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.
Half of the Stereogum staff is still down in Austin for a couple more days. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we threw our Range Life 2019 parties. They were a ton of fun, even though the venue rejected our attempts at naming a signature cocktail “Premature Inebriation.” If you were there, thanks for coming out! Those of us here at SXSW have reached the point in the week at which time and space stop making sense, but our coworkers inform us that the rest of the world indeed did not stop turning and people continued releasing songs. The five best of them are below.
Baroness are one of America’s greatest, mightiest, and most beloved metal bands, but they’ve been in the game for a decade and a half now and have yet to reach their peak. That seems impossible. Their debut, Red Album, was Revolver’s #1 album of 2007. Their next one, Blue Record, was Decibel’s #1 album of 2009. Of their third, Yellow & Green, wrote MetalSucks: “Whereas Blue falls just short of greatness, this record provides just enough to get there … This album is their perfect game.” Of their fourth, Purple, Pitchfork’s Brandon Stosuy said: “These are some of the biggest, strongest songs Baroness have written … The hooks and melodies are their best.”
I agree with all the above (except for the notion that Blue “falls just short of greatness,” which is patently absurd; Blue deserved nothing less than the 10/10 rating it received from Decibel). Which brings us to yesterday, March 14, 2019: “I’m sure we have just finished our best, most adventurous album to date,” said Baroness frontman John Baizley in a statement accompanying the announcement of LP 5, Gold & Grey. And today? If lead single “Borderlines” is any indication, good lord, I’m sure he’s right.
“Borderlines” is a breathtaking, brilliant tapestry, woven with the finest textiles and richest tones, sans even a single imperfect stitch, exceeding the exacting specifications of a certified haute couturier. Many of the song’s simply magical sounds have never before been encountered on a Baroness record, yet there is a new fluidity, too, a clarity of focus, a sense of mastery and command equal to the promised adventure ahead. These hooks are behemoths, of course, legitimately the biggest and boldest ever given to us by Baroness, yet each of the song’s tiniest details stands every bit as tall, reaching altogether new heights. There’s an argument to be made that Baroness have been the best band every day since their arrival in the world, but there seems no question that the world has yet to witness the arrival of the best Baroness. –Michael
ScHoolboy Q has done pop tracks like the radio hit “Studio.” He’s done speaker-detonating party jams like “That Part.” He’s done bleary, impressionistic rider music like “Tookie Knows II.” He’s done chopped-and-screwed fashion rap via A$AP Rocky’s “PMW.” He’s hopped on countless disparate songs and proven adept at adapting his churlish snarl to a range of different styles. But I’m not sure he’s ever released a track that goes as hard as “Numb Numb Juice,” the song that marks his grand return after three years between albums. Hoppin’ out of his two-door coupe like Jack-in-the-box, Q immediately proves his time away has been well spent, spinning two minutes of vicious murder talk with a ferocity that suggests this really is his purest form. –Chris
This should’ve happened years ago. Individually, the various component parts of the Beast Coast crew — Joey Bada$$ and his Pro Era associates, the Flatbush Zombies, the Underachievers — are capable of greatness, but they’re also capable of numb ’90s-revivalist wheel-spinning. When you get them all together, though, the energy goes up about 15 notches. Here, they swarm all over the track — nine rappers, all grabbing a few bars apiece, none of them trying to overwhelm the others, all of them helping to create an overwhelming feeling of jittery, excitable menace. That’s what Wu-Tang did. That’s what a lot of the early grime crews did. That’s a good way of doing things.
Taken all at once, “Left Hand” sounds like a fast-rap blur, all these guys firing off syllable-heavy rat-tat-tat attacks. Flatbush Zombie Meechy Darko gets the hook, so he sets the tone, and his deranged energy is all over the track. If you get into the best-verse conversation, I think the winner is Pro Era member Kirk Knight: “Looking my way, that’s a dead end / Fits the same cost as your pension / See my battle scars, Rurouni Kenshin / Gotta trust my gut, so I flex it.” But the best-verse conversation doesn’t really matter. What really matters is these guys going into one-for-all mode, their multi-headed Voltron a lot stronger than their component lions ever were. –Tom
The conceit of Holly Herndon’s new project, PROTO, is enough to make it interesting: the experimental composer built an AI entity named Spawn, who “sings” on the album and is housed in a “DIY souped-up gaming PC.” Herndon, who is always just one step ahead of the latest trends, isn’t just singing about AI — she’s using it to stretch the possibilities of what AI might be able to achieve in tandem with human beings. In the video for her latest song, “Eternal,” we can see various people teaching Spawn to identify and reinterpret an array of vocal patterns in singing sessions. The song is built on a collective experience.
If you ignore the backstory entirely, “Eternal” is still a ridiculously cool. It opens with a few spare, melodic shouts that bend and finally break under a skittering beat. That chaotic element directly contrasts the leading vocal melody, which is practically weightless as it sets up a story: “Love/ Physical love/ They’re hiding their love/ Love in your heart.” Then, the chorus hits like a gale-force, fueled by elements that sound wholly organic despite being simulated by a computer. The narrator of “Eternal” seeks a real, human connection. It’s beautiful to listen to it and remember that it wouldn’t be possible without the contributions of others. –Gabriela
Last year, Channel Tres emerged as an EDM almost-been, with an EP that was miles away from obvious. The Compton producer trades in subtlety, smooth grooves and slinking confidence, and it’s gotten a lot of notice: Robyn just took him out on tour, Vince Staples is about to, and his newest single is a low-key flex. “Got ya in a trance/ Ya mighta missed ya chance,” he smiles, gently pushing forward with a buttery beat and fluttering flute. “The drugs is in the groove you know/ I’m the shit that got you comatose.” Channel Tres songs have more often than not been about the medium he’s producing — whether it’s on “Controller,” when he’s trying to find a rhythm that’ll make you move, or here, where he’s already found that flow and knows it. –James