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.
John. Fucking. Wick. That is all. (And the week’s best songs are below.)
To an outsider, New York is all maximalism: The buildings are tall, the crowds are thick, the people are loud, the cars drive fast, the smells are rank and overpowering. Once you find yourself comfortable, though, New York’s sharp edges begin to blur and your version of the city might not fit onto a postcard. NOIA’s “Ciudad del Humo,” which translates to “City Of Smoke,” bathes the town in a noirish glow as Gisela Fulla-Silvestre sings of a betrayal over a minimalist soundscape that threatens to claw through its restraints but never quite does. “¿Como escaparse de la ciudad del humo?,” our narrator asks, or: “How do I escape the city of smoke?” She’s as trapped as the backing beat, a tiny pulse in a vast cityscape that threatens to swallow her up. –Gabriela
Houston hip-hop is officially on one. The city’s rap legacy is long and deep, but right now rising stars are spilling out of that place like it’s 2005 all over again. On “She Live,” two of best and brightest attempt to flex on each other’s sex rhymes, and the results elicit a whole different kind of pleasure. Maxo Kream: “Bitch named Katrina / Tell me, have you seen her? / Hurricane pussy / So wet, call FEMA.” Megan Thee Stallion: “‘Cause I’m freaky and I’m loyal / He love it, so I get spoiled / Work that tongue just like a serpent / I’m makin’ his toes coil.” It’s the kind of contagiously fun rapping that makes you want more. Fortunately Megan dropped a whole album of bangers called Fever today, and Maxo has been kicking out singles so often that a project must be on the way. It can’t come soon enough. –Chris
Hatchie makes music that sounds like falling in love, blending ’90s dream-pop guitars and ’80s new wave synths into a breathless, weightless swoon with just a tinge of melancholy. Like many of her singles, “Obsessed” is a love song, but it’s not about romantic love. Instead, Hariette Pillbeam is singing about an obsessive form of friendship — finding and clinging to someone who brings joy and light to your life, who makes you feel like a better version of yourself when they’re around. “You were the one, you were the one / Who told me to run, told me to run / Give it a try, get out alive,” Pillbeam sings. “But I can’t be fun, you’re the only one.”
There’s a dark side to that kind of all-consuming idolization, a fear that you’re not good enough and you’ll be left behind, right back where you started. “And maybe you’ll outgrow me / Or maybe you’ll follow me down,” Pillbeam muses as the music behind her recedes into a wistful blur. “What happens when the love you give is greater than the love you receive?” But then the beat comes back in, the unquestioning joy returns, and everything is right with the world again: “I get a little bit obsessed, but it’s / It’s OK, yeah, it’s OK that I do.” If you’re a little bit obsessed with Hatchie, well, that’s OK too. –Peter
Isolate any single one of the tracks comprising Baroness’ new “Throw Me An Anchor” and you’ll just hear cacophony. Take the drums: Sebastian Thomson (who also plays in post-rock progenitors Trans Am) isn’t keeping rhythm in any recognizable sense. He isn’t backing up anything. He’s out front blasting nasty frenetic noise. (As Tom put it, quite correctly: “The drums, in particular, are on some Lightning Bolt shit.”) The lead guitar lines — courtesy of Gina Gleason and John Baizley — exist in polar opposition to one another and violent opposition to everything else. The axe at the top of the mix is doing hyper-gnarly fretboard-tapping twinkle-core sprint-burst shreddery; the instrument at the other end is droning and looping like it was born out of Spacemen 3 feedback-drift. The foundational rhythm guitar and Nick Jost’s subterranean bass basically gang up together to deliver a staccato beatdown in the very place where the song’s ostensible core should reside: They’re burly and blunt, mostly amelodic and occasionally atonal. And over the entirety of the song, Baizley’s voice operates across a range of maybe three, four notes. Texturally, he oscillates between a bark and a roar.
Taken apart from the whole, these are ugly sounds, all of them. Individually. Theoretically. Heard as a song, though — i.e., the thing you actually hear — “Throw Me An Anchor” might be the catchiest, most anthemic, most instantly aurally satisfying piece of music ever recorded by Baroness. (If it doesn’t outright occupy the #1 spot, it’s up there with “Shock Me” and “Chlorine & Wine.”) This is kinda counterintuitive! Evolutionarily, historically, metal bands add melody at the expense of complexity, speed, or heft.
Baroness, however, are working in a whole different paradigm, drawing out the illusion of melody from a milieu of driving snowblind chaos. The degree of difficulty here is a hard 10, and the degree of creativity is pretty much off the charts. The song itself, though — i.e., again, the thing you actually hear — cannot be graded. It can only be felt. And it feels like a max-voltage surge of vibrant absolute life. Sings Baizley on the song’s first chorus: “WHEN YOU GIVE ME FIRE/ I’LL MAKE IT BURN.” He doesn’t need to tell us, though. This is high heat; these are flames. We already feel it. We’re already lit, already on fire, already burning, hot and hard and bright. –Michael
It’s so disorienting to hear a new song and know the words by heart. Of course, “Rylan” isn’t exactly a “new” song. The National first debuted it all the way back in December of 2011, alongside “I Need My Girl,” just around the halfway point between High Violet and Trouble Will Find Me. This band does that: labors over songs, works them out in slightly different forms onstage months or years before they appear on an album. “Rylan” sounded like an instant-classic National song in that moment, on that live in-studio performance hinting at what would come next in those early days of their real ascension. Of course it’d appear on the next National album. As it turns out, we all had to wait a few more years than usual.
At that point in 2011, I was a college kid in New York. The National provided the soundtrack to my early days in the city, releasing albums that bracketed those years. I watched that “Rylan” video over and over, fixated on the prospect of another new album after High Violet that’d continue to color in the backdrop, to clarify my experience here. The album came, but the song didn’t. I was aghast, as were a lot of other fans. It became a favorite amongst the devoted over the years, a lost dog that didn’t even appear as a B-Side. Then, a couple years after that and a couple years before today, when I’d become a journalist, the band told me they wanted to eventually find a home for songs that had been left behind, songs like “Rylan.” By the time the official recording went online yesterday, this song had been in and out of my mind for something close to a decade already.
So the first time I heard those drums clatter in, it felt peculiar. Like I’d lost an object some years ago, didn’t even remember exactly what it looked like, then stumbled onto it one unsuspecting day. It didn’t even register initially, the little arrangement decisions that differentiated “Rylan” from how it might’ve existed had it been on one of I Am Easy To Find’s predecessors — the doubled drums, the guest vocals, the little synthetic textures, its increased muscularity. The power of the new line, “Underwater, you’re almost free.” Somehow it felt like a new discovery and a warm remembrance, of a different era in this band’s existence and in our own lives, at once.
Look, if you are a National fan you already know about “Rylan,” about the refrain it builds up and about the “vulture/popular culture” line. If you are a National fan it’s probably bothered you for seven and a half years, too, that this song never got recorded. At their I Am Easy To Find shows last month, “Rylan” was already greeted like one of the old hits, because it is. Over time, the National realized that. “Rylan” must’ve been in and out of their minds all those years as well, waiting until it came into focus. It finally did. I don’t know if any song can be worth a nearly 10-year wait. But “Rylan,” after all that, comes pretty damn close. –Ryan