Raymond “Boots” Riley and DJ Pam The Funkstress of The Coup (Photo: Anthony Pidgeon/Redferns via Getty Images)

The Coup, “Wear Clean Draws”

The Coup has never really hit the mainstream in its 25-plus years making pointed, stylistically varied hip-hop. (It might be too varied, with each album unabashedly diving into new sounds.) But the Bay Area outfit has been quietly influential, as much for politics—frontman Boots Riley is all about progressive activism—as the music. Longtime Coup member Pam The Funkstress died late last year, and it got me thinking about “Wear Clean Draws,” my favorite Coup song, and one that I put on mix CDs throughout the 2000s. It’s a sweet, heartfelt, funny song from a group that’s frequently much more politically pointed. (The original cover art for Party Music freakily predicted the World Trade Center attack, which is sadly the thing it will be most remembered for.) But “Wear Clean Draws” is written as a letter to Riley’s daughter, and it’s full of empowering advice like, “The world ain’t no fairy tale / and it’s ran by some rich white scary males” and “Tell your teacher I said princesses are evil / How they got all they money was they killed people.” And then there’s the chorus, which encourages the wearing of clean underpants at all times, which is solid advice for anyone, at any time. [Josh Modell]

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My Bloody Valentine, “We Have All The Time In The World”

My Bloody Valentine’s supernal masterpiece Loveless and John Barry’s soundtrack for the James Bond flick On Her Majesty’s Secret Service sit pretty high up on my list of favorite and most-listened-to records. But until recently, I’d never actually heard this wonderful dream-pop cover of Barry’s love theme, “We Have All The Time In The World,” that My Bloody Valentine recorded for a charity compilation in 1993. (It’s one of only two tracks that the band released in the 22 years that passed between Loveless and MBV.) The original song, co-written by Burt Bachrach lyricst Hal David and movingly sung by an ailing Louis Armstrong, is sublime; the cover transmutes Barry’s perfect arrangements into spacey, seraphic texture without messing with the tempo. Like the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups slogan goes, these are two great tastes that taste great together. But then again, “We Have All The Time In The World” is a song that’s more or less impossible to screw up; the same year that MBV put out their cover, another one of my most-listened-to bands, Tindersticks, recorded an even more straightforward version, albeit with some of the lyrics changed to the downbeat past tense. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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Royal Blood, “I Only Lie When I Love You”

It’s no surprise that I really liked Royal Blood as soon as I heard them, as they have a lot in common with my beloved local Chicago stalwarts Local H. This pair is from Brighton, England instead (coincidentally, another former home of mine), but the band also specializes in a super-powered two-prong assault. That kind of minimalism (see also: White Stripes) requires the few parties involved to rock out completely, bringing to mind the hard rock outfits of my youth; I am a total sucker for that kind of musical devotion, especially fueled by an emotive vocal, ferocious buzzy guitars, and a drummer that never has to be told “more cowbell.” The nearly three-minute “I Only Lie When I Love You” off their sophomore album How Did We Get So Dark? (released this summer) sums Royal Blood’s sound up perfectly, hooky enough to make you head-bang in the car on the first of your inevitable multiple listens. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Kelly Lee Owens, Kelly Lee Owens

After previewing Kelly Lee Owens’ album last March, I regrettably let it drop to the bottom of the stack as more and more must-hear records piled up over the year. Finally diving in this winter has been incredibly rewarding: The 27-year-old Welsh composer’s ghostly, techno-inspired pop debut captivates from start to finish, with “S.O.,” “Anxi.” (featuring Jenny Hval), “Throwing Lines,” and “Keep Walking” serving as particular highlights along the way. As a whole, the album is perfectly balanced, feeling both surefooted and quixotic, and I love Owens’ particular brand of euphoric melancholy. [Kelsey J. Waite]

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