Each week we break down our favorite song, highlight our honorable mentions, and wrap them all up with other staff recommendations into a New Sounds playlist just for you. Be sure to subscribe here. This week’s top song, “The 1975″, comes from, well, The 1975.
We could spend hours discussing the politics and optics of putting out a song like “The 1975”. It’s not hard to imagine heated discussions concerning performative versus genuine wokeness, and how this song is contextualized by contemporary culture and by The 1975’s history as an oft-pretentious white-boy band. While the British group’s three albums each open on songs titled “The 1975”, and usually clock in at around a minute-and-a-half long and always begin with the lyric “Go down/ Soft sound”, their latest go-around ups the ante considerably. For nearly five minutes, frontman Matt Healy cedes control of the mic to 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who began the Skolstrejk för klimatet (Swedish for “School strike for the climate”) in August 2018.
That Thunberg is speaking, rather than Healy, makes all the difference. It would be too easy to point at the song as virtue signaling if Healy tried to put himself at the center of it, but he doesn’t. He seems to recognize that his voice doesn’t need to be the one driving conversation. Thunberg, for her part, delivers the hard-to-swallow pill: “To do your best is no longer good enough”. And she’s right. While “The 1975” probably doesn’t have a ton of replay value, the fact of the matter is that The 1975 are taking a more high-stakes stance than any other similarly sized contemporary band. How, or if, this song will fit into the narrative of Notes on a Conditional Form, supposedly due out sometime in 2020, is still up in the air. But even on its own, “The 1975” is a surprising, refreshing risk taken by a group that absolutely didn’t have to take it.
OTHER SONGS WE’RE SPINNING
Rico Nasty – “Time Flies”
“Time Flies” cranks Rico Nasty’s self-described “sugar trap” up to 11. The single, which is the Maryland-based rapper’s first since Anger Management earlier this year, is immediately danceable. The song’s chorus is driven by a hooky synth melody that drifts between the left and right sides. Over the blissed-out synths and club-ready bass, Rico Nasty sings, “I live every day like I’ll die by the nighttime,” leaning into an age-old maxim. –Sean Lang
Common Holly – “Central Booking”
In Common Holly’s video for “Central Booking”, a car-dealership blow-up man flails through an assortment of empty rooms and forlorn hallways. The display is comical at first, but an inexplicable feeling of empathy for this lonely, inanimate man and Brigitte Naggar’s melancholic persistence conjure what can only be recognized as tragedy. Directors Aaliyeh Afshar and Max Taeuschel manage to endow the blow-up man with a frightening, frantically lifelike quality, which pairs well with Naggar’s layered, self-harmonizing voice. Common Holly’s sophomore effort, When I say to you Black Lightning, is due October 11th. –Sean Lang
White Reaper – “Real Long Time”
It’s no secret that White Reaper have a real thing for hooks, but “Real Long Time” features some of their best yet. The Louisville-based group’s 2017 effort, The World’s Best American Band, found them trading in some of the fuzz of 2015 debut for a certain sharpness. “Might Be Right” and this, the band’s second single ahead of an as yet unannounced album, exist as evidence that they’ve invested in honing that same sharpness. The result is a jubilant storm of tight pop rock that’s indebted to the previous generation, but not derivative. –Sean Lang
Ty Segall – “Ice Plant”
Earlier this week, Ty Segall shared “Ice Plant”, which is already easily one of the most tender tracks in his absurdly prolific discography — 18 albums since 2008, anyone? “Ice Plant” opens with one of those shell shakers and fades out on antique piano. In between the two, harmonies abound, while Segall not so much laments as observes the endless cyclicity of things, singing to the sun: “Let your love rain down on me”. Segall’s forthcoming First Taste is due next Friday, August 2nd. –Sean Lang
Dump Him – “Dykes to Watch Out For”
Earlier this week, the Massachusetts-based queercore group Dump Him announced their debut LP, Dykes To Watch Out For. The album, along with its leading single, take their titles from Alison Bechdel’s comic strip of the same name, which ran from 1983 to 2008 and centered around lesbian experiences. The song is a straightforward rejection of history, a refusal to participate in the creation of arbitrary classifications and the subsequent exclusion that always occurs. –Sean Lang
Click ahead for more song picks and our exclusive playlist.