Every week the Stereogum staff chooses the five best new songs of the week (the eligibility period begins and ends Thursdays right before midnight). This week’s countdown is below, and you can listen to a playlist of all our 5 Best Songs on Spotify.
Well, it’s 2019 and there sure is still a lot of ridiculous bullshit in the news these days. The only thing that sparked joy this week was Ariana Grande, mostly for “And You Know That, Ken.” See you next week, after Greta Van Fleet have won their first Grammy for Best Album By A Cartoon. Until then, enjoy the five best songs of the week.
Long Island-based singer-songwriter Laura Stevenson specializes in an intimate, heart-wrenching brand of indie-folk. Her last album, 2015’s fierce and witty Cocksure, was written and arranged in the attic of a 19th-century Victorian house that formerly served as a brothel. She recorded her forthcoming LP, The Big Freeze, in her childhood home. You can hear the atmosphere shift on its lead single, “Living Room, NY.” Stevenson’s voice warms and curls with her guitar, singing from the darkness of her bedroom and yearning to fill the empty space in her bed: “I want to feel you restless/ I want to wake up from it/ I want to see you stare at ceilings until you fall back to sleep.” –Julia
4. Blu & Oh No – “The Lost Angels Anthem”
Blu is a crucial and undersung name within the LA underground-rap lineage, a transitional figure between the early Freestyle Fellowship/Project Blowed days and the right-now dominance of Kendrick Lamar. Below The Heavens, the 2007 album that Blu released with producer Exile, belongs in the canon, and he never stopped working after that. In fact, you could say that Blu kept working so much (two albums in 2018 alone!) that it became possible to take him for granted. We should stop doing that.
Right now, Blu and Oh No — Madlib’s younger brother and a great psychedelic rap mind in his own right — are getting ready to release a collaborative album. This is good news, and on “The Lost Angels Anthem,” we hear just how it might work. Oh No’s track is warm and hazy, a hypnotic swirl of sweaty drum-loops and synthetic tingle. And Blu remains hypnotic in his own way, breaking down one vowel sound after another with deadpan gravitas, weaving images quickly enough to leave your head spinning. –Tom
New Orleans jazz trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah doesn’t play jazz. Instead, he calls the music he makes “stretch music,” because it stretches the conventions of jazz to incorporate all kinds of musical idioms — electronic, hip-hop, trap, dub, R&B, funk, Mardi Gras parade music, all coexisting in one musical gestalt. And on “Ancestral Recall,” he continues his mission to use music as a unifying force, connecting the African diasporic tradition back to its West African roots through rhythm.
Although ghostly electronic murmurs and Scott’s searing trumpet give the track an otherworldly, larger-than-life sheen, its true lifeblood is its hypnotic percussion. “The core rhythm I built in Logic was me recalling Bao, then Weedie Braimah added phrases of Bao played as the Toma ethnic group from the forest region of Guinea would play it,” Scott explains. “That was then married with Gine Fare from the costal region of Boke done by the Susu people of Guinea.” Traditional West African djembe rhythms, remembered and real, combine across time and space to create something beautiful.
“Earth as my hard drive, sky as my witness/ There’s no such thing as small spirits/ Ancestral minorities take breath through nature’s hidden forces … We are everywhere,” spoken word poet Saul Williams intones over the coursing river of sound, essentially putting Scott’s musical thesis into words. “We breathe through instruments/ One lightweight infinite/ We breathe though dissidence/ We breathe through difference/ Ancestral recall.” –Peter
Violence hums beneath the surface of “THRU THE VOID.” You can hear it in the harsh, borderline fearsome production and agonized, breathy singing that opens the song. But Black Dresses are a pop duo, and the restlessness of their latest offering, THANK YOU, gives way to moments of total abandon that sparkle. On the chorus of “THRU THE VOID,” Rook and Devi sing about finding strength in other people, beating back paranoia with camaraderie. “I can hear you through the void/ That same familiar feeling in your voice/ We’re in different rooms but we’re connected by the noise/ Of scraping at the walls of lives that left us no other choice,” they sing in tandem.
Though their voices are processed to sound almost robotic, Black Dresses kept their scrappy vocal takes intact. You can hear fits of coughing at one point, a bit of muttered conversation, as if to remind listeners that this is a bedroom project made by two close friends. Nearing the end, a rapid-fire computed drumbeat crashes in and it sounds like an automatic weapon. “This world killed us long ago,” Rook intones. –Gabriela
It’s a familiar script: Guitar band breaks through with an electrifying debut, levels up to a new echelon of fame, and returns with a noticeably poppier second album. The upcoming Charly Bliss LP pulls off that evolution exceptionally well. Despite sonic gloss that mirrors the band’s glamorous new promo pics, Young Enough maintains much of the melodic jolt and madcap energy that made Guppy an instant classic. And Eva Hendricks continues to pen some of the smartest, most affecting lyrics in indie rock.
For evidence, look no further than the album’s lead single. A range of keyboard sounds and a steady head-bob drumbeat carry “Capacity” along. When the guitars do finally arrive, they serve as punctuation rather than foundation. It’s a more measured but no less cathartic Charly Bliss — fitting for a song about the relief that accompanies setting healthy boundaries and severing “every microscopic atom of connection” to your own exhausting messiah complex. “I was raised an East Coast witch like/ Doing nothing’s sacrilegious,” Hendricks sings on the bridge. “Triple overtime ambitious/ Sometimes nothing is delicious.” Musically, the song proves its own point: Even those most adept at frantic multitasking can benefit from chilling out sometimes. –Chris