Grimes – “Kill V. Maim”
Call to arms, playground chant, feminist anthem. This track from Grimes’ relentlessly brilliant Art Angels album synthesizes these approaches into a brand new form. “Kill V. Maim” is the sound of radio circa 2051, after our alien overlords’ children start making music of their own.
Ryan Adams – “Shake It Off”
How exactly does someone reimagine the world’s bounciest inspiri-pop confection as a lovelorn truckstop ballad? Ask Ryan Adams, owner of both a lonely heart and a consistent contrarian disposition.
Wolf Alice – “Moaning Lisa Smile”
After the shock of hearing what sounds like Layne Staley’s ghost subsides, the succinct power of this song’s ‘90s update sinks in. Elsewhere on their debut, the UK band dazzle with an easy mastery of delicate psychedelia, post grunge and shoegaze.
Justin Bieber – “What Do You Mean?”
The Skrillex/Diplo collaboration “Where Are Ü Now” laid out the Bieb’s comeback template. That song fused club tropicana electronics with the singer’s newfound emotional vulnerability. “What Do You Mean?” perfects his new approach; its rich chords back an aching appeal to a lover.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “Downtown”
On Downtown, Ben M. and his partner utilize everything but the kitchen sink to pioneer the heretofore unexplored fusion of glam rock and first wave hip hop. The result is an endorphin rush of a single which sounds like nothing on the radio-except “Uptown Funk” (which it out-weirds in the first thirty seconds).
Faith No More – “Motherfucker”
“Motherfucker”’s initial mood of imminent violence explodes into a chorus at once anthemic and haunting. All the while, Mike Patton fuses his avant garde tendencies with the smooth tone of vintage Sade. It’s like 1992 all over. Faith No More are back. And this time, they brought the gimp.
Courtney Barnett – “Depreston”
Words, once the primary currency of alternative rock, are now too often in short supply. Big, small, naive, knowing. Australian Courtney Barnett has all the words and knows how to use them. She somehow ties coffee and real estate together in the sun-soaked ennui of this deceptively modest number.
Steve Earle – ”King Of The Blues”
“King Of The Blues” rounds out Terraplane, Earle’s first blues album, with a vaguely defiant tone of self pity. This tune presents the veteran songwriter at his best, marrying literary notions to his throaty vocal presence
EL VY – ”Retun To The Moon”
On this correspondence collaboration, The National’s lead singer channels his inner lounge lizard. In the process, he comes up with the best Pulp song Jarvis Cocker never wrote.
Great Lake Swimmers – “Zero In The City”
No band evokes the starkness of a Canadian East Coast winter better than Great Lake Swimmers; “Zero in the City” is their finest recorded display of this uncommon ability. Here, Tony Dekker delivers the romantic sweep absent in songs by mustachioed acts clogging up college radio.