The 5 Best Songs We Heard This Week: Miguel, Kendrick Lamar

We’re at Peak Holiday Season, folks, and while the music doesn’t directly reflect that — well, one track kind of does — this week, with a new Kendrick Lamar cut, we’re busting through the fuzz and getting to what’s important. With the rest, though, we’re actually creating layers and layers of fuzz so that we can step back from the insanity that usually overcomes the last few weeks of the year.

Kendrick Lamar — “Untitled”

Kendrick appeared on one of the final episodes of The Colbert Report this week, and he brought this untitled track with him. It’s a ferocious song, with racial dialogue at the forefront and spastic, free jazz instrumentals erupting from the back as the song crescendos, Kendrick shouting, “What the black man say?/ Tell ’em we don’t die, tell ’em we don’t die/ Tell ’em we don’t die, we multiply.” The song may not have a title, and his next album may not have a release date, but the next phase of Kendrick Lamar is clearly fully formed. — Shane Barnes

Miguel — “Coffee”

Last night, Miguel surprise-dropped a three-song EP, his first batch of new songs since 2012’s psych-R&B masterpiece Kaleidoscope Dream. There isn’t a bad one in the bunch, and they’re all pretty different: “NWA” pairs Spaghetti Western riffs with a nasty verse from Kurupt, “HollywoodDreams” features some of the strongest guitar work on a Miguel track to date and comments on exactly what you think it does, but it’s “Coffee” that fucks me up. Miguel does his sweet seduction pro thing atop an M83 song. Not gonna lie, it would work on me. — Jillian Mapes

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith — “Sundry” 

The sounds of “Sundry” are best heard close-up, through headphones, where they come into view in all of their discordant beauty. It’s a kaleidoscope of a song, somehow a circus within a jungle, but within the wood-paneled walls of a ’70s SoCal home. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith knows what she’s doing, and she understands how to make a cacophony of sounds into a harmonious chorus, as she has here. — SB

Panda Bear — “Boys Latin”

Panda Bear’s excellent Person Pitch focused on a kind of atmospheric loveliness built around vocal harmonies, while the follow-up to that record, Tomboy, allowed a bit of sonic cynicism to creep in. Judging by “Boys Latin” — as well as first single “Mr Noah” — Panda Bear’s fourth album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, will find the happy, troubled middle ground between Tomboy and Person Pitch. The song is another hypnotically layered exercise in vocal harmony, and it’s great. Grim Reaper is due out January 13. — SB

Oneohtrix Point Never and A.G. Cook — “Bubs”

Daniel Lopatin, who makes dark, provocative electronic music under the Oneohtrix Point Never moniker, tweeted this week that one of his two new songs, “Bubs,” featuring PC Music honcho A.G. Cook, is a “holiday special.” I’m very tempted to play the warped, aquamarine-colored chiptune number for my family this Christmas. — JM