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.
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— Mark Wahlberg (@markwahlberg) May 15, 2015
The five best songs of the week are below.
Jarvis Cocker has a long history of grappling with the tension between hedonism and transcendence, the distance between (and overlap of) nightlife’s release and losing yourself to self-destruction. The fallout and comedown were always present even in Pulp’s poppier moments — from the bleary-eyed “Razzmatazz” to looking askance at the supposed communal utopia of a festival in “Sorted For E’s And Wizz.” With This Is Hardcore, the whole party came crashing down, now just lasciviousness standing in the corner, all the gloss long since worn off.
Like that album’s “Party Hard,” Cocker’s new JARV IS… track “House Music All Night Long” actually turns to the concept and forms of party music to depict haggard, defeated isolation. Sounding like an aged version of something that could’ve appeared on His ‘N’ Hers, “House Music All Night Long” features Cocker singing over eerie synths and a strung-out echo of funk and dance elements. Musically, he’s tapping into a rich vein of his songwriting, crafting something that is brooding and compelling, yet still catchy. Narratively, it plays like someone trying to reclaim a depleted joy, returning to the past and to the reliability of a music once promising freedom, but still ending up saying “Goddamn this claustrophobia.” When that house beat finally thumps to life in the song’s back stretch, he’s dancing alone. –Ryan
After exhausting the general public with the bloated extremes of her Artpop era, Lady Gaga spent half a decade pursuing a quote-unquote authentic roots-rock reboot, first with the noble quasi-flop Joanne and then with the smash hit A Star Is Born soundtrack. This phase yielded classics like “Shallow” and underrated gems like “Perfect Illusion,” but it had gone as far as it could go. The time was right for Gaga to return to the ostentatious club pop that made her a star.
Back-to-basics turns from superstar musicians sometimes feel like futile attempts to recapture a magic that is never coming back. With “Stupid Love,” Gaga struts onto the dance floor and reclaims the vigor and pizzazz of her peak. Riding four-on-the-floor thump and violently sparkling synth undulations, she goes full diva again with ecstatic results. After verses that evoke a playful conversation with an old friend, Gaga lavishly bellows, “All I ever wanted was love,” stretching out the last syllable with all the glamor and grandeur you could want from a pop queen. By the time the chorus hits, she’s clearly back in her element and having a blast. It’s pop music, stupid. –Chris
At this point, the entire saga of the Dixie Chicks — the quick rise, the sudden fall, the Grammy-night revenge — feels like American folklore, and it comes perilously close to overwhelming the music that the trio made. So the real revelation of “Gaslighter” isn’t the tough-girls-sticking-together message, reportedly inspired by Natalie Maines’ divorce from Adrian Pasdar, the guy who plays Profit on Profit. It’s the sparkling craft that goes into that Dixie Chicks sound.
“Gaslighter” is the first new Dixie Chicks single in 14 years, and yet their approach — the big hooks, the tight harmonies, the traditional instruments played with bright and vengeful flair — hasn’t aged at all. On the song, the trio locks right back into that old sound once again, their banjos and fiddles and aah-aah harmonies gleaming as bright as they ever did. “Gastlighter” works just fine within the context of the larger Dixie Chicks story. It works better as a reason to turn the car radio up loud. –Tom
Jessie Ware is a diva again, and the world is a better place for it. Starting with the release of “Overtime” at the tail end of 2018, Ware has been pivoting away from tasteful soul-pop torch songs and back towards the dancefloor-oriented club music that she first made her name on. Pretty much every song she’s put out since then has been an absolute banger, and “Spotlight” is no exception.
The song finds the middle ground between both halves of Jessie Ware’s persona, giving the tender heartbreak ballad of its opening moments an ebullient disco makeover that hits every note and every beat perfectly. “I just wanna stay in moonlight/ This our time in the spotlight,” she sings in the chorus, and with songs like this, she deserves every second of that spotlight. –Peter
Each song that HAIM have shared from their upcoming Women In Music Pt. III has been a reminder of what made the California sister trio so exciting in the first place. Days Are Gone was so magnificent because of the way it effortlessly blended decades worth of influences into effervescent pop songs. They got a little tentative, and lost a little bit of that magic, on their sophomore album, but these latest are confident and assured in a whole new way.
“The Steps” is big and brash and a little sloppy, filled with tinny drums and twangy guitars that recall ’90s radio country and gleaming ’70s rock. It’s goofy fun, but they take their fun seriously. “The Steps” is a song about trying to meet in the middle but just finding yourself further apart. It boasts a breezy bridge where Danielle Haim sits down and tells it like is: “If you go left/ And I go right/ Hey, maybe that’s just life sometimes.” But it seems that whatever direction HAIM go in lately, they strike gold. –James