This week on Tracking––a weekly series in which we discuss our favorite songs of the year (you can check out the official list as the year progresses)––you can listen to additions from DIIV, Cat Power, Jessie Ware, Purity Ring, The Vaccines and The Ty Segall Band. (Click on the arrows to navigate through the songs.)
DIIV: "Home" (1 of6)
At its best, DIIV's debut record, Oshin feels like standing in a cavernous room with hazy beams of light coming in from slits in the walls. The light is immediate and pleasing yet there is also the sense that one is ensnared in something ominous. The final track, “Home”, is built around this eery juxtaposition. Zachary Cole Smith sings “you’ll never have a home/ you’ll never have a home” before completing the tautology with the very next line: “till you go home.” It is a simple yet haunting sentiment, like something a recovering drug addict scribbles on a napkin and reads every time he feels weak.
Wrapped around this refrain is a warm, drifting melody that laps up against Smith’s words. Everything about the song is peaceful – the sparkling guitar, the fluid bass line, even Smith’s tone of voice – yet the words being spoken are subtly off-putting. It is an atmospherically complex song that, much like the rest of the album, invites earnest and thoughtful speculation. Then again, you could just ignore all that and enjoy it while doing something else on the Internet. –– Drew Malmuth
Cat Power: "Ruin" (2 of6)
Cat Power mastermind Chan Marshall doesn’t follow the customary two-year album cycle most musicians do – Sun, the record Matador will drop on September 4, is her first collection of original material in six years. But that’s given her a lot of time to thoroughly refine her songs into gorgeous, minimalist, and absolutely complete little worlds in and of themselves: enter first single “Ruin,” in which Marshall meditates on wanderlust and small-town ennui in a hypnotic, smoky canter over a driving, mesmerizing, infinitely layered piano loop that gives way only to sharp spikes of distorted, bluesy guitar. When Marshall sings about what she’s seen it’s like she’s whispering in your ear – it’s impossible to feel like you haven’t seen it too. –– Genevieve Oliver
Jessie Ware: "Wildest Moments" (3 of6)
Jessie Ware, former side-woman and go-to girl for an emotive chorus on your UK art-step track, is killing 2012 in her own right: her new single “Wildest Moments” is just the latest in a series of jams-of-all-jams, from the R&B-influenced lighters-up cuts to more experimental, thrillingly maximalist clubby anthems. “Wildest Moments” is one of those songs that needs a video shot in a church in 1982, light streaming through stained-glass windows and all – Ware’s voice is so clean and pure that her lyrics about a relationship turning sour sound almost hymnal; that minimal backbeat (pounding drums, simmering organ) are as deliciously ‘80s as they are almost religious. It’s no wonder her debut record is titled Devotion – we expect it to be heavenly. –– Genevieve Oliver
Purity Ring: "Fineshrine" (4 of6)
On the surface, “Fineshrine” is just another lyrically and musically disturbing––though excellent––jam from Purity Ring with a made up compound word for a title. But the duo give the single room to breathe, and this is really interesting because if you’ve been following their output thus far, you’d know that Purity Ring beatsmith Corin Roddick likes to take a pointillist approach to his music, to punctuate Megan James’ often creepy lyrics with needlepoint synth, crisp drums and meticulously timed metallophones. On “Fireshrine,” a mushroom cloud of sound swells and collapses around James’ evokative lyrics likening her devotion to her lover to a pegan human disembowelment ritual. It’s as creepy as anything they’ve ever done, but also another promise that Shrines will be one of the finest albums of the year. –– Luis Tovar
The Vaccines: "No Hope" (5 of6)
The Vaccines’ “No Hope” is a barrage of truth bombs: “it’s hard to come of age,” howls frontman Justin Young, and it’s like, you’re just getting this now? To be fair, they’ve had it tough: this band faces the very internet-age struggle of having to develop their identity under a watchful, interrogatory limelight, fighting with the kind of unreasonable expectations no blog-buzzed band could ever really fulfill. “No Hope” is as much a big middle finger as it is an admission of defeat, because it’s really the Vaccines-iest song we’ve heard yet, the kind of concise, tightly interwoven flawless guitar pop track we always knew they were capable of making. There is hope – it’s just hard to see it when you’re growing up, and maybe the Vaccines are so good because they still sound like they’re growing up.
Ty Segall Band: "I Bought My Eyes" (6 of6)
Even by his own, very high, standards, Ty Segall has been on a tear lately. He dropped a stellar split 7” with Feeling of Love and just recently released Hair, a collaborative effort with White Fence and probably the best rock album of the year thus far. Together with Tim Presley, Segall embraced his more psychedelic tendencies. Back with his own band, however, he made Slaughterhouse, one of the heaviest and most ball-crushing releases of his ouevre. While “I Bought My Eyes” makes this clear, it also demonstrates how Segall is able to retain his knack for melody even amidst thrashing distortion. The driving opening riff is only a segue into the onslaught of crushing guitar, and eery harmonies that follows. All the while, Segall's Robert Plant-esque vocals (with purposefully unpolished sound quality) give the song a vintage rawness. It slays every time; but with repeat listens “I Bought My Eyes” also has a warmness to it that you don't often find with heavy rock. Maybe its the way Segall coos lovingly before the distortion drops. Or maybe its the sunny guitar riffs humming along in the background. In any case, it's an excellent song and it will be a go to wake up track for many a groggy mornings to come.