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.
Much like Oscar season for movies, it usually feels like Autumn fills up with exciting new music releases pretty quick. If you hadn’t noticed already by way of Bon Iver’s new album arriving three weeks early, we’re on the cusp of that. There were a lot of new songs out this week. Here are the five best of them.
It sounds like Moon Duo have found some new drugs. Historically, their brand of psychedelia has been a little foreboding — buzzing machinery guitars and guttural krautrock rhythms, imagery all focused on the occult and shadows and the grimier corners of the night. So far, the material we’ve heard from Stars Are The Light has the same zone-out qualities, but they’re rendered in completely different colors. You should take the name of the album seriously: Moon Duo have come out into the light.
We got a hint of it with the album’s lead single and title track, sneakily one of the most addicting and straight-up prettiest songs Moon Duo’s ever recorded. “Lost Heads” might not have the lilting poppiness of its predecessor, but it definitely exists in the same airy, Technicolor world. The whole thing rides easily along a sun-dappled groove, with Johnson and Sanae Yamada’s vocals intertwined in a dreamily distant vocal. But the part that sticks with you is how all manner of synth sounds shimmer in and out of focus, the aesthetic turn that differentiates this new material from older Moon Duo.
Each new synth layer is elusive, fading in and fading out, coasting off into the ether repeatedly. You can immerse yourself in the dissipating waves of sound, or you can perceive it as if you’re passing by a song — only catching a glimpse while remaining in motion. Either way, it captures the casual, accidental beauty of those days when you step outside and suddenly see your everyday surroundings anew, vibrating. –Ryan
You know what feels a little bit like falling down a set of stairs, in a good way? Falling in love, and all of the giddiness and the euphoria and the terror and the pain that it brings. You know what else feels a little bit like falling down the stairs, in a good way? Listening to a New Pornographers song, every immaculate Carl Newman hook another step to smack you upside the head on your way down — all giddiness and euphoria, no terror and pain.
The New Pornos have been bruising us with their infectious bubblegum power-pop for nearly two full decades now, and if “Falling Down The Stairs Of Your Smile” is any indication, they’re not planning on stopping any time soon. Like all of their best songs, “Falling Down The Stairs” is immediately catchy but deceptively complex. On your first listen, Neko Case’s chorus is the big moment. On your 10th, when you realize that the entire song is constructed out of those moments, you’ll fall down that staircase all over again. –Peter
Melina Duterte has a way of making struggling to get by sound breezy. Her latest Jay Som song, “Nighttime Drive,” is about being constantly on the road, the steady odometer ticking toward a destination yet unseen. It’s about finding stillness when you’re constantly moving, looking forward to the small events that provide definition to an otherwise rote existence. “Constructing shallow dreams of/ Shoplifting at the Whole Foods,” she imagines. And while cruising through the night on the way to your next tour stop may not be universally relatable, the feeling of drudging through life certainly is, as each day bleeds into the next and you’re just trying to settle in for the long haul. –James
There’s a line from the Simpsons I’ve always felt a profound connection to. Marge is urging Homer to take her out on the town, to which Homer retorts, “What’s the point of going out? We’re just going to wind up back here anyway.” As is the case with many Simpsons quips, there’s an underlying sense of comfort in the mundanity of American life and the fleeting nature of its entertaining moments.
Atlanta singer-songwriter Faye Webster echoes this sentiment in “Both All The Time.” Her despair is more apparent than Homer’s; suspended in melancholy, she sighs, “I don’t get the point of leaving my house / Cause I always come back.” A pedal steel twang and saxophone interlude paint her as a lone cowboy, “reading the same book, cause [she] know[s] how it ends.” A triangle ding transports her back to reality, alone at the end of the night, drinking beer in the shower. –Julia
D’Angelo! This song has D’Angelo on it! The elusive R&B genius took 14 years to release Black Messiah, and he’s only released one song in the five years since. That alone makes “Ibtihaj” an event. And yet D’Angelo isn’t even the focus here; his presence is a flex and an endorsement. At least in part, he and GZA are here to join the loud chorus of living legends offering Rapsody their cosign.
The respect is mutual. “Ibtihaj,” the lead single from Rapsody’s new album Eve, is full of shout-outs to classic hip-hop. Most obviously, in the grand hip-hop tradition, she borrows the beat from GZA’s “Liquid Swords” and lays claim to it with a casually commanding flurry of bars. She also gives lyrical dap to Gang Starr, Jay-Z, Roxane Shante, Lady Of Rage, Queen Latifah, and of course Wu-Tang, in the process affirming she belongs in that lineage.
Not to be outdone, soon GZA’s on the mic putting his own imprint back on 9th Wonder’s “Liquid Swords” flip. He begins, “When I’m so off the radar, it’s very hard to find me/ In space, a selfie with the Earth behind me.” More verbal fireworks ensue: “Weaving wonder with words as potent as a sorcery/ Not witchcraft, but a list of terms in the glossary.” For a certain kind of music fan, a song like this is five minutes in paradise. If the rest of Rapsody’s record is on the same level, she’s gonna have a masterpiece on her hands. –Chris