You guys know how this works, but in case you don’t: We vote on 5 Best Songs at COB Thursday, so anything that comes out after COB Thursday isn’t eligible till next week. For example: Let’s say Kendrick Lamar were to surprise-release a whole new album on Thursday night at, say, 8PM. None of the songs on that hypothetical album would be eligible for the next day’s 5 Best Songs, but all of them would be eligible for the next week’s 5 Best Songs. Sure we could bend the rules, but that wouldn’t be fair to anyone! That said, we encourage you to jump in the comments and plead your case for which new Kendrick song should be on this list next week. (Kinda feeling that “Untitled” one, personally. You?) But while you’re here, you should listen to all these, too.
This doesn’t happen all that often, but we, your Stereogum staff, remain bitterly divided over what the fuck to do with “Do It, Try It.” Some of us think it is irredeemable neon horseshit. Some of us are still trying to figure out whether it’s any good or not. And then some of us really like it. I fall into that latter camp, and not just because my entire constitution tells me not to hate anything that has that great old-school Chicago house piano-roll. “Do It, Try It” has those pianos, but it’s not a house track. Instead, it sounds like the great 1990 Queen/Tangerine Dream collaboration that probably happened in some alternate dimension. It’s a big, bold, giddy monument to nonsense and an early indication that Anthony Gonzalez is willing to pursue complete goofiness in order to avoid repeating himself. M83’s new album, Junk, may or may not be a worthy follow-up to the epic theatrics of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, but one thing we can say for certain is that it won’t be boring. –Tom
Even among titans, Neko Case has a way of soaring to the forefront. She’s such a commanding presence on New Pornographers songs that the big question whenever that band tours is, “Will Neko be there?” — this despite the fact that Carl Newman and Dan Bejar are two of the most fascinating singer-songwriters of their generation. And even here, on a downcast orchestral-acoustic hot air balloon ride that rightly frames all three performers as peers, a song that finds three masters of their craft gloriously in sync, I’m still drawn to Case’s every word. The way she repeats “my atomic number” at the end of the song, first as a sneer and then as a sigh, is more inspired than most people’s whole discographies. With all due respect to Chris Tucker, I’m pretty sure this woman’s voice is the fifth element. –Chris
Sheer Mag have an undying confidence, vestigial swagger absorbed from the ’70s classic rock sound that the Philadelphia punk band has mined to great effect for three straight EPs now. “Nobody’s Baby,” off their latest, is a love warning shot in which Christina Halladay refuses to give up her autonomy in service of being treated like shit by someone that she was vulnerable enough to open up to. Even as she’s protesting any claims of ownership, Halladay can’t deny the magnetism of attraction between them: “I get a jolt when our eyes meet that I can’t understand,” she pines. “I wanna feel the midnight heat, and my stomach drop when you take my hand.” But when her love interest shows up with someone else, all bets are off: “Treat me the way I deserve/ I gave you my love, but it’s all for naught/ ‘Cause you don’t know just what I’m worth.” Love can be worth it, but not if it means giving up part of yourself. And certainly not if it means you’re going to be disrespected. Sheer Mag know this, and that’s what makes them such a force to be reckoned with. –James
Mal Devisa is the project of Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter/rocker/rapper Deja Carr. Carr has an alluring, powerful presence that gives me the feeling I’ll have to see her live to truly experience her commanding entirety. I’ve exhausted every video she has on YouTube, where the rectangular frame struggles to keep her aura contained. Carr is an unapologetic black woman — three strikes for most people in any entertainment biz — but she owns it with all the swagger and charisma of Biggie Smalls when he uttered “Fat, black, and ugly as ever/ However, I stay Coogi-ed down to the socks.” “In My Neighborhood” invites you to experience all she has to offer, but it’s clear that she’s unfuckwithable when see asserts, “I’m not going to bargain with you.” Combined with that groovy, menacing bass line, intricate percussion, and sparse, stuttered synths, her voice is powerful and all-consuming. But as arresting as that voice can be, she’s skillfully withholding her full forceful range to extend her ultimately tender welcome. You’ll want to come into Carr’s space; just know that she’s not going to leave the key under the mat for you. –Collin
Being a person is hard. Identity is basically a game of Calvinball, an attempt to triangulate a sense of self somewhere between the wobbly, ever-shifting poles of what you are, what you want to be, and what others want you to be. “Your Best American Girl” is a breakup song, but it’s not just Mitski and the unnamed “all-American boy” that are breaking up. It’s Mitski and a version of Mitski that could never truly exist — Mitski the all-American girl, Mitski the normative little spoon. It’s a song about trying and failing to be the person you think someone else wants you to be, trying and failing to make a place for yourself in a life where you don’t really belong, realizing all of this and finding an unexpected power in that failure. When the million-ton chorus suddenly hits — falling like a body from a balcony, one might say — it’s pulverizing, anguish and uncertainty and triumph all wrapped up into one fuzzed-out blast of electric guitar catharsis, gaining confidence as it goes. “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me/ But I do,” Mitski declares. “I think I do,” she immediately corrects herself. “I finally do.” No one else can make shattering sound like such an act of strength. –Peter