The 5 Best Songs We Heard This Week: Zayn, M83, and Empress Of


This week has been all about SXSW and the live music so rampant there, but while all the young buzz bands were making a case for indie rock stardom down in sweltering Austin, we were here in dulcet, sweet spring weather, lapping up the week’s tasty releases.

The five songs gathered here almost skewed entirely young, but then indie veteran Anthony Gonzalez had to go ahead and drop a beautiful, six-minute track that sounds like the best Bond song you’d never heard. Still, we’ve got a dance track from one of music’s best new feminist songwriters, a straight-up banger from an ex-One Directioner with a (maybe fake) face tattoo, a shimmering pop ballad from a Philly songwriter, and a Friday afternoon comedown from Animal Collective obsessives.

M83 — “Solitude”

After the release of “Do It, Try It” and its accompanying artwork, M83’s upcoming album Junk looked like an alarming departure from the band’s dreamy dance romance, as best heard on mega-hit “Midnight City.” While we didn’t agree with the sentiment that that was a bad thig, Anthony Gonzalez’s just-released “Solitude” completely dismantles it. Six minutes of his soaring vocals and a long interlude of gorgeous strings make the case that the producers of the next Bond film, whatever it may be, should look to him for the theme.

Japanese Breakfast — “The Woman That Loves You”

Michelle Zauner is a songwriter from Philadelphia with years of experience as part of the group Little Big League, but recent tracks from her forthcoming solo LP, Psychopomp, suggest she’s best on her own. “The Woman That Loves You” proves that point in spades: its ’80s-indebted production gives her the air of a Blood Orange-produced ‘Til Tuesday, while her incisive lyrics bring the weight of Aimee Mann. “You should try to do as little harm as you can to the woman that loves you,” Zauner sings. “We’ll stay together for the weekend.”

Empress Of — “Woman Is a Word”

On Empress Of’s debut album, Me, Lorely Rodriguez created a world of roiling synths and very personal lyrics. Newly released single “Woman Is a Word,” which, as far as we know, isn’t from an album, continues that trend by bringing Rodriguez’s own womanhood to the forefront. “I’m only a struggle if I get in your way/ You made the road/ Made the road one-way,” she sings, over a beat that begs you to dance.

Zayn — “BeFoUr”

A week from today, Zayn’s first post-One Direction album, Mind of Mine, will be released. “BeFoUr” is the fourth (ha) song we’ve heard from the album, but it’s definitely the strongest of the bunch. Instead of relying on any one of his tricks, he brings them together in a way emblematic of R&B’s current trend toward the bizarre, giving hope to all of us who dangerously want Mind of Mine to be that transcendent pop album all of his diehard fans have been waiting for.

Rollercoasterwater — “Avey Tare Said”

Rollercoasterwater love Animal Collective. Or, at least, that’s what could be gathered from both this track’s title and also its abundantly layered vocal harmonies that scream pre-MMP AnCo. Still, the LA duo manages to create a sound apart here, placing those harmonies on top of lush, seamless synths that make Painting With sound like doom metal. It’s the perfect comedown from a hard week, whether it was spent sweating in lines outside of SXSW venues or, you know, just fielding lots of distressing work emails. Either way.