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.
Would we have put “Cat’s In The Cradle” or “Kung Fu Fighting” on one of these lists if we were making them in 1974? What about “Let Forever Be” or “Nookie” in 1999? The mind reels. Here are the ones we picked for this week.
Pusha T is one of the all-time great drug-sales rappers. Since the century began, he’s been a master at describing the textures and intricacies of big-time cocaine deals. He’s still great at it. Benny The Butcher, from Buffalo, is a gruff-voiced underground veteran who’s just starting to find a national audience. But he is not scared about going head-to-head with Pusha T on drug-sales talk.
Benny, on importing illicit substances: “They talking racks, but my plug bring it back on the sailboat / And I flooded the corner right after the scale broke.” Pusha, on the spoils of the trade: “They say a hero’s nothing but a sandwich / The 488 coming through like the praying mantis.” They’re talking so much white it’ll hurt your eyes, and they’re doing it with a regal sort of panache, over a beat that sounds like a horror-movie neck-snap. So put that in your nose. –Tom
Self-sabotage inflicts a special kind of pain, a lethal mixture of guilt, regret, and self-loathing. On Mannequin Pussy’s “Cream,” Marisa Dabice is in a hell of her own creation as she confronts her selfish, destructive inner demons. Her howls burst with agony, reflecting off of her mirror: “Take a look at yourself right now / ‘Cause everything that you do, you do it for you.”
Clocking in at just two minutes, the song is pure fury, fast and hard. It’s in a constant state of eruption, but the true boiling point comes around the one-minute mark. Guitars throb before catching fire. Dabice switches to Spanish and shouts a harsh epiphany. “For everything you’ve broken / And that you never fix,” the translation reads. “And on your white face / Search up to the stars / But it is destined by the dirt / Nothing else.” –Julia
Mark Ronson and Angel Olsen are a bit of an unlikely pairing. The former is the hit-making behind-the-scenes producer responsible for big-budget smashes like Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk!” and Lady Gaga’s “Shallow,” while the latter is a folk-tinged indie-rock singer-songwriter. Of all the big-name collaborators on Ronson’s new album Late Night Feelings, she’s the most surprising inclusion. But on “True Blue,” they come together beautifully, crafting the twilit roller-rink ballad of your dreams.
Late Night Feelings is a breakup album, inspired by Ronson’s divorce from French actress/model Joséphine de La Baume, and Ronson has repeatedly described its songs as “sad bangers.” But the word “banger” doesn’t feel quite right for something like “True Blue.” It’s too diffuse, too anesthetized, cloaking its potent synth-disco groove in layers of aqueous shadow.
“Fucking around, I’m falling in love/ Saying goodbye ’cause you’re giving it up,” Olsen sings at the beginning of the song, her distant voice warped as if emerging from the fuzz of an ancient Victrola. “All that you were, all that you lost/ Who ever thought it came with a cost?” By the end, her heartbreak has melted into near-wordless sighs, permeating the air as Ronson’s production slowly dissolves into nothingness. It’s not a banger, but it’s something just as good. –Peter
I hate to toss clichés at a song that defies them, but damn: “Windows” is a poem. What initially drew me to the latest Frankie Cosmos single is its mastery of indie-pop’s wistful sway, the way Greta Kline’s twee intonations gently nestle into the fuzzed-out bashing and strumming. I was similarly entranced by the music video’s depiction of friends sharing a carefree day, a simple and effective treatment that casts a song about a breakup in entirely different light. But I didn’t truly fall in love with “Windows” until I burrowed into Kline’s lyrics and discovered she’s spitting out diamonds and coughing up rubies with every bar.
“This song takes place during the waiting period of healing,” Kline explained upon release, “not knowing how to proceed or how to find the path to forgiveness.” That much is clear from the beginning, when she confesses, “Still like looking out of windows/ I know how to forgive those/ Sceneries for surrounding me/ But you did it differently.” From there we get a perfect blend of the straightforward and symbolic, rendered with gorgeous contemplative patience. It’s a song that lets you see just enough to fill in the gaps with your imagination, one that lets you feel its narrator’s pain without resorting to vitriol. Not all breakups are angry breakups, after all. Some are a low-grade sadness that becomes a part of your personal atmosphere until one day, blessedly, you discover your perspective your changed. –Chris
Scott Hutchison died by suicide in May 2018, less than a month after celebrating the 10th birthday of his masterpiece. But Frightened Rabbit’s The Midnight Organ Fight didn’t become a masterpiece only after the death of its author. It was a masterpiece upon arrival. In fact — and this is a true story — there was a 10th anniversary Organ Fight tribute album in the works long before Hutchison died.
This was a considerably smaller-scale project than the just-announced Tiny Changes; it comprised covers of Organ Fight songs recorded mostly by Scottish acts. Among them: the festival-headlining, amp-abusing, roaring-anthem leviathans Biffy Clyro, whose frontman, Simon Neil, had spent the prior decade in awe of Hutchison’s work, hyping it up to anyone who’d listen. In an October 2008 interview, Neil said he was “incredibly excited [about] the quite brilliant Frightened Rabbit” doing four support dates with Biffy in the UK that December. He said Organ Fight was “utterly fantastic.” (“Check it out. Now.”) He said the album’s opening number, “The Modern Leper,” was his favorite song of the year. Elsewhere, Neil called “The Modern Leper” a “beautiful creation.” Simon Neil talked about “The Modern Leper” a lot, for a long time.
Needless to say, when the original Organ Fight tribute album was being put together, Biffy signed up to do “The Modern Leper.” They recorded their take years ago. Thankfully, it’s still here, and fittingly, it opens Tiny Changes. And what a way to kick off a celebration: deliberate and tentative movements slowly building momentum and heft, and then — right after the first chorus — THOSE GODDAMN GUITARS. I said goddamn!
The best, however, is everything after, especially when Neil’s vocal takes the form of silver-blue flame shooting from a blowtorch over riffs the size of skyscrapers. I mean, man, play that shit at my funeral. But this … this was never that. This was never supposed to be a tribute to a dead man. It was one artist expressing appreciation for another in the sincerest possible manner. Hutchison probably heard this as soon as Biffy finished the mix. I like to imagine he did. I like to imagine he listened to this and felt proud as hell. He had a hell of a lot to be proud of. –Michael