As anybody who knows me will tell you — though I make even the neighborhood children sign non-disclosure agreements — my major interests are profanity in all forms, visual art that leaves you gasping, caffeine, songs by Brits who are on drugs or sound like it, the relentlessly absurd degradation of music festivals, and arguing with my wife about how Friday Night Lights is only for boring white people. So, in lieu of an overarching topic this week — say, the unknowable trials of Beyoncé, Kanye, or Jeb Bush — I’ll stick with my personal interests. Please clap.
Tate Kobang, “Oh My”
We could preamble about this Baltimore rapper’s potential, now that he’s signed to industry hype-machine label 300, home to Young Thug, Fetty Wap, Migos, and others. But what everybody should do is press play on “Oh My” and trip out like a royal fool on Da Honorable C.N.O.T.E.’s hypnotic head-fuck production and Kobang’s unforgettably foul flow. Under normal circumstances, you’d have to point a gun at my head before I’d mouth along with the phrase “thumb in her butt,” but dignity goeth before a pitfall, as Gucci Mane once spit. Prepare for the memes.
Lush, “Out of Control”
After the more conventional alt-rock lip curl of 1996’s Lovelife and the suicide of drummer Chris Acland that same year, Lush’s dream-pop dream of the ’90s was over. But thankfully, the band’s first recordings in 20 years sound fresher than ever. The Blind Spot EP’s splendid hybrid of shoegazey wooze and poppy melodic swirl is a lovely extension of 1994’s Split, and a deft streamlining of the twinkling, disembodied roar with which they were first associated. “Don’t cry, darling, let’s try to make up,” Miki Berenyi croons on “Out of Control,” and you’re immediately beside her, strolling, pleading, drifting in a conflicted, bittersweet reverie that seems as seductive as love itself. Berenyi and co-songwriter/guitarist Emma Anderson craft a folky yet arena-vast lullaby, arranging and mixing the instruments to gently complement each other. The result is a melodic spell that spins you like a mesmerizing carousel of heartache.
Dave East, “No Coachella for Me”
At the start of the video for this track by lanky Harlem street-rap grinder Dave East, the camera settles briefly on two Instagram-ready hippy raver babes waving colored smoke sticks and blowing bubbles in a field like the California polo club where the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival takes place. A hacky announcer’s voice intones, “Here at the Fuse/Vevo house at Coachella,” then producer Automatik’s buzzy synth thud drops (livened by staccato piano and hazy sitar), and Dave East, weed smoke bubbling out of his mouth, chants the irresistible title hook while he stands in a trap kitchen cooking up product. Here’s why he’s not going: (1) His drug business is too brisk to abandon; (2) Mom’s broke, he’s hungry; (3) There’s a big shipment to break down; (4) He’s gotta pull a credit-card scam downtown with another thief; and (5) Maybe, just maybe, he’s not yet ready. It’s a maddening situation, and Dave East runs it all down with a gravelly, resonant bark that reaches cinematic levels of bravado vs. anxiety. As Coachella became a money pit of endorsements and celebs over the past decade, its promoters sought out rappers in addition to the usual lineup of alt-rockers, DJs, and superstar reunions. It’s conceivable that Dave East, a prolifically talented up-and-comer signed by Nas, might perform there at some point. Or not. The track’s power lies in how it convinces you his fortunes could swing either way.
The Psychedelic Furs, “Love My Way” (heard in a Durham, N.C. coffee shop)
While I was queued up in my local coffice last week to write/procrastinate, this new-wavey chestnut came on the stereo and a loud guy with pricey nerd glasses standing in front of me exclaimed: “This music is so joyous! I love the ’80s!” That may well be, but the thing about the ’80s, if you were growing up then, was that they didn’t love you back. And when they did, they very often killed you. Which is why Richard Butler wrote this song — to say that gay love in the ’80s didn’t have to be a secret or an affront or a death sentence (AIDS, blah blah blah). That marimba is flames, too. So yeah, I guess what I’m saying is, “This music is joyous!” Carry on.
Kari Faux, “This Right Here (Hold My Phone)”
A former Chick-Fil-A employee and Soulja Boy fan from Little Rock, Arkansas, Kari Faux tasted a smidge of Internet fame with her 2014 mixtape Laugh Now, Die Later (Childish Gambino took note), and followed that up with the witty, ’80s-ish slink of “Supplier” last year. But there’s no denying her now. Over a murky, haunted synth line and commandingly twitchy beat, she slides into the world’s DMs and purrs, “Hold my fuckin’ phone, this right here my song,” as the beat and synth distend and blur. Suddenly, whether she’s baggin’ on lames or leading the room in a languid yet firm call-and-response — “All my ladies in here with their weave in, say, ‘Bitch, stop hatin’,” — it’s a Kari Faux party and a Kari Faux party don’t stop.
Explosions in the Sky feat. Jacob Van Loon, The Wilderness (Art Process Video)
In the same meticulous way that Explosions in the Sky construct their latticeworks of noise and mood — featured most notably in the television series Friday Night Lights, but in numerous other films and TV shows — Chicago artist Jacob Van Loon creates visual spectacles that unfold at a magnificently measured pace. Here, as the new track “Ecstatics” plays, Van Loon is filmed creating the artwork for the cover of the band’s new album, The Wilderness. Almost as if he’s starring in a time-lapse nature photo, Van Loon traces a sprawl of geometric pencil patterns, then fills in countless layers of watercolors, dabbing and brushing a sort of ever-mutating collage of blueprints and diagrams. Watching the process repeatedly, I still get entranced, puzzling out the logic of where Loon will paint next, and finally just succumbing to the dazzling beauty.
Jennifer O’Connor, “Start Right Here”
This ain’t Jennifer O’Connor’s first time at the indie-rock rodeo, but she’s not issuing any screaming, don’t-fuck-with-me-fellas demands. In fact, she’s more composed and clear-eyed than ever on her sixth album, Surface Noise, and especially on the wonderfully reassuring “Start Right Here,” which has been my favorite security blanket to clutch of late. Assisted by Yo La Tengo’s James McNew, O’Connor somehow contains all of life’s emotional body blows in a modest, winsome melody and life-is-too-short-to-jangle guitar. Facing doubts and fears with an uncommonly reasonable rigor, she says so much without raising her voice or lowering her standards.