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.
The Grammys feel like ancient history already, but it’s OK because we already have another Big Event Sunday this weekend with the Super Bowl. Billie Eilish will probably win that, too. The five best songs of the week are below.
“I can’t go on living this way,” Ruth Radelet sighs. She sounds like she’s singing about a devastating crush. She’s not. She’s probably not. On paper, the lyrics to “Toy” sound more like horror-movie stuff about a stalker: “Don’t close my eyes/ I don’t want to dream/ Don’t want to see your face in my nightmares.” This is the great duality of Chromatics. There’s a lovely old-school ’80s synth-pop romanticism to their music, and there’s also a dank, creeping sensation, like something could go wrong at any moment. On “Toy,” the elusive group indulges both sides of its sound at the same time, generating heat and shivers. –Tom
What a gnarled, heaving, chaotic mass of sound this is. “The Fool” sounds like all hell breaking loose and everything good being swallowed up. It sounds like a sentient being emerging out of the filth you’d scrape off the floor and the bar and the bathroom after a Bib show. It’s some of the most pigfuck hardcore I’ve ever heard, a violent swarm of noise and anger that makes most other music seem soft by comparison. Who is the fool in question? Who knows? Who cares! By virtue of its intelligibility, it works as a scorched-earth condemnation of whoever has earned your contempt, at a time when there is no shortage of such targets. –Chris
Braids songs are always a little theatrical and larger-than-life. They’re usually overwhelmingly sad or stressed or conflicted, but in the case of “Young Buck,” the band sounds overwhelmingly stuck. Bandleader Raphaelle Standell-Preston is horny and a little sad — not too sad, not world-ending sad, just sad enough that she trawls the Las Vegas strip at night to find someone to soothe her nerves, to lose in rippling physique and empty sex. “Make me go get my sex on,” Standell-Preston sings. “Go drinking tonight with a nice muscle guy/ The numbing kind/ Everyone needs a little numb once in a while.”
She immediately dismisses the act as “pointless,” but the song is warm and big and cascading enough that it justifies the feeling of just wanting to be loved for a little while. “It’s seeming so hard to ever be loved by you,” goes the chorus, emphasizing those last few words, be loved by you, if only for a moment. The best Braids songs make the most basic desires feel grand, feel valid, give them weight, and “Young Buck” certainly ranks among one of their best. –James
As soon as you hear the wall of fuzzed-out-beyond-recognition guitar that opens “Pill,” you think you know what it’s going to go — you could practically hear the background synth lacerations from the classic Loveless cut “Soon” just as much as the vocals that are actually there. But Peel Dream Magazine really exist at that cross-section between shoegaze, Britpop, and certain arty Euro-pop. “Pill,” the lead single from the project’s forthcoming sophomore album Agitprop Alterna, is equal parts My Bloody Valentine and Stereolab.
Led by Joe Stevens, Peel Dream Magazine make pop songs that are blurred and smeared to the outer limits of remaining a pop song. “Pill” rides along that incessant wave of distorted guitar and a nimble drumbeat, but then there’s the interlocking male and female vocals and ’60s keyboard drones. On one hand, it’s reminiscent of an bubbly-yet-urbane single from another time, but then Peel Dream Magazine obscure and manipulate it, injecting more grit while simultaneously dressing it up in heaving psychedelic swirls. That gives “Pill” an intoxicating vibe, but it isn’t all just vibes — it quickly becomes impossible to get out of your head. –Ryan
“Never Come Back” is a surprising Caribou track in that … it’s not really a surprising Caribou track. There aren’t any big twists or turns in store for you. It’s just a great classic house track that progresses exactly the way a great classic house track should — percussion and synth and piano chords layering themselves on top of each other until every last bit of sonic real estate is filled with that familiar euphoric thump, pushing you out to the dancefloor and up towards the sky. And you never come back.
What makes it special, though, is that it’s still a Caribou track. As good as Dan Snaith’s dancier Daphni material can be — extremely good — there’s an ineffable beating heart at the center everything he does as Caribou. Maybe it’s just his voice, soft-spoken and warm and seemingly incapable of insincerity, the deeply human element in the midst of all the electronics. On “Never Come Back,” that voice sketches out an affecting emotional throughline with precious few words beyond the titular mantra, picking up subtle new shades of meaning every time it rolls around.
In a statement that accompanied the release of the song, Snaith said that “Never Come Back” came together quickly and became the first track he finished for his new album Suddenly. “I felt like it was my job to get out of the way and not over complicate or over think it,” he wrote. “Sometimes the best pleasures are the simple ones.” He’s right, and “Never Come Back” is one of those pleasures. –Peter