Song of the Week breaks down and talks about the song we just can’t get out of our head each week. Find these songs and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist. For our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, Courtney Barnett sheds light on the special details in everyday experiences.
Courtney Barnett sings like she’s talking to an old friend. This doesn’t just apply to her rambling, folksy delivery that recalls Bob Dylan, but to her lyrics, too, telling stories that feel familiar despite the inclusion of specific details. Five years ago, Barnett was nominated for Best New Artist at the Grammys, and in those years since, she’s continued to develop her authentic repertoire, with “Rae Street” as the latest addition.
Ahead of her recently-announced album Things Take Time, Take Time, “Rae Street” is a portrait of fleeting moments, observations from someone so grounded in reality that it can be almost painful. “There’s one thing I know/ The sun will rise today and tomorrow/ We’ve got a long long way to go,” she sings.
Throughout the track, she’s floating through with the ease of a reliable narrator, making the mundane matter. Sometimes that’s all it takes for there to be dignity in quiet, everyday moments — for someone to notice them at all.
“Time is money, and money is no man’s friend.”
— Mary Siroky
Curtis Harding – “I Won’t Let You Down”
Harding has described his genre as “slop ‘n’ soul,” mixing soul with gospel, psych rock, and blues. Combining bright horns and psychedelic elements, “I Won’t Let You Down” is an infectious example of the nostalgic, yet modern sound he brings to the table. While reassuring a love interest, he croons, “Take your time and don’t worry baby/ Everything is fine even here lately/ There’s an old friend just hanging around/ When you need me I won’t let you down.”
— Eddie Fu
Nothing But Thieves – “Miracle, Baby”
Nothing But Thieves may have climbed the charts six years ago with the alt-radio hit “Trip Switch,” but their new track “Miracle Baby” feels like yet another breakout moment for the English band. They’ve ditched most of their Royal Blood-esque heaviness for a more psychedelic, synth-covered sound, and vocalist Conor Mason shines all over it. There’s even a hint of late ’90s/early 2000s R&B in the mix, with Mason employing a seductive falsetto in the chorus and giving a laid-back feel to the verses. It’s a song about doubt, and though the desperation and urgency of the track comes through, there’s a subtle sense of detachment in Mason. For Nothing But Thieves, when it comes to believing in miracles, it’s a lot more complicated than it seems.
— Paolo Ragusa
Lonely Guest – “Pre War Tension” (Feat. IDLES’ Joe Talbot, Marta, & Tricky)
“Pre War Tension” is a slinky collage of a bassline, aching cello, tense vocals, and an airy chorus, and perhaps the juxtaposition of it all is the point. The debut track includes IDLES’ Joe Talbot, Marta (known for her work and with Tricky), and a verse and production from Tricky himself, and Lonely Guest is at the center of the storm. Lonely Guest, which operates like an experimental collective, is self-described as a “unique vision for a contemporary independent record label.” In less capable hands, such a track would feel chaotic — here, it feels full of promise for more inventiveness to come.
mazie – “dumb dumb”
“Everyone is dumb.” That’s the cheeky sentiment behind Maizie’s new single; built around the type of infectious sing-song chant you’d hear echoing across the playground, it serves as the latest preview off the singer’s forthcoming debut EP the rainbow cassette. The whimsical track may have found its inspiration in topics that are no laughing matter — namely, the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the rise of QAnon and the modern explosion of misinformation across the internet, as a release notes — but it’s safe to say the arrival of Mazie as a promising new voice in pop is anything but fake news.
— Glenn Rowley
44phantom – “problems”
Although many of the tracks on his brand new EP die sometime, it’s good for u center on Lil Peep-indebted pop rap, 44phantom’s “problems” is a clean-cut, undeniable pop-punk song. The 19-year-old artist is at his most mature, ditching the chance to be over-indulgent in favor of self-reflection and letting the “emo” aspect speak for itself. Even with a voice as pristine as his, the wash of guitars and analog sound compliment 44phantom perfectly. It’s a euphoric, shout-along track that finds 44phantom blending all of his influences into one cohesive pop song, and one that cements his place as one to watch.
Nina Nesbitt – “Summer Fling”
After the success of her 2019 debut record The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change, Nina Nesbitt finally returns with “Summer Fling” just in time to beat the season’s hottest dog days. Taking cues from ABBA and the synth-drenched sonics of the 1980s, the Scottish pop star’s flirty new single creates a hazy dreamscape full of “salt waves on an ocean drive” and “sunsets in a rose sky” as her lovers hand lingers with familiar intimacy in her lap. Not to mention, the accompanying music video serves up “Mamma Mia”-inspired fashions, giant toadstools and Nesbitt spinning around in dizzying aerial acrobatics that all feels like the perfect summer fever dream.
Nation of Language – “Wounds of Love”
Unfulfilling relationships can feel like an endless feedback loop, a mood the trio known as Nation of Language have effectively captured in their latest, “Wounds of Love.” Synth-drenched and utilizing delay pedals, “Wounds of Love” is the next iteration of the group’s dedicated to their clear ‘80s interpolation. The sound is nostalgic and could fit in any number of neon-lit films, but the feelings captured are still modern and familiar: one step forward, two steps back. The accompanying video stays away from the easy trap of leaning into the decade’s aesthetics and is instead neutral-toned and grounded.
carolesdaughter – “please put me in a medically induced coma”
The title of carolesdaughter’s latest single comes off less like a desperate plea and more of a nonchalant throwaway as the rising alt-pop star wades through the languish of a mental health crisis that just won’t end. “My bones are broken, but I don’t feel it/ I had potential, but of course I blew it,” she intones on the guitar-driven track, written during a stay in a rehab facility. Newfound fans will surely want to dive even deeper into her confessional lyricism and provocative mall goth aesthetic.
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