I almost exclusively listen to music in album format, but every now and then a real earworm climbs into my brain and I can’t help but turn on repeat. This column is a list of some of those songs for me right now. Here’s the playlist.
Christine and the Queens - “Tilted” | YouTube
“Tilted”’s delicate vocals and soft synths with a subdued, bouncy beat backing it make this embrace-your-weirdness anthem a perfect candidate for dancing alone to in front of your mirror with just your socks on during a peaceful summer afternoon. It’s a song of quiet confidence where it’s okay to be an oddball wrapped up in a set of hooks that I couldn’t get out of my brain for weeks. I’m pretty certain I listened to this song 20 times in a row one day.
Now, Now - “SGL” | YouTube
Where the appeal of Threads is its brooding, synthy pop-punk riffs and KC Dalager’s breathy voice getting swallowed up by huge drums and synth layers, “SGL” and its follow-up singles have turned Now, Now into a pop powerhouse. The song tangles up its foundational acoustic guitar riff in buzzy synth leads during the verses and leans on a stripped, swelling pre-chorus between them dangling a refrain like a carrot on a stick before twisting itself right back into the second verse. It makes for a fun take on pop structures and keeps the song’s tension high for when the refrain does arrive just over halfway through its playtime. Paired with the hookiness of nearly every melody, it makes for a song worth back-to-back listens each time I turn it on.
Pale Waves - “Television Romance” | YouTube
Pale Waves’ strength lies in their relationship with subversion. It’s an easy sell to compare them to label mates and musical mentors The 1975, but Pales Waves are special because of how their goth-pop aesthetic melds with poppy, ’80s-inspired riffs and slurred hooks about being sad at parties and disinterested in suitors. They’re making a depressive dance party that doesn’t lose itself in a sense of irony or nostalgia, but instead crafts a modern emotional space to work through things not always working out.
Arcade High - “Phone Lines” | Bandcamp
Synthwave is all about overindulgence in the ’80s revival on all fronts. Massive snare/kick beat, video game bleeps and bloops, and neon retro-futuristic covers. It’s 0-60 on sensory overload at every turn. “Phone Lines” takes all of those tropes and turns it into a thumping pop tune that finds its footing in its repetitious structure. The main groove cycles through a refrain that’s only interrupted by several 8(and one 12)-bar patterns of synth leads before closing out with a double refrain where the second drops the beat to let it wash away in a sea of synths. The simplicity lets the song dig its teeth in and rewards repeated listens.
Oneohtrix Point Never - “Sticky Drama” | YouTube
Not exactly an earworm in the same way most of my other picks are, but “Sticky Drama” has ended up on repeat a lot for me because of its glitchy whiplash, angular synth work, and heavily warped vocals. The song finds its way from arpeggiated keys to a screeching breakdown and back around again without losing the thread along the way. If you find a sense of Zen in chaos, “Sticky Drama” is the song for you.
Drake - “Nice For What” | YouTube
Song of the summer and I am here for it.