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.
Daniel Kaluuya is making a fucking Barney movie, in case you needed another reminder that we are living through the most truly unhinged timeline. The five best songs of the week are below.
Julien Baker knows how to build a song. “Tokyo,” like many of the best Julien Baker songs, starts out modestly — a looping arpeggio, a downcast guitar riff, and Baker’s powerful yet vulnerable vocals. “Don’t wanna stay here/ But I’ll crash anyway/ Never learned how to come down without burning up on the runway,” she sings, imbuing her inner struggle with a visceral physical weight. “God, it’s a mess/ A seven-car pileup of every disastrous thing that I’ve been.” Joined by insistently plinking piano and martial drums, her voice grows to a distant howl: “You want love/ This is as close as you’re gonna get/ Not enough/ Just as much as you think you can live with.” It’s another moment that hits like a body hurtling through a windshield. –Peter
Both solo and as a member of bands like Samaris and Gangly, Jófríður Ákadóttir has consistently been a homegrown highlight at Iceland Airwaves. Because she’s from Reykjavik, it’s easy to hear echoes of Björk and Sigur Rós in her music; it hints at that same alien quality that seems to flicker around music from her country like the Northern Lights. Staying within that same iconic lineage, there are also traces of solo Thom Yorke in the subtly propulsive electronic beat that transforms “Taking A Part Of Me” from a brooding ballad into something grander and more powerful.
Yet despite apparently pulling inspiration from so many otherworldly talents, the song feels deeply human at its core thanks to Ákadóttir’s vocal performance. With a disarming straightforwardness, she rephrases the old adage that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, ultimately transcending her wounds and fragility to soar higher and higher. HYFR JFDR! –Chris
What the fuck is Beck doing releasing this song in autumn. Almost everything about “Uneventful Days” screams lazy, pretty summer jam. From its synth arrangement dancing like fireflies, to its recurring lyrics about days and nights both uneventful and never-ending, it’s the kind of lightly trippy song you’d play late on a humid evening, thinking about how the middle of the year seemed to stretch on infinitely when you were younger.
There is also something twilit and mournful about it, too, however. In between the repetition of “Never-ending days/ Never-ending nights” — the loop of it mimicking the way time indistinguishably blurs when one day bleeds into the next without much seeming to change — Beck’s lyrics sketch out a minor crisis, days only uneventful as they seem to be on the cusp of something breaking. So maybe it’s well-timed after all: a floating little meditation, arriving in that final passage of a year when you start to look back and think about what, if anything, is new as another marker on the calendar passes. “Uneventful Days,” at the very least, injects some color into those moments. –Ryan
Record stores barely exist anymore, and yet I can’t shake the image of some poor clerk staring at a Sudan Archives record and trying to figure out what genre to file it under. Take “Glorious”: a bottom-heavy beat, a distorted crunch of guitar, a violin line that sounds like Romany folk music, backing vocals that could’ve come from a gospel record or a spiritual. Cincinnati rapper D-Eight shows up with a verse about money and the mental weight of not having enough of it, but his verse is pure hardnosed ’90s-rap shit. And then there’s Brittany Parks herself, her voice floating up and over her own track like a mirage. “Focus on the bottom line,” she breathes. But when a twisty, mercurial groove like this is playing it’s hard to focus on anything. –Tom
Ghetto Sage solidified around the chemistry of a late-night performance, but the partnership between Noname, Saba, and Smino has roots much earlier: on “Ace” and “Shadow Man,” songs from Noname’s last two projects, and even earlier than that, during open mics and in creative spaces that I’d imagine are absolutely suffocating with talent.
I’m sure that’s why “Häagen Dazs” feels like a casual game of oneupmanship that goes down like a warm Midwest breeze, culminating in a stellar verse from Noname where she conflates sex and activism and trying to lose yourself in bodies and warmth. “Häagen Dazs” is a little less cohesive than their other team-ups, but they’re unhurried to prove themselves as a unit — they already have. –James