The 5 Best Songs Of The Week

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.

What a week! People say every day feels the same now but Grimes and Elon Musk had a baby, Bob Fucking Dylan announced his first real-deal new album in eight years — what more could you ask for!? The five best songs of the week are below.

5. Charli XCX – “I Finally Understand”

There are a lot of terrible things about being stuck in the same rooms with the same people for months on end. But for the luckiest of us, there can be great things about it, too — connecting on deeper levels, helping keep each other sane and alive, figuring out that you’ve figured it out. That’s what “I Finally Understand” is about. Charli XCX has said plainly that the song is about her relationship to her boyfriend — a relationship that was on the verge of unraveling before the quarantine hit.

“I Finally Understand” isn’t a love song in the stereotypical, classic sense. It’s more physical in every way. Producer Palmistry’s beat pulses and skitters. Charli’s voice warps and wobbles, worming its way through different speeds and filters. The lyrics are, sometimes, sexual as all hell: “Liquid in my hands, liquid in my mouth/ Footage on my phone, did it with your tongue.” But there’s a raw vulnerability at work, too. “My therapist said I hate myself really bad,” Charli admits. “You tell me it’s fine, let me cry, and hug it out.” “I Finally Understand” is, on some level, a dance-pop song, and dance-pop songs almost never get as real as that. But dance-pop can be about euphoria, too, and that basic and necessary human connection can be its own kind of euphoria. –Tom

4. Westerman – “The Line”

So many of Westerman’s songs play like cerebral magic tricks. Much of his debut Your Hero Is Not Dead wrangles with fairly heady subject matter. Take his latest single, “The Line,” for example: It’s a song that finds Westerman musing about moral relativism, how “normative values are constantly in flux.” Appropriately, his songs are suggestive and elusive, often obviously gorgeous on the surface but toeing a line between comforting and eerie; they have the perfection of a jewel but the shifting colors of melting metal.

In the instance of a song like “The Line,” the trick is how he muses over the tenuousness of his topic — subtly jumping between deliveries, beginning in his less-used lower register before jumping to that far-seeing melodic sensibility we know him for — revealing malleability within a deceptively simple pop song. It goes without saying by now that every sound taps into some kind of sublimity: the synth backdrops, the vocal layering in the chorus, his guitar flickers answering that chorus. Westerman might wander deep into his head when writing his songs, but he doesn’t return with puzzles — he always comes back with some beautiful distillation that only shines brighter the more ways the light hits it. –Ryan

3. Nation Of Language – “The Wall & I”

All of Nation Of Language’s songs feel like precise synthpop machines, tightly constructed little hook delivery systems. Every interlocking synthesizer melody, every earworm post-punk bassline, every one of Ian Devaney’s deep, emotive, Ian Curtis-meets-Matt Berninger croons — they all fit together perfectly, each part leading naturally into the next, recalling the touchstones of classic ’80s new wave without falling into the trap of mere pastiche.

As the meditative closer of their delayed (and thus still upcoming) debut album Introduction, Presence, “The Wall & I” isn’t the most immediate Nation Of Language song. But it does rank among their finest, a slow-burn that gradually layers itself up into a gently but insistently propulsive groove before fading back into the ether. “I stared up the wall and he said ‘I don’t know’ is not an answer to the question,” Devaney sings, the yearning in his voice palpable. Can Nation Of Language keep being this good? I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out. –Peter

2. Little Simz – “might bang, might not”

There’s not much to “might bang, might not,” the opening track of Little Simz Drop 6 EP, a collection of tracks that the UK MC recorded during quarantine. It’s purposefully low-stakes, an easy and hyped-up entry point to a rapper that has built up a formidable catalog in the last few years. The beat is grimy and filled with alarms and sweaty panting. Simz doesn’t let up for a moment, letting loose a string of boasts that manages to inflate herself up during a time when it’s easy to get down on yourself.

She said as much in the statement she wrote to announce the EP — that she started to doubt herself, but after “serious procrastination I decided to stop being a lil bitch and cry baby and knuckle down.” “might bang, might not” sounds like the sound of that breakthrough, a feverish squirm that’s meant to pump you up and keep you focused. –James

1. Ka – “Solitude Of Enoch”

The beat is sparse, little more than a steadily booming pulse filled out by weepy lead guitar, fleeting piano twinkles, and a meditative acoustic loop. Yet as a work of literature, “Solitude Of Enoch” is dense: with references, with ideas, with emotions, with memories. Ka’s bleary, introspective rap songs are like scriptures to be pored over, and in this case, they are the result of their author poring over actual scriptures. Using the foundational stories of Genesis as his baseline, Brownsville’s meditative poet darts and weaves across the Bible as a means of unpacking his own story.

Ka evokes the Cain and Abel narrative, the original story of “brothers killing brothers,” to depict the street life that was once his own: “Had to use your fists to change your fiscal/ Figuring out how to get rich became the ritual.” His flow is hypnotic, but listen closely and marvel at vivid storytelling like this passage that ends the song: “If a man slips, bent grip on his vice/ We try our best to get it, could triple the price/ Though crew did it for food, not to be dripping in ice/ Pray the stocks stack on my blocks, but liquid is nice/ Known to throw trips, show fifths, dip with the dice/ Dusk to dawn, much go on, know ubiquitous nights/ To get paid out trade route like you shipping a spice/ The meek heard “Turn the other cheek,” I got different advice/ I got different advice.” –Chris