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Top 10 Songs of the Week (4/3)

on April 03, 2015, 1:45pm
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The music industry is filled with so many distractions (like the launch of new streaming services and faux FlyLo/DOOM collabs) that it’s easy for the tunes to take a back seat. No fear! That’s why we keep our collective ears constantly stimulated. This week, we welcome new tastes from old favorites like The National, My Morning Jacket, Janelle Monáe, and Hot Chip. Per usual, lesser-known lyricists, including Cakes Da Killa and the UK’s Little Simz, also had us mesmerized. Listen below and stay informed.

10. Janelle Monáe feat. Jidenna – “Yoga”

Photo by David Hall

Photo by David Brendan Hall
Janelle Monáe usually positions herself as the mastermind at the center of a sprawling Afrofuturist universe full of queer androids and time traveling rebels. Her new single “Yoga”, though, narrows its scope to a steamy yoga studio. This isn’t about revolution or utopia; it’s just about flexing in time to that dub beat before the chorus explodes. “Yoga” also boasts some of Monáe’s cheekiest lyrics to date, like the instant classic “You cannot police me/ So get off my areola.” It’s a far cry from her headier oeuvre, but it turns out Monáe handles body music with just as much finesse. Find “Yoga” on The Eephus, the forthcoming compilation EP from Monáe’s Wondaland label, out May 6th. –Sasha Geffen

9. What So Not feat. George Maple – “Gemini”

what so not george maple gemini Top 10 Songs of the Week (4/3)

With Flume already declaring his departure from Australia’s What So Not, the title cut from the forthcoming Gemini EP is a bittersweet celebration. Featuring their Future Classic running mate George Maple, “Gemini” is a melodic, electronic beauty that isn’t afraid to lose control once the beat really takes over. Differentiating itself from a community often obligated to churn out bangers, What So Not (and the rest of the Future Classic collective) are more concerned about the broader emotional connections of the dance-friendly arrangements. Flume might be departing from What So Not, but his impact on the convergence of EDM and pop most certainly isn’t complete. –Derek Staples

8. Little Simz – “Is This Freedom?”

little simz is this freedom mp3 Top 10 Songs of the Week (4/3)

American hip-hop fans are generally terrible about welcoming international upstarts, but let it be known: England’s Little Simz snaps. Then again, “Is This Freedom?” cannot be reduced to its bars; in fact, Simz’s sung chorus might be the best thing about it. Atop a cold, doomy beat from  Prezident Jeff and OZ, Simz addresses the nature of living in a world that does everything it can to box you in (“You think you know the half of me/ Please don’t believe in everything you see”). It’s clear she has the will to resist. The song is on her upcoming AGE 101: DROP 4 EP, which will precede Simz’s debut album. —Michael Madden

7. 8:58 feat. Robert Smith and Lianne Hall – “Please”

Eight_Fifty_Eight_(Official_Album_Cover)

Creative differences between the Hartnoll brothers might have meant the death knell for ambient-rave trailblazers Orbital, but Paul hasn’t totally abandoned his tower of analog synths. Less than a year after announcing their final breakup, Paul Hartnoll has already resurfaced as 8:58, along with a new collection of effervescent techno cuts. Although comfortable in the studio alone (he’s already released a few solo efforts), the project’s self-titled debut album is rife with collaborators, including The Cure’s Robert Smith, who lends his enigmatic spirit to “Please”, a reworked track that dates back to 2007. Having both been part of the electronic community for decades, there is a natural ease in their cohesive abilities. During the track’s six-plus minutes, neither tries to dominate. Smith’s vocals don’t arrive for almost two minutes, and when they do, they are cast beside Lianne Hall. These dudes might be a bit older than their club-centric contemporaries, but this track is still one hell of a good time. –Derek Staples

6. KEN mode – “Blessed”

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“We’re blessed!” booms Jesse Matthewson, frontman of Winnipeg heavies KEN mode, on “Blessed”. It’s deceptive in two ways: The declaration is all you’re going to get for a “hook” here, while its sincerity is doubtful following Matthewson’s half-spoken, half-shouted, entirely ominous opening verse. The song, then, is defined by its unstoppable momentum rather than its memorability or meaning, first sprouting rumbling bass and being carried forth by blanketing guitar distortion and guest vocals by Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson. Success, KEN mode’s Steve Albini-assisted sixth album, is out June 16th via Season of Mist. —Michael Madden

5. Downies – “Widow”

Downies

Even relatively small scenes can produce supergroups, as evidenced by the promising first recorded material of Downies. The Brooklyn outfit features members of Porches and LVL UP, among others, all circling around a shared apartment/DIY venue. Though clearly designed for raucous live shows, the recorded version of “Widow” hides some subtle, smart choices in its rowdy energy, on-off switch guitar riffs and taut rhythms keeping an absolutely buoyant vocal hook moving along. The pop punk jam sounds as tight-knit as the scene that produced the group. The quartet has an EP in the tank, but no word yet on a release date. –Adam Kivel

4. Cakes Da Killa – “Serve It Up”

Cakes da Killa

Though Cakes Da Killa claims he hasn’t “been on tour, ain’t seen no green,” there’s a serious confidence that comes with the stellar “Serve It Up”. Over video game synths and simple 808s courtesy of Moonbase Commander, Cakes explains how he’s “the embodiment of quiche just suntanning on a beach,” among other sublimely unexpected explanations. Most rappers aren’t boasting about their trips to Melbourne or comparing themselves to egg-based brunch dishes, but Cakes isn’t most rappers. This new single off the deluxe edition of his Hunger Pangs mixtape is a funky, fun slice that exemplifies Cakes’ unique POV in the rap game. –Adam Kivel

3. My Morning Jacket – “Spring (Among the Living)”

Photo by Ben Kaye

Photo by Ben Kaye
Does this check all of the boxes, or none of them? Over the past decade and a half, the guys behind My Morning Jacket have made plenty of mutations to their roots rock foundation, and the six-minute “Spring (Among the Living)” feels both committed to majestic maximalism and unbiased about the specific sonics it actually funnels into the vortex. As Jim James sings of the most hopeful turn of the seasons like he just narrowly avoided being speared by a fallen icicle, the blossoming instrumentation does its own part to tug him in an optimistic direction. Find the song on The Waterfall, MMJ’s seventh album, out May 4th via ATO/Capitol. –Michael Madden

2. The National – “Sunshine on My Back”

The National new song

The National has kept more or less quiet since the release of 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me, but the documentary about frontman Matt Berninger and brother Tom has been making the rounds on a wider release. Mistaken for Strangers, directed by Tom Berninger, follows the brothers’ dysfunctional relationship as it weathers a high stress National tour. Now, to help promote the movie, The National has released a B-side to Trouble Will Find Me. “Sunshine on My Back” is a sparse, open tune that almost feels pulled from Alligator-era National in its third-person storytelling and anxious guitar fingerpicking. The track features backing vocals from Sharon Van Etten, whose whisper lends its understated build some extra glimmer and depth. “Sunshine” may have been left on Trouble‘s cutting room floor, but it fits perfectly alongside Mistaken for Strangers‘ fraught familial narrative. Let’s hope The National start cracking those vaults more often. –Sasha Geffen


1. Hot Chip – “Need You Now”

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Unlikely dancefloor heroes Hot Chip churn out their best songs at the intersection of party beats and melancholic vocals, and “Need You Now” is no exception. The second single from the band’s forthcoming Why Make Sense? entertains a quiet and gently political headspace. “Tired of being myself/ Caught up in this world/ I never dreamed I could belong,” sings Alexis Taylor against a slowly mutating backbeat. Punctuated by a sample of a woman singing the song’s titular lyric, “Need You Now” feels as despondent as it is technically upbeat, hitting the same balance as Hot Chip’s classic single “Boy from School”. There’s no resolution to the song’s gloom; it’s an open-ended meditation on powerlessness and disconnection that still has the grooves to back one heck of a dance party. –Sasha Geffen

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