Our 5 Best Songs Of The Week list is occasionally featured on the Earwolf podcast Who Charted?, and in last week’s “Two Charted” segment, the show’s co-host Kulap Vilaysack expressed some curiosity about the methodology behind our list. So, for Kulap — and for you too, if you’re similarly curious — here’s the deal: We finalize the list at the very end of the day every Thursday, so for us, “The Week” refers to the seven-day period between Friday morning and close-of-business Thursday. Any song that made its online debut during that seven-day period is eligible. Stereogum staff members nominate their favorite songs, and then, everyone on staff listens to all the songs nominated, and we put them to a vote. The five songs with the most votes are the ones that make the list, and the ranking is based on the number of votes received by each of those songs. It’s 100% democratic. And, like democracy in general, it’s not perfect, but it’s the best system we’ve got right now.
Of course this means that some of the best songs technically released this week — namely, all the songs on Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment’s Surf, which dropped late last night — weren’t considered for this week’s list. It’s probably safe to say that at least one of them will be on this list next week, though. This week, this is what ya got:
“Nolsey” is an insanely quotable song, so our original post quoted the shit out of it. Cameron Boucher unravels addiction and codependency with astonishing self-awareness and a keen eye for detail, and he delivers those tidbits with a lackadaisical flair worthy of the Weezer and Wheatus records the music so powerfully channels. Here’s one that kills me every time: “If you ask me how I feel about myself, I’d ask you that right back and expect a pause.” There are metaphors about shedding clothes, skin, and everything inside that weighs Boucher down — leaving what, exactly? — and suggestions that the only way to cope is to imagine a love that isn’t there. Lyrically, the song is a lock to be picked, painting some evocative scenes but still forcing us to piece together the whole picture. Musically, though, it does not hold back. For all its genius turns of phrase, the song’s most awe-inspiring highlight is the symphonic guitar onslaught that functions as its chorus, a bombastic musical gesture that bowls me over every time. Consider it the soundtrack to all the drama Boucher leaves unspoken. –Chris
“Wanna hang out sometime or what?” My stomach flipped over when someone asked me this over text a few days ago. Not because I was giddily enthusiastic about the prospect of chilling with the individual in question, but because I realized that we’d only spoken out loud, in person, once or twice before. “What if they’re actually just a total fucking creep?” I thought to myself, taking more than a few minutes to respond. London O’Connor’s “Nobody Hangs Out Anymore” is all about how we conflate our IRL lives with virtual personas, how some of us get so caught up checking and re-checking our social media accounts that we forget to look out at anything beyond the screen. It reminds me of friends who count “watching Netflix” as a hobby. “Nobody hangs out anymore, in the real,” O’Connor bemoans in his chirpy falsetto. Regardless of how much the term irks me, this is a song about millennial malaise, about those of us who grew up in tandem with the tech revolution, who don’t find anything novel because we’ve seen the world change so quickly. “All my friends are on the net, and all my friends are in the net/ And all of us are out of it, and none of us are into it.” It takes less effort and time to text someone than bother trying to carry on a potentially awkward face-to-face conversation, and since convenience seems to be prized beyond all else these days, who can really blame those of us who choose to just stay in? Written, performed, and produced entirely on his own, O’Connor’s lonely aesthetic mirrors the single’s content. “Nobody Hangs Out Anymore” makes me want to leave the office and go sit on a grassy knoll or some shit, surrounded by everyone physically and virtually near-and-dear to me as we look for shapes in the clouds. It will make you want to sink your toes into wet sand, to frolic in white pants the way they do in tampon commercials, and try to live in the real for a moment, if any of your friends are able — no, willing — to get out of bed and join you. “Nobody Hangs Out Anymore” has all of the whimsical, wide-eyed naivety of a lullaby; it’s the song that will cradle us all as we lay in bed, checking our Twitter feeds, before falling asleep. –Gabriela
Paper Towns will be 2015’s The Fault In Our Stars and, if we’re lucky, Sam Bruno’s “Search Party” will end up being this year’s “Boom Clap.” It’ll have a harder time getting there, for sure. Even with the rabid John Green fanbase behind it, Bruno is still an unknown entity, while Charli XCX had an groundswell of support to help her rise to the top of the charts. But the way the song charismatically blends a few different strands of modern pop music will get it a long way. “Search Party” doesn’t really do anything that hasn’t been heard in the past few years on the radio — there’s the ka-ching of “Paper Planes,” the minimalist thud of Lorde, a faceless vocal take — but what the track lacks in originality, Bruno makes up for with sheer force of will. It’s a song that’s destined to find a spot on every summer-jam playlist for people of a certain age (read: under 25), and it’s best to just embrace it because it’s not going anywhere. Bruno could end up being a one-and-done kinda deal, but “Search Party” is exciting enough for now. –James
“Excuse Me” repurposes an early, lush track from Vulkan The Krusader called “V I Z Z E R,” a product of a college MPC 2000 session. If you listen to Vulkan’s original, though, not only does it illuminate what a sleek, clever rapper A$AP is, but it spotlights his blown-out pop sensibilities that are so often overlooked. Rocky drawls all over the fairy-wing-flit sample, bragging about his tailored garments and vacation stunting for a few verses, then expands the churning synth-tink into a misty, booming cloud of a chorus. Just like that, a two-minute throwaway track off some dude’s hard drive pulses with Lord Flacko’s couture-swag arrogance. Cloaking his most boastful sentiments in the faux-politeness of the phrase, “Excuse Me” is the kind of cunning move that catapulted Rocky over the heads of an entire class of rappers. His ability to beg, borrow, and steal from the past with unbothered dexterity is another. Rocky stitched his postmodern rap pastiche A.L.L.A. together with the fine threads of conceit. But conceit is only annoying if it’s unfounded, and Rocky’s isn’t. Pay very close attention. –Caitlin
As one-fourth of the incredible South Korean girl group 2NE1, CL is partly responsible for some of the best, weirdest, most forward-thinking mass-appeal pop music in recent memory. And now she’s breaking out the icy half-rapped snarl in English over a Diplo beat that sounds like a spaceship landing on an Atlanta strip-club roof, and she still sounds like a badass. That’s versatility! Meanwhile, OG Maco is growling in a barely-comprehensible Atlanta gravel-drawl, and Riff Raff is driving backwards through Rome in the Range Rover. The world just got a little smaller, and maybe now kids in Seoul are wondering what “rap game Tony Danza with the hot handle” means. Kids in Seoul: Don’t worry. It means nothing. It means glorious, beautiful nothing. –Tom