Essential Tracks This Week: ScHoolboy Q, Caroline Polachek, and more

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Schoolboy Q

Friday’s here and it’s time to queue up the best songs of the week! And this week, there’s been a lot of ringers vying for consideration, including a handful of artists who have been recently featured in Essential Tracks. But ultimately five new songs will always rise to the top, and this week’s picks are going to carry us through the holiday weekend. Among our Essential Tracks picks this week: The return of an MVP emcee, a lengthy hip-hop sound collage, a cover of an obscure synth-pop song, noise rock with hooks and indie pop with gallows humor.

Blurbs written by Jeff Terich (JT) and Mia Euceda (ME)

ScHoolboy Q – “Yeern 101”

Goddamn, ScHoolboy! It’s been five years since the last ScHoolboy Q record, 2019’s CrasH Talk, though the L.A. rapper hasn’t exactly been missing in action. He’s dropped a handful of singles in recent years including a few collabs, but none of them went this hard. “Yeern 101” is two minutes and 47 seconds of nonstop heat, a rapid-fire sequence of lyrics from Q that’s at once thrilling and relentless. Cardo’s fault-line-opening beat is intense but minimalist, intimidating enough on its own but sufficiently stark enough not to get in the way of a master emcee do his thing. A flow like this is a thing to behold. – JT

From Blue Lips, out March 1 via Top Dawg

Caroline Polachek – “Spring is Coming With a Strawberry in the Mouth”

In the midst of this week’s icy northeastern temperatures, Caroline Polachek warmly affirms to us that “Spring Is Coming With A Strawberry In The Mouth.” This gem is a cover originally recorded by the Irish synth-pop outfit Operating Theater and is one of seven new tracks on Polachek’s deluxe edition of Desire, I Want To Turn Into You. Lush vocal harmonies and bright, twinkling synths paired with vulnerable confessions create an ethereal atmosphere. It’s bursting with feverish pining and optimism—a directive to hold out for a not-so-distant moment of serenity. When listening, I can picture the sidewalk slush melting away from the rays of sunshine this song emits. – ME

From Desire, I Want to Turn Into You (Everasking Edition), out now via Perpetual Novice

Hana Vu – “Care”

Don’t be surprised if you’re caught off guard by the startling, kinda-grisly video for Hana Vu’s new single “Care,” which finds the singer/songwriter’s decapitated, decaying head still animated and singing. Released on Valentine’s Day no less—never let it be said that she doesn’t have a wicked sense of humor. Artemisia Gentileschi-inspired visuals aside, “Care” is an absolute dynamo of a lead single, big on earworm melody while showcasing Vu’s stellar vocal range. A breakup song in which the act of simply getting up in the morning can feel as dire as the singer/songwriter’s grim fate in its video, “Care” finds Vu letting out an extended sigh through some of her most commanding vocal melodies (“And oh, I don’t know, I just hope that someday I’ll be fine“) between a juxtaposition of acoustic strums and lightly grungy lead guitar riffs. “Care” is indie pop at its best, the feel-bad song of the season. – JT

From Romanticism, out May 3 via Ghostly

Metz – “99”

Toronto noise rock trio Metz have always been about packing a wallop. Their songs are concise, heavy, muscular and raw—nothing less than noise rock at its most potent and efficient. But with his Weird Nightmare album from 2022, vocalist/guitarist Alex Edkins proved himself just as adept at crafting scruffy pop songs as shrieking pummelers. Metz splits the difference on “99,” a song as heavy as any the band’s released before but with some dazzling textural flourishes as well as the kind of chorus that’ll swirl around your head for days. Sing along! “Ninety-nine-nine-nine-nine-nine…” – JT

From Up on Gravity Hill, out April 12 via Sub Pop

Fatboi Sharif & Roper Williams – “Something About Shirley”

Strap in for this one! Fatboi Sharif and Roper Williams’ latest creation is the length of an EP but comprises a single track, less a song per se than an extended sound collage with rap verses. That doesn’t even come close to fully capturing the scope and feel of this one, a sinister and anxiety-inducing array of haunted atmosphere, grimy textures, unnerving dialogue samples and loops grinding to a halt, while Fatboi drops stream-of-consciousness apocalyptic visions with a cool detachment and a low-simmering sense of menace. It feels more perilous with each passing minute, but it just goes deeper and deeper into the abyss. After last year’s spectacular Decay, “Something About Shirley” is a darkly stunning encore. – JT

Out now via P.O.W.

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