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 reached the point where a bunch of Americans are afraid of coronavirus so they are … not buying Corona beer. If you were looking for something from this week to make you feel better about 2020, sorry to disappoint. Perhaps the five best songs of the week will offer some better solace. Check them out below.
Nineteen-year-old Jordana Nye has been throwing excellent slices of folky bedroom-pop up on the internet for years now. But her debut album Classical Notions Of Happiness — officially out next month after being self-released last year — is looking like it’s going to be a real level-up moment, and nothing demonstrates that more than its killer closing track “Crunch.” It’s an apt title, as “Crunch” shifts away from the folkier leanings of her early work into a punchy, hooky, supremely confident form of ’90s-indebted indie rock — in 7/4, no less. No matter where or how it was made, this is the kind of song that’s too big to be contained by a bedroom. –Peter
Throughout the new purple moonlight pages, R.A.P. Ferreira often comes off like a beat poet, kicking out common sense that hits like sideways wisdom when accompanied by the Jefferson Park Boys’ soul-jazz abstractions. He has a lot to say, and the way he chooses to say it usually sounds incredible. “Leaving Hell” is his treatise about dropping out of rap’s rat race, the “twisted world where artists bend backwards for benefactors/ And victims are to be blamed as bad actors.” It’s a statement of purpose that casually blurs the line between poetry and polemic.
Ferreira rose to underground acclaim recording and performing as Milo, an alter ego he laid to rest after 2018’s phenomenal budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies. Rather than retiring from music, he’s now rapping under his real name, Rory Allen Philip Ferreira. “Leaving Hell” suggests the name change is a highly charged gesture, a way of casting off the trappings of the music industry in pursuit of some deeper artistic purity. “Wandered wearily for several eternities/ Gaining acclaim, using fake names,” he raps. “Vanishing by sunrise, committing to the wisdom of the unwise/ In buildings where if I wasn’t a performer, they wouldn’t let me past the foyer.”
Against a shapeshifting backdrop that morphs from boom-bap to intergalactic jazz and into some nether region between them, Ferreira spends “Leaving Hell” lending fresh vibrance to well-worn critiques of art become commerce. Notions about creativity for its own sake feel fresh again because he’s delivering them with personalized conviction, drunk on the liberty that comes from making music on your own terms. If not for fame and fortune, why bother with this rap shit at all? “To witness true wonder, that’s the reason.” Delivered via a song this good, the argument proves itself. –Chris
“Can’t Cool Me Down” suggests a fresh, essential new sound for Will Toledo’s Car Seat Headrest, a reinvention after years refining the sound that first earned him acclaim and devout fans. Parts of it remind me of Hissing Fauna-era of Montreal, especially in the “Hey, we’re not supposed to be here!” chant of the bridge. Toledo subs in smooth synths for his traditionally jagged guitars, sounding icily cool but retaining all the fiery intensity of the songs he’s built the project on.
“Is it only practice for the real thing?” he asks himself. He’s still facing the same personal demons — inadequacy, a failure to adapt, the inability to control his own emotions — but he’s choosing a new weapon to confront them with, and maybe in that new sound there’s some chance at catharsis. Guess we’ll have to wait for the rest of Making A Door Less Open to find out. –James
In the past few years, Phoebe Bridgers has emerged as a truly great indie rock celebrity: a liquid and intuitive collaborator, an expert player of the social-media game, a fun person to have around. She’s such an outsized personality that it can be hard to remember how small and elliptical her music can be. “Garden Song,” her first proper solo single in a very busy few years, is a reminder.
Musically, “Garden Song” is hushed and intimate — a delicately fingerpicked acoustic guitar, a few murmuring strings, a close-mic’ed vocal that sounds like it’s half-whispering in your ear. Musically, it’s strange and funny and sometimes uncanny. The lyrics nod toward sadness and nostalgia and the heartbreaking passage of time, but they also go off on tangents about dreams and roses the struggle to escape the gravitational pull of your phone. And amidst all that, she’ll come up with a goosebump line that can hit out of nowhere: “The doctor put her hands on my liver/ She told me my resentment’s getting smaller.” Bridgers is a rising star, and she could do anything she wants right now. She’s chosen to give us this quiet, elusive shadow-dancer of a song. Good for her. –Tom
The music of Perfume Genius has undergone several evolutions in the 10 years since Mike Hadreas has been releasing music under the moniker. From piano-based confessionals in his earlier days to the brooding electronic mutations of Too Bright, to the grand and shimmering No Shape, Hadreas has kept driving towards a sound ever more ambitious, ever more intricate. Most recently, “Eye In The Wall” — which also ranked at the top of this column when it was released — suggested he had grown no less exploratory, the pristine arrangements of his recent albums now applied to a nocturnal, enigmatic dance track.
Still, little could have prepared us for “Describe,” the lead single from the fifth Perfume Genius album and a song in which Hadreas locates a sound approaching something like shoegaze-Americana. All the glistening sounds of No Shape are aggressively burned away, replaced by a caustic, roiling distorted guitar and primal rhythm. Slide guitars act like smeared, unreadable thoughts; Hadreas himself is almost consumed by the festering noise with which he’s surrounded himself.
Hadreas said he wrote the song about the moment when “you are in such a dark place that you don’t even remember what goodness is or what anything feels like. And so, the idea was having someone describe that to you, because you forgot or can’t get to it.” There is indeed something numb about “Describe” at first, Hadreas’ voice lost in the murk as he pleads, “Can you describe them for me?” over and over, trying to regain connection with the life around him.
But “Describe” doesn’t get trapped in its own darkness — Hadreas’ cooing background vocals and flickering, liquid guitars beginning to cut through the frenzied haze, until the whole thing collapses into a quiet ambient outro. You could almost argue that ending is just another manifestation of the kind of depression that shuts you off from beauty, from everything. But that isn’t the end result with “Describe.” Instead, in exploring the lowest and most disenchanted of emotions, Hadreas emerged with another gorgeous Perfume Genius transformation — one that, far from making you feel nothing, makes you feel everything once more. –Ryan