Well gang, we’re halfway through December, 10 days out from Christmas, heading into the third-to-last weekend of the year. You sick of lists yet? Haha, jk. You are a Stereogum reader, and you know the concept of “list season” doesn’t apply here. We do this every damn week, all year long. Sure, the clock is running down on THIS year, but you think that means we don’t have songs? Please. We always have songs. Kick ‘em out below.
Charli XCX is known to write hooks that clobber you over the head. Her biggest songs, like “Boom Clap” or “Break The Rules,” are sassy and anthemic, they sound great when you’re drunk at a loud party where you can yell along. “Unlock It” is a different kind of Charli song. It’s earnest and lyrically detailed, and when the chorus hits, it never really hits you. It nudges gently, and the lack of a real show-stopping moment makes this cotton candy-coated world Charli constructed all the more desirable. “Unlock It” is a song all about desire, and Charli details a lust-fueled encounter in a way that’s both cutesy and kind of hot. “I’m feeling kind of nervous, but I like it/ Take my T-shirt off and do it right,” she sings, her robotic cadence dissolving into something much more human. Jay Park’s verse pulls you out of this dreamworld, which is a shame. I’d like to stay in it a little longer. –Gabriela
Zoë Allaire Reynolds has a knack for making heartbreak sound like a hug. Two years after the We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed EP, Kississippi are back, and “Cut Yr Teeth” makes it clear that they’ve grown. Like many of the best Kississippi songs, it’s about giving up too much of yourself and not getting enough back: “You were my light for so long/ Oceans deep and mountains tall/ Our future plays tricks on us, huh?” Reynolds recognizes that “the person you made yourself out to be would feel sorry for what you’ve done to me,” but, as she sings, “You’ve never felt sorry at all.” But instead of pain, that realization brings relief, and the surging indie-pop behind her sounds bigger and brighter than ever before. –Peter
Family is a complicated entanglement. Sometimes we feel obligated to love someone that we’re not even sure that we like, and even when we hope for the best, some people just won’t live up to our hopes for them. That seems to be the conflicted state that Sheena Ozzella is reflecting on on “Sliver Of Change,” a highlight from Lemuria’s new album which turns a crisis of conscience into delectable indie-pop. “I could be a better sister but there is something horrible bringing you lower, lower, lower,” she sings towards the end. “I won’t love you because I’m supposed to/ I won’t let you in/ I see a sliver of change, a pin dot rearranging/ Everything, everything stays the same.” Despite feints towards progress, it’s crucial not to get too wrapped up in someone else’s problems at the expense of your own well-being. It’s an important message, and one that Lemuria delivers with clarity and a forward momentum that’s admirable and brave. –James
You know when you’re watching a movie with great dialogue and the conversations can have this bizarre quality to them, like they’re too perfect? Each word sounds amazing. It envelops you. You feel as if you’d had this conversation, but at the same time it’s been curated and constructed. “Night Shift” — the lead single and sprawling opener from Lucy Dacus’ forthcoming sophomore album Historian — is reminiscent of watching those kinds of scenes. That’s partially because it feels like one of those conversations, accentuated by perhaps one too many drinks and cigarette smoke, where you wander through ideas and life and baggage and all that shit. Dacus’ songwriting approach has often had that element to it, whether by being exposed and intimate or by being casually straightforward. But the reason “Night Shift” reminds me of that sort of well-written movie scene is because while the end effect is a song that comes across as simple and bare and then simple and raw, there is great skill at work behind the scenes. From a songwriting perspective, “Night Shift” is stunning, Dacus’ deft touch guiding you through a nearly seven-minute exorcism. Every second of it feels crucial, from what initially appears to be a wandering and meditative beginning to its eventual, shattering climax. “You got a 9-to-5/ So I’ll take the night shift/ And I’ll never see you again/ If I can help it,” Dacus sings. We’ve all been there: In the moment, realizing we need to put someone or something in the past, but we’re far from completing the process. We’ve had the conversation of “Night Shift” before, but chances are it didn’t come with the release arrived at by Dacus at the song’s conclusion. That ending is what makes “Night Shift,” but it wouldn’t mean the same thing if not for the patient, gradual path there. –Ryan
Most of the best songs on Saturation II had that walloping West Coast bounce. “Boogie” trades it in for revved-up lo-fi synth-pop of “SexyBack” vintage — an appropriate aesthetic turn for the “best boy band since One Direction/ Makin’ niggas itch like a skin infection.” This being Brockhampton, it’s still a raucous swarm, maybe even more unhinged than usual given the heart-racing tempo. For some of us, there’s a nostalgic quality to all this anarchy; besides the aforementioned Justin Timberlake track, it reminds me of the aggro dance-punk that proliferated on music blogs in the wake of electroclash and DFA (i.e. the music Timbaland was probably mining when he made the “SexyBack” beat). But Brockhampton are not about looking backwards. Like most of this collective’s songs, “Boogie” is a forceful revolution, the sound of lifting up the downtrodden and bringing outsiders in. Kevin Abstract plainly states as much on the hook: “I’ve been beat up my whole life/ I’ve been shot down, kicked down twice/ Ain’t no stoppin’ me tonight/ I’m gon’ get all the things I like.” –Chris