Saba, Lauryn Hill, and Jim James Highlight Our Top Songs of the Week (10/21)

Here are 10 tracks too damn good to snub


Did you know The Smiths, Joy Division, and The Cure haven’t made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Pretty crazy. But then we know how difficult it can be to put together a list. I mean, The Cure didn’t make this list either. Not that they put out a new song this week, but you know what I mean. We had tons of songs we wanted to put onto this list, but only 10 could make the cut. So, don’t be surprised if in a year or so we rank the Top 10 Songs Snubbed By the Top Songs of the Week Post on October 21, 2016. Get your commenting fingers ready!


10. D.R.A.M. feat. Erykah Badu – “WiFi”

Big Baby D.R.A.M. album cover by Boootleg

There’s a class of hip-hop personality that seems only millennials can truly understand — think Lil Yachty, Kodak Black, Lil Uzi Vert. And though he shares a currently massive track with Little Boat, D.R.A.M. has a sincerity and sense of fun that translates no matter your age bracket. That continues on the sultry “WiFi”, on which he and Erykah Badu duet over a Grade A R&B beat, only the Big Baby is singing lines about internet connectivity and Netflix. “Yeah, do you got wifi?/ Do your boyfriend pay your bill for you?” he sings. It might seem goofy, but it’s an adorable sidelong way to look at difficult connections in the modern era and the uncertainty of that special relationship. Debut album Big Baby D.R.A.M. is out now via Atlantic/Empire. –Adam Kivel


09. Falty DL feat. µ-Ziq – “Frigid Air”

faltydl Saba, Lauryn Hill, and Jim James Highlight Our Top Songs of the Week (10/21)

New York producer Drew Lustman, aka FaltyDL, has a knack for reviving ’90s electronica. With his sixth album, Heaven Is for Quitters, coming out now via Lustman’s Blueberry Records, he shared “Frigid Air” to keep the vibe high. The single sees him splicing tropical notes over a rush of sand-like percussion, the two complimenting one another in a warm, vibrant way, while Aphex Twin collaborator µ-Ziq spills his own influences into the mix. Together, the two bring the ’90s dance floor back to life. You can dance without being bothered. You can watch your feet take off in a jittery slide. This is a song for transportation; where it takes you, exactly, is up to your ears (and mind). –Nina Corcoran


08. Jim James – “Here in Spirit”

jim james eternally even Saba, Lauryn Hill, and Jim James Highlight Our Top Songs of the Week (10/21)

No one in America — or, really, the world — looks around and feels okay with the state of things. Jim James just happens to feel so shaken up by it all that a song poured out of him to make sure no one becomes comfortable with that gutted feeling. On “Here in Spirit”, the new single from his upcoming album — Eternally Even, out November 4th via ATO/Capitol Records — the My Morning Jacket frontman sings about civil rights issues and the importance of vocalizing support. “If you don’t speak out/ We can’t here it,” he sings. “Our love is always here.” A low-key groove plays out behind him, at one point freezing in a trippy reversal of tempo, while backing vocalists mimic his words. James creates the psychedelic sound of the late ’60s and, with it, the political charge listeners need to take action as allies and victims alike. Perhaps this is the final kick we all need to make sure 2016 doesn’t end in a pile of dust. –Nina Corcoran


07. The Megaphonic Thrift – “Hendene”

the megaphonic thrift hendene1 Saba, Lauryn Hill, and Jim James Highlight Our Top Songs of the Week (10/21)

The Megaphonic Thrift may not be on the radar of too many non-Norwegian-speaking listeners, but new single “Hendene” is proof that they absolutely should be. Under a pile of retro synths, their male-female vocal harmonies produce a sultry mix, sighing and limber. The propulsive rhythm and grand drama share characteristics with Metric, though the Megaphonic take on this cathartic indie rock style is a bit more brooding and boiling than fist-pumping and epic. I might not speak Norwegian, but I can gather that there’s some intense emotion behind these vocals, the kind of thing that demands close listening even if you can’t make out the words. “Hendene” is an early sample of Få meg til verden i tide, out November 14th through Old Flame Records. –Lior Phillips


06. Caspian – “Castles High, Marble Bright”

caspian 2015 marclemoine projection Saba, Lauryn Hill, and Jim James Highlight Our Top Songs of the Week (10/21)

A nine-minute song rarely holds back, but Caspian, on new single “Castles High, Marble Bright”, show just enough restraint to dodge post-rock cliches. It begins with unrecognizable whirring, the type of low humming that sounds like a synth in the distance, a child’s held note in choir, and a slice of wind caught in a narrow passageway. Thunder rumbles in the distance, ushering in the band’s own heavy sound, only theirs focuses on the comforts of nature’s depth, not its terror. “Castles High, Marble Bright” is all about wonder — the kind that comes with the beginning stages of inspiration or reflective gratitude. Of course, it isn’t until six minutes in that they expose the core of it all, and unlike most of post-rock’s tricks, this feels numbering in bliss, not crushing with dread or depression. It’s no teary ode to life. It’s no egotistical crescendo. “Castles High, Marble Bright” is a much-needed reminder of what post-rock is capable of fostering — empathy, gratefulness, inner reflection — and Caspian pull it off with the type of sincerity that’s becoming increasingly difficult to find.. –Nina Corcoran


05. KAMI – “Home Movies”

kami purp mensa home movies savemoney Saba, Lauryn Hill, and Jim James Highlight Our Top Songs of the Week (10/21)

One half of duo Leather Corduroys and a member of SaveMoney, KAMI sounds more like David Bowie on his new grooving track than he does when rapping with Joey Purp or Vic Mensa (though both pals show up in the video for the track). “Say my name, say my name,” KAMI cries, his voice burning with passion at the acme of each iteration. Similarly neon ’80s synths frame his glowing vocal performance, a vibrant track befitting the classic diner dance-off music video. KAMI’s solo debut should be coming soon, and this one sets a high bar while also leaving the project’s final direction uncertain. –Adam Kivel


04. Austra – “Utopia”

Austra Utopia

The opening strings beckon in a new beginning, and the demodulated extraterrestrial voice demands it. Introducing “Utopia”, from Austra’s upcoming Future Politics, the follow-up to 2014’s Olympia. The premise of the album is to call for “a commitment to replace the approaching dystopia,” frontwoman Katie Stelmanis says in a press release. But don’t mistake aspiration for being political: “It’s about reaching beyond boundaries, in every single field.” Now, self-proclaimed intergalactic traveler Stelmanis shows her skill as a musical storyteller, playing out a strange blend of freewheeling new wave and euphonically sweet synthpop with a falsetto so sharp it could carve you in half. “Cut me a slice of the apple that I grow,” she pleads, while hemorrhaging in refined pop. The narrative adds a gritty charisma to the cleverly crafted anthem of alienation (“Like a hunter with teeth, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do”), one executed with savage grace. –Lior Phillips


03. Scum  – “Trilogian Tales”

scum trilogian tales

There’s something to be said about genres that constantly evolve and push and explode into new areas. But then you hear something like “Trilogian Tales” and you’re thrown back into a basement during high school, the D&D books scattered on the table and Army of Darkness cued up on VHS … Or, well, maybe that’s just me. But whether you’re getting thrown back in time or just experiencing the tune, the return of Scum is a thing to behold. And the temporal shift makes extra sense, considering that the Finland outfit recorded this song and its black metal brethren about 20 years ago, and the record sat shelved until now. The majestic guitar riffs will feel familiar even if you weren’t rolling D20s and watching Ash slay deadites, but it sure helps if you were. –Adam Kivel


02. Lauryn Hill – “I Find It Hard To Say (Rebel)”

lauryn hill austin city limits video Saba, Lauryn Hill, and Jim James Highlight Our Top Songs of the Week (10/21)

Looking at the world’s injustices, they often feel just a little too familiar, as if we’ve been through all this oppression and violence one too many times for it to be happening again. “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Lauryn Hill recently tweeted, that cyclical nature clearly weighing on her. That also crops up in her decision to rearrange and release a new version of “I Find It Hard To Say (Rebel)”, a track she wrote a decade ago about the police shooting of Amadou Diallo. That tragic event feels multiplied in the recent black victims of police brutality, Hill’s song taking on immense weight. “Rebel” is available to stream below via TIDAL, and a sample is available to non-subscribers. –Lior Phillips


01. Saba feat. Noname – “Church/Liquor Store”


Photo by Heather Kaplan

The snapping soul rhythm that drives Saba’s “Church/Liquor Stores” is a little nostalgic (that repeating synth pattern feels ripped from a ’70s soundtrack), a little dark (the progression feels just a little off), and a lot infectious (just try to listen without swaying and nodding). Over it, Saba fits an equally conflicted tale of the neighborhood and the dark reality that it’s revealed to be. “It look like funeral home, church, church, liquor store, corner store, dread-head, dead leg, ditto,” he offers on the hook, a depressing tour of a place that he calls home. He’s from the city that’s “the same ghost that made Lupe cry,” while the calls for salvation go to “Obama, Jesus, Yeezus.” Noname contributes her own voice, comparing police oppression to slavery and looking out at the spread of gentrification. Chicago is full of uplifting voices pointing out the problems and trying to find solutions, but Saba and Noname are two of the most exciting, and it’s always a treat to hear them together. —Adam Kivel