The 10 Best Songs of the Week

Featuring Madlib, Serpentwithfeet, Xiu Xiu and more

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The 10 Best Songs of the Week

This week’s best new songs come from all over. The last week in January saw new tracks from masters of unexpected sounds like Xiu Xiu, Squid, Madlib and Serpentwithfeet, plus exciting emerging artists like Yuno, NRCSSST and Thyla. No matter whether country music is your jam, or emo or hip-hop or punk, there’s something amazing for you that dropped this week. Scroll down for 10 of our favorite songs from the past several days.

Esther Rose: “How Many Times”

Esther Rose announced a new album How Many Times, out on March 26 via Father/Daughter Records and Full Time Hobby. It’s her third full-length, and it follows her 2019 album You Made It This Far. The announcement also came with a Sarrah Danziger-directed music video for the title track. The new single mixes Rose’s tried-and-true country roots with a doo-wop-esque sway and some sha-la-la’s for good measure. Add fiddle, lap steel and acoustic guitar to Rose’s winsome, compassionate vocals and timeless tale of heartbreak that needs to be numbed, and what’s not to love? “It’s not really just about feeling better, it’s about feeling it, whatever it is,” Rose says of her forthcoming album. —Lizzie Manno

FKA twigs, Headie One, Fred again..: “Don’t Judge Me”

This past Tuesday (Jan. 26), FKA twigs shared an expanded version of Headie One and Fred again..’s “Don’t Judge Me (Interlude),” which she was originally featured on, from their 2020 GANG mixtape. It also came with a new video co-directed by FKA twigs and Emmanuel Adjei (who co-directed Beyoncé’s Black is King), which is a match made in heaven, as FKA twigs is known for her intensely artful videos and dance moves. The extended version of “Don’t Judge Me” adds a verse from Headie One and gives more room for FKA twigs’ tender, high-pitched coos. While the original was more about personal judgement, the new version takes on a new meaning: “There’s been a million speeches / No justice, no peace, ‘cause we in pieces / Officer, am I allowed to breathe here?” Headie One asks. Plus, the sharp, eccentric vocal production lends even more beauty and anguish to their pleas. —Lizzie Manno

Madlib: “One For Quartabê/Right Now”

Madlib’s work is marked by his incredible alchemy of beats and samples, pairing together sounds that no one else would, and turning these strange collages into modern classics. Madlib teamed up with Four Tet for his new album, Sound Ancestors, and you can hear Madlib’s mind running wild—and it’s all the better for it. Perhaps the most Madlib-y track on the record is “One For Quartabê/Right Now,” a song that absolutely runs amok with its off-kilter jazz, explosive, polychromatic samples and psychedelic underbelly. Slightly sinister and radically boisterous, the track feels like you’ve just emerged from a dark tunnel and are viewing a landscape of an entire new universe for the first time, curated by an oddball artist. —Lizzie Manno

NRCSSST: “Sinking”

Stephanie Luke, drummer and co-vocalist in The Coathangers, and Dan Dixon (PLS PLS, Dropsonic) have formed a new band called NRCSSST, and they’re releasing their self-titled debut album on Feb. 12 via Slimstyle. Today, they’ve shared the album’s lead single, “Sinking,” which you can hear below. The Atlanta band are backed by drummer Chandler Rentz (Snowden), keyboardist André Griffin (PLS PLS) and bassist Danny Silvestri (Trances Arc). They starting writing in 2019 and later began performing, but only managed to play a few shows before the pandemic hit. “Sinking” is built on soaring, benevolent rock, and throughout, they try to gauge the health of a relationship and whether it’s worth holding on to. The song’s cymbal-clattering, synth-led breakdown is the first taste of their vast arsenal of sounds used on the album. —Lizzie Manno

Ohtis: “Schatze (feat. Stef Chura)”

Illinois trio Ohtis shared a new single, “Schatze,” today for Saddle Creek’s Document series. The song follows the band’s 2019 debut album Curve of Earth. “Schatze” poses as an argument between a boyfriend and girlfriend, with singer Stef Chura joining for back-and-forth vocals with singer/songwriter Sam Swimson. The vertical music video depicts the fight playing out via text as the band’s constant messages interrupt a meditation app. The single, a playful but honest look into one’s flaws, actually draws its name from a friend’s cat with its own behavioral issues. “He has put Gerald’s wife Teri in the hospital, and fucked me up badly more than once because I had refused to admit there was a cat alive whose heart I could not win,” Swimson says. “Turns out Schatze is such a cat.” —Carli Scolforo

Serpentwithfeet: “Fellowship”

The second album from Baltimore-raised, Los Angeles-based artist serpentwithfeet is on its way: The details of DEACON, out March 26 on Secretly Canadian, arrived Monday (Jan. 25) alongside lead single/video “Fellowship.” The tender and contemplative track features Sampha and Lil Silva, who co-wrote and -produced it alongside serpentwithfeet. It opens with meditative tones and tapped percussion, building gradually as serpentwithfeet sweetly invokes “breezy Sunday afternoons / [and] Christmas films in July with you” in a goosebump-worthy falsetto. You can hear the genuine gratitude in his voice as he, Sampha and Lil Silva sing, “I’m so thankful for my friends, my friends / I’m thankful for the love I share with my friends.” The beat swells and deepens as the song progresses, like a strong friendship’s roots digging ever deeper into the earth. —Scott Russell

Squid: “Narrator”

U.K. band Squid announced their debut album Bright Green Field, out on May 7 via Warp Records. The album was produced by Dan Carey, and it follows their acclaimed 2019 EP Town Centre and a pair of 2020 singles, “Sludge” and “Broadcaster.” The announcement also came with their lead single “Narrator,” featuring Martha Skye Murphy, and its accompanying video, which includes stunning animation. “Narrator” may be their best track yet, as it encapsulates their offbeat horn-and-synth-laden post-punk, and also contains a patient, intensely melodic and almost ghostly unfurling of energy that will shake you to your core. —Lizzie Manno

Thyla: “Breathe”

Brighton band Thyla have released “Breathe,” their first single of 2021. The band has also confirmed they will be releasing their debut album later this year, following their well-received sophomore EP Everything At Once and August 2020 one-off “Fade.” “Breathe” kicks off with a dreamy synth as singer Millie Duthie effortlessly weaves in a bittersweet, “I’ve been coping well / I’m good on the inside.” The song looks inward, manifesting a strong sense of self even while dealing with feelings of loneliness and abandonment. The music video for “Breathe” finds the band in what might be an ‘80s prom, with Duthie in full glam under a disco ball as the band poses for their school portraits. —Carli Scolforo

Xiu Xiu: “A Bottle of Rum (feat. Liz Harris)”

Earlier this week, Xiu Xiu announced their 12th studio album OH NO, out on March 26 via Polyvinyl. The album consists of various duets, featuring Sharon Van Etten, Chelsea Wolfe and Alice Bag, plus members of Deerhoof, Drab Majesty, Liars and many more. The duo has also shared the album’s lead single, “A Bottle of Rum,” which features Grouper’s Liz Harris, plus an Angela Seo-directed video. “A Bottle of Rum” is an electro-pop stunner, with crunchy drums, Harris’ saintly vocals and atmospheric textures galore, and its juxtaposition of artful calm with immersive exhilaration is especially stirring. —Lizzie Manno

Yuno: “Somebody”

Jacksonville-bred artist Yuno shared a video for his new single “Somebody,” out now via Sub Pop. It follows his 2018 EP and Sub Pop debut Moodie. On “Somebody,” Yuno melds skittering pop and warped hip-hop with catchy-as-hell emo. The track revolves around his ultra-slick vocals, ringing out over flickering beats and uplifting guitar strums. It’s an angsty song that captures the confusion of trusting no one except yourself, but still wanting companionship. The video depicts Yuno in a sterile empty space with roses and a teenager’s bedroom, a nod to the years he spent making music in his Florida bedroom. —Lizzie Manno

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