Sometimes the 5 Best Songs Of The Week get along with each other quite well, but this week they’re a bit at odds. One-half of the now-disbanded Girls gives us an earnest ode to loss and pain, while Sharon Van Etten subverts her usual struggle and strife to disguise a few sly jabs. Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea put out a great dance-pop anthem, but Big K.R.I.T. goes on a rant against that very type of song. Oh, and there’s a genre-melding explosion of energy sandwiched in there too. Check out the best songs of the week below, and decide on which side of the divide you fall in the comments.

5. Sharon Van Etten – “Every Time The Sun Comes Up”

By her own admission, Sharon Van Etten songs are often downcast chronicles of struggle, but “Every Time The Sun Comes Up” proves she has a killer sense of humor too, and that’s even before the snippet of slap-happy studio chatter that’s tacked on the end. Sonically it’s right in SVE’s wheelhouse — trembling alto wails, languid pace, melancholy chord changes — so it would be easy to miss the goofiness at play if you’re not processing what she’s saying. But consider this couplet: “People say I’m a one-hit wonder, but what happens when I have two? I washed your dishes, but I shit in your bathroom.” It is the lyrical equivalent of a wry smile, and it looks good on her. –Chris

4. Wreck & Reference – “Corpse Museum”

As fascinating as it has been to watch so many different artists in pop music blend styles and cross pollinate genres, it’s almost more thrilling to hear the same happening in decidedly un-pop music. Looking back, Death Grips might be the recent catalyst for a lot of this with their unholy cocktail of noise, hip-hop, metal, and electronic music, but one of the most exciting recent finds comes in the form of San Francisco duo Wreck & Reference. Just try and count how many things are happening on “Corpse Museum”: funky hip-hop-inflected drums, burning digital noise blasts, wretched howled vocals screaming out through a cavern of ominous choral samples that sound almost like Gregorian chants. Yet the duo of Ignat Frege and Felix Skinner never sound like they’re just a sum of really dark parts, some Frankenstein’s monster of extreme music — rather everything sounds completely of one brutal piece. The name is really just right, they’ve got the references down, but this brutal energy will wreck you. Never thought I’d say this, but Pallbearer and Deafheaven might have some trouble playing after these guys on their upcoming tour together. –Miles

3. Christopher Owens – “Stephen”

Christopher Owens has long shown a soft spot for gospel music; think of the backing vocals on Girls’ Father, Son, Holy Ghost, or the way he routinely gave the backup singers on Girls’ final tours opportunities to upstage him. And when you consider that religion pretty much made Owens’s young life a living hell, there’s a fascinating tension in his connection to that music. Owens was raised in the Children Of God cult, and his younger brother died at age two because the cult didn’t believe in giving medical attention. And now Owens has written his first full-on gospel song about Stephen, that younger brother, using the musical language of joy and devotion and transcendence to sing of heartbreak and squalor and brokenness. The result is a short, sad burst of beauty that leaves my insides ringing like a bell. –Tom

2. Big K.R.I.T. – “MT. Olympus”

Don’t make Big K.R.I.T. angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry — at least not if you’re one of the trend-conscious industry people who’ve ever dared to tell him his brand of relentless Southern stomp is out of step with times. On “MT. Olympus,” Justin Scott is such a force of nature that the times might have to get in line with him. “The ’Control’ beat is like an ugly bitch that everybody done fucked raw,” so K.R.I.T. went and produced his own rap-game-lacerating manifesto. Unlike Kendrick, K.R.I.T. mostly leaves names out of it, but he still burns down the competition with the merciless fury of William Tecumseh Sherman. “Lotta rappers buried underneath my house,” he declares. “They know what I’m ’bout, you ain’t even know it.” Later, he gets even more explicit: “What’s good for hip-hop may not be good for my soul/ So, I keep flexin’, wreckin’, for the people that respect it.” Booming down from the mountaintop, the message is clear: Hypebeasts need not apply. On second thought, I like him a lot when he’s angry. –Chris

1. Ariana Grande – “Problem” (Feat. Iggy Azalea)

Namecheck “Thrift Shop” if you must, but dizzy, dumb, euphoric, cut-through-the-air-and-stick-in-your-brain horn loops have a long and noble history, both in the mainstream and the underground. “Problem” is the finest example of the form we’ve heard in years. It’s a shining moment for the young and breezy post-Mariah melismanator Ariana, who shows off both a ferocious range and an ability to convey the agony and ecstasy of crushing hard on someone terrible, and for Iggy, who gets through a guest verse without saying anything that makes me want to put a fist through my speaker. But the MVP here might be the Swedish pop mastermind Max Martin, who, after years and years in the game, appears to be discovering his inner Teddy Riley. –Tom

Comments (26)
  1. Oh, for fuck’s sakes, fuck this Ariana Grande song. Max Martin can and should do better than hacking up a few very noticeable recent pop songs and sewing them together. I don’t know what the love is about. It’s predictable as far as “what will become a radio hit” but it certainly isn’t special.

    This is why independent music is dying because sites like Stereogum have bought into this whole poptimism machine.

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      • Yet you keep coming back… and coming back… and coming back…

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          • The point is that you often make your attacks personal and take any criticism of what you write personally. Frankly, I don’t mind when people write about not liking music. However, when it is as negative and attacking as your comments, it is frustrating to read. By all means say why you dislike something, but comments like, “This is why independent music is dying because sites like Stereogum have bought into this whole poptimism machine.” say more about your personal agenda than the music itself.

      • But, please, by all means, continue to comment on all of it.

    • Hyperbolic much? Independent music is not dying because of an Ariana Grande song. Get real.

      • Exactly! Here’s how I see it: I think Ariana Grande’s success right now was pre-determined regardless of whether she actually put out a just a decent radio hit or an amazing radio hit (and as far as I’m concerned, it’s decent — No better than a Pink song or whatever Rihanna is shoveling out these days. But it’s being heralded as the latter. She was on the radar of tastemakers with her debut last year (Pitchfork gave it a decent score), which was admittedly relatively smart mainstream pop compared to say, Katy Perry’s latest effort, and ever since, they’ve all been waiting for the opportunity to start the coronation ceremony in dubbing her the next big thing that could be their new Beyonce.

        Now, to me, it seems like with “Problem,” people are more interested in saying “this is going to be big!” (see: Scott’s comment yesterday ) more so than explaining what exactly is so great about it other than pointing out its very obvious reference points and saying Max Martin is a god because they simply want to be able to say they were on the Ariana Grande bandwagon before the track goes viral with the low common denominator of music listeners and actually does become the annoying song that gets played to death on your mom’s MIX FM station and lingers on next winter. I also think part of the allure to Ariana Grande is that listeners — especially those within the “hip” / commodity-based indie music tastemaker contingent — want a new pop star to adore. They’re still curious about Taylor, but they’re also tired of her because she never gives us a break even when she’s not putting out msuic. Miley is too silly to be taken seriously. Katy could be better, but she concedes to be whoever her label wants her to be. Same thing goes for Rihanna, and Gaga has been defeated. And Beyonce is “flawless” because she apparently woke up like that, so it’s not worth arguing with that.

        Is “Problem” this year’s summer anthem? Yes, but you can see it a million miles away, and for that, it’s to me more like the basic bitch anthem.

    • Amen. That song is only marginally less formulaic than most mainstream pop music and absolutely does not deserve the critical praise it’s been getting.

  2. Number 1 in our hearts, about to be number 1 on the charts. Song of the summer for sure.

  3. Can’t argue with the number 1. But this list needs more Nicky Sparkles.

  4. I doubt it happened, but I just have this vision of Ariana Grande not initially making it to #1 and Tom letting off a fantastic display of profanity to get it there. Aw, I miss you guys.

  5. That Big KRIT is something else man, wooooooo

  6. I thought “Problem” is a fine song, but Ariana’s voice is probably not the best match for it. She has a very agile voice that moves quick, but girl doesn’t possess any weight so it makes less of an impact for me. Imagine someone like Amerie is given this. Ariana’s best single is still “Baby I”, not this one.

  7. Can we pay money to not see the Big Mac ads that start playing loud, blaring music? I’m not going to buy one. Ever. OWWWOOOOOOOO!

  8. #0 Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again

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  10. I haven’t listen to it all (number one is one good pop song damn) but what i do know is that Parquet Courts “black and white” should have been here, good jesus what damn song.


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