Top 10 Tracks – May 2019

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Top 10 Tracks – May 2019

Jackson Wyatt, Digital Editor-in-Chief

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May has been a transient month. Time seems to be catching up faster than ever before, and the month’s end has felt particularly clipped for high school students. The last day is approaching like a bullet train, and many are waiting in amazed anticipation. Summer’s freedom awaits, but not without the removal of comfortable and structured schedules. New possibilities and memories are just around the corner, and one of the best reflections of this is both the teasing and dropping of new, anticipated projects before the summer truly starts. Music is an integral element to this period of the year, and hopefully the following ten tracks can add to your enjoyment.

 

  1. Holly Herndon, ‘Frontier’

Modern technology can be used two ways in music: to stand as a placeholder for pre-existing elements or expand such notions with new, ambitious elements. Californian composer and sound artist Holly Herndon is firmly in the latter category, using Spawn (an AI program she and her husband developed) to intertwine the worlds of traditional folk and choral music with that of electronic and ambient music. ‘Frontier,’ an offering from her new album PROTO, demonstrates this careful, twisting balance. The track’s core human vocals come from a large vocalist session in a Berlin square that led Herndon to tears upon witnessing it. The recording retains this sense of overwhelming volume and passion as ‘Frontier’ sees the already momentous wall of voices stretched out, digitized and compressed together into jagged, maroon waves under a skittering beat. How much of it is human, and how much is computer? That is exactly the point, and Herndon’s ability to bridge this gap into an auditory android is a fascinating sight to see.

 

  1. Generationals, ‘I Turned My Back on the Written Word’

Revelling unapologetically in its own indie pop (emphasis on the pop) glow, New Orleans duo Generationals’ recent cut ‘I Turned My Back’ feels like a celebration. Piano keys sprinkle down like red and yellow confetti from the ceiling, twinkling among the woodwind-like synths and punchy drums. A wonderfully odd and tropical-sounding vocalization is thrown into the mix like a towering, multi-tiered cake. Similar to a surprise party, its shock of colors and excitement borders on overwhelming, with the levels and levels of fuzzed-out instrumentation threatening to bleed into one another. Luckily, they never do, and the equal-parts catchy and gigantic chorus works to expertly grab attention. Sometimes, it may be difficult to focus in the middle of a birthday party, but it is an experience you will get from nothing else.

 

  1. Tyler, the Creator, ‘WHAT’S GOOD’

Hip-hop wunderkind Tyler Okonma is back with a follow-up to 2017’s Grammy-nominated Flower Boy. Dropped May 17, his new offering, IGOR, features his typically arresting personality thrown in alongside focused songwriting, intimate lyrics and fascinatingly dense production. Mid-album cut ‘WHAT’S GOOD’ is certainly a high-point in the tracklist. Rabble-rousing and sinisterly funky, it moshes around and seems to throw its arms out at the audience, equally endowed with monster claws and jazz hands. Tyler expertly flows over a faux-vintage beat, voice curtained with effects and what sounds like an airplane engine before the central riff twists itself into a new beast. The beat changes, becoming glossier with head-rattling bass under Tyler’s flexes of being spiritually awakened by a car crash he survived. Like much of IGOR, ‘WHAT’S GOOD’ is stuffed to the top, hard to categorize and wonderfully maximalist. The answer to the song title is simple: this song.

 

  1. girl in red, ‘dead girl in the pool.’

Norwegian DIY-songstress Marie Ulven may be best known for her sapphic and anxiety-twinged lyrics that grapple with both inner conflict and outward rejection, but a first glance at her recent single ‘dead girl in the pool.’ shows a surprising amount of humor. The verses play like a bedroom pop version of Katy Perry’s ‘Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),’ detailing Ulven waking up after a night of partying and surveying the damage. There is something in her hair, people passed out all around her and…a dead girl in the pool. The statement may not seem funny, but Ulven’s fast-paced, wonderfully campy chorus turns the tragedy into a crowd-pleasing, morbid sing-along. Her instrumentation is as excellent as ever, too, aided by sharp, hangover-headache guitar strings on the verses before the rush of balmy tidal waves in the chorus. It may not be the most ideal pool party ever thrown, but Ulven is determined to make it a blast.

 

  1. Megan Thee Stallion feat. Da Baby, ‘Cash S***’

Off of Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s recent album Fever, the track ‘Cash S***’ almost deserves to come with a warning. It would be hard this month to find lyrics more vulgar, but the song does not simply appeal as shock factor. Sure, the sexually explicit lines may be a turn-off for many, but the two artists have an undeniable chemistry and talent. Megan’s flow is unbelievably confident, riding the beat like a cowboy on a bucking bronco. Da Baby plays an excellent foil to her, trading back lines and declaring his own dominance. The pair seem to be sparring over who can outdo the other while working with the same thematic material and complimenting qualities. It all comes together over the added bonus of the beat, a speaker-rattling, bare-bones production that will knock you to the ground. Bold is the perfect description of ‘Cash S***’’s execution, and such bold choices would be questionable if Megan and Da Baby did not convince you that they mean every word.

 

  1. Remo Drive, ‘Around the Sun’

Brothers Erik and Stephen Paulson have felt both sides of indie stardom. After an adored debut album, the pair dealt with losing their drummer, getting signed to Epitaph Records and dropping an EP that was denounced by a good portion of their fans for being overproduced. With their sophomore effort Natural, Everyday Degradation set for release, though, single ‘Around the Sun’ proves that Remo Drive are as excellent as ever. It is an extremely addictive cut, possibly unassuming on the first listen with a chorus that will burrow itself deep within your brain. Erik sings of mundane tasks before asking himself what the date is, zoning out into thoughts of how repetitive and small things are in the larger context of time and the universe. Sound fun? Probably not, but ‘Around the Sun’ is a blast anyways. The mix is ear-catchingly bright, with the guitars and drums sliding off of each other like Clorox-ed countertops. Come for the Weezer-esque punk rock and stay for the existential catharsis.

 

  1. Denzel Curry, ‘SPEEDBOAT’

The ‘audiovisual’ for Floridian rapper Denzel Curry’s recent single ‘SPEEDBOAT’ may convey an action-packed and explosive aesthetic, but the track sees him decidedly more reflective. Sure, there is the mafioso-inspired vibe of the opera-scored intro and cockiness in Curry’s flexes throughout, but darkness is lurking behind every bar. In the chorus, the shadow shows itself to the light with the line, “My dawg didn’t make it to 21, so I gotta make it past 24.” The piano-driven beat works its smooth and sombre magic, mid-tempo enough to be both speaker-rattling and downtrodden. Curry is as powerful as always, too, flowing with a reserved hunger and dabbling in looser melodies with certain sections. When he prays for protection over the ones he loves in the choir-backed pre-chorus, you can feel his hidden desperation. Curry may be on top of the world, but ‘SPEEDBOAT’ is an outstanding snapshot of how low it can all feel.

 

  1. Ezra Furman, ‘Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone’

Fiery is a fitting description for Chicago singer-songwriter Ezra Furman’s new single ‘Calm Down.’ The track plays like a matchstick volcano set ablaze, grazing the listener’s face with shrapnel and smoke as it burns down to a blackened pile. As the title suggests, Furman spends a good part of the song shouting at himself to calm down, ordering deep breaths and ice cold water that refuse to make a dent in his panic. When he sings, “ I should not be alone / The way things are going,” on the chorus, his palpable anxiety will make you agree. There is enough rage in ‘Calm Down’ to blow the top off of Mount St. Helens, stirring punk rock fuzziness and doo-wop accents into its acid wash bath. The result is staggeringly cathartic, a treat for anyone wishing to hear the audio equivalent of the id.

 

  1. Chance the Rapper feat. TisaKorean and Murda Beatz, ‘GRoCERIES’

After the success of his 2016 Grammy-winning mixtape Coloring Book, Chicago native Chance the Rapper’s next project is regarded to with an unprecedented level of anticipation. He claims it will drop in July, and May has seen him hold rabid fans over with the release of the maybe-album-cut ‘GRoCERIES.’ The track feels admittedly less essential than his usual offerings, but it highlights some of Chance’s best attributes: a sunshiny personality and charming goofiness. Just look to the refrain for an example, where Tisa references Simply Lemonade, or the chorus where Chance flexes how many groceries he used to carry and quotes a semi-obscure vine. Everything is in good fun. The beat is perfectly bubbly, too, blending rattling hi-hats and bass with pastel-pink synths under the lighthearted verses and unbelievably catchy chorus. ‘GRoCERIES’ may very well stick to the side of your brain in all of its sugary glory, but how can you complain when it tastes so good?

 

  1. Flying Lotus feat. Tierra Whack, ‘Yellow Belly’

One of the most notable releases of May 2019 was Los Angeles super-producer Flying Lotus’ science fantasy audio-epic Flamagra. Incorporating elements of jazz, soul, electronic and ambient music into the imaginative, twenty-seven-song-long tracklist, Lotus calls on tastemakers George Clinton, Thundercat, Anderson .Paak, Solange and even David Lynch, among others. The standout guest is Tierra Whack, though, who appears on the freakazoid, extraterrestrial space jam ‘Yellow Belly.’ It is a fascinating mid-album cut, with neither Lotus or Whack willing to play the straight man throughout. Mechanical clanks and sparkles cut through the track like a robotic magic wand, throwing themselves against spasmodic claps and nebulous synths. Whack’s performance is just as odd, contorting through tight flows, shrieks, melodies and pitch-shifts like a martian André 3000. They both stand as genre-hopping, forward-thinking artists striving to make something fresh, and their efforts combine to make ‘Yellow Belly’ an off-kilter, enigmatic success.

 

(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

Top 10 Tracks – April 2019