Friday is here and so is our new batch of Essential Tracks, featuring an epic new dirge from some metal vets, a darkly mystical hip-hop posse cut, and some breezy guitar pop to usher in spring right. Read and listen to our picks for this week below.
Plus listen to our ongoing 2022 Essential Tracks playlist.
Cave In – “Blinded by a Blaze”
Cave In are better than most at creating heavy music that’s more than just heavy, but big. Ever since 2000’s Jupiter, they’ve seemingly strived to create rock and metal that sought destinations beyond the earth beneath us, their riffs and production harboring as much space as it does sheer weight or density. “Blinded by a Blaze” is a prime example of Cave In’s epic, astral tendencies at their best. Technically speaking, this is perhaps a power ballad, but it’s tinged with a sort of folk noir, spiritually aligned with the Bloodmoon album Stephen Brodsky recently released with Converge, and embracing a beauty within the crunch. Which doesn’t mean that it’s not heavy, of course, but it’s in the mystical acoustic arpeggios that “Blinded by a Blaze” opens itself up and reveals something deeper and more interesting.
From Heavy Pendulum, out May 20 via Relapse
billy woods and Preservation – “NYNEX” (feat. ELUCID, Denmark Vessey and Quelle Chris)
The new collaborative record from billy woods and Preservation didn’t have any pre-release singles, which is par for the course for the enigmatic rapper—Armand Hammer’s Haram, for instance, only had one, released just a few days before the album dropped. But given the album’s bleed from one track to the next, I understand the hesitancy to isolate any “singles”—but don’t mistake that for a lack of standout tracks. Like this, one of two on the album featuring woods’ Armand Hammer bandmate Elucid, as well as Denmark Vessey and Quelle Chris, plus some eerie grooves from Preservation, rife with harmonica, guitar and organ samples. Like any track with this much talent, it feels at times like a challenge to see who can drop the best one liner, and there’s a lot of incredible moments, though it’s hard to top woods’ in the first verse: “The future isn’t flying cars, it’s Rachel Dolezal absolved.“
From Aethiopes, out now via Backwoodz
Quelle Chris – “Alive Ain’t Always Living”
Quelle Chris said in a statement that accompanied the announcement of his new album DEATHFAME that it “carries on like an incredible lost tape found at a Baltimore flea market.” Which sounds kind of amazing in theory, and in practice, “Alive Ain’t Always Living” seems to live up to this ideal in practice—though not to the extent that ’90s Memphis horrorcore tapes might feel like cursed objects. It’s a track built on a crackly, lo-fi gospel organ and slow-moving beat beneath Chris’ soulful expressions of gratitude. It feels somehow both uplifting and more than a little weird and disorienting—a paradox that only makes us keep coming back to it. Also, respect to Chris for showing up twice on this week’s Essential Tracks.
From DEATHFAME, out May 13 via Mello
Michael Beharie – “For Days”
Michael Beharie’s work with Zs tends to lean more toward the experimental edge of prog, and his collaborations with the likes of Greg Fox (Liturgy, Ex Eye) and Ben Greenberg (Uniform) might place him in a more intense kind of avant garde. But “For Days” is not that—it’s breezier, prettier, awash in gorgeously shimmering guitars and juxtaposed with some hypnotic flute accompaniment. It’s both a testament to Beharie’s versatility as an artist and songwriter, and a great track to usher in the spring thaw.
From Promise, out now
Naja Naja – “Copy of You”
After we premiered this track earlier this week, we’re now giving “Copy of You” more attention, marking an entire third of the debut EP by Beijing post-punk group Naja Naja that has landed in our pantheon of Essential Tracks. “Copy of You” leans more toward the darker side of the group’s sound, steeped in eerie gothic synthesizers and stark, minor-key guitar riffs. It’s as fit for the dancefloor as their previous single, “Dong Dong,” but it’s a little more of a goth club than a discotheque, a sexy and shadowy standout fit for some shadowy hedonism. It’s songs like this that make Naja Naja’s debut EP one of our most anticipated releases this month.
From Naja Naja, out April 29 via Wharf Cat
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.