Our year-end coverage rolled along this week. We chose our our favorite songs, and looked at the best rap albums, rap verses, jazz albums, and Ty Dolla $ign features. We reflected on rap’s come-to-Jesus moment, the year in LA gangster blues, everyone who got sued for stealing songs. And we still kept up with all the new music that’s coming out! And there were some good songs, five of which are below. Enjoy, and make sure you vote in The Gummy Awards if you haven’t already. And, hey, if you’re in the New York area, come hang out with us at the Stereogum Christmas Show tomorrow night!
Every Ryan Adams profile in 2014 described his idyllic studio-rat existence, heading to his Pax Am headquarters every afternoon and working on music late into the night. If it seemed too good to be true, it was: We soon learned his marriage to Mandy Moore was falling apart. To cope, Adams holed up and recorded a full-length cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. That turned out to be his biggest album in years and was probably therapeutic, but to these ears “Do You Still Love Me?” is a far more effective catharsis. Those surprise blasts of noise in the verses are “Creep”-level disruption, and an already titanic chorus gets extra pathos knowing Adams’ ex is suddenly experiencing her own career resurgence. If the rest of Prisoner is this good, heartbroken Ryan Adams might merit the same reverence as Heartbreaker Ryan Adams. –Chris
Fred Thomas has a lot on his mind. Where “Echolocation,” the last song we heard from his upcoming album Changer, was Thomas at his least verbose and his most experimental, “Voiceover” finds him right back in his wheelhouse — lying awake at night, mind racing, tumbling through thoughts and anxieties and memories like a flipbook, and somehow turning all of that mental mess into catchy, concise guitar-pop. He wants to be something more than just “a cloud of distressed emotions” or “a custodian of regular feelings,” but by the song’s end, his stream of consciousness has devolved into a feverish catalog of those so-called regular feelings: “those student loan feelings, those D.U.I. feelings, the phones-about-to-die feelings.” In some sense, it feels like a failure — of Thomas, or of language’s ability to tease some grand meaning out of everyday existence. But maybe that simple act of reflection, soundtracked by an exultant burst of horns, is enough to give it meaning. –Peter
On her debut album as Kristin Kontrol, Kristin Welchez left behind her Dum Dum Girls garage-rock roots and pulled inspiration from the sleek ’80s synth-pop she was raised on. Coupled with her already-established affinity for presenting girl group dynamics in a singular package, X-Communicate was filled with glitzy anthemics that demonstrated exciting new directions for the songwriter. One-off single “Baby Are You In?” is a little darker than anything found on that album, like Welchez is gasping through a smoke machine on a crowded dance floor. “I hate and I love and I don’t know why,” she sings, trying to gauge her own mental state. “Baby, are you in?” plays less like a plea for connection than a check on her own well-being, pushing through the fog to find an answer. –James
The Jesus And Mary Chain have this rep as being noise-pop wunderkinds, and that’s entirely based on one album: Their 1985 debut Psychocandy, the one where the hooks were so buried in feedback that the feedback became the hooks. But over the years, they became something else: A great straight-up rock band, one with a taste for Velvet Underground churns but also garage-rock hooks and girl-group harmonies and Depeche Mode-esque vamping on old ideas of revved-up rebellion. That’s the JAMC we get here, Jim Reid crooning about being “a rock ‘n’ roll amputation” without offering any idea what that might mean. And on their first new song in 18 years, they sound like they could still do this in their sleep and sound awesome, their fuzzy guitars and swooshing synths and ooh-ooh backing vocals and shivering maracas all giving Reid’s flirty gasp the mythic grandeur it needs. It’s so, so good to have them back. –Tom
Still think Young M.A is a Bobby Shmurda clone? She’s bodied too many beats and exuded far too much charisma for that comparison now. She dives into her deep wealth of personality skillfully on “Eat.” M.A has that old-school New York swagger about her, with her tendency to be long-winded, but the energy rarely dips, and her nuances keep things interesting. She’s brazen, unabashed, and ready to take on all comers. Hence bars like:
I swear to god I ain’t scared of these niggas? Damn, I’m must really put fear in these niggas? Because they call me a dyke, a faggot, a gay bitch? I ain’t shit, that hate shit, that hatred, goddamn/ That just make them look less of a man, fam/ And to sit on y’all is part of the damn plan/ They just mad cause I beat the pussy like bam bam.
There are so many facets of her persona that she glides through so easily. The unmerciful gangster, the bully, the bullied lesbian, the proud, promiscuous lesbian, the introspective hood philosopher, the drug dealer, the flosser, you name it, and it all feels authentic. Let’s just call her Young Renaissance and call it day. –Collin