The 5 Best Songs Of The Week
In the May 29 installment of 5 Best songs, we explained the methodology behind our weekly list. This was primarily for the benefit of Kulap Vilaysack, co-host of the Who Charted? podcast, because Kulap and her partner, Howard Kremer, occasionally cover our 5 Best Songs on their podcast’s “Two Charted” segment, and they had expressed curiosity about our process. This is what we said:
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.
Got that? OK. So on last week’s “Two Charted,” Howard and Kulap were talking about the July 24 installment of 5 Best Songs, and when they got to #2 on the list, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Run Away With Me,” Howard said (verbatim):
Wha? Wow, Stereogum. I never thought I’d see the day that Carly Rae Jepsen was on Stereogum. That’s amazing.
Oh, Howard! If you only knew! Of course, “Run Away With Me” was the third single from CRJ’s forthcoming E•MO•TION to be featured in 5 Best Songs, and the only one of the three not to top the list. But that’s nothing. We’ve been covering CRJ since 2012. And yeah, sometimes we find ourselves in the comments section trolling you guys a little bit on the subject of Carly Rae Jepsen, but it’s all in good fun. And you guys troll us, too! Real talk: You’re all aware that Carly Rae Jepsen is not, in fact, paying us to hype her up, right? You realize, too, that we’re not messing with you; we’re not being arch or ironic about any of this? You realize our enthusiasm is genuine? You might not share our enthusiasm, but hey, opinions, right?
But here’s the thing: Because so many of us love E•MO•TION so much — and because the album’s badly botched domestic release is being preceded by an endless string of singles — Carly Rae Jepsen is sort of singlehandedly derailing 5 Best Songs. This week, she released the album track “Warm Blood” (co-written and produced by Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij), and if we were staying true to our established methodology, “Warm Blood” would have been at the top of this list. And, like, it’s too much. It’s gotten out of hand. Additionally, as James pointed out in last week’s 5 Best Songs comments, there’s still more to come. So, we talked it over, and we all agreed: As of this week, E•MO•TION songs will no longer be eligible for this list. Consider it a mercy rule. We’re having mercy on CRJ’s competition and on you guys. Besides, there were so many other good songs released this week. And these were the five best.
Fake Problems is the best band name ever. It acknowledges the unnerving privilege that inhabits most of modern punk’s emotional moaning, while simultaneously giving these moony microaggressions room to breathe. I haven’t been a longtime Chris Farren fan, but within one full listen of his Antarctigo Vespucci album Leavin’ La Vida Loca with Jeff Rosenstock, I was a believer. This week’s new Farren song is called “Holy Attitude,” and it’s an orphaned Fake Problems songs from a few years ago that we adopted this week. (Auspiciously, it’s also out today on a 7″ backed with “Can You Live With That?”) Farren sings with the same conversational earnestness that made me fall head-over-heels for the Weakerthans during a particularly bleak section of grad school, and that’s one of the highest compliments I could possibly bestow. “Holy Attitude” thrums by on a buzzy, solitary guitar line and some muffled keys, as Farren bends religion’s iron will to his own personal ends. It’s a reverie about visions that fixates on a fall from grace instead of a Johanna, but moseys through the same backdoor existentialism that Dylan did. Tonight I recommend you sit back, get high, and blaze through the Fake Problems’ discography; if Farren isn’t the voice of my generation, he’s at least the mouthpiece for our angst. –Caitlin
The first thing that came to mind when I listened to Potty Mouth’s latest was that it sounds like a long-lost Clueless soundtrack B-side. Maybe that’s because the anniversary of that movie is still so recent, or maybe it’s because the song kind of sounds like a happy marriage of “Kids In America” and “Supermodel.” But mostly, I think it’s because the track embodies the same kind of carefree-but-not-really attitude that was so in vogue in the ’90s (and, as per the 20-year-trend-rule, is coming back around). And even though the band’s sound is entrenched in the past, the anxieties that Abby Weems is singing about are firmly rooted in the new millennium. She told FADER that the song came about after watching a bit from a Chelsea Peretti standup special about internet stalking. We live in a time when you’re pretty much forced to compare your life to someone else’s every time you pick up your phone. We constantly see people at their best, and it makes us feel like we’re constantly at our worst — “I want what you got.” But the sad truth of the internet is that we don’t usually get to see when other people are down; everything on social media is cherry picked already. We shouldn’t pick that down even further. “Fresh, sweet, cool, sleek” — we can’t be all of that all the time, but Potty Mouth helps us feel like we can, even if they’re not too sure of it themselves. –James
I’ve compared Joan Shelley’s voice to burnished gold, and I’ve postulated that hearing her sing could uncoil a closed-off, lifeless soul. I’d take it one step further and say that on “Over And Even” her voice mimics the subtle eternity of a natural force. It’s like the weather, shifting from warm to cool, windy to still, evolving centuries in the span of a moment. Her vocal flits unfold slowly, peacefully, with the rhythmic precision of a wave, a tide, or a current. Folk music often serves as a stand-in for the rural communities whence it emerges; a genre as synecdoche for a whole lifestyle, an entire rolling landscape. There’s no shortage of pastoral sensuality in “Over And Even,” and it feels like something that quietly bloomed in a corner somewhere. A rolling, near-bitter line from the Rhodes starts the song off with a bluster that’s quickly tempered by Nathan Salsburg’s impossibly delicate guitar work and Shelley’s voice, high and fine. She too looks upward, out past the sky to what desires burn in space: “How can the stars design it/ to pull and move us/ we crave their waning light/ in ancient chorus.” So we spin on, over and over, at times, cosmic. Singing our earth toward unknown stars. –Caitlin
Switch, the producer behind the With You. project, has experience making irresistible pop music with prickly, subversive geniuses; he did, after all, produce big chunks of M.I.A.’s masterpiece Kala. And on “Ghost,” he gives Vince Staples a chance to talk about the dehumanizing dangers of taking way too many pills over the sort of track that will probably play in clubs where many of the people dancing will have taken way too many pills. Staples, deadpan as always, rides the beat effortlessly, throwing out imagery of being too fucked up to get home, never judging but never glamorizing either. And the track under him thumps with the insistent low-tech catchiness of old-school Chicago house music. –Tom
Trudge through Lil B’s entire recorded output and you’ll learn that “based” can be a treacherous concept, creatively speaking. But when it clicks, the BasedGod’s loopy life philosophy is as contagiously giddy as a hookah filled with helium. Free (Based Freestyles Mixtape) is the apotheosis of his sound — lightheaded, joyful, and unencumbered. All it took was a different kind of spaz to round out the madness. In his own music, Chance The Rapper is the wildcard whose craziest impulses are anchored by his rocksteady collaborators. On this six-song mixtape — exactly the right length for this kind of exercise, btw — he’s the one doing the grounding, steering BasedGod’s zonked headspace back from its nauseous outer reaches toward something resembling reality. The result is the free-associative drug-rap buddy comedy of our dreams. And while I’m not 100 percent sure “Amen” is the best song on the album, it’s definitely the most based: nine minutes of nothing more than a dense organ loop, airy finger snaps, and two iconoclasts deep in the cut of consciousness. –Chris