Valentine’s Day is this week. If you have a significant other, I hope you two get to do your favorite activity and hang out all day and are super happy. If you don’t have a significant other, I hope you still treat yourself and do your favorite activity and are super happy. Know what would make a great gift? A playlist. While we’re a little past the days of making a physical mixtape for someone, putting together music for someone is still an incredibly sweet thing to do in my mind. Really, I’m making all of you a mixtape every week with Take 5. What I’m saying is that all of you are my Valentines.
Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples, Yugen Blakrok – Opps
Black Panther comes out on Friday, and I think every moviegoer in the world with a pulse is at peak levels of hype about it. You can count me amongst that number, and the newly released soundtrack by Kendrick Lamar already has me thrilled to visit Wakanda. There’s not a bad song on the soundtrack, and “Opps” is one of my favorites. Lamar and Vince Staples are well-established titans of hip-hop and don’t disappoint. You might not have heard of Johannesburg-based rapper Yugen Blakrok before, but she’ll definitely be on your radar by the time “Opps” is finished.
Au/Ra – Panic Room
A few weeks ago I included Au/Ra‘s acoustic version of “Outsiders” on this list, and in catching up with the rest of her work I have become a huge fan. She’s back on the list this week with her latest single, “Panic Room.” The track is a lurching electronic dirge, and I mean that in the best way possible. The writing here is breathtaking, as Au/Ra really captures the creeping anxiety and helplessness that comes along with panic. Everyone on these lists are artists you should be looking out for in 2018, but that’s especially true about Au/Ra.
Elephant Jake – Freshman Fifteen
Sundays are good for a lot of things, including brunch, reading, and napping. They’re also good for music, as Elephant Jake proved yesterday with the release of “Freshman Fifteen.” As Joel Funk covered when he premiered the track for us yesterday, the song is one of the purest distillations of social anxiety ever put to song. Playing from a basement setup, there’s an energy and accessibility to the music that everyone can relate to the feeling and content, even if they don’t have social anxiety. It’s that smart and earnest playing that has Elephant Jake on our map.
MGMT – When You’re Small
MGMT are back with their first album in five years, and the band have not missed a beat in those years. Little Dark Age is a good listen front to back, combining some of the band’s best aspects from their previous work into one package. In particular, “When You’re Small” is good on so many different levels. The beginning of the track is a reminder that MGMT can write a solid melodic line even in songs that focus more on the buildup around it. The second half is one of those breathtaking electric buildups, a kaleidoscope of synths and drums. I’m glad MGMT are still in our lives for songs just like “When You’re Small.”
The Wonder Years – Sister Cities
The Wonder Years are back. That’s really all I need to write to get everyone excited about this song. “Sister Cities” owns so hard. The bass line is hearty lifeline to cling onto. The guitar shreds. Like every The Wonder Years song, Dan Campbell pours all of his being into singing, and it pays major dividends. When he performs the chorus, a gratitude for being taken in and protected, you feel it in your soul. April 6 cannot get here fast enough for the release of this album.
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