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.
Taylor Swift announced her new album less than 24 hours ago, and we are already exhausted. The five best songs of the week are below.
Katie Gavin stans a legend, and that legend is herself. On “Number One Fan,” the MUNA singer flips the endless validation of obsessive stan culture inwards, refashioning it into radical self-love as she sings to herself in the mirror: “Oh my god like, I’m your number one fan/ So iconic, like big, like stan, like/ I would give my life just to hold your hand/ I’m your number one fan.” This could sound like empty positivity, but what makes it all work is that the song itself is so good, a monstrously catchy synthpop jam with enough bulletproof hooks to inspire that kind of fandom. So iconic. Like big. Like stan. –Peter
The video for Purple Mountains’ new single “Darkness And Cold” begins with a disclaimer: “The characters and events appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.” But even without background knowledge of David Berman’s marriage, it becomes clear that he is, in fact, the song’s narrator. This kind of cryptic self-awareness is paramount to his songwriting. Painfully personal anecdotes fade into vague, visceral free association.
“Darkness And Cold” is the prequel to Purple Mountains’ first single, “All My Happiness Is Gone.” Berman is watching the “light of [his] life” start to slip away. She’s “going out tonight in a pink champagne corvette” while he sleeps “three feet above the street in a Band-Aid pink Chevette.” There’s an air of melancholic acceptance and comfort in his own dejection, partially owed to the rootsy guitar work surrounding his lament. He settles into his discomfort, a dissonance that continues to make his work so heartbreaking. –Julia
Lost Girls, Natasha Khan’s latest album as Bat For Lashes, has two major inspirations: being a child in the ’80s, and Los Angeles. You can hear both in every note of “Kids In The Dark,” its lead single and opener. A nocturnal bit of synth-pop, the whole song sounds like an opening credits moment, the curtain rising on the new world Khan’s created this time around. Atmospheric throughout, “Kids In The Dark” floats along on melodies and synth lines that are sighing, swooning, only occasionally punctuated by more direct and glistening sounds.
Fittingly enough given the music’s origins, it also sounds like something that would have fit right in on the Drive soundtrack. Which is to say: “Kids In The Dark” taps into certain kind of refracted nostalgia, an echo of someone’s memories of a time you might not have been able to touch on your own. It doesn’t sound aggressively retro, as if it could have literally existed in, say, 1983. Instead, you can picture a fantasized Los Angeles, that filmic one in which a twilit sky or lens flares shine like vibrant yet moody neon. It’s a dreamscape, reflections of the past colliding with perceptions of a city, resulting in an imagined time and place adjacent to the real one. –Ryan
2. Joan Shelley – “Coming Down For You” (Feat. Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Nathan Salsburg, & James Elkington)
It seems like the result of some rich lunatic’s experiment: Take a bunch of Kentucky folk musicians, plunk them down at a studio in Iceland, and see what happens. What happens, it turns out, is the best you can hope for: a lonesome, bittersweet, annihilatingly beautiful song that seems shot through with the craggy, barren, remote beauty of that tiny north-Atlantic island.
Joan Shelley has been making quietly stunning folk music for a few years. On “Coming Down For You,” she joins her regular collaborator Nathan Salsburg, as well as their fellow Louisville tale-spinner Bonnie “Prince” Billy and the British-born, Chicago-based guitar wizard James Elkington, all recording together in Reykjavik. Together, they build something hushed and restorative. Will Oldham wraps his weathered whisper of a voice around Shelley’s alto. The guitars and banjos make a lushly intricate blanket of sound. It all hangs in the air, lovely and impossible, like steam over a lagoon. Let’s get these guys to go to Iceland more often. –Tom
Giannis Antetokounmpo was the toast of the NBA this season, leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the best regular season record before falling to eventual champions the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Greek-Nigerian is one of the most exciting players in basketball — a point guard’s agile ball-handling in a center’s hulking body — so it’s only right that he gets a tribute from some of the most talented men in hip-hop, dudes whose own skills parallel his own mixture of power and finesse.
Freddie Gibbs and Madlib already proved themselves to be a dream team on 2014’s Piñata and the prior singles from this month’s Bandana. Gibbs’ smooth yet rugged street narratives tend to beam out of Madlib’s crate-digging kaleidoscopes as if rapped from inside a mirage. On “Giannis,” Madlib’s fellow Oxnard son Anderson .Paak becomes a marvelous foil for Gibbs, their contrasting textures finding common ground in the timeless rise from impoverished kid to drug kingpin to rap superstar.
Gibbs drops wisdom about the perils of 360 deals and warns, “Keeping a baby .380 with me like Khaled stay with Asahd.” Paak flashes back to shoplifting from Macy’s before boasting, “Same niggas that I grew up sharing shoes with/ Turn it into a multi-million dollar movement.” Madlib flips Majrooh Sultanpuri’s Bollywood classic “Aasman Ke Neeche” into a boom-bap beat with enough bass to register on the Richter scale. Giannis is lucky these guys got to his name before, like, Tyga and French Montana. –Chris