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 almost four full “weeks” of lockdown here in New York and “time” is very much starting to not make a ton of sense and once-clearly-demarcated-but-increasingly-arbitrary measurements like “days” are bleeding into one another quite a bit but supposedly another theoretical bracket of “time” necessary for this column has passed and supposedly songs came out during that “time,” and these are the five best of them.
Mike Haliechuk and Jonah Falco haven’t even gotten around to releasing the debut album from their new band Jade Hairpins — it comes out next month — but they’ve already fucked around and started another band. In Masterpiece Machine, the two Fucked Up members are joined by Riley Gale, lead bellower of Texan thrash demons Power Trip. They’ve taken the furthest-out sounds of Fucked Up’s far-out 2018 album Dose Your Dreams — the disco beats, the synth pulses, the very idea that hardcore and dance music and bleary space-rock could work together — and expanded them into a whole new band. “Rotting Fruit” is proof that this can work.
“Rotting Fruit,” the first song that Masterpiece Machine have released, sounds like shiny black leather and strobe light flashes and shaved heads with goggles strapped across them. It sounds like the music you hear at the near-future rave in the late-’90s sci-fi movie — the place where guys with mohawks and metal teeth dance around flaming oil drums. This is anthemic white-dreads-flying industrial body music — that real full-cheeseball shit. Guitars blare and twinkle. Bass rumbles. Drums pulse. Gale roars with gale-force intensity. It’s all shamelessly heavy in a silly and life-affirming and truly fun way. If we’re going to have an apocalypse, at least we’re getting some apocalypse music to go with it. –Tom
There’s a certain tension at the core of Gorillaz: The whole premise of the project is genre-collision and collaboration and a fluid, imaginative remix on what a “band” or “artist” is supposed to be. But in the end, Damon Albarn is the songwriter and architect, and in the end many of the best Gorillaz moments are when Gorillaz mostly functions as his synth-driven solo lane. There have been lightning strike pop confections like “Feel Good Inc.,” but for every song like that there’s gotta be a couple more where Albarn takes the lead and gives us one of his best songs — think “Tomorrow Comes Today,” think “On Melancholy Hill.”
“Aries” isn’t a completely solo endeavor — Albarn is joined by UK dance-pop artist Georgia on drums and Peter Fucking Hook on bass. Albarn leans way into the fact that Hook’s playing on this. The whole thing is propelled by Hook’s iconic bass aesthetic, with Albarn building a swooning synth-pop gem around it. “Aries” very much feels like a marriage of new wave and Albarn’s well-established tropes. His voice — as soothing as ever — murmurs through “Aries,” until he runs into a churning chorus of his own background vocals that cracks the song open. Like he often does, Albarn’s situating himself in a place that could be both euphoric and melancholic; a new wave backdrop only serves to help him amplify that. There have been moments in the history of Gorillaz where the music trips on the conceit. But then Albarn comes back out of nowhere with stuff like “Aries,” casual flashes of his moody pop genius. –Ryan
Lately, Charli XCX has been thinking about her True Romance era. Before this whole thing went down, she was planning special shows to pay tribute to her debut. That was an exciting time for Charli and Charli’s music. The songs that she put out back then came together quickly and were released just as soon. She’s getting back to recapturing that spontaneous magic with her new quarantine album, and we’re getting to see Charli’s process in real-time. “forever” was just a vague idea before this started — she did say it was one of the songs she started work on pre-quar — and that it all came together in a few days anyway is remarkable.
There’s nothing slapdash about “forever.” It feels like it’s a part of the compressed reality we’re all experiencing: being trapped in close to someone that you care about. It came together online, producers A. G. Cook and BJ Burton presumably trading off duties, which is why maybe the track sounds like it has two heads. As “forever” switches between abrasive and elated, Charli eyes the possibility of disaster in the distance but chooses to embrace happiness in the moment. It’s a perfectly goofy and giddy love song, something that sounds ephemeral but feels like it will last forever. –James
Since breaking out with the hushed beauty of her 2017 debut album Stranger In The Albums, Phoebe Bridgers has become a bona fide indie-rock star. She’s made music with Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, Conor Oberst, and the National’s Matt Berninger. She’s become a genuine must-follow on social media. She’s played shows all over the world. She’s only gotten better at writing music. But, as it turns out, even bona fide indie-rock stars get impostor syndrome, feeling like they’re drifting through someone else’s life.
“Kyoto” isn’t exactly happier than “Garden Song,” the first single off of Bridgers’ upcoming sophomore LP Punisher. “I’m gonna kill you/ If you don’t beat me to it/ Dreaming through Tokyo skies,” she sings in the chorus. “I wanted to see the world/ Then I flew over the ocean/ And I changed my mind.” But it is decidedly more uptempo, picking the pace up from delicate folk-rock balladry to old-school indie rock, anthemic chorus and exultant horns and all. Because yes, Phoebe Bridgers is a bona fide indie rock star. And if she can write songs like this one, she absolutely deserves to be. –Peter
What a blessing the new Laura Marling album is. By now you may have heard that Marling was planning to release Song For Our Daughter this fall but decided to drop it today instead, with less than a week’s notice, because she thought it might provide comfort and assurance in these trying times. “I want you to have it,” she wrote in a note announcing the album Sunday night. If that sounds cocky, just listen through once and you’ll understand why Marling was so certain we could use this music.
“Held Down,” the album’s only advance single, was also the only track released before this list’s Thursday night deadline. It might have still been the pick even if the whole album had dropped in time. Marling conceived Song For Our Daughter as a series of messages for a child who doesn’t exist yet, who may someday be born into this mess of a planet. But “Held Down” is not addressed to this imaginary girl. It’s a lament directed at an ex who pulled the plug unexpectedly — and to no one in particular, and to the whole world, like two hands thrown up haphazardly before slumping into the couch.
It sounds like acceptance, but certainly not surrender. Marling’s voice arches skyward with breathtaking beauty — “And I just meant to tell you that I don’t want to let you down” — and then safely descends into a glittering chorus of backing vocals. A rhythmic undercurrent carries the music along with irresistible sweeping force, built from wide-open acoustic strums and propulsive bass and drums that quite literally slap. The lyrics are thoughtful and precise, like the symmetry Marling brings to these flashes of anatomy and motion: “Think about now with my legs wrapped around you/ How many times before have you seen me run?/ It’s a cruel kinda twist that you’d leave like this/ Just drop my wrist and say, ‘Well that’s us done.'”
Both in folk-rock and in life, breakups are rarely rendered with such grace. In that sense, “Held Down” ends up being a message to Marling’s future child after all, if only from an oblique angle. It’s just that she’s showing, not telling: This is how life sometimes goes. This is how to handle that heartbreak. This is how you translate it into something singular and stirring. This, my dear, is how it’s done. –Chris