s a memorable tale from one of rock’s most empathetic wordsmiths. –Michael Madden

05. Drake – “Back to Back Freestyle”

Drake Meek Mill

At least compared to Meek Mill, Drake is a pop star, and how is a pop star going to win a rap feud against a guy from South Philly who grew up on battling? That was my initial thinking about Meek and Drizzy’s dispute, but then again, Drake writes (or co-writes) songs like he’s Stephen Curry shooting free throws. “Back to Back Freestyle”, the better of the two Meek diss tracks Drizzy has dropped, simply works better as a song than Meek’s “Wanna Know”. Aside from the titular hook and 40’s frozen-over beat, Drizzy gets his shots in, as when he clowns Meek for his supporting slot on Nicki Minaj’s tour: “Is that a world tour or your girl’s tour? … This ain’t what she meant when she told you to open up more.” It’s not that he says things that are going to ruin Meek’s career; it’s that he makes it look like he’s having another breezy day at the office.  –Michael Madden

04. Pell – “Vacation (Whole Week)”

Vacation Whole Week

The smooth, melodically inclined New Orleans rapper Pell is in the midst of collaborating with TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, but remember that TVOTR’s last album, Seeds, is their most accessible to date. Being associated with Sitek doesn’t mean Pell is as experimental as that band’s wildest material, or anywhere near. His latest song, “Vacation (Whole Week)”, goes down like a glass of lemonade on a hot day. “This is for the souls who be livin’ care-free,” he raps, but even if this is a lighthearted song, his craftsmanship is palpable. Look for his sophomore project, the follow-up to last year’s Floating While Dreaming, to come out this fall. –Michael Madden

03. Thou – “Eyehatethou”

thou Top 10 Songs of the Week (7/31)

Balancing out the heavy end of the Adult Swim Singles series this week is Thou, the Louisiana blackened doom metal five-piece that weigh down their words with as much mud as their guitars. “Eyehatethou” is both a clear shout-out to fellow Louisiana sludge-makers Eyehategod and a writhing pool of slime in its own right. The guitars wrap themselves around each plodding bass riff, lending crunch and the occasional flare of treble to the song’s machinery. At the front of the mix, vocalist Bryan Funck shovels gravel up from his larynx as he howls about great quests and great fear, leading the band straight into the song’s thundering (and almost funky) coda. –Sasha Geffen

02. Disclosure feat. Sam Smith – “Omen”

Disclosure Sam Smith Omen

Music journalists love to use the phrase “highly anticipated,” but this sultry new joint courtesy of Disclosure and Sam Smith owns that tag. Since the trio first melted hearts (and rose to fame) with “Latch” three years ago, much of the world has been awaiting another collaboration — “Omen” garnered roughly 2.5 million YouTube views in roughly 36 hours. Unlike the video for “Latch” (produced when Smith and the Lawrence brothers were still relatively unknown), Smith takes center stage in this new visual accompaniment. Sans the electro whips and augmented samples, Smith’s natural vocals are now even more prominent against the UK garage instrumental. Given the rise of these gentlemen, “Omen” and Disclosure’s forthcoming sophomore effort, Caracal, out September 25th via Island Records, are solid contenders for awards season come early 2016. Until then, millions will be sweating to these blissful beats. —Derek Staples

01. Angel Haze – “Impossible”


Angel Haze is at war with their own brain. They’re also at war with anyone who would dare cage them, shrink them down, and keep them from their greatness. “Sorry I’m crazy/ But I opened my third eye and the view is amazing,” Haze raps on new single “Impossible”, the first released since they turned 23 earlier this month. Raee’n Roes Wilson frequently circles back to abuse and survival and depression in their work as Angel Haze; here, they mention their suicidal ideation, then quickly transform that despair into a source of ferocity. “I got my middle finger up to white America/ For trying to whitewash my blackness,” they go. Haze’s bars never let up and neither does the machine gun production cooking behind their words. Sometimes your lowest moments are also your most lucid and transcendental; on “Impossible”, Haze unearths a scorching power beneath everything that’s weighing on them, rapping, “There is nothing that can’t hold me down/ This shit is impossible, shit is impossible.” The song is a roar, and it reverberates far past its own boundaries. –Sasha Geffen