The 8 Best Songs of the Week (4/15)
Including Kendrick Lamar (obviously), The xx, and TLC.
Every Saturday, TrackRecord will share our favorite songs from the past week, whether they're brand new singles or appear on a new release. Below, you can find our picks for this week, and stream a playlist of the songs.
PWR BTTM: “LOL”
In just a few years, PWR BTTM has established a career’s worth of trust with their fanbase through being upfront about their vulnerabilities, flaws, and insecurities. It’s what made their debut Ugly Cherries such a galvanizing punk record. Ben Hopkins takes the lead on “LOL,” our latest preview of the upcoming Pageant, and taps into the ongoing challenges of maturing. It’s a song about feeling unwelcome and unprepared—about realizing that fucking up is a vital stepping stone to growth. On their last single, “Answer My Text,” Liv Bruce declared “my teenage angst will be with me well into my thirties.” Hopkins echoes that here—”I know that I am naive / When you are queer, you are always 19.” That transitional discomfort of post-adolescence hasn’t faded for Hopkins, and they’re not sure if it ever will. But by the song’s end, they’ve assembled a team of friends and family—including Petal’s Kiley Lotz and Hopkins’ opera singer mother—who help make the journey a little less bumpy. —Shawn Cooke
Future: “Mask Off” (Terrace Martin remix)
All hail the rise of flute rap. Grammy-award winning producer Terrace Martin’s remix transforms Future's (and producer Metro Boomin’s) rag-to-riches ode about slanging pharmaceuticals into a thoughtful jazz reverie. Martin’s strips Future’s vocals and extends the flute sample from Tommy Butler’s “Prison Song” while still keeping some of the menace found in the Future classic. I’d write something further about the flute replacing the saxophone as pop’s latest go to instrumental of the moment, but I’m too busy locked in the groove. —Jessie Peterson
Nas: “Angel Dust”
Nasty Nas' latest “Angel Dust” appears on the Get Down soundtrack. In addition to providing original music, the Brooklyn native also has Executive Producer duties in addition to narrating the Netflix original. While listening to "Angel Dust," I couldn't help but draw comparisons with Lou Reed's "Heroin." Reed told legendary rock photographer Mick Rock in a series of taped interviews that the song sounded like its eponymous namesake (Side Note: If you haven’t seen SHOT! the Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock, get thee to the nearest theater.) “Heroin” is seductive. Reed cautions that the song like the drug lures you into a false sense of security before it turns, assaulting the listener with a relentless wall of sound which overpowers its audience. Nas manages to capture a similar feeling not only with his words overlaid Gil Scot Heron and Brian Jackson’s song of the same name with samples of old news reports and actor Frank Wood who plays the late 70s New York Mayor Ed Koch. So go on give, "Angel Dust" a spin and get faded on a sonic journey to the boogie down Bronx. —JP
Always show up early enough for your openers, kids. I made this mistake last year when Pinegrove brought Ratboys and Half Waif along for their summer headlining tour—now both of those acts are well on their way to a promising 2017. Chicago’s Ratboys work in the same “post-country” vein as Pinegrove, with welcoming, jangly indie rock that makes a case for Being There as the best Wilco album. During the verses, singer Julia Steiner is in constant call-and-response with a guitar riff that noodles and bends further as the song moves along. For such a sprightly jaunt, their new single takes its inspiration from a harrowing childhood story—her younger brother, four-years-old at the time, once wandered off in the night and nearly walked in front of an oncoming train. The song’s title and refrain allude to a belief that some higher power’s in control, regulating freak tragedies as it chooses. On the verge of nuclear winter, this sort of sentiment has felt harder to get behind than ever—but a song this buoyant makes you want to believe. —SC
TLC feat. Snoop Dogg: “Way Back”
"It's been a long, long time comin’,” begins the throwback track from TLC. They ain’t wrong. It’s been 15 years since we’ve heard from Tionnne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozanda “Chilli” Thomas since their last album 3D. The girl group, now a duo (RIP Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes who passed away in 2002), is back with a song from their fifth and final album record, a fan-funded affair, and if it sounds like anything like their lead single “Way Back” it’ll be a 90s throwback. “Way Back” is a tribute to the friendships, relationships and tenderonis that have lasted throughout the years despite the ups and downs along the way. TLC might be best known now for their zero tolerance policy on fuccbois, but long term stans will remember that it was friendship first, followed by a healthy dose of self-respect and self-love, alongside a pointed female sexual agency (that stressed female empowerment and safe sex) that formed the foundation of the group’s message.
Rolling Stone reports that the currently unnamed project will be released on June 30th. “Way Back” also features a guest verse from Snoop Dogg, and namechecks acts such as Prince, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson. (The likes of which we haven’t really heard since Kanye’s “Slow Jamz”, another throwback jam.) —JP
The xx: “A Violent Noise” (Four Tet remix)
What does a song by The xx sound like without The xx? Four Tet tried to find out—in this remix, the U.K. producer strips all of the vocals from The xx’s “A Violent Noise” (off this year’s album I See You) and stretches it out, from its original 3-minute run-time to a luxurious 8 minutes. The remix is just as hypnotizing, if not more so, and it would such just as good in the club as it would driving with the windows down. —Frida Garza
Popcaan: “Stronger Now”
It’s been a minute since we’ve heard from Popcaan, and any longer would have been too much. “Stronger Now” is a slow-burning number; like the title explains, it’s the kind of song that plays at a movie’s climax, when the main character has undergone some serious physical or mental strife and emerges on the other side—that’s right—stronger than ever. But despite the winner’s mentality of the lyrics, something about Popcaan’s vocals makes this track feel tempered—not any less enjoyable, just more grounded. He’s taking a victory lap around the field, but this is an at-home game. If you need some motivation to go on a long run, consider putting this on your workout playlist. —FG
Kendrick Lamar: “DNA.”
The last time we heard from Kendrick Lamar on a proper studio album, he sounded vulnerable, grasping for answers in an imagined conversation with Tupac. The device might have been overwrought, but it distilled most of To Pimp a Butterfly’s themes of grappling with success, responsibility, and survivor’s guilt into a few minutes. On DAMN.’s second track, he obliterates that self-doubt. Over a cavernous beat from Mike WiLL Made-It, Kendrick matter-of-factly runs down every ingredient that makes him the most fearsome voice in rap (“I got loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA … I got power, poison, pain, and joy inside my DNA”), and sparknotes his origin story in the first verse. But the song’s focus deliberately shifts nearly two minutes in, after sampling an outrageous claim from Geraldo Rivera that misunderstands Kendrick’s entire career and the industry in which he exists. The new beat swallows the old one; his pace quickens; the syllables crash into each other. It’s gladiator-Kendrick, here to dismantle any cable news pundit or armchair racist who views black men rapping about difficult subjects as an affront to society. Take shelter. —SC