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.
We’ve spent all week looking back at the 2010s. In the meantime, the music world kept turning and plenty of new songs arrived — a little rude, frankly, because we are exhausted tbh. The five best of them are below.
New Years Eve, traditionally, is a time to take stock, to figure out the parts of yourself that you want to change. It is also, traditionally, a time to be shitfaced drunk. These two things do not always go together. Twenty-two years ago, on the Dismemberment Plan’s “The Ice Of Boston,” Travis Morrison sang about being alone and desperate in a strange city on the big night — spending midnight naked, covered in champagne, staring at strangers out the window, talking to his mom on the phone.
Nothing so apocalyptic happens on Lucy Dacus’ “Fool’s Gold,” but she does end a party at her own house by drinking champagne dregs alone, which is not that much better. It’s a lost lament, a confidently florid swoop of a song about all the scapegoats we rely on: “He’ll blame the alcohol, and you’ll blame the full moon / She’ll blame the fall of man, and I’ll blame the evening news.” Suddenly, old acquaintance being forgot doesn’t sound so bad. –Tom
Truth in advertising: “Grim” is pretty grim. Wiki, Denzel Curry, and Lil Ugly Mane are all successful rappers, but the Grim Reaper doesn’t give a shit about your successful rap career; death is coming for us all, baby.
To Wiki, that inevitability becomes a reason to live your life: “Once this advance hit, take a 30 grand hit/ Bank account damaged, I’mma get some jewels/ Ain’t no sense in savin’, rent to be paid in.” To Lil Ugly Mane, it’s a looming specter of unfulfilled potential: “Floatin’ down the River Styx, countin’ daffodils/ Ignorin’ all these e-mails from Complex and Mass Appeal/ Thinkin’, ‘If I wasn’t such a pussy, I’d have had a deal’/ When I die, play my failure on the blooper reel.” To Denzel Curry, it’s almost a relief from the endless despair of life: “Tellin’ myself that I be fine, it’s the point where it’s scariest/ Carried this burden, for certain, I just need a surgeon/ To take away all my emotions…Only time I count sheep is when a nigga six feet.” To us, it’s a killer song. –Peter
Grief takes you to some intense places, therefore so does “Bracer.” Katie Gately’s new album Loom was inspired by the death of her mother and the darkness that followed, and its 10-minute lead single journeys deep into the heart of that darkness.
It’s more a suite than a song, a series of loosely connected movements haunted by the same harrowing spirit. Sometimes her sorrow manifests itself in beauty, as when Gately hypnotically repeats, “I was about a silly man’s string.” But even those more accessible passages are eerie, and they’re increasingly swallowed up by terror, until it all ends in a horrific peal of strings. It’s a rewarding listen — just brace yourself before pressing play. –Chris
Well, this was unexpected. If you’re going to cover the Waterboys, “The Whole Of The Moon” is a wise choice — it’s a hell of a song, a standout from their 1985 release This Is The Sea, the album on which they perfected their original Big Music sound and which preceded their other masterpiece, 1988’s Fisherman’s Blues. Aside from the latter album’s title track becoming a new Celtic folk standard, “The Whole Of The Moon” is probably the Waterboys’ most recognizable song. It’s just not a song one might’ve expected to receive a Fiona Apple cover treatment in 2019.
However the specifics worked out — Apple contributed her rendition for the closing credits of The Affair’s finale, which opened with the Waterboys version, so it might’ve been the showrunners’ choice — she took a beloved song from a cultishly-beloved band and sang it the way only Fiona Apple could sing it. Her vocals are gloriously raspy throughout, turning the wistful distance of the original to a fried, desperate sense of being fed up, or defeated. Her touch here is often gorgeous, like how she pushes into the deepest gravel of her voice, grows tremulous as she sings “You know how it feels to push too high/ Too far,” and then is answered by the worn swoon of a pedal steel.
And each little tweak of the Waterboys’ formula is interesting — when the beat dustily shuffles to life instead of replicating any kind of booming ’80s snare, the fact that she keeps the trumpet fanfare but counters it with a ragged, intense reading of the song’s outro. It feels like a minor miracle, like much of anything we hear from her. And if you can imagine a new album where a post-Idler Wheel Fiona Apple has been jamming the Waterboys a bunch? That really sounds like a miracle. –Ryan
Jessie Ware knows how to make you move. She’s been doing it for years. “Don’t stop moving together,” she intones on her latest single. “Keep on dancing.” “Mirage (Don’t Stop)” is grounded by a sticky bass line that’s impossible not to move along to, fulfilling Ware’s command to do just that. Ware understands the dance floor’s capacity for self-preservation and reinvention, and she builds songs that facilitate moments of sweaty transcendence.
“Last night we danced and I thought you were saving my life,” she sings. The British singer took a bit of a detour into smoldering, loungey music over the last few years, but her most recent singles have her back in the club where she belongs, and we couldn’t be luckier. “Mirage (Don’t Stop)” isn’t flashy or showy, and it doesn’t have to be — it’s an undeniable groove. Ware knows what she wants and she knows how to get it: constant motion, ecstasy among the strobing lights. –James