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Top 10 Tracks – April 2019

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Top 10 Tracks – April 2019

Jackson Wyatt, Digital Editor-in-Chief

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April is a month on the verge. Unlike the rocky weather of March, it teeters and almost always falls into warmer, sunnier days that will have you yearning for a stable spring. The weather in April is hopeful, but it does not always stay. That is what it felt like this year: an in-between. With SATs finishing up and the school year winding down, it stands as a transitionary period for students’ lives. This was surely felt in the musical landscape, too, with a multitude of projects slated to come out the first few weeks of May. We may not be there yet, but April saw its fair share of excellent tracks and notable releases. The following are the most concrete ten in such a transient month.

 

  1. JPEGMAFIA feat. Eyas, ‘The Who’

JPEGMAFIA may be known primarily for his bass-heavy, bombastic cuts, but the New York rapper, producer and provocateur excels just as spectacularly with his woozier contributions. His recent release ‘The Who’ belongs in the latter category, blending rainy-day synths with a steady beat and Peggy’s patient, looping flow. The track is utterly mesmerizing in all of its nebulous, charcoal glory, cycling slowly in front of you like clothes and gray water in an old washing machine. It feels precise and asymmetrical, somehow stumbling diagonally in a straight line. Peggy’s production is fascinating, too, managing to stitch video game samples, cartoon gunshots and the sound of pots and pans smashing together into the background. Eyas’ vocal contributions are the cherry on top, pristine in the beautifully sluggish hurricane surrounding her. All together, it adds up to be the perfect storm.

 

  1. Pile, ‘The Soft Hands of Stephen Miller’

What is Boston rock band Pile so mad about? Like many of their tracks, the lyrics to their recent single ‘The Soft Hands of Stephen Miller’ are polarizing. The eponymous man is the senior adviser for policy under Donald Trump’s controversial presidency, and the sentiments definitely carry a political weight to them. Comparing his family to a line of translucent lizards with a hereditary inferiority complex, though, Rick Mcguire aims for any soft spot he can find in the perceived hollow shell of Miller. Does it cross any lines? Debatable, but ‘Soft Hands’ is an invigorating listen regardless of your party preferences. It feels legitimately chilling, mixing Mcguire’s palpable fury with a sawing riff, thunderous drums and hysterical shrieks. It would be a tough task this month to find another track as ominous and imposing.

 

  1. 070 Shake, ‘Morrow’

New Jersey rapper/crooner 070 Shake is on the rise. Currently signed to Kanye West’s GOOD Music label, she already has a multitude of singles, an EP and excellent features on West’s last year cuts ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘Violent Crimes.’ With ‘Morrow,’ Shake exemplifies her strengths and promise as an artist even further. As she sings of the trials, tribulations and uncertainty of a turbulent relationship, atmospheric choir vocals and bass collide against the busy, clattering beat. By the time the instrumental opens up to a wave of reverb-soaked riffs, you will find yourself transfixed by the track’s hazy, purple texture. This is all helped along by Shake’s powerful voice, smoky, sleek and dusted in tasteful autotune. The hook is ridiculously catchy, too, burying itself deeper with each repetition and making ‘Morrow’ a nighttime ride you will never forget.

 

  1. Titus Andronicus, ‘(I Blame) Society’

Exploding in a blast of bright, punk rock fireworks, Titus Andronicus’ lead single from their upcoming album An Obelisk wants to run around the kitchen and bang all of the pots and pans together. It manages to funnel an obvious frustration with the current state of the world into an extremely fun and cathartic listen, driving in a way that perfectly pulls against its downtrodden themes. Guitar riffs smash into the jangling drums as vocalist Patrick Stickles yells out sentiments of the 1%’s domination and the fear of being systematically oppressed and divided under them. ‘Society’ never feels bleak, though; in fact, it feels invigorating. It works as a catchy, tight war cry for the working class in a time of political unrest, both showcasing and escalating worldwide tensions into an enormously compelling track.

 

  1. Kevin Abstract, ‘Peach’

The 1-9-9-9 is coming. After a three-year hiatus from his last project, during which he released four albums with his rising boyband BROCKHAMPTON, Kevin Abstract is back with another solo release. ARIZONA BABY sees him return to past themes of frustration over his upbringing, the resounding homophobia of his hometown and the weight of mental health on his life with the genre flavors of rap, R&B and alternative. Deeper album cut ‘Peach’ stands as the project’s pinnacle, expertly blending together sweet, balmy guitar and bass licks with Abstract’s reminiscences over a past lover. The instrumental is smoother than a bowl of soft serve in the summer heat, equally attention-grabbing and comforting for the ears. Dominic Fike’s chorus is a perfect contribution, too, twisting itself through the mix like a gust of warm breeze. When Abstract’s fellow BROCKHAMPTON bandmates Bearface and Joba begin backing him up, the track’s pillowy, pastel blend is complete. With summer just around the corner, no song this month will better represent its magic.

 

  1. Otoboke Beaver, ‘datsu . hikage no onna’

“I hate you.” For being three monosyllabic words, the phrase carries an enormous amount of weight. That is what makes it so perfect as the only English refrain in four-piece Kyoto punk band Otoboke Beaver’s recent single for their album ITEKOMI HITS. Clocking in at just over two minutes in length, ‘datsu’ is an exhilaratingly high-speed display of the quartet’s abilities towards scrappy fury. Frenzied guitar and drums race each other to the finish line, with frontwoman Accorinrin and her fellow bandmates’ harmonizations switching from sweet to throaty to hysterical as the track progresses. With ‘datsu,’ Otoboke Beaver has made the musical equivalent to a bolt of lightning, or maybe a factory fire is a better comparison. Either way, it is a thrilling listen.

 

  1. FKA twigs, ‘Cellophane’

After three years of musical silence since her last single, British avant-pop singer and producer FKA twigs is back. The cover for her newest track, ‘Cellophane,’ sees twigs adorned with shining crosses and a cascade of golden earrings, staring so neutrally into the camera that it warps into an emotionally blown-out mugshot. In a way, that is what ‘Cellophane’ feels like: destroyed but well-put-together. As dreary piano notes, electronic quivers and slow boomboxing bloom in the carefully composed background, twigs asks a presumed romantic partner, “Why won’t you do it for me / When all I do is for you?” When she compares their glossed-over emotions to the eponymous material, the instrumentation crackles behind her like a sparking wall socket, unfurling momentarily before recomposing itself. Twigs has always been known for her experimentation, and ‘Cellophane’ excellently applies these subtle production nuances to the format of a heart-wrenching, ghost-in-the-machine ballad. The result is spectacularly crushing.

 

  1. Oliver Tree, ‘F***’

How does one categorize Oliver Tree? Is he a meme, parody or colorful personality? Above everything else, he is a bold, scooter-riding musician that blends together elements of hip-hop, EDM, indie pop and rock into concise, addictive cuts. ‘F***’ is no different, stirring together 8-bit synths, grinding bass and a rumbling beat under Tree’s rapping and shouts. Electronic wizards Whethan and Bauuer’s production contributions bring a streamlined drive and bombast to the track, propelling it forward with just enough speed until the chaotic soundscape of the last twenty seconds. Tree is excellent, too, snarling out threats and insults to an unseen opponent with his usual bravado. ‘F***’’s  title may seem like a use of shock factor at first, but it is the perfect representation of this barn-burning cut.

 

  1. Truth Club, ‘Tethering’

Currently, ‘Tethering’ is one of only two tracks on Truth Club’s Spotify account. Resting under 5,000 listens with no official Genius lyric page, it feels like a truly underrecognized cut. ‘Tethering’ is an excellent foray into fuzzy, lo-fi indie rock, blending palpable angst with wonderfully downtrodden instrumentation. As the guitar slips from careful strums to a buzzing cloud, Travis Harrington sings, “Reminder that it’s just a house / It’s just a street / There is nothing tethering.” The sentiment is hopeful and heartbreaking, a feeling akin to watching your childhood home sink out of view for what could be the last time. ‘Tethering’ is an excellently human track, withering and growing in a wave of painful nostalgia that never borders on teenage melodrama.

 

  1. Big Thief, ‘Cattails’

Similar to the connotations of its title, Brooklyn alternative band Big Thief’s recent track ‘Cattails’ sounds like the blooming of greenery and the smell of warm, marshy ground. Singing of the Great Lakes, rivers, lawn chairs, motel meteor showers and, of course, cattails, frontwoman Adrianne Lenker builds a humid world of low-hanging branches and summer breeze around the excellent instrumentation. Careful strums tangle themselves into the steady drumbeat, almost unnoticeably off-center and hypnotizingly taut. ‘Cattails’ finds its strength in this monotonous delivery, marching on with a strong atmosphere and pristine soundscape. It is twee without being overly sentimental, reserved without being plain. If you are looking for the audio equivalent of standing on the back porch over a dark backyard buzzing with crickets and cicadas, this is the track for you.

 

(All sources from featured artists’ Genius and Spotify pages)

For more track reviews:

Top 18 Tracks of 2018

Top 10 Tracks – January 2019

Top 10 Tracks – February 2019

Top 10 Tracks – March 2019

About the Writer
Jackson Wyatt, Digital Editor-in-Chief

"Writing has always been my biggest passion, and while I'm most comfortable writing fiction, East Highlights helps me fine-tune a lot of my skills."

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