Greg Gonzalez of Cigarettes After Sex (Photo: Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images)

Cigarettes After Sex, “Sunsetz”

With its echoing, gossamer guitars, the debut, self-titled album from Brooklyn four-piece Cigarettes After Sex evokes the fleeting quality of memory—the bedroom pop group’s very name pointing to something having just happened rather than occurring in the present. Perhaps no song on the 2017 LP better captures the band’s ephemeral sound than “Sunsetz,” a short story that reminisces on the singer’s trip with a lover. The song’s a musical and lyrical cousin to Beach House’s “Myth,” off of the duo’s 2012 album, Bloom. “What comes after this momentary bliss / Of what you do to me?” asks Beach House’s Victoria Legrand. The chorus on “Sunsetz” may offer an answer: “And when you go away, I still see you / With sunlight on your face in my rear-view.” What comes after bliss? (Besides a smoke?) The memory and its wistful recitation, a wisp of melancholy that comes when a moment passes. [Laura Adamczyk]

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Kesha, “Praying”

Although I was glad to see Time honor many of the women who have recently spoken out against sexual harassment and assault with this year’s Person Of The Year designation, I was disappointed not to see Kesha alongside Taylor Swift and Ashley Judd, et al. She has been protesting for years, as her accusations of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse against her longtime manager, Dr. Luke, got snagged in a legal quagmire. But she persevered and released her triumphant third album, Rainbow, this summer. Flying past survival into outright glory is the whole album’s theme, as Kesha peels back all her club-readiness in the record’s first moments, urging listeners, “Don’t let the bastards take you down,” over a minimalist guitar strum in “Bastards,” followed by the enthusiastic “Let ’Em Talk,” backed by Eagles Of Death Metal, and a steel-guitar-fueled duet with Dolly Parton. Kesha hits her high point, creatively and literally, in the powerful string- and piano-led single “Praying,” a rant against any and all oppressors: “You brought the flames and you put me through hell / I had to learn how to fight for myself / And we both know all the truth I could tell.” And that incendiary high note—has there been a more impressive feat of vocal acrobatics this year? It gives me chills every time. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Belle & Sebastian, “Ever Had A Little Faith?”

While reviewing the first part of Belle & Sebastian’s new EP series, How To Solve Our Human Problems, I found myself revisiting the band’s last long-playing release, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance—specifically the enchanting little strummer “Ever Had A Little Faith?” It’s the type of song Belle & Sebastian used to record a lot more of, a believer’s allegory with the tranquil musical DNA of The Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning” and an anonymous heroine enchanted by the mysteries of the church and the heart. I don’t have a whole lot of faith myself these days, but the song—like any Stuart Murdoch composition about being in love with religion and religious about love—transcends its spiritual trappings to articulate a stirring, all-encompassing sense of hope. “Ever Had A Little Faith?” comes naturally by its throwback qualities—salvaged from a 20-year-old notebook, it actually predates Belle & Sebastian—but it reminds me a lot of my favorite pop culture from the past year, stuff like The Leftovers and Lady Bird that urges us not to dread what’s waiting around the corner, because there’s no telling what’s there until, you know, we get there. That it wound up soundtracking a sequence in The Young Pope only deepened those associations—and amplified my fondness for both the show and the song. [Erik Adams]

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