Songs are wonderful because of how they’re about their subject matter, not what that subject matter is, but “Stars on the Water” by Rodney Crowell might be the exception. It’s about nothing more—or less—than how gorgeous neon lights look when reflected in water. The song’s low-hanging synths lend it a suitably-eerie, faintly-artificial beauty. A lot of ‘80s country suffered under the popular synthetic arrangements of the day, but Crowell knew how to use them to create a song so evocative it sends shivers down the spine.
On her fourth album, the awkwardly titled but often brilliant Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, English rapper Little Simz grapples with losing her sense of self in the face of her ever-growing stardom. If dropping it on the same day as Kanye and Drake’s competing displays of hubris was her way of shrinking from the spotlight, it backfired. She’s emerged as the dark-horse victor of last weekend’s rap wars, just by making an album that feels like it was actually thought out instead of thrown together on deadline.
Bryan Rahija is a little more extroverted and exuberant than many of his peers in the American Primitive Guitar scene (think country-blues fingerpicking with a slant toward the arty and arcane). The 12 tracks on his new album, Timber, are defined by the heartiness and brightness of his tone. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he has little interest in swampy mythology or Southern gothic darkness. He makes his instrument the star, and the spaces he summons with it feel as wide open as Portland’s skies.
Jimmy Fallon took great pleasure in dunking on German free-jazz stalwart Peter Brötzmann on TV last week. But if you’re in the mood for the most extreme music imaginable, 1968′s Machine Gun should do the job. Even with two drummers and two bassists working overtime, Machine Gun is all about reeds—shrieking, blasting, scoured by distortion and immediately reminiscent of the titular killing machine to whose horrors so much transgressive 20th century art was an answer in the first place.