The world moves on, another week, another column. Yes, friends, as we head into Labor Day Weekend, we present to you our latest edition of of 5 Best Songs. And no, ya gurl did not make the cut. Who knows, though? Maybe at some point TayCorp will deliver a second single off Reputation. Stranger things have happened! For example: In 2017, on Stereogum, a new Fergie track was voted onto a list of “Best Songs” while a new Taylor Swift track was nowhere to be found. You could’ve won a lot of money if you’d made that bet a month ago! No sense beating yourself up about it, though. Here’s some music to make you feel better.
Sometimes what you expect from a song and what you want from a song are two different things. This is not one of those cases. “Over Everything” finds Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile casually ambling across noodly guitar tapestries just like we thought they would — just like we dreamed they would. It’s six minutes of vaguely twangy, translucent, bleary-eyed stoner-rock excellence slowly piling up from an easygoing glide into pleasant low-grade cacophony. The Venn diagram overlap between these two artists is significant, and this song finds its absolute middle, a languid but sunshine-drenched musical environment that could pass for the lead single from either singer-songwriter’s next solo effort, all the way down to their indistinguishable musings about music and life. Call it sonic comfort food, this convergence of likeminded talents from opposite sides of the world, but don’t deny yourself its comforts. When it’s on, you could almost forget about all the other things, like a big old ominous cloud in your periphery. –Chris
Rap’s biggest self-professed rock star Lil Uzi Vert released his debut album last weekend, and an early highlight and Song Of The Fall contender (can that be a thing?) is “Neon Guts,” the glittery but downtrodden Pharrell assist about harnessing your inner strength into radiant positivity. Comparing it with “XO TOUR Llif3” — Uzi’s best song so far and other big pop bid — it’s clear that he’s at his best when playing off opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. That song turned “All my friends are dead/ Push me to the edge” into a depressingly joyous sing-a-long, where “Neon Guts” places its central hook — “I got a colorful aura/ Like I got neon guts” — against a palette that sounds shadowy and monochrome. Uzi’s still a charmingly clumsy technical rapper (Pharrell shows him up here), but he’s such a magnetic personality that his real power is in shifting the happy-sad dichotomy into something more transcendent than an either/or. –James
Let’s be clear: We are not reevaluating Fergie Ferg’s artistic legacy here. Fergie is responsible, wholly or partly, for a whole lot of bad songs. “Big Girls Don’t Cry” is a bad song. “My Humps” is a bad song. “Let’s Get Retarded” is a bad song. “Where Is The Love?” is a bad song. (On the other hand, “London Bridges” and “Fergalicious” and “Boom Boom Pow” are not bad songs, but we can debate this further at a later date.) This is about giving credit where it’s due. And “You Already Know” is a monster. It’s a big, shameless endorphin-rush pop megablast, a riot of synth-bloop hooks and James Brown drum-breaks and house pianos and ecstatic diva-wails. Fergie and her producer, fellow Black Eyed Pea Will.I.Am, have seeded the song with references to rap classics from Rob Base and Big Daddy Kane, but this isn’t revivalism. It’s joyous popcraft, a song in love with its own explosive self. And to further assign credit where it’s due: Nicki Minaj comes with a pretty decent guest verse, which mostly seems to involve shading Cardi B. And Fergie absolutely outraps Nicki. This is not something anyone saw coming, regardless of their feelings on “Fergalicious.” –Tom
There aren’t a lot of moments on Sleep Well Beast where the National indulge their anthemic side. The album opens with a song called “Nobody Else Will Be There,” a track that simmers throughout, all suggestion refusing to ignite. Then “Day I Die” kicks in and it’s huge. Propelled by that quintessentially National drum sound — a rapidly tumbling pattern courtesy of Bryan Devendorf — the song starts big and doesn’t let up for its entire duration. Other elements of “Day I Die” are less characteristic though, examples of the album’s loose experimentation applied to what’s mostly a stereotypical National song. (In the best way, in this instance, considering it’s like a stereotypical National song with a significantly loosened leash.) Rather than the customarily cascading or gently propulsive guitarwork often favored by the Dessner twins, “Day I Die” ruptures over and over with a fuzzy firework of a riff, a recurring peak surrounding one of the catchiest choruses the band has ever recorded. Even on their biggest songs, the National have rarely allowed themselves to be this direct, this infectious. This is the sound of them indulging their sad-bastard rocker tendencies to the fullest, going for the throat with one of the punchier songs they’ve released in recent years. The result is an instant National classic. –Ryan
Zola Jesus makes dark music, but it’s a beautiful, classical kind of darkness. She makes despair sound grand and ancient, building towering gothic cathedrals out of her visceral prose. But there’s nothing beautiful about the darkness in “Siphon.” This is real darkness, stark and wrenching and sad, a desperate plea to a friend struggling with suicidal ideation. Instead, it’s the light in the song that’s beautiful, the warmth and the humanity and the simple, unadorned directness. Nika Roza Danilova’s powerful voice sounds bare, almost naked, under the thundering percussion and what sounds like a distant choir of angels. “Anything you need we’re at the door/ Just call our name and we’re at the floor waiting for the call,” she sings. Then: “We just want to save you/ Pull you from those dark nights/ We just want to show you there’s more to life.” And finally: “Won’t let you bleed out/ Can’t let you bleed out.” The song dissolves into a rising tide of echoing noise and feedback, but it stays with you. And if you’re listening, you should do the same. –Peter