The 5 Best Songs Of The Week
Can you believe it’s already the second-to-last week of August? After today, all Stereogum’s summer interns will have departed, which sucks for us, because they’re all great and we’re really gonna miss them. Pretty soon it’s gonna be Labor Day, and autumn, and none of us will be allowed to wear white pants for another nine freaking months. Can you believe it?! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ve still got another couple weeks for the white pants. And, of course, we’ve got songs.
It’s easy to acknowledge Tom Hanks’ storied one-liner from the 1992 film A League Of Their Own as an effort to stamp out vulnerability, to assert that unfeeling machismo should rule sports in the same way that it does the world around us, but there’s also another, less polarizing sentiment to his statement. There’s no crying in baseball because there are better ways to redeem regrettable plays and re-assert dominance, but most importantly, there’s no crying in baseball because it’s just a damn game, whether or not fans choose to admit it. Mothers’ song can also be interpreted as play-by-play of a different kind of game, one with much higher stakes. Kristine Leschper has a voice that unfurls like a flag at half-mast — it’s guttural, wavering, and more than easily likened to Angel Olsen’s. But unlike Olsen, Leschper delivers her distinctly Southern inflection in short and spastic post-hardcore knots. Leschper’s narrator admits to falling prey to fantasy, ashamed of her desire for a different kind of relationship to the “other” that she describes, introducing us to the feeling of alienation. The relationship she describes has charted so far off course that it’s impossible to make contact. A League Of Their Own appears halfway through the song when, with a frustrated moan, Leschper speculates: “I guess my tongue was softer then, but no one’s trying and I’m sick of it!/ There’s no crying in baseball! Try and understand/ Their chapped lips begging me over and over again.” Leschper isn’t acting tough, and she’s not playing it cool. She’s asserting her right to be both vulnerable and angry at the same time without letting any of the upset leak out of her tear-ducts. It’s not that there’s no crying in whatever game this is; it’s that there’s already been so much crying that it’s unproductive to keep up the sobbing. Here’s a song instead. –Gabriela
This is the year of Maryn Jones. The Columbus musician shared a gorgeously haunting solo album as Yowler, her emotionally charged rock band All Dogs are about to release their magnificent debut LP, and the world is just learning of a new record this fall from Saintseneca. The DIY folk ensemble has always been Zac Little’s baby, but on the pleasantly rumbling “Sleeper Hold,” he wisely puts Jones’ sweet songbird chirps on equal footing with his quavering Appalachian howls. Jones’ songwriting tends to communicate deep feelings in powerful turns of phrase, but Little is more concerned with abstract questions like “What is a dream made of? What is the thingy-ness of thought? Where does the substance of perception converge with the perceived?” Rather than disappear up its own butthole, “Sleeper Hold” peels open those ideas and finds beauty inside. –Chris
There’s nothing particularly progressive about “Something,” the second single we’ve heard from 19-year-old Julien Baker’s upcoming debut. It’s a sparsely constructed, simple-on-the-surface song that nonetheless manages to take hold immediately, and unspools even further with more listens. There’s a lot to admire with how deftly the song is put together: The way she gradually introduces the song’s narrative — “It’s whenever I close my eyes, chasing your tail lights” in the first verse — until it all snaps into focus in the last third. How she applies weight to these vague pronouns — something, nothing, anyone — and, through repetition, forces them to represent both the whole and the lack of feeling. There’s the kicker, the impetus for this rush of emotion: “Just let the parking lot swallow me up/ Choking on your tires and kicking up dust/ Asking aloud why you’re leaving, but the pavement won’t answer me.” And then there’s Baker’s crackling voice at the center of it all, all-feeling and all-encompassing, a promising talent that feels as young and she does timeless. –James
Since Sunbather, Deafheaven have frequently been tagged as purveyors of a sub-subgenre called “blackgaze,” i.e., a style of music that blends black metal with shoegaze. “Blackgaze” is such a dumb term in general, but notably, it is absent the word “metal” — and coincidentally, many blackgaze bands seem to reflect that absence in their own sounds. But “Brought To The Water,” the first single from Deafheaven’s forthcoming third LP, New Bermuda, manages to stay on the path blazed by Sunbather (and Deafheaven’s 2011 debut, Roads To Judah) while also incorporating elements of old-school, horn-throwing METAL that feel both invigorating and timeless. “Brought To The Water” is a nuanced evolution: It’s immediately more rugged and organic than anything on Sunbather; where that album achieved soaring heights, “Brought To The Water” suggests unexpected depths. It still absolutely fucking destroys, though. That much hasn’t changed. –Michael
There’s a certain strain of funky Southern-fried rock music (not “southern rock,” though there’s some crossover there) that finds ways to mush bar-rock and funk and blues and maybe even disco until they’re one oozing, strutting whole. Glorious ’70s oddities like Johnny Jenkins’ “I Walk On Gilded Splinters” or Exuma’s “Exuma, The Obeah Man” or even Funkadelic’s “Can You Get To That” are great places to start, but there’s a long lineage of this stuff. There’s no name for it; it’s just a historical strain of nasty, cocksure strut that pops up only when you’re not expecting it. Deerhunter don’t seem like an obvious part of that line, but here they are slapping together a deep syncopated groove, a rubbery swamp thing that feels like it bubbled up from deep in some Georgia swamp. And here’s Bradford Cox finding some new ain’t-I-bad nasal glam-blues delivery, drawling about being born already nailed to the cross, with the feeling he was lost, with a snake-like walk. It’s a lovely left turn from a guy whose career is nothing but left turns, and it promises great things to come. –Tom