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.
Can you believe the week actually ended with Jesus Is King!? Kanye, as usual, has a way of overshadowing anything else that’s happening, but there were some serious jams that arrived before his latest album. The five best songs of the week are below.
Illuminati Hotties’ new one-off is framed around New Year’s Eve, a holiday that can either represent a fresh slate or just another go-round on the same old shit wheel of life. Sarah Tudzin has it both ways on “ppl plzr,” getting her hopes up and then getting them deflated just as fast. “The downbeat of a brand-new year/ I’m still scared, you hardly care,” she sings. Her words come out in a matter-of-fact spillage, the song morphs to fit the narrative: pissed-off, sentimental, relentlessly driving forward. One of the best qualities of Illuminati Hotties’ excellent debut album from last year was how Tudzin could encompass so many different feelings all at once, and “ppl plzr” gets through a hell of a lot of mileage in just 2:42. –James
4. Polo G – “Icy Girl Remix”
Throughout Die A Legend, Polo G shows off his expertise with a particular sound, the heavily melodic evolution of Chicago drill music heard on his breakout hit “Pop Out.” If that’s all he could do, it would be enough to make him one of the most exciting new voices in rap. As it turns out, he can excel in other environments too. A few weeks ago he took his sing-songy laments to a Mustard production, and now he’s delivered a far more radical adjustment to his sound. On “Icy Girl Remix,” Polo G abandons bluesy melodic elements and just plain raps. Over a delightfully bouncy beat more reminiscent of the Bay Area than the Windy City — one co-produced by Zaytoven and Polo G himself — one of hip-hop’s great dark memoirists proves he can sound just as good flexing for the fun of it: “Remember it was dark now I’m the star that’s shining brightly/ I be doing me, don’t give a fuck if you don’t like me.” –Chris
Wiki is one of rap’s great yammerers — a Lower East Side urchin with a great drunken broken-teeth slur to his voice and a love of yelling about grimy New York shit over grimy New York beats. But on “Fee Fi Fo Fum,” Wiki finds the pocket. And it’s a hell of a pocket. Producer Tony Seltzer’s beat lurches and staggers, but it’s got a sense of grandeur that I tend to associate with shoegaze. Sitars drone. Harps flutter. A tidal keyboard melody comes in, searing and warping everything around it. And Wiki slides right in like a knucklehead millennial Ad-Rock, cracking about snotrockets and dandruff and Puerto Rican rum. It’s a peculiar kind of beautiful, but it’s beautiful all the same. –Tom
“Frail State Of Mind” hijacks the vocal melody of the 1975’s own “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” and takes it for a rainy nighttime drive through moodier territory. “Go outside? Seems unlikely/ I’m sorry that I missed your call,” Matty Healy sings over a shuffling UK garage beat and muted keyboard twinkles. “I watched it ring; ‘Don’t waste their time’/ I’ve always got a frail state of mind.” It’s a perfect encapsulation of the self-perpetuating cycle of social anxiety — but fortunately, that lack of adventurousness has never carried over to the 1975’s constantly surprising music. –Peter
Apparently the new wave phase Dan Bejar kicked off with his excellent 2017 release Ken is still going strong. “Crimson Tide,” our first preview of his forthcoming Have We Met, just sounds pristine. Immaculately produced, every element of the song sits perfectly — the bass pops, the little guitar and synth textures that enter as the song continues, those wistful piano melodies.
But this is Bejar we’re talking about: Even when he showcases a sharpened pop sensibility, he’s still drawing outside of the lines. As vibrant and propulsive as “Crimson Tide” is, it’s also Bejar’s skewed interpretation of synth-pop. His reedy voice dances around the confines of measures, delivering very Bejar lines like “I was like the laziest river … No wait, I take that back/ I was more like an ocean” or “She says ‘Get into the zone/ The zone is brimstone and wire.” The instrumental expands outwards in response, becoming an atmospheric mood piece. This is an epic by Destroyer standards, and it’s already easy to picture how effectively it might open Have We Met, the music nodding to the title as it becomes a current rushing forward. –Ryan