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.
Listen to this man and stay the fuck home.
Can this Limerick man please do all the governments social distancing announcements from now on? pic.twitter.com/nBL6ZSc3HW
— The Blindboy Podcast (@Rubberbandits) March 27, 2020
The five best songs of the week are below.
“Sludge” exists closer to the psychedelic freakout end of Squid’s spectrum than any of the band’s preceding singles. We knew they had this in them — in addition to “The Cleaner” and “Match Bet,” their 2019 EP Town Centre featured some moody atmospheric sprawl — but there’s something potent when they indulge that side while also (just barely) wrestling it into the confines of a comparatively more direct composition. There’s a lot that makes “Sludge” stick in your head — the cowbell-aided beat, Ollie Judge’s melody sitting between drawl and frenzied yelp. But around that, the wah-wah guitar blurts turn into sputtering spirals, seasick synths pop up, and then the whole thing erupts into a frayed outro.
Through much of “Sludge,” Judge is singing of losing himself in a sort of narcotizing TV binge. “There’s a place I go where I’m all alone/ There’s a place I go where nobody knows/ On my bed/ One eye closed/ I’m fixated on the endless glow,” he sings in the first verse, referencing the “faces that I’ll never know.” It’s a little … too relatable amidst current events. And the shape of “Sludge” mirrors the experience: all of that input detritus piling up, melting into murk, and a final bug-eyed explosion to either cleanse an overloaded mind or to wake up a numbed one. –Ryan
Braids are absolute fucking masters of the miniature epic. All their albums have included massive setpieces — “Glass Deers” and the title track from Native Speaker, “In Kind” and “Together” on Flourish // Perish, “Miniskirt” from their last album. (That one’s a little shorter than the rest, but has the same effect.) They’re all among my favorite songs that Braids have done, and “Snow Angel” is worthy to sit next to them. The Canadian band save these sprawling songs for topics complicated enough to deserve their length. In this case, the track was written in the confusing and embittered days following the 2016 election when the world was upended.
It’s icy and frantic; it peaks in the middle, Raphaelle Standell-Preston breaking into a self-eviscerating spoken word piece that puts herself up as a sacrificial offering. She sings candidly about her own privilege, her own efforts to do something good that are never enough. “I recycle, I compost, I buy second-hand/ God, I’m disgusting/ Like that’s enough of a plan,” she spits. The music crests around her, gets muddled and ugly. “Stab her and watch her bleed!” she exclaims, putting herself up as a kind of modern guilt complex Joan Of Arc. The track moves into comedown mode, tries to find some calm in all of this chaos. “Can I get off this ride? I’m feeling dizzy, it’s moving way too fast,” she asks, but if recent history has proven anything it’s that the ride has only gotten faster and it’s impossible to slow it down. But for nine minutes on “Snow Angel,” Braids manage to capture all of that chaos, make it into something you can hear and feel. –James
The 1987 INXS smash “Need You Tonight” is an all-time karaoke banger — a breathy, funky shimmy that lets you hungrily pant about how badly you need to have sex right now. On her newest single, Dua Lipa and her producers (The Monsters & Strangerz, Andrew Watt) interpolate the jittery, insistent “Need You Tonight” bassline, using it for more complicated ends. Lyrically, “Break My Heart” is all about hesitation and second-guessing. It’s the inverse of “Need You Tonight”: You feel yourself being swept away by love and lust and immediacy, but you also worry about where this is going to lead, if it’s going to pull you straight into heartache. (If this ever bothered Michael Hutchence, he never showed it.)
Dua Lipa uses those sentiments in favor of a shivery disco banger, since shivery disco bangers are what Dua Lipa does. The beat pounds, the melody surges, and this could well turn out to be a karaoke jam in its own right. But in its club-pop excitement, it never sacrifices complexity. Dua Lipa is good at that — at making singalong jams out of confusing feelings. It’s a gift. –Tom
“As The Sun Sets” is pretty much the perfect title for a Sorry song. The young London band make dusky, beguiling music, sharply hooky indie rock suffused with a creeping sense of dread and ennui, the kind of thing that sounds like it should be wafting out of some smoky club stuck outside of time in one of David Lynch’s bizarro-worlds. And that’s exactly what you get on “As The Sun Sets.”
Asha Lorenz relates the story of bumping into an ex in a flat affectless mumble: “Then I bump into you/ And my cheeks get all rouged/ And I struggle to move/ You know I’m struggling too.” Set to Sorry’s paranoid, twilit guitar-pop, it sounds less like an awkward encounter and more like the end of the world as experienced by someone profoundly resigned to their fate. “As the sun sets I really wanna run into it,” Lorenz sings in the chorus, and it sounds so good you just might follow her. –Peter
After a furious flurry of output that saw them drop three albums in under three years, Run The Jewels have now gone even longer than that without a new release. Since RTJ3 dropped on Christmas Eve 2016, even guest features have been a rarity for El-P and Killer Mike. Silence is not a natural state for these unrepentant loudmouths, but scarcity has been good to them. At the peak of their exposure, the world might have taken a masterstroke like “Yankee And The Brave (Ep. 4)” for granted.
On the lead single from RTJ4, Run The Jewels came out swinging, and good lord is it glorious. Maybe the album will contain more of the tonal and structural experiments that marked their last outing. The duo’s other new track this week, the also-great “Ooh LA LA,” swerved into Golden Age hip-hop territory RTJ records have rarely explored, weaving a classic Gang Starr sample into their own fabric via El’s arsenal of air-raid-siren synths and drum-machine detonations. But they were wise to return with this quick dose of unrestrained bombast. After so much time away, the sound of Run The Jewels demolishing everything within earshot again is startling and invigorating.
“Yankee And The Brave” is RTJ at their finest: two best friends talking magnificent shit over noise-bombed boom-bap, maneuvering through a sonic warzone with offensive-lineman power and ballerina finesse. The track wastes no time getting started, bombarding you from the jump with some resounding Mike bars over signature El-P production-as-disruption. Really, it wastes no time period, getting in and out in two and a half minutes, leaving nothing but wreckage in its wake. The amount of craft crammed into these 156 seconds is remarkable.
Here’s Mike, treating the English language like his plaything: “Back at it like a crack addict, Mr. Black Magic, crack a bitch back, chiropractic Craftmatic, big daddy smokin’ big Cali in the black alley, in a black Grand Natty.” Here’s El, raging against the broken political machine: “Scandal bliss when you puttin’ villains in charge of shit/ All of us targeted, all we doin’ is arguin’/ Part of them isn’t workin’ ’til every pocket’s been picked and sold and harvested/ I’m ready to mob on these fuckin’ Charlatans.” By the end they’re tag-teaming a narrative about a standoff with crooked police and the value of preserving your life versus dying with honor, still spinning dizzying rhymes amidst the bedlam. It’s good to have them back. –Chris