Because July 4th fell on a Friday, we didn’t run 5 Best Songs last week. But man, last week gave us a lot of good songs. So this week’s 5 Best is broken up into two halves: first, the 5 Best Songs from the week that we’re closing the books on today, written up as per our usual structure; below that, a list of last week’s 5 Best, sans blurbs. There’s one prominent song that’s absent here, which will likely not go unmentioned in the comments. Nor should it. We here at Stereogum HQ were unable to come to a consensus on that particular song, with a pretty even split of yeas and nays, but the yeas were enthusiastic, as has been the general response among you guys, which is great to see: an encouraging sign that maybe the band in question are gonna give us an album to talk about all year long (and beyond), making us forget their absence in this space this week.
It’s fitting that one of the only great songs we got off of Blonde Redhead’s last album, Penny Sparkle, was a glitzy industrial-tinged experiment called “Not Getting There,” because from the sound of the singles from their upcoming LP, Barragán, they have now gotten there. On “Dripping,” those dark vibes get lit up with bright neon hooks and a wide array of glistening sonics. Near the end, a Caribou-esque synth comes blowing in, unpredictably wheezing against the rhythm of the song. The album is named after a Surrealist painter whose famous quote, “In art, each work, as it is being created, will make its own rules,” feels especially appropriate here. “Dripping” is the most exciting thing we’ve heard from Blonde Redhead in more than half a decade. –Miles
Two minutes is two minutes, but “Nothing More Than Everything To Me” crams so much song into those minutes. Besides three effortlessly graceful verses that lace Chris Owens’ taut songcraft with oohs, ahs, and generous pedal steel, we get a 40-second guitar solo straight out of the honky-tonk. Honestly, the whole song is a guitar solo if you listen closely enough, which reminds me that lead guitar used to be the most prized position among aspiring rockers about as old as the kids in the video. Meanwhile, as always, Owens communicates many chapters’ worth of anguish in a few neat turns of phrase delivered with an impossible combination of fragility and assurance. He’s the sort of songwriter whose work sounds classic with or without well-worn styles, but the embrace of “the fundamentals of American music” suits him well here anyhow. –Chris
Young Thug actually had nothing to do with the release of his 1017 Lifestyle mixtape; his old label threw together a bunch of old tracks, and it’s selling the tape, not giving it away. But that means a song like this was just sitting around, waiting to reorient brain-chemistry, unheard, and 1017 Brick Squad Records did us a favor by finally throwing it out there. Because this is a deeply weird and compelling song, an Auto-Tuned harmonic miasma of sideways melodies and impenetrable boasts. Thug is throwing trust funds, he will fold your pussy ass up like a centipede, he’s shooting a tommy gun because someone shot him in his finger. Also, there’s some chance he thinks John Dillinger is a cowboy. Thug is becoming an icon because he can go deep into his own head and come back with something like this; the rest of us should be jealous. –Tom
Ex Hex’s upcoming debut album is called Rips, which is what they do on “Don’t Wanna Lose” with overwhelming confidence. I knew next to nothing about the band when I hit play on this, had no clue this was coming from Mary Timony, who has been consistently powerful since the ’90s in Helium and then Wild Flag. The amazing thing about “Don’t Wanna Lose” and Ex Hex overall is that none of that info is really required; it will still knock you square on your ass. This song, from those echoey guitar strikes and that perfectly bouncy chorus, would have sounded at home in the ’90s, but we’re lucky to have it right now in 2014. During a time when so many middle-aged musicians are just getting the band back together and making that reunion money, Timony is moving forward without looking back. –Miles
So Sebastien Grainger was born on the highway in a trainwreck: How does that work, exactly? Was the train track next to the highway and the train derailed and fell over onto the highway and that’s where he was born? Or maybe “highway” is the Canadian word for “train track”? Whatever the case, this would be an eventful-enough birth, but he also had to deal with a heart that was beating out of his chest. This must’ve been a very stressful day for the Grainger parents! But those questions aside: Who even thinks of lines like this anymore? Who pairs them with clean, huge, stomp-snorting riffage and sells them with overabundant confidence? Who is willing to go out there and sound like a motherfucking rock star, the type who makes beats and riffs and choruses? Welcome back, DFA1979. You were missed. –Tom
And now, last week’s picks: