EMA, “California.” When I was little I used to listen to the Beach Boys and dream about moving to California. I’d fallen for the same big lie that EMA (a.k.a. Erika M. Anderson) apparently did. “Fuck California, you made me boring…Tried to tell me love was free,” she sing-talks on “California” like Michael Stipe or Sheryl Crow after she’s had a few beers. Ultimately, though, EMA’s muffled blues-folk ode to the Golden State (the first single from her new album, Past Life Martyred Saints, out today) is more of a tribute to the small-town friends she left behind. Sal Cinquemani
Fleet Foxes, “The Plains/Bitter Dancer.” As with a number of songs on Helplessness Blues, this six-minute multipart suite becomes more intricate and brooding as bandleader and singer-in-chief Robin Pecknold showcases his majestic twists on transcendental imagery, describing the abstruse dancer of the second half of the title as a “midnight feeder” with “weathered skin.” Punctuated by a chorale before it can become either too dark or too defined, “Bitter Dancer” shifts to a brighter key fit for its jubilant sendoff. M. Sean Ryan
Tom Vek, “A Chore.” Having seemingly fallen off the face of the Earth almost immediately after his 2005 debut, We Have Sound, Tom Vek makes an equally surprising return with the first single from his sophomore effort. “A Chore” captures the last decade’s premier deadpan songster in what could be considered an autobiographical mood, as he proclaims, “You had believed one time, now you want more/And what you perceive as life, is no more than a chore.” So, did Vek become a recluse in order to shy away from the spotlight and critical acclaim? One can only speculate. His return, though, is certainly a welcome one, and this spectacular track goes some way to justifying his lengthy absence. Huw Jones
House Playlist is a series dedicated to highlighting our favorite new singles, leaked songs, and album tracks.