The 5 Best Songs Of The Week
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.
If there’s any silver lining to what’s going on in the world right now, we all have a lot of time on our hands, and we have to get creative with it. And, naturally, a good way to fill that time is listening to music. Are you revisiting old favorites? Are there certain artists you never got into, but you’re now making your way through the catalog? Let’s talk about it in the comments. In the meantime, the five best songs of the week are below.
Yaeji’s new mixtape is a whole mood. It’s a sketchbook of ideas that were made in Kathy Lee’s new Brooklyn studio, a place that must’ve been a respite during the two years in which Yaeji became one of the biggest names in dance music. It sounds like it’s constantly in motion, little shuffles marked by collaborators flitting in and out. It’s oddly fitting that it drops at a time when the entire world is at a standstill, when we have no choice but to listen to this music that’s constantly searching for an outside connection while we’re all sitting at home. It was intended to be heard from headphones on a rumbling subway, or in sweaty, packed nightclubs, but Yaeji’s music has always pushed the interior outward.
“WHAT WE DREW 우리가 그려왔던,” the mixtape’s title track, feels like a mist of refreshing water, with Yaeji singing in Korean about all of those that have helped her along the way. “Right now/ Thanks to the ones that walk alongside me/ I can continue on,” she sings, translated into English. “The things I drew/ I’ve created that world/ With the people I love.” It’s about crafting your own wacky world with your friends, taking pleasure in the art of creating around other creative people. That world still exists, and we’re figuring out new ways to access it, turn physical into virtual for now. Yaeji’s music provides some much-needed space to figure all that out. –James
Tense is important. “Te Quería” is Spanish for “I loved you” — past tense. On the song, Lido Pimienta, the Colombian-Canadian singer-songwriter, sings about the resentment that comes from getting out of a toxic relationship, from trying to figure out what the fuck the other person’s problem was. “Tu por fin me necesitabas,” she sings. “Y después no me tuviste en cuenta.” Or: “Finally, you needed me, but you didn’t take me into account.”
But for all the hurt and anger in her words, there’s none in the music. Pimienta co-produced “Te Quería” with her collaborator Prince Nifty, and the two of them work up a joyous, bubbly piece of music. Steel drums and horns and airy synth tones wrap themselves around each other, pushing and needling and floating on air. It’s a wonderful piece of pop-music alchemy, a song that’s happy and sad at the same time. –Tom
Drugs can be bad for you, sure. But sometimes, you just want to feel better. “I know love is a drug, I know money is a drug/ I know sex can be a drug, but I just wanna be touched,” Lorely Rodriguez repeats over and over again on “Love Is A Drug,” seemingly addicted to the words themselves, layering her voice over top of itself in a robotic echo. And the music is just as addictive as the subject matter, a sleek, persistent club-music thump punctuated by watery synth stabs.
But as with so many Empress Of songs, there’s a bruised, beating heart beneath the glossy dance-music sheen. “Takes time, it all takes time/ I always give myself to someone else not aligned,” Rodriguez sings before launching into the chorus again, alluding to a vague past heartbreak: “It’s hard to gaze another way/ Convince myself I’m in the moment/ I know the fall might’ve been worse/ But now the rain is overflowing.”
“Love Is A Drug” isn’t just a fun “I want to have sex song.” It’s a “distract myself from my feelings with sex” song. “I know time runs low and your mind gets slow/ I don’t wanna take it easy, take my mind on a run,” Rodriguez concludes in the outro. There’s a lot of stuff in the world you might want to distract yourself from right now, too. Luckily, Empress Of has got just the song for that: “Love Is A Drug” is the perfect drug. –Peter
In the first verse of “Only Children,” Jason Isbell alludes to an experience familiar to anyone who’s lost a friend too young, or even anyone who, for some life reason or another, has been irrevocably separated from a friend. “Every kid in cutoffs could be you,” he sings, echoing those moments when, for a split second, you swear you see that friend’s face in the crowd, across the street, through a restaurant window. Maybe Isbell doesn’t mean it that way for himself; maybe he’s just immediately being brought back to the past. But the idea is the same: seeing phantoms on any given day.
For Isbell, the moment digs up old memories, snapshots that then lead up to the friend’s funeral. There’s a tension between the verses and title, and the song’s conclusion — glimpses of a fragile and fracturing innocence, tumbling headlong into the real life twists and devastations that come later. Isbell is gifted at that, conveying the weight of reckonings. And “Only Children,” as ever, finds him further down the road, singing a gorgeous little meditation, trying to make a little sense of what’s gone on. –Ryan
If releasing a 17-minute meditation on the JFK assassination in 2020 feels counterintuitive even by Bob Dylan standards, pulling it out of the vault when people have time to sit with it makes a certain kind of sense. And the more I sit with “Murder Most Foul,” the more I love it.
This isn’t the first time Dylan has gone long on a major historical event, seasoning it with asides and nonsequiturs. The man invented Mark Kozelek. (He invented a lot of things.) But both the timing and substance of “Murder Most Foul” ensure it stands out: an icon standing somewhere near the end of a peerless career, flashing back on a history intertwined with his own, creating a discursive and elliptical alternate-universe “We Didn’t Start The Fire” pierced through with melancholy.
Perversely, not only is “Murder Most Foul” 17 minutes long, it spends those 17 minutes floating in place. It spans decades and goes nowhere. The music is a two-chord vamp with no drumbeat, speckled with piano flourishes, subtly erratic percussion, and mournful swelling strings. You feel like you’re suspended within Dylan’s memory, immersed in a notoriously private artist’s deeply personal nostalgia. The effect is so mesmerizing, so intoxicating, that every time I come to the end of it I’m stunned it’s already over — and then I usually circle back and start again. –Chris