MUSIC

Six Songs You Should Hear This Week: Musical Acid Trips

New tracks from Valerie June, Kevin Abstract, Norah Jones, AURORA, and more.

Each one of this week's best new songs is a miniature revelation in itself, trippy enough to open your mind to new worlds.

For the record, the creator of this list has never taken acid; but these songs are what she imagines it would feel like, and truly, who needs drugs when you have songs like these? Transcendence, peace, revelations, a feeling of interconnectedness, swirly imagery—it's all here for your listening pleasure.

1. Drinker: Wave

Bicoastal NY/LA duo Aaron Mendelsohn and Ariel Loh (aka Drinker) have gifted the world with a gorgeous piece of pop psychedelia in the form of their new single, "Wave," released on Wednesday. The haunting track starts slow and ethereal, building up to a climactic tower of synths punctuated by bell-like guitar tones. A slow burn that's rewarding the whole way through, it's the kind of song meant for lying on a dock at sunset, sifting through memories and feeling the first hints of evening chill. Lyrically, it's a testament to the strangeness of time—the way it continues to move forward, but the past always seems to surge into the present. "Who is this? I'm stuck inside a wave," goes the refrain, a line that could be about dissociation, or fear of the future, or déja vu. "I feel like we've been here before," sings Mendelsohn, "but it wasn't you that I was here with." Hypnotic in its spaciousness, disconcerting in its dissociative leanings, this is an immersive sonic experience that bodes well for the duo's upcoming EP release on May 3.

2. Valerie June: Little Wing

Valerie June - Little Wing www.youtube.com

Valerie June has returned with a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," and it's absolutely breathtaking. Mystical and pure, raw and electric, it's a compilation of whirling guitars, whistling strings, distant organs, and eventually a horn section to drive it all home. June sounds a bit like Stevie Nicks, but perhaps even more weather-worn, her voice is ageless, meant for staticky radios. She proved her songwriting abilities on 2017's The Order of Time, but this cover is a testament to her aptitude as an arranger and a conveyer of raw emotion. In a way, it seems to come straight from a timeless dimension where there are only peace and starlight, and yet, at the same time, it cuts through to the core of something distinctly of this world, some pain known only to humankind. If you listen to one song this week, listen to this one.

3. Novo Amor: I Make Sparks

Novo Amor - I Make Sparks (official audio) www.youtube.com

Nobody is better at making soupy lullabies than Novo Amor, but he's made a particularly beautiful one with "I Make Sparks," a title that—despite its swaggering implications—moves beyond the realm of woodsy folk. Ideal for the ending frames of a film, the song is a miniature vacation in itself. Light strings cast flickering lights over Amor's frail, breathy vocals, and though his voice never grows to anything more than a whisper, the music swells and grows throughout, reaching a satisfyingly disorienting conclusion.

4. Aurora: The Seed

AURORA - The Seed www.youtube.com

For a slightly more energized but equally intense listening experience, AURORA's newest release, "The Seed," will do the trick. It sounds perfect for, say, the finale of a show like Game of Thrones—hopeful and dramatic, full of rhythmic humming and intense violins, designed for scenes of armies charging over snowy hills.

In essence, this is a song about environmental destruction—one of many, certainly, as we approach the end times. "When the last tree has fallen and the rivers are poisoned, you cannot eat money, oh no," she sings. Ominous, indeed; maybe avoid this if you're actually going to take acid because it could potentially send you on a bad trip.

5. Kevin Abstract: Georgia

Kevin Abstract - Georgia (ARIZONA baby) www.youtube.com

Kevin Abstract announced his newest project, ARIZONA baby, in a cryptic Instagram post a few days ago. But the first single, "Georgia," is transparent and honest, a welcome return to Abstract's distinct solo work. On this song, he draws lyrical inspiration from the old classic "Georgia On My Mind" and spins it into a web of bells, swirling electric guitar, and gritty basslines. At heart, it's a love song, a tribute to the free-fall of true emotion, communicated through rapidly panned vocals and electronic vocal effects layered over a slow beat. Abstract is a master of his craft, and with the release of ARIZONA baby, he's continued his tradition of making some of the best atmospheric rap out there. (For better or worse, it was produced by Jack Antonoff, which may explain its sonic similarities to Lana Del Rey's "Venice Bitch"—the high-pitched synth is definitely the same—but that's another story).

6. Norah Jones: A Song With No Name

A Song With No Name www.youtube.com

This song is the sonic embodiment of a tall glass of water, a breath of fresh air, a drive upstate in the midst of a New York City summer, a comedown after a wild night. In classic Norah tradition, it's easy on the ears and heart, just ambiguous enough to feel applicable to almost any kind of subdued situation, but has enough nuance to merit multiple listens. Striking lyrics cut harshly against soft acoustic guitar and not much else—"If I had a gun, if I had a knife, if I had your love if I was your wife," she sings, as gentle piano twinkles in the background.

Special Mention: LSD

Save yourself

LSD - It's Time (Official Audio) ft. Sia, Diplo, Labrinth www.youtube.com

This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning LSD, the project of Sia, Diplo, and Labrinth, whose debut LP dropped this Friday. But unless you have a taste for poorly crafted, shamelessly algorithmic, and lyrically embarrassing pop music, spare yourself the pain and skip this one.


Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York City. Follow her on Twitter @edenarielmusic.


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On This Day: Shakira Liberated Everyone's “She Wolf”

"I was in the studio in a bad mood that day, then I got inspired and went to a corner and I wrote the lyrics and the melody in 10 minutes. The image of the she wolf just came to my head, and when I least expected it I was howling and panting," Shakira said.

By Fabio Alexx

11 years ago, on July 10th, 2009, Colombian singer Shakira released the first single off her third studio album.

"She Wolf" is a synth-pop banger built on a B minor progression. It was, in many ways, an insane song, born out of the singer's own frustration and ennui.

"I was in the studio in a bad mood that day, then I got inspired and went to a corner and I wrote the lyrics and the melody in 10 minutes. The image of the she wolf just came to my head, and when I least expected it I was howling and panting," Shakira said.

Though the music was composed by John Hill and Sam Endicott, lead singer of post-punk band The Bravery, the lyrics were all Shakira's own. "[Shakira] contacted him (Hill), asking if he had any stuff," said Endicott. "We never had her in mind. We just made the thing independently of her, and then she liked it a lot, and she sang over it. She used some of the melodies we put in there and then wrote these crazy lyrics about being a werewolf. And that's how it happened."

Shakira - She Wolf www.youtube.com


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FILM & TV

SATURDAY FILM SCHOOL | The Most Dysfunctional Family on TV is Still Going Strong

The Gallaghers are still trying to get ahead, but a clear goal is out of focus.

Showtime 'Shameless'

Fiona Gallagher is the good kid, m.A.A.d city of fictional TV characters, the good kid so close to being a normal, functional adult until something happens...

Watching Showtime's Shameless—originally a British series developed by Paul Abbott—leaves you exhausted and drained; after one episode you find yourself organizing your room and writing to-do lists to ensure the Gallagher's brand of chaos never enters your life. Call it Americana, call it the South Side of Chicago, call it 13.5% of America (or 43.1 million American households), but Shameless is good ol' poverty under a microscope.

For those who aren't subscribed to the premium cable channel, Showtime, Shameless's seven seasons are available on Netflix to stream and follow the misadventures of a single father and alcoholic, Frank (William H. Macy), and his oldest daughter, Fiona (Emmy Rossum), the primary caretaker of the Gallagher clan. Frank is the type of man who has no business having one kid, let alone, six mouths to feed; he doesn't care about the well-being of his family, but how, when, and where he'll have his next drink. Fiona takes after her father in doses, prioritizing her siblings' needs over her own—except when there's coke, attractive bad boys, or booze in the room. She's a diligent worker, but often finds herself slipping into the same habits she warns her siblings to avoid.

Fiona Gallagher is the good kid, m.A.A.d city of fictional TV characters, the good kid so close to being a normal, functional adult until something happens, reminding her (and the audience) just how fragile her world is, and how easy it is to knock her a few rungs down on the socioeconomic ladder she's desperately trying to climb. There are no free meals in life and the Gallaghers are the first to tell you, looking under couch pillows to find quarters and dimes for school lunch. In season four, Lip (Jeremy Allan White) proclaimed the only way to get money when you're poor is to steal or scam it, and in season eight, this sentiment still rings true: As Fiona tries to stage her apartment building to draw in hipster renters, she gets pushback from her tenants, friends, and brother Ian (Cameron Monaghan)—who's boycotting Fiona in the name of love.

Shameless is similar in tone to another UK show, Skins, but is far more adult in subject matter. Shameless, like Skins, is about sex, familial obligations, drug use, and surviving capitalism—but mostly about the real-life pangs of poverty and the families living in the neighborhoods your mom warns you about on your walk home from school. Shameless is about the folks who make twenty dollars last an entire week between six growing, loudmouthed kids; and Shameless is about how far families will go to keep their dysfunction in their household, instead of various foster homes (in ironically worse conditions).

In its eighth season, Shameless is trying to find clarity for its characters while still keeping the shock value and family drama viewers are addicted to seeing. We secretly love seeing Lip mess up, drop out of school, and walk the streets of South Side Chicago like nothing can hurt him; and we love seeing Fiona's scheme to scrape up the month's rent. Whether Shameless is detailing the extensive focus needed for sobriety, or the three jobs one has to work to feed a full house, it's the endless drive and heart of the Gallaghers that makes Shameless so addictive.

Shameless is renewed for a ninth season, but where exactly can these characters go? How much more drama and dysfunction can they deal with before they become caricatures? Shameless, for now, is still one of the best shows studying the politics of upward mobility, the gritty reality of never having quite enough to make it out of the slums, and how close in proximity the slums are to the Crate & Barrel homes.

'Shameless' (Showtime)

POP⚡ DUST Score: ⚡⚡⚡⚡


Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.


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