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.
Welcome to the final 5 Best not just of the year, but of the decade! We’ll see you all again in 2020, but until then, the best songs of the week are below.
We don’t get enough indie rock prom ballads. There’s nothing revolutionary about Shannon Lay’s heart-rending new single “Blue.” It’s a slow, gorgeous love song. “I will love you till my hair turns blue,” Lay sings — calm, matter-of-fact, reassuring. Behind her, the guitars have just the right level of reverb and sustain. The contemplatively bluesy electric piano solo arrives at just the right moment. The key change kicks you in the heart, just the way you might hope it would. It’s a beautiful song that never tries to be anything other than a beautiful song. It’s six minutes long, and if it was longer, nobody would complain. You could slow dance to this song. When was the last time you heard a new song that you could slow dance to? –Tom
Dark Thoughts are one of those bands that do what they do so well that they make it all seem effortless. But Must Be Nice, the Philly band’s third album worth of bread-and-butter punk, works hard for its anthems. The album’s title and closing track is about searching for the right words to know that you’re appreciated. It’s boosted by a keyboard and Jim Shomo’s marble-mouthed vocals, building to a crisp bridge that will no doubt get rooms singing along in communal isolation: “It’s so easy to be lonely/ It’s so hard to be loved.” We love you, Dark Thoughts. Keep doing what you’re doing. –James
Man, Speedy Wunderground is really on a roll. Led by producer Dan Carey, the label has been reliably presenting a whole new exciting generation of English musicians, artists like Squid and Black Midi who often exist on some kind of post-punk/art-rock spectrum. But now there’s also PVA, another buzzy up-and-coming act that’s doing something similar to their peers but also tapping into a slightly different history.
Like Squid’s “The Cleaner,” PVA’s new single “Divine Intervention” is like a mash-up of the past. In its synths there’s new wave with serrated edges, in Ella Harris’ deadpan delivery there’s an art-y no wave tint; it feels indebted to early ’80s Europe and mid-’00s Brooklyn in equal measure. PVA took all of that and crafted an addicting track that balances danceability and meditation. Its name might allude to godliness, but it’s a song about coming to a new realization of yourself after — fittingly enough — sifting through the past and memories. And while there’s no big climax, no one moment of revelation, the insistence of “Divine Intervention” tells the story well — a process steadily pushing forward towards a matter-of-fact self-renewal. –Ryan
Stormzy’s new album is called Heavy Is The Head, an allusion to his royal status within the world of British music. “Audacity” is a reminder of why he wears the crown, and of the burdens that come with it. The South London rapper is a versatile artist, but he sounds goddamn invincible when stomping all over heavy bass, violently thudding digital kickdrums, and subtly swirling orchestral drama. It helps that he’s coming in hot thanks to all the “likkle fish” who want to “try ting” now that he’s on top: “I got girl in my inbox sendin’ me eyes/ Livin’ on the edge ’til the end of our lives/ Wolf in a sheepskin tellin’ me lies/ Sometimes I love when my enemy dies.” It’s easy to imagine his foes evaporating upon impact — or getting so swept up in the bedlam that all they can do is pay their respects to the king. –Chris
Kaytranada’s last album was called 99.9%. His newest single is called “10%.” If you add those together, you get 109.9%, which is the approximate probability that you will move at least one part of your body while listening to his music. “10%” feels lighter than air with its euphoric synth ripples, and Kali Uchis, who’s worked with Kaytranada in the past, knows exactly how to use her voice to float on top of his production like smoke. But the song’s thick rubbery bassline and insistently thumping beat keep things from floating off entirely, grounding you in the here and now of the dancefloor. “You keep on takin’ from me/ But where’s my 10%?” Uchis sings. She and Kaytranada are definitely giving us more than 10% on this one. –Peter