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.
No, we’re not going to Coachella. Are you going to Coachella? Did you remember to pack your flower crown? Better get on that after you dive into the five best songs of the week below.
“Fugazi Capitalism” may have worked for Fugazi, but there was probably some economic incentive behind the mid-’90s major-label jumps made by Dischord’s most ambitious non-shareholding contractors, Shudder To Think and Jawbox. Any subsequent windfalls, however, were impermanent and insubstantial, if not altogether illusory. Jawbox’s 1994 Atlantic debut, For Your Own Special Sweetheart, is an excellent and enduring work of art, but it failed to achieve or even aspire to Nirvanic heights, and by ’97, the band had been ignobly abandoned by its corporate mothership and soon thereafter split up.
Fast-forward to 2019: “Life is long,” sings Jawbox frontman J. Robbins on the inaugural single from his first-ever solo album (a Dischord release). His conclusion? “Soldier on.” It’s good advice! Funny thing: This philosophically wizened modern-day Robbins sounds considerably less burdened and noticeably more energized than he ever did “in the day.” Another funny thing: “Soldier On” has way bigger hooks and radio-friendlier melodies than anything in Jawbox’s (essential, awesome) catalog. WHERE WAS THIS IN ’94? That’s rhetorical, of course. You can never look back. But why would you? Better to have this today, to hear this today: loud, here, now. –Michael
Noname makes it look so easy, but her latest song is a masterstroke. Through the tossed-off titles of her last couple tracks might suggest otherwise, “Song 32″ is exacting, its thesis concise but with broad implications. It’s a history of America’s greed and progress, for better and worse. It’s about the chase for money to survive, and Noname’s own trade-off between art and commerce. She still distances herself from the artificial trappings of fame and fortune, though, noting that no matter how “popular” she gets, she’ll never be in the upper echelon: “I’m Cardi’s engagement ring, I’m America showing off/ I’m Viacom, Viacom, I’m Chapelle in Pelle Pelle.” Its “yippee-ki-yay” refrain has its roots in the old West, another example of American “exceptionalism” dirtied by blood. It’s not so much a condemnation as an indictment, as we’re all complicit in America’s thirst for power, from “Obama pushing the button” on down. –James
Truth Club’s “Tethering” has everything you could want out of an emo-tinged indie rock song: hometown blues, nostalgia, memories of an ex. But there’s something unique about the way the Raleigh outfit channel those emotions. Landmarks conjure flashbacks. Guitars build from a mellow jangle to a propulsive chug as the song’s narrator rips himself out of the past. “There I am inside this town again/ Reminded that it’s just a house, it’s just a street,” lead singer Travis Harrington sings. “There is nothing tethering my belief that something still waits here for me.” –Julia
“Bleached has always been a pretty loud rock band, so we felt it was time to explore a more stripped-down style of playing.” That’s Jennifer Clavin, formerly one fifth of Mika Miko and currently one half of Bleached. It’s a statement worth parsing, especially after hearing a song as remarkable as “Shitty Ballet,” the new Bleached single. Bleached are not exactly Merzbow, but their style up until now — catchy, punchy, streamlined garage-pop — has been more about riffs and hooks and fun than about gut-scrape personal expression. “Shitty Ballet,” which starts out with just two voices and a hard-strummed acoustic guitar, is a huge jump in another direction.
Lyrically, “Shitty Ballet” is a real open-wound song, full of the sort of things you say in the wake — or maybe in the heat, or maybe the heartrate-storm anticipation — of one of those desperately shitty couple-fights where you lose all sense of perspective and direction, where you say things that you can never completely take back later: “Didn’t know it was so late/ Forgot I didn’t eat all day/ Busy choking on the words in my mouth/ Don’t know how long I can keep ‘em all down.” Jennifer and her sister and bandmate Jessica sing those words together, their voices ragged, like they’re holding onto each other for support. And when the big, crashing pop-punk drums and guitars come surging in at the climax, it’s cathartic relief — something to, however briefly, drown out all that realness. –Tom
It’s a time-tested subject in rap music: How do you handle becoming suddenly wealthy while your friends and family continue on in their everyday struggle? What do you do with all that money? How do you make sure it doesn’t go away? How do you even process it? On Brockhampton’s #1 album Iridescence, Kevin Abstract bemoaned the loss of privacy that accompanied his newfound notoriety. On “Big Wheels,” he approaches the influx of money artfully and concisely: “My niggas ain’t see no more cash/ I got rich way too fast/ My mama still work at Sonic, nigga/ I didn’t even finish college, nigga.” This being Abstract, he does it over a queasy trap beat in a deadpan flow, putting a queer twist on sexual braggadocio while he’s at it: “Y’all pump fakin’/ I’m a power bottom like a Free Mason/ Y’all stuck playin’/ That’s complacent, I’m cum-chasin’.” Even when tackling the most boilerplate rap tropes, Abstract ends up with something delightfully askew. –Chris