h

The best (and worst) new singles this week: Jess Ribeiro, DRMNGNOW and more

Conor Oberst's new project and Stephen Malkmus also feature.

Single of the Week

DRMNGNOW ft. Kee’Ahn

Ancestors (Independent)

The late-Jan release of ‘Ancestors’ was entirely purposive. The track announces its urgency with lyrics like, “Never forget or deny that anguish, the cries, the ongoing genocide/The devastation, theft and wiping out of tribes.” Naarm MC Neil Morris’ flow is even-paced and restrained, akin to Tricky. The slowed-down jittery electronics also gesture towards Bristol, but the lyrics keep the focus right here. Always was, always will be.

Better Oblivion Community Center

Dylan Thomas (Dead Oceans)

Conor Oberst’s voice remains immediately identifiable 25 years into his career. Depending on where you stand, his Omaha whine is either a source of comfort or irritation. Either way, Oberst’s new band mate Phoebe Bridgers brings a fresh burble to ‘Dylan Thomas’, an up-tempo, folk-rock number. The lyrics nominate dying like Dylan Thomas – having a “seizure on the bar room floor” – as a better outcome than living under a corrupt ruler. The political insistence takes a back seat to the fun Oberst and Bridgers get from rhyming corset with Corvette and echoing the melody from The Mountain Goats’ ‘This Year’.

Jess Ribeiro

Stranger (Barely Dressed Records)

Albert Camus’ 1942 novel L’Etranger was translated into English as both The Outsider (in the UK) and The Stranger (in the US). Stranger and outsider aren’t exactly interchangeable, although there is some overlap in meaning. Jess Ribeiro’s new single provides a neat link. Feeling overwhelmed, Ribeiro grows stranger and stranger to the point of becoming an outsider. The song’s motorik groove and shirking of formulaic structure resembles Stereolab, while its unreal surface has taken a few sips of ayahuasca.

Stephen Malkmus

Viktor Borgia (Matador)

The first taste of Stephen Malkmus’ Ableton-assisted solo LP hearkens back to the primitive electronic sounds of early-era Factory Records and British new wave artists like OMD. ‘Viktor Borgia’ is rooted in rudimentary synths and unobtrusive drum machines. Malkmus has a crack at singing like Ian McCulloch and the whole thing kind of wonkily potters along. The instrumental bridge introduces the dial-up internet synth sounds to some fangin’ bass playing. It’s a welcome detour for the indie rock lifer.