This was the most important week in America’s 2,000-year  history. Any week where the words “Tity Boi” and “Dick Poop” are said on television should merit a national holiday. Also, Nancy Grace should be President. But we didn’t come here to get political. We came to talk about music and to ask you to PayPal us $40. So here’s what we were listening to this week…
Empty Houses - “Far Away”
God I fucking hate music sometimes. I really hate it. I hate how every popular band plays the audio equivalent of drying wallpaper. I hate how the music press fawns over those bands like there’s anything remotely special about them. And I hate the audacity those bands have to go whining to their publicist if said music press doesn’t publicly fellate their latest grain-filtered lyric video. I’d rather listen to some bygone era of music. Which is why I’ve been digging Empty Houses. From what I can tell, it’s just some pop punk kids from that band Fireworks playing Motown tunes. I had to check my Wheel of Questionable Cultural Appropriation to see if it was OK for me to enjoy a bunch of white kids playing Motown music, and it scored an Amy Winehouse. So that’s good enough for me! End all music. Except this.
A$AP Rocky - "Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye"
I was reading this blog post on fashionable teens the other day, as I often do as part of my weekly deep dive into youth culture, and a lot of them cite A$AP Rocky as their favourite rapper. Despite having a short but electric run in the mainstream, Rocky's presence continues to be felt. Maybe his strategy of fading into the background and focusing less on being an "hot" rapper—a title that has a historically short shelf life—has allowed his to keep his introductory run and reputation untarnished. His first solo song in a long time was "Multiply", which had Rocky sounding revitalized and hungry over hurried violins, stormy drums, and Juicy J encouragements. But the second single, "Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye" is the real star. It's impressive because it manages to sound like nothing else out right now, the horror movie production highlighting a flow and delivery from Rocky that's miles from the syncopated free form raps currently in favour. New York man-of-the-moment and new Lyor Cohen signee, Fetty Wap employs this popular method of sing/rapping well, and is another example of New York co-opting trends and polishing them with an East Coast rub, doing to Atlanta's weird scene what Rocky did to Houston upon his arrival. With Rocky, it's promising to see him continue to stay mounted on the horse he rode in on, doubling down on the fashion-forward style and Texas rap cadence as his career progresses. Combined with the fact that Rocky has been learning how to produce his own beats, there's promise of longevity in Rocky's career that I didn't think would be possible when he first broke out. So congrats A$AP Rocky! I, like the youth, now respect you.
K Rizz - "If I"
This is one of those songs you don't need a backstory for to immediately fall in love with, but some context helps. K Rizz is a Filipino-American artist with strong ties to NYC's ballroom culture and a take-no-shit attitude that helps set her apart from the pack of underground weirdos currently trying to bubble through. "If I" is an immaculate slab of vocal house, ruled equally by Rizz's turn as a diva stylist and a sax line that serves as a healthy corrective to the generic loops that populate Top 40 radio right now. It's easy to see this as a potential successor to Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne's monster smash "No Place," which reclaimed pop as the rightful realm of textured house.
Vanity - Vain in Life
NYC needs more bands like this, just simple, hard-driving punk rock of the finest order. Vanity is basically former and current dudes from CREEM, Rival Mob, Nuclear Spring, Raw Meat, and more going full melodic, and if you're a fan of anything from oi and street punk to just simple, melodic punk, you'll probably love this as much as I do.
THOU/LEECH - We Pass Like Night... From Land To Land split
For a minute I was super bummed at myself for not realizing that Thou had a new EP out (let alone a split with Leech!) until I realized that, hey, wait a minute, didn't Thou already do something with Leech a few years back? For once, memory served me, and yeah, this is an old release. Woodsmoke originally released it on cassette back in 2008, and it was later reissued on vinyl by Gilead Media and Vendetta Records. All three (!) pressings are both long sold-out, but at least the whole thing is up on Bandcamp (and you could probably sell a couple of organs and buy it on Discogs, if you really wanted to). Thou is reliably killer (their latest record, Heathen, just might be the best thing they've ever done, and when a band boasts a discography is as extensive as theirs, that does mean something) but it's also nice to be reminded to revisit Leech, a shadowy Cascadian entity that surfaced, released a handful of stunning demos, a split with The Funeral Pyre, and this split, and then vanished back into the ether in 2004. The pairing of these two bands is genius; they're both so intense in different ways, and obvious masters of their respective crafts. I'm going to spend the rest of the day remembering all the music that I loved during that weird 2004-2007 era, and basking in how awesome this record still is.
BEA - "We're Like the Hard Born"
Truthfully I've been listening to the forthcoming Purity Ring album all damn week. If you haven't heard the two new songs off it, please get involved here and here. Honestly though, those aren't even the best offerings on the record, and I can't post them here because I'd get in trouble, but let's just say that when Another Eternity drops in March "Stranger Than Earth" is a killer quasi-trap banger and "Bodyache" is sparkling, perfect pop. But anyway, other than that I've been feeling Dutch singer BEA, who comes off like Caroline Polachek after she's spent 13 months on a Sade kick. Above is "We're Like Hard Born" which features her squinting sexily, with adding backing vocals delivered by a Second Life escapee dog. She also dropped this pretty in pink video this week and we interviewed her, so there's more where this came from.
Kari Faux - "Gahdamn"
SURPRISE, SURPRISE YOUR GIRL IS BACK ON THE GRIND. Has any verse ever opened with a line that's both so chill and so fucking hard? No. Absolutely not. I just got whiplash from how hard I rolled my eyes at the haters in solidarity with these bars. Kari Faux has been the shit, Childish Gambino gets it, and gahdamn don't we all feel like the motherfucking shit right now?
Phantom Posse - "Home"
Makonnen is a weirdo and I love it. On Phantom Posse's new album Home, which is my favorite album of 2015 so far (fuck you, Sleater-Kinney!), we get him if he happened to join, like, Broken Social Scene or something. "I'm Stranded" is basically a lounge jam with Makonnen rambling about getting lost and his phone dying and him hoping his cousins see his Facebook status. What the fuck? The rest of the record is great, too—a little stripped down pop, some shit that sounds like elevator music, and some other stuff that will make you want to do a waltz. Never change, Makonnen. Never change.
Eric Sundermann, Managing Editor