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.
In the past couple days the headlines turned from warnings of the next big recession to the fact that our president is focusing his energy on … trying to buy Greenland. Another hell of a week in the simulation! The five best songs of the week are below.
Forty-one years later, John Carpenter’s score for his 1978 film Halloween still resonates. The entire genre of Altanta trap production is basically just variations on a sound — Carpenter’s eerie minor-key synths, now paired with hi-hat tics and 808 bass booms. And the new single from clipping., the great experimental rap trio, works as a meditation on that sound; the lyric video itself is a riff on the Halloween opening credits. But the lyrics describe something out of another Carpenter film: Assault On Precinct 13.
In Carpenter’s original Assault, the villains were silent and anonymous gang members, moving like death and attempting to slaughter everyone in a cut-off police station. On “Nothing Is Safe,” that reverses. Now, the police are assassins, as the gang kids desperately and hopelessly fight to stay alive. In his breathless fast-rap narration, Daveed Diggs tells a second-person story about a trap house where bullets are raining down everywhere, on everyone. It’s a tense, chilling story, rendered with cinematic verve, and it’s also a canny homage to a beautiful cinematic legacy. –Tom
Another new Rosalía song, and once again it’s fucking money, man. With “Con Altura,” she hopped on a reggaeton beat with J Balvin and scored her biggest hit yet. With “Yo x Ti, Tu x Mi” she’s spun the wheel of urbano superstars again and landed on Ozuna. The reggaeton vibes return, but this time they’re warmer and hazier, voracious passion rendered as a slinky steel-drum fever dream. In some ways it’s a far cry from El Mal Querer, but the song’s final sighing moments reveal how much her pop moves have in common with the high art that made her a star in the first place. –Chris
Big Thief are really not fucking around. Instead of riding the wave of having released one of the most acclaimed albums of the year, they’re returning with another new collection just months later. And rather than B-sides or leftover demos culled from the same sessions as U.F.O.F., Two Hands is a full-fledged work — intended as both counter-narrative and companion to its predecessor.
“Not” is a hell of a way to introduce that new album. After U.F.O.F.‘s intricate, meditative beauty enraptured critics and fans alike, “Not” is a roiling, fraying rock song, a totally different side of the band’s personality. Adrianne Lenker’s raw performance pushes her typically elusive vocals to their most ragged extremes; the band’s delivery is something like art school Crazyhorse; the whole thing is as desperate and cathartic as the bulk of U.F.O.F. was pristine and enigmatic. Big Thief have long been elemental. This time around, they’ve leaned deep into the fire. –Ryan
Alex Giannascoli doesn’t disguise his demons, he nurtures them. His songs build worlds around them. But on “Southern Sky,” the latest single from his forthcoming House Of Sugar, they’re stifled beneath artificial bliss. This world is idyllic with an eerie underbelly. A crooked piano melody introduces Alex G’s shimmering, strings-laden introspection: “When I wake up I am smiling/ Now I will not change my mind/ I will remember the trouble in my brother’s eye.” A singsong chorus interrupts him before he digs too deep: “It’s okay, we don’t cry, we love the southern sky.” Switching from earnest and rootsy to strained and cheerful, the song momentarily takes on the cadence of a nursery rhyme. Alex G self-soothes with his fingers in his ears, blocking out the darkness with the blind optimism of a child. –Julia
Jenny Hval songs tend to get stuck on a phrase. With a more conventional songwriter, you might call this a chorus, but she has always made these recurrences sound like incantatory thought loops. On “High Alice,” the second single from The Practice Of Love, that phrase is “must be drawn to something.” Hval switches between points of view, so that they, we, I are all tied together in their collective search for definition.
She frames this search through Alice In Wonderland fabulism; we follow Hval through the looking-glass as she is drawn to these familiar childhood peculiarities: the queen, the clock, the ocean. Hval says this High Alice is “sketching out her rabbit hole,” drawing in shades of her own being. “We all want something better,” she sings, her music floating deeper and deeper into the subconscious. –James