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.
¿Hablas español? Hablo español. Donald Trump es muy mal. ¿Ves? Hablo español muy bien. Las cinco mejores canciones de la semana están abajo.
5. Hot Chip – “Positive”
When Hot Chip named their latest album A Bath Full Of Ecstasy, they sure as hell chose the right drug. Their new songs are lush, romantic, and euphoric almost throughout. Most of the album dispenses with the squigglier, quirkier aspects of the band’s music, instead diving headlong into the more poignant corners of their catalog. There are plenty of emotive moments across it — the mission statement in “Melody Of Love,” the gliding meditation of “Clear Blue Skies” — but none hit as powerfully as “Positive,” the climax that sits on its own between the first arc of the album and its heady final stretch.
One reason “Positive” sticks out is that part of it doesn’t quite sound like a Hot Chip song initially. The verses, the synth burbles in the beginning — sure, those are Hot Chip as they exist in this new Ecstasy world. Then you get to that first chorus, and the shapes grow less recognizable. It’s reminiscent of another highlight, “Let Me Be Him” from 2012’s In Our Heads, in that this chorus at first feels beamed in from another band’s song, but then makes perfect sense: It’s the exact right amount of a surprise to make “Positive” land differently than its surroundings. That chorus makes the song, with one of those melodies that feels wistful, nostalgic, and uplifting all at once. “Positive” hints at people drifting out of your life as time rolls on. But in the end its infectiousness, the joyousness of its arrangement, is centering right here, in this moment — embracing memories but not getting lost in them, dancing away from the past. –Ryan
The music Benjamin John Power makes as Blanck Mass is usually best described by using words like “dark,” “punishing,” and “apocalyptic.” His electronic compositions place the listener in a landscape that is moody and occasionally threatening, where the only escape is the dancefloor. But on his new single, “No Dice,” Power ushers in the light. The song initiates with a clipped vocal sample as a staticky snare snaps to attention, only to be shattered by a blinding synth part. “No Dice” doesn’t work its way up to a drop or any real moment of true catharsis. Instead, it sounds like heaven and hell locked in an arm wrestle, jockeying for attention. –Gabriela
For the past 15 years, Torche have been making grand, uplifting alt-rock jams — heavy enough that they’ve never lost their place in the metal underground, melodic enough that they might get radio play if rock radio was even the tiniest bit adventurous in this century. “Admission,” the title track from their new album, plays that dichotomy perfectly. On paper, it’s a sad song, with frontman Steve Brooks singing about a relationship ending: “Yes, I will pretend I won’t need love again.” His voice is a determined, weathered husk, and the guitars around him churn and groan. But those guitars also soar, massing underneath Brooks’ voice and pushing its misery toward triumph. Torche, once again, sound battered but strong, ready to take on the world. –Tom
2. Black Midi – “953”
Black Midi’s Schlagenheim has been out in the world for a week now, so you’ve had some time to decide whether the once-mysterious debut delivers on the hype that has surrounded this band. If you are in the camp that does hear it as an artful, masterful introduction to this strange group, then you already know there are a lot of highlights you could single out as the album’s highest point, songs that feel removed and unique from one another when separated but still fit together into that blend of sounds that has elicited so many disparate reactions from listeners. You have the explosive “Near DT, MI,” the multi-part epic of centerpiece “Western,” the moment in which it all began with the tense and explosive “BmBmBm,” or the nimbly intense closer “Ducter.” Then, of course, there’s “953,” the guitar tour-de-force that opens Schlagenheim.
Anyone who had seen Black Midi before Schlagenheim came out already knew about “953” — it was that one in the set, the one that felt like an assault and an indelible groove simultaneously, the one that had a guitar riff that was one of the biggest hooks in Black Midi’s music to date, the one that was almost a deconstruction of a raging rock song. It’s appropriate that “953” wound up as the first track on Schlagenheim; the song sets the stage for much of what is to come. Black Midi often seem like players first, and songwriters as a consequence of that. Part of the reason they generated the buzz they did is that they’re one of the rare young bands that are doing something familiar yet utterly foreign with guitar music, one of the rare young bands who really make you think about the instrument again as riff after riff, cascade after cascade, totally envelops you.
So, fittingly, “953” has a collection of distinct, bracing passages driven by the band’s guitarwork — the frayed and sputtering wires of its opening, the heaving-yet-swaggering broken machinery of its gigantic main riff, the liquid mirages as the verses offer the briefest respite. Like many of Schlagenheim’s best tracks, “953” evolves seamlessly but severely. It snarls, it drifts; it’s alluring, it’s foreboding. But by the end, as it furiously spins towards the edges of control, its work is done. When you arrive with all the chatter Black Midi did, you better have the songs to back it up. And “953” is like one big tempest of a fuck you to any doubters. It’s an exhilarating opener for one of the year’s best albums, a song that solidifies just how good these guys are, but also suggests they’re still only getting started. –Ryan
“Dawn Chorus” arrived with the weight of a decade’s worth of history and lore behind it. Thom Yorke first brought it up in early 2009 when an interviewer asked about his favorite songs he’d written for Radiohead. When Radiohead released A Moon Shaped Pool three years ago, they did it through a company called Dawn Chorus LLP. Now, 10 years later, “Dawn Chorus” is finally here — as a Thom Yorke solo track, not a Radiohead track. And on an album full of skittering beats and jagged grooves, it’s the quiet, plainspoken, devastatingly lovely “Dawn Chorus” that stands out.
Whether in Radiohead or on his own, Yorke has always excelled at finding the human pathos within his cold electronic soundscapes. “Dawn Chorus” is one of his simplest songs and one of his most emotional, a weightless float of a ballad that layers its washes of Boards Of Canada synths into an intimate elegy to loss. “In the middle of the vortex/ The wind picked up/ Shook up the soot/ From the chimney pot/ Into spiral patterns/ Of you, my love,” Yorke sings in an almost robotic, half-spoken monotone, his voice drained of affect. His last words, “If you could do it all again/ This time with style,” hang in uncertainty. But as the song ends, it melts into a chirping chorus of digitized birdsong, signifying another new dawn. –Peter