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.
It has been an insane and disorienting couple of days, with shudders running through the music industry and a whole lot of indications that normal life is going to be on hold for a bit altogether. Stay safe out there. The five best songs of the week are below.
Over the years, Protomartyr have refined a blackened-earth strain of post-punk, gloomy music born in this country’s industrial wreckage, their oddly mesmerizing frontman a sort of town crier for the wasteland. They do that thing very well. But something we don’t talk about enough with Protomartyr is this other thing they can do, this capability to create crushing, foreboding rhythms built to soundtrack the world going to shit around you.
Like the seizing-machinery-lurch of “Wheel Of Fortune,” Protomartyr’s new single “Processed By The Boys” leans into that side of the band’s music. This time, the stuttering stomp of “Processed By The Boys” has a reverb effect on it that, rather than making Protomartyr’s music any more inviting, instead makes the whole thing sound like a chilly and claustrophobic affair. Protomartyr have always sounded fairly dystopian, and their new album is reportedly just as influenced by taking in the downward spiral outside and feeling sickened. “Processed By The Boys” is a manifestation of that experience — that rhythm doesn’t offer any release or catharsis, it’s just a huge coil growing tighter and tighter around you. –Ryan
Joensuu 1685 called their comeback single “Hey My Friend (We’re Here Again),” and everything else about it is nearly as simple, direct, and effective as the title. For six minutes, the song is little more than a series of resounding celestial booms, gargantuan chords echoing into the great wide open. From the center of this sonic cathedral, Mikko Joensuu lifts his voice heavenward, striking a balance between ceremonial grandeur and informal tenderness. Regal brass and piano further enhance the beauty. Then, in its waning moments, the song collapses into afterglow, as if it’s used up every last ounce of energy in service of the spectacle. It’s like Illinois-era Sufjan Stevens attempting a Spiritualized song, which is to say it’s spectacular. –Chris
Viagra Boys made their name on barely-controlled chaos, from the frenzied and corroded edges of their music to the self-destructive themes therein. Their new Common Sense EP was a surprise release, but the biggest surprise came in it the unexpectedly sobering reckoning of its title track. Almost everything about Viagra Boys gets recalibrated here.
“Common Sense” is a a festering cloud of a song, the saxophones no longer skronking cacophony but eerie blurts around the edges, guitars and synths melted into an amorphous backdrop. When the beat picks up, it’s a subtle gesture underlining the increasing intensity of the song. But all of that intensity is a sort of searching self-accounting, Sebastian Murphy singing about all the hedonism and repeatedly asking, “Why can’t I have a little common sense? Why don’t I realize that I might end up dead?” “Common Sense” is a hazy fog of a song, enveloping you — but then, as it goes, it starts to lift ever so slightly, like the band is not just fighting for a new sound but also for a slice of clarity in life. –Ryan
Yaeji turns just-barely-getting-by into a communal experience. “WAKING UP DOWN,” the lead single from her first full-length project, twists reminders to do the bare minimum into a hypnotic chant. “I got waking up down/ I got cooking down/ I got making a list and checking down,” Yaeji assures herself, taking life step-by-step so it doesn’t get too overwhelming. She’s a master of understated introversion, making songs that sound just as good throbbing in a foggy club as they do through headphones when you’re alone in your room. Her music is preternaturally chill and welcoming, and “WAKING UP DOWN” is an invitation to lock everything down together, one obstacle at a time. –James
“I can be anything,” Yves Tumor sings in the opening lines of “Kerosene!.” It’s true. Starting with some of the poppier cuts off of 2018’s Safe In The Hands Of Love and continuing with this year’s “Gospel For A New Century,” the mercurial electronic producer began reinventing himself as some kind of freaky experimental rock star for a freaky new era. And now, with “Kerosene!,” he’s gone full Prince. It’s glorious.
“Kerosene!” eases you into its sultry, psychedelic groove at first, Yves Tumor trading vocal lines with Beyoncé collaborator Diana Gordon. And then, like a lightning strike, a wailing guitar solo comes in and the whole song ignites, suddenly exploding outward into its full anthemic majesty. If Yves Tumor is making music like this, he can be whoever or whatever he wants. –Peter