Top 10 Songs of the Week (8/14)

From tragedy emerges visceral songs of beauty and power


Some of the best songs come from the most tragic circumstances — and this week’s list of top songs is no exception. Between Wondaland Records’ protest song and its remembrance of black lives and a posthumous track featuring late rapper Sean Price, the feature carries some serious sadness, but with it, some beauty and power. Add in some haunting contributions from the likes of Joanna Newsom and rowdy, fun (not to mention strangely capitalized) garage rock from FIDLAR and together PANGEA, and you’ve got a visceral group of songs. Enjoy!

10. Abby – “Hush”


Though they share three of four all-caps’ed letters in their name and hail from relatively close quarters, don’t lump German indie rockers ABBY in with Swedish pop megastars ABBA — this ain’t disco. On new single “Hush”, ABBY do utilize falsetto and a groove-ready rhythm, but there’s a psychedelic bent to the vocals, and the polyrhythmic click-thump-clap percussion won’t likely find its way into too many discotheques. Instead, the nimble, popping guitar, swooning strings, and richly layered drumming push and pull dramatically, set for some cinematic runs through darkening landscapes. ABBY’s sophomore LP, Hexagon, hits shelves October 2nd via Island Records. –Adam Kivel

09. Mac Miller feat. Sean Price – “Pet Sounds”

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Sadly, many were unfamiliar with rapper Sean Price prior to the announcement of his death last week. However, the Brooklynite and cofounder of Duck Down Music duo Heltah Skeltah made an impact in late ’90s hip-hop, continuing on as a solo force in the rap underground through the following years. To honor the late Price, Mac Miller let loose an unreleased collaboration between the two rappers called “Pet Sounds”, a track in which Miller sounds like he’s having a fun, stoned time (he mimics gunfire, and then just gigglingly repeats the words “gun sounds”) and Price goes hard. “I’m tightest with the tombs, need a verse and I write it son/ Master this shit with no practice bitch, Al Iverson,” he brags, the sort of tight, punchy line that Price was known for. It’s sad that it took his passing to get Price onto many listeners’ radar, but this song is a testament to his skill. –Adam Kivel

08. Shabazz Palaces – “The Mystery of Lonnie The Døn”

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The latest entry into Adult Swim’s Singles Series digs into the dark, oscillating instrumentals of the ever-provocative Shabazz Palaces. Entitled “The Mystery of Lonnie the Døn”, little information is supplied via the echoing vocals of Palaceer Lazaro. Like sitting at the campfire, it’s the ambient noise — supplied by Tendai Maraire — that keeps listeners pushing forward into the whispers of the narrator. Summer has enough bangers and love ballads; Shabazz Palaces capture the alluring mystique of the hallway creeks and thunder claps that keep the first moments of rest indefinitely suspended. –Derek Staples

07. Battles – “The Yabba”

Battles 2015 band

Album after album, the pristine chaos of Battles hasn’t lost any depth. Instead of replacing former vocalist Tyondai Braxton, the trio has enriched the underlying instrumentals, allowing their compositions to reach dynamics impossible to mimic with the average vocal range. Ian Williams, Dave Konopka, and John Stanier also experiment with the eccentricities of electronica, free jazz, and contrasting harmonics. At nearly seven minutes in length, “The Yabba” is the convergence of no fewer than four musical aesthetics — with a rather pregnant pause about mid-way that serves as a brief intermission. It’s truly perplexing how these jams come from just three individuals. Listen to the track over at Rolling Stone in preparation of the September 18th release of La Di Da Di, via Warp. –Derek Staples

06. Alex G – “Bug”

Alex G Beach Music

For many, Philadelphia bedroom pop artist Alex G popped up out of nowhere last year with the excellent DSU, one of the year’s best albums. In fact, that was already Alex Giannascoli’s sixth full-length, and he’s already got a seventh ready to add to the growing catalogue. The first preview of that follow-up, “Bug”, bodes well for the artist’s growing cult following. The driving guitar rhythm and multi-tracked falsetto vocals of the song’s opening eerily recall Modest Mouse, but the slow-burning track isn’t content to stop there. After an acoustic bridge, Giannascoli pushes his vocals into Chipmunks territory, further delving into the smoky, dream-like unease. Beach Music drops October 9th through Domino. —Adam Kivel

05. together PANGEA – “If You’re Scared”


“Learning how to be less of an asshole to the people around me was basically the inspiration for this song,” together PANGEA vocalist William Keegan explained of his band’s new single, “If You’re Scared”. True to form, the song features some brusque, rough edges (that burst of loud guitar noise we’ve come to expect from the Los Angeles outfit), but there’s something empowering to Keegan’s lyrics. “You can hide if you want, if you’re scared,” he encourages. For anyone who’s gone through a patch or two of anxiety or depression, that kind of offer is a blessing, and Keegan delivers it via an absolute gem of a hook. This song and five more (all produced by The Replacements’ Tommy Stinson!) will be released as The Phage EP, expected October 16. –Adam Kivel

04. Kero Kero Bonito – “Chicken”

Kero Kero Bonito

The only downside of the new single from Kero Kero Bonito, “Chicken”, is the strain it leaves on the cheeks from the sustained smiles after many repeat listens. Recruited specifically for her J-pop roots, Sarah Midori Perry supplies those infectious tones over the Casio-based instrumentals of Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled. If the track seems reminiscent of the PC Music sound, that’s because Lobban doubles as PC Music producer Kane West. Adding a bit of chaos to this bubblegum electronica, there’s a guttural deathcore breakdown at around 1:45. Grab the track now as a free download via SoundCloud. –Derek Staples

03. FIDLAR – “Drone”

Photo by Philip Cosores

“I don’t want to be a drone,” goes the hook to “Drone”, the latest song from FIDLAR. To some, the idea of these wildmen changing focus from “Cheap Beer” and going after government observation might be a bit strange, but the infectious guitar clang and warbled vocals should wash away any uncertainty. Plus, paranoia suits them. The idea of the Los Angeles skate punks speeding down the alley on their boards, avoiding cameras and undertaking covert operations — it just sounds like a pretty rad idea for a TV show. Until then, the alien invasion music video will have to do. “Drone” and the rest of FIDLAR’s sophomore album, Too, will hit shelves September 4th through Wichita/Mom + Pop. –Adam Kivel

02. Joanna Newsom – “Sapokanikan”

Joanna Newsom

Joanna Newsom has an impeccable control of iconography. Think back to the fonts used on her album covers alone, to get a good sense of how well she orchestrates her vision as a whole: The Milk-Eyed Mender was written in hand-stitched craftiness, Ys in strong, stark gold, Have One on Me in approachable, eccentric angles and edges. The cover to the recently announced Divers, meanwhile, finds its title and Newsom’s name set in curled black, as if a typewriter struck the words to frame the expansive image of lush forest and vibrant sky. True to that idea, lead single “Sapokanikan” builds from a bed of verdant piano, adding drums, xylophone, horns, and more, all while Newsom’s awe-inspiring lyrics dart and flit through the greenery, weaving together New York City history, 19th century poetry, the paintings of Van Gogh, and memory and its failures. Expect more beautiful songs like this one on Divers, due October 23rd via Drag City. –Adam Kivel

01. Wondaland Records – “Hell You Talmbout”

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Some protest songs send a chill down your spine, but the power of “Hell You Talmbout” should do much more than that. The artists of Wondaland Records — including Janelle MonáeDeep Cotton, St. Beauty, Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, and George 2.0 — stand tall and strong on the song, alternating gospel choir recitations of the title with voice-cracking pleas to say the names of black individuals killed by American police. The choir of voices takes turns to list recent tragedies like Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner and also to reach back through the decades to Amadou Diallo and Emmett Till, demanding attention for these horrific events and keeping the memory of these individuals alive. The song hums with anger, sadness, desperation, conviction, and every emotion in between.  –Adam Kivel