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.
Today was the second time Bandcamp waived its revenue shares to help out artists during the pandemic. Did you stock up on anything cool? Let us know in the comments. In the meantime, the five best songs of the week are below.
You ever feel like you’re being trampled underfoot by powerful elites while this world hurtles toward its bleak conclusion? Infant Island feel that way, and they’ve reflected those feelings back outward in a song that sounds like a violent revolution interrupted by apocalypse. “Content” is a flexible word, but in the context of this grandiose grindcore/screamo/black metal hybrid, it refers to contentment, as in: How am I supposed to be content with circumstances like these? “Outsourced and overlooked!” goes the shrill howl of guest Logan Rivera, from the band Gillian Carter. “Where will I go when the power goes out? How can I provide?” He and Infant Island can at least be satisfied with their work on this flabbergasting piece of music. –Chris
For the last few years, Johanna Warren has been making consistently beautiful music that sounds fit for dreams. Her new material is more like a nightmare, though, and on her latest, “Twisted,” she fully breaks. Her voice is gravelly and hoarse; she’s not afraid to let herself sound ugly. Warren hits every word harshly, finding power in the song’s skeletal upward spiral, slowly picking herself out of the dirt. “I will not be afraid no matter how terrifying you make yourself, I’ll still be here trying,” she sings emphatically. “I give up, I gave it my all,” she screams at the end, finally letting loose all of the tension she’s built up. She gives herself over to the chaos that she used to try to calm with her music, and within that chaos she finds relief. –James
Houston, we have a problem: The “Savage” remix is out, but everyone is stuck at home, away from the public gatherings where anthems like this were made to thrive. Still, as Beyoncé is clearly aware, anthems like this are also made to thrive on TikTok nowadays, and the convergence of the Space City’s rising rap star and its foremost living legend did indeed set the internet on fire this week.
Bey’s bars rightfully claimed much of the attention here — everything she does is an event by default, and she’s too savvy to release an event song without some attention-grabbing lines like that OnlyFans reference. But don’t sleep on the casual mastery of Meg lyrics like “Hood, but I’m classy, rich, but I’m ratchet/ Haters kept my name in they mouth, now they gaggin’.” From J. White Did It’s understated ultralounge production to note-perfect adlibs all around, “Savage” exemplifies that effortless balance between rowdy and refined. It could easily become the soundtrack to a very different kind of Hot Girl Summer. –Chris
Khruangbin named their 2015 debut album The Universe Smiles Upon You. And over the past few years, the Houston instrumental trio have managed to create their own smiling sonic universe — pulling threads from East Asian surf-rock and psychedelia and Jamaican dub and Middle Eastern funk and classic soul together, all in the service of the groove, baby. Now, with their new LP Mordechai, it seems they’re charting a course for a whole new galaxy: vocals.
While Khruangbin have played around with vocals before — the band just released a collaborative EP with retro-soul crooner Leon Bridges — their increased prominence on Mordechai is still a new look. “If we had more time/ We could live forever/ Just you and I/ We could be together,” Laura Lee Ochoa intones, Tom Tom Club-style, over scratchy disco guitar and an infectiously insistent drumbeat, eventually repeating “That’s life” over and over again in different languages. Right now, for better or worse, we’ve got nothing but time — that’s life — which means we’ve got plenty of time for Khruangbin’s beautifully transportive escapism. –Peter
“Same on those who dread prophecy,” serpentwithfeet softly coos over a soft, slow, reassuring piano progression that we’ve all heard a million times. “They must not know how hot it can be.” A key part of serpentwithfeet’s backstory is that he came up singing gospel in Baltimore churches. With that line, he draws on the old implicit connection between spirituality and carnality that’s driven gospel since long before any of us was born. He makes that connection explicit.
In the past, serpentwithfeet’s take on soul music has been jittery and noisy and experimental. But on “Psychic,” he dives into tradition, making a classic R&B record. Discordance exists on “Psychic,” but it dances softly around the edges of the song. It’s never the center. Instead, serpentwithfeet has made a grand and classicist love ballad, finding spirituality in the connection to another person. That’s a beautiful thing, and serpentwithfeet has turned it into a beautiful song. –Tom