The Used & My Chemical Romance

1. Jenny Lewis – “Head Underwater”

One of the best tracks off of one of the year’s best albums, “Head Underwater” is a

doozy of a pop song. Lewis sings conspicuously dismal lyrics (“My own mortality, I

contemplated”) over a bubbly, dynamic beat (that she also produced herself), creating

interesting tension within a sublime melody. Who doesn’t love a song you can have a

good cry to while also dancing?


2. Sylvan Esso – “Hey Mami”

It’s tricky to deal with a subject like catcalling, especially through pop music, but Sylvan

Esso pull it off gorgeously. Amelia Meath’s vocals are luxe and silky as she sings

“Sooner or later the dudes at bodegas will hold their lips and own their shit” over Nick

Sanborn’s bass-heavy, booming beat. A very welcomed “hey mami” that I’ll gladly listen

to as I walk down the street.


3. Jessie Ware – “Keep On Lying”

Jessie Ware’s impressive sophomore album contained quite a few pop gems, but “Keep

On Lying” is a standout. The weirdly magnetic song features a dramatic and opulent

choir of voices paired with a rinky-dink keyboard sound that, together, conjure

minimalistic pop magic.



4. Alvvays – “Archie, Marry Me”

Another powerfully catchy and sunny song that boasts quite a forlorn narrative. The

lyrics of this romantic plea are unassumingly genius in the way they roll off singer Molly

Rankin’s listless tongue (“You’ve expressed explicitly your contempt for matrimony”),

but they also hit a nerve that feels incredibly generationally relevant (“You’ve student

loans to pay and will not risk the alimony”). The push and pull between hopeless

romantic and practical realist has never sounded so blissful.

chumped 2

5. Chumped –Hot 97 Summer Jam”

Chumped ooze nostalgia for ‘90s and early ‘00s punk pop without ever losing their

originality. “Hot 97 Summer Jam” is a fun and quick listen with endearing “ooh”s over

gritty guitars.

st vincent audiofemme

6. St. Vincent – “Psychopath”

Amongst a roster of outstanding and complex tracks, “Psychopath” is notable for its

slightly more pared down sound. It hooks you instantly, with its quick repetition evoking

an OCD tick that you can’t quite shake, but the spaced-out chorus balances that quality



7. TOPS – “Change of Heart”

TOPS’ music sounds like pure summer. “Change of Heart” dazzles with ‘80s influences,

but it’s also got a slight shoegaze-y sheen to it that allows the infectious ditty to stand

apart from the sea of dreamy indie-pop out there.


8. Sabina – “I won’t Let You Break Me”

Brazilian Girls’ chanteuse Sabina debuted her solo efforts this year to little fanfare, but

Toujours was a solid record with the catchy “Won’t Let You Break Me” tucked in near its

end. Pulling from French Yé-Yé and rock a la Velvet Underground, this song is proudly

alluring pop rock with worldly charm.


9. Banks – “Beggin’ For Thread”

Banks’ industrial R&B leans most heavily towards pop with “Beggin for Thread.” It’s

confidently aggressive and also playful in both its lyrics (“So I got itches that scratch /

And sometimes I don’t got a filter”) and its sound, making it a perfect dance number.


10. Mr. Twin Sister – “Out of the Dark”

After a little musical reincarnation, the new Mr. Twin Sister gifted us this funky electro-

pop banger that begs to be played on a dark, sweaty dance floor. Andrea Estelle adopts

a monotone, robotic voice but, thankfully, nothing can shake her seductive qualities.


sabina (1)

On a retreat from the relentless pep that her native Brazilian Girls exuded, Sabina Sciubba has come forth with Toujours, a debut solo album celebrating the artists’ many moods.  I had the pleasure of seeing Sabina last month at The Highline Ballroom, where she put on a show I’m not soon to forget.  I loved her music live, but it lost no charm in the studio.

The songs range between uplifting and mournful, and every beat in between.  On the sorrowful side, you have tracks like “Cinema,” “The Sun,” and “Fields of Snow,” all of which share an overwhelming proximity to Nico in both vocal styling and dreary minimalism.  “Cinema” in particular resounds with far more notes of Lou Reed than those of the German Uber Dame, but it’s Velvet Underground all over.  It recounts the story of a broken old whore, of whom Sabina wryly asks: “Who are you today? Propaganda or art?” These are the kind of poetic gems that illuminate Sabina’s absurdly astute command of language—all four of them. Sabina speaks Italian, German, English, and French, on top of being a songwriter, visual artist, and actress. Her skillset is enough to inspire blatant self-loathing, and she’s beautiful to boot.

“Sailor’s Daughter” is more on the sexy side of things. With all the sensuality of a Prince ballad, it bares the oft-ignored sensitive side of the German language. Cradled by sweet “oohs” and searing horns, it’s part Marvin Gaye, part David Byrne, but all Sabina.

There isn’t a song I would skip on this record, but of course I have my preferences, and surprisingly, they’re of the upbeat variety.  The title track is just weird enough to pique interest but risks none of its pop sensibility. The song opens with shrill pulses of electric organ that sound like the frantic cousin of a Hammond B3.  These first sharp cries send me straight into the dark-carnival concocted on Tom Waits’ 1983 beauty Swordfishtrombones. The rest of the song is of course more approachable, but just that little beat of screeching keys is the perfect dose of strange. Latin drumbeats and staccato vocals add interest and exemplify Sabina’s style, which always includes a vibrant mixture of world music.

“Viva L’amour” is another high point on the album. Sabina’s voice is at its most conversational and sultry.  She talks more than sings in a blasé narration that reminds me of “Spill the Wine and Take That Girl” by Eric Burden and War.  Yet the song also boasts references to 1960s surf pop and Bossa Nova.

“Mystery River” also takes notes from the ‘60s.  The song is rooted by a steady blues beat, but more so the one attempted by bands of the British Invasion than Muddy Waters.  I’m hearing Them and early Stones accompanied by a simple bass riff, and surprising jolts of mariachi horns.

Sabina has created an album as diverse as her own linguistic abilities, and it’s a pleasure to understand Toujours, despite my own lingual handicaps.