The 5 Best Songs Of The Week
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.
The main takeaway from this week is that, even if they’re doing a redesign, we’ll never be able to unsee Sonic The Hedgehog’s creepy human teeth. Some songs also came out. The five best of them are below.
Bruce Springsteen has not been quiet. It’s been five years since his last album, 2014’s High Hopes, and seven since his last real, full-fledged album, 2012’s Wrecking Ball. But since then he compiled an archival expansion of The River, launched a triumphant E Street Band tour behind it, released a memoir, and staged a one-man Broadway show built on intimate acoustic performances and impressionistic snapshots of his life. He’s been busy, even if that busyness could sometimes take the tone of finality. Who knew if we’d even get a new Springsteen album after the Broadway stint. But now, there is one, and “Hello Sunshine” is here to prove it.
Now, upon the release of his first new original music in half a decade, Springsteen is quiet. His new album Western Stars won’t be a big State Of The Nation document akin to Wrecking Ball, but a return to his solo albums that hone in on character sketches or more personal narratives. Accordingly, “Hello Sunshine” is a dusty, roadworn ballad. “You fall in love with lonely, you end up that way,” he sings, with all the gravity and gravel the years have given his voice. And the song conveys that, sounding like a classic, lonesome country lament.
The idea of “dusty” and “roadworn” songs in Springsteen’s catalog is, obviously, not new. Aesthetically, “Hello Sunshine” could partially recall 2005’s Devils & Dust. But this song finds Springsteen tapping into a different tradition of American songwriting, melding his weathered aesthetic with a more syrupy strain of balladry. This shouldn’t work — just ask 2009’s Working On A Dream for proof of that — and yet it does. There’s something contented, making peace with all the years passed and their attendant ups and downs in a simple composition that itself calls back to songs decades old. But it’s still searching, even after all these years, Springsteen not just leaning on his old highway imagery but truly wondering what else he has left to find along the horizon. There’s a comfort in having him back, in hearing that voice at all. It’s better still when an icon returns, and is still finding ways to put old and new versions of himself in a room together. –Ryan
The Vossi bop is a dance. It is not a difficult dance. It’s basically the sprinkler. You will not impress anyone if you do the Vossi bop at the party. On the scale of dances with big rap songs named after them, it is just this side of “Lean Back.” But if you’re Stormzy, it’s perfect. The Vossi bop is local, it’s simple, and it’s looks cool enough. If you’re trying to just do a little bit of low-stakes flexing, the existence of a dance like that is a blessing.
Stormzy is good at flexing. He came up through grime, and he’s got a charisma and a sense of technical mastery honed in all the years he spent on London’s rave and pirate-radio battle circuits. But too often, Stormzy gets choked by his own importance, his need to make big statements about the fucked-up state of circa-now London life. He does a little bit of that on “Vossi Bop”: “Fuck the government, and fuck Boris.” But mostly, he’s just interested in letting you know that he’s slicker than you. His locution and his language are charmingly UK: “I could probably take your chick, but I just wouldn’t, cuz she’s jarring.” In grand Drake style, the complaints are also brags: “Mummy saying that I need to go get some sleep, all this traveling overseas is always fucking up my body clock.” And the itchy pianos and eerily dinky synth riffs just slap. You could dance to “Vossi Bop,” if you wanted. You could even Vossi bop. –Tom
There’s a gentle might to Truth Club’s new album Not An Exit. The post-punk band out of North Carolina traffic in honesty (I guess that’s why they’re called Truth Club) and there is a palpable vulnerability teeming beneath the surface of these songs. Naming a track “Student Housing” gives the listener an automatic in: This is about a kid becoming an adult, living away from home but not wholly independent yet. The tightly-wound instrumentation feels claustrophobic as Travis Harrington sings to someone he is desperately in love with: “I am so taken that I saved your trash/ Hoping that you’d come around — not take it back/ A bike brake pad, ruined camera film.” It’s entirely unclear whether those affections were ever returned (is our narrator a stalker?) which makes the conclusion all the more cryptic: “Even now you seem so comfortable/ Encased in the embrace of my affection/ Full of wide-eyed hopeful motivations.” –Gabriela
“Talking Heads” is Black Midi’s version of a pop song — which is to say, it’s not really a pop song at all. It starts out as a bright, wiry post-punk guitar groove that recalls the nervy energy of its namesake, but of course, no Black Midi song ever unfolds in a straight line. Its spiky, stop-start math-rock arrangement propelled breathlessly forward by Morgan Simpson’s frantically virtuosic drumming and frontman Geordie Greep’s manic yelps, the track continually descends into the depths of controlled chaos and emerges into the sunlight again, ready to get your body moving. –Peter
Holly Herndon is truly like no other. “Frontier,” the latest single from her new album/thought experiment PROTO, sounds both real and unreal. It opens on an overlapping chorus of voices that are all too human — or at least I think they are, you can never be sure — and its grittiness feels like centuries of hard labor. “The earth doesn’t care,” they chant, but they give way to an exploding beat, ricocheting off the air like a bullet trapped in a jar.
It really sounds like nothing else. The closest analog I can come up with is the demonic soundscapes the Knife cooked up on their final album, Shaking The Habitual, where they also mixed earthy and titanium tones, but even that can’t capture how truly weird Herndon music sounds. But the digital decay she wields feels oddly inevitable, like it’s reminding you of something that you didn’t even know you knew — an act of mind-expanding consciousness. –James