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.
This being 2019 in America, there was the customary parade of stupid things happening this week. But there is a bit of light on the horizon, a faint glimmer of hope. Not the notion that Michael Cohen’s testimony will somehow, finally, mark a turning point towards Trump’s downfall. Though it would be nice, doubtful. No, we’re talking about something else. We’re talking about the long-awaited unveiling of a second Detective Pikachu trailer. Half the Stereogum staff is more excited about that than anything, tbh. However this week’s collection of best songs is pretty fucking killer, too. Check them out below.
Brutus have the rare and special ability to make music that feels like gods whipping up the elements. Every song on the Belgian combo’s upcoming Nest sounds like it’s been ripped out of a mountainside and is now being blasted with air, water, and fire with no regard for the wreckage in its wake. On one level tracks like “Cemetery” are quite simple, just a power trio bashing out chord changes three or four minutes at a time while drummer Stefanie Mannaerts yells her lungs out like she’s leading a military charge. Yet each track courses with an organic, supernatural quality, as if Brutus have unlocked some new chemistry in the age-old collision of guitar, drums, bass, and monstrous melodic howling.
These three humans play in lockstep, but their songs don’t exhibit the rigid “angular” quality you sometimes read about, where a rock song sounds like it was built out of Legos. The edges aren’t even rounded — they’re more like blurry perimeters, as if the music is the cataclysmic center of an all-consuming entity. The crush of the boulder, the singe of the flame, the splashing gust of the tsunami: It all hits you at once, and instead of destroying you, it pummels the life back into you. Which is maybe surprising for a song called “Cemetery,” but no more surprising than hearing the basic ingredients of rock combined into something so awe-inspiring and original at this late date. –Chris
There’s a good way to argue and a bad way to argue. And no matter how smart or rational or even-keeled you think you may be, you will almost certainly find yourself in the bad kind of argument every once in a while. That’s the kind of argument where your adrenaline starts flowing and you lose all sense of perspective, shouting the type of shit that, 15 minutes later, you will wish you could take back. That’s the kind of argument that “Chain Reaction” is about.
Ali Carter, leader of the sharp and jagged Philly trio Control Top, snarls, “Do anything to prove you’re right/ Lose everything to win the fight.” Her guitar imitates that battle, slashing and jutting and charting ahead heedlessly. It’s a song about a seeing-red haze, and it sounds like a seeing-red haze, those drums hitting like your escalated heartbeat inside your own brain. It’s a grimy, fast, nasty song about a grimy, fast, nasty situation. And just like the bad kind of argument, it stays with you. –Tom
Hariette Pillbeam crafts hook-heavy, retro-tinged dream-pop as Hatchie. The Brisbane singer-songwriter debuted her project last year with one of the best EPs of 2018, Sugar & Spice. Its quick, sparkling tracklist gave us a few scenes from Hatchie’s cinematic universe — tender and nostalgic, fit for a ‘90s romcom soundtrack. “Without A Blush,” the lead single from her forthcoming debut album, takes us deeper as Pillbeam mourns the end of a relationship.
The song conjures a montage of memories, or a flashback to a meet cute. The synth tones sound borrowed and remixed from an ’80s high school slow dance song. The guitars are enveloped in a cloud of reverb, fading into her regretful sighs: “If I could kiss you one more time / Would it make everything alright? / Or would it just make me a liar? / I didn’t wanna end tonight, the dream.” –Julia
New Carly Rae Jepsen music tends to inspire hyperbole — she is, after all, the queen of whatever you want her to be — and her two newest singles certainly don’t disappoint in that regard. They manage to deliver on all of the gooey feelings that you’ve come to expect from Jepsen, tailored to her core crew of devotees. “Now That I Found You” is a satisfying, glittery come-up, something we’ve heard from Jepsen before, but “No Drug Like Me” is the more intriguing of the two.
It’s tentative and seductive — Jepsen creeps around her desire, from the outside looking in. She doesn’t really, really like anyone; she’s on the prowl, on a mission. It’s flirtatious but also a little dangerous. The effect as she layers her vocals on the “You ain’t tried no drug like me” line is dizzying. Like, yeah, OK, inject that shit into my veins, but it’s got me thinking that maybe it’s not so healthy. It’s a compelling addition to Jepsen’s pantheon of love songs. –James
“Making friends with the unknown.” That’s how Adrianne Lenker described her songwriting in a recent press release accompanying the announcement of Big Thief’s forthcoming U.F.O.F.. And it’s easy to take her words as a fitting mission statement when listening to the album’s title track. It’s one of those songs that feels organic — hypnotic acoustic guitars, Lenker’s voice twisting in unexpected directions like an untamed wind — and yet surreal, like the band has tapped into the hidden, mystical mechanisms of the natural world surrounding them.
The thing that is immediately striking about “UFOF” is Lenker’s melody. Or rather, the quickly changing series of melodies. The way she turns through the different phrasings sounds as if she’s discovering the melody right there in that moment, in front of us; as if she’s tapped into something deeper and tumbling down winding paths in search of a conclusion. “There will soon be proof that there is no alien, just a system of truth and lies,” Lenker sings, by way of resolution.
She might decide there is no great reveal at the end. But the song Big Thief put together is subtly alien. What could be a simple acoustic ballad instead weaves in and out of view, that series of melodies often distantly recalling some forgotten song, like whatever elemental strain Lenker’s tapping into becomes a web of hazy memories fighting to cohere into clarity. Then “UFOF” drifts back off into wherever it came from, its mystery lingering in the air and urging you to follow down the same winding paths it travels. –Ryan