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.
Hey bitches! Gabriela Tully Playmore here. Today is my last day working at Stereogum after 4.5 years. Normally I think it is bullshit when people describe a work environment as being “like a family,” but it’s hard for me to think of Stereogum in any other way. When you spend 40 hours a week with people (46+ during the Grammys) they weave themselves into the fabric of your life in such a way that it is hard to untangle yourself when the time comes. I even call Scott “dad” sometimes! You, the commenters, have also been integral to my time here. I thought about ranking all of you from worst to best but instead I will just say: Thank you for reading.
The “Be My Baby” drums — that elemental echoing thump thumpthump crack — have worked as pavlovian signals for the past 55 years. They’ve turned up again and again since they introduced the Ronettes’ signature song. The Jesus & Mary Chain used those drums. So did Poison. So did about a million indie bands. We hear those drums, and we know we’re on the way to some kind of dreamworld.
“Suddenly,” the new solo song from Molly Sarlé, certainly sounds like it belongs in that dreamworld. We’re used to hearing Sarlé make campfire-ready a cappella folk as one third of Mountain Man, but “Suddenly” is total sonic gauze, a hazy and lovely take on garage-pop. Lyrically, though, “Suddenly” exists very much within our world. It’s all about seizing control of your sexual self, and its tangible, right down to the detail of jumping out of bed post-blowjob to make a grilled cheese sandwich. –Tom
“Hope” is named not for the feeling but for the street in Philadelphia where Alex Giannascoli used to live. It’s a sad song, an elegy for those lost to the city’s opioid crisis. “He was a good friend of mine/ He died/ Why I write about it now/ Gotta honor him somehow,” Alex Giannascoli sings, a soft synthesizer hum haunting the strums as the words tumble from his mouth. “Saw some people crying that night/ Yeah, Fentanyl took a few lives from our life/ Alright.”
But it’s not just a sad song. The best (Sandy) Alex G songs are driven by contradictions, beautifully catchy pop melodies tweaked by lo-fi strangeness, and “Hope” is oddly comforting in its sadness. Even as he sings “Got a hole in my chest/ I can’t take it anymore,” the shuffling drumbeat and Giannascoli’s jaunty tangle of acoustic guitar give the track a relentless forward momentum, pushing past the trauma. After all, life moves forward. –Peter
One of the weird and/or fun aspects about new bands (loosely) playing into some kind of post-punk lineage is trying to locate all the throughlines, piecing together the DNA that gave them their individual sound. Recently, one buzzy London-based band called Black Midi perhaps provided the greatest Rorschach test in this vein, some people hearing Talking Heads and some people hearing something as far removed as King Crimson. But another buzzy London (by way of Brighton) guitar band called Squid returned this week with a new single called “The Cleaner,” and it’s a similar feast of music history collapsing in on itself.
The intro rhythm — you’ve heard that before. It’s pretty similar to the tightened groove that opens LCD Soundsystem’s “Us V Them,” a callback to another band deeply indebted to late ’70s and early ’80s music and deeply committed to playing fast and loose with those influences. Ollie Judge’s squawking vocals recall early Liars. But it isn’t all filtered through a previous generation’s interpretation of bygone glory days — the synths in the beginning sound like early ’80s Prince, the melodic parts kinda like Wire, and the droning strings of the outro like Nick Cave.
None of this is meant to reduce “The Cleaner” to its touchstones. In quoting all those older artists, the young band came out with a shape-shifting epic, frenzied and twitchy at first then at times genuinely pretty or trippy. And all along the way, it gets right in your bloodstream. “So I can’t dance,” Judge yelps. But it’ll make you want to. –Ryan
“What would love be without wishful thinking?” Jeff Tweedy sang those words 15 years ago with a noted of resigned sarcasm, wondering how two people can ever stay together without a bit of pretending. His views on the matter have evolved. On “Love Is Everywhere (Beware),” Tweedy targets a specific kind of wishful thinking, the belief that people are essentially good and love will inevitably win out over hate in the end. These are quaint niceties preached by people unwilling to face down the hard realities of human life. And as Tweedy explains, they can become a cop-out in terms of personal responsibility.
Love may in fact be all around us, but as Tweedy explained upon the song’s release, “I can’t let that feeling absolve me of my duty to create more.” Everyone’s job is no one’s job, after all, and in a world where suffering is also everywhere, it’s too easy to pat yourself on the back for performing good deeds within your circle of friends, without ever venturing outside your comfort zone. As for the job that specifically belongs to Tweedy, he’s crafted a beautiful delivery system for his message: a poetic polemic doled out in melancholy sighs, enlivened by bursts of guitar that sound like love itself manifesting before your ears. That sound didn’t appear out of nowhere, though; someone had to put in time and effort to make it happen. –Chris
“Gone” is an anti-social pop song, two outsider pop artists coming together to commiserate over how alone they can feel in a crowded room. Charli XCX and Christine And The Queens have traveled comparable paths over the last few years, and “Gone” finds them on familiar sonic ground for both of them. It really sounds like it could be either of their songs — there’s the outpouring of emotion that was found on last year’s Chris, the futuristic clank of its final minute is pure Charli (and producer A.G. Cook).
It feels like they’re asking the chorus of each other: “Why do we keep when the water runs? Why do we love if we’re so mistaken?,” two souls coming together to try and figure out why they put up with so much bullshit for so little reward. “I feel so unstable, fucking hate these people, how they making me feel lately” is the song’s shout-a-long moment, a cleansing sentiment for anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by everyone around them. –James