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.
This week, we had an important reminder that even as a global pandemic continues to alter all of our lives, people are still gonna launch themselves fully into exhausting online music world discourse. Sure is nice to feel like normal life is slowly coming back! The five best songs of the week are below.
Carly Rae Jepsen’s B-sides contain more gems than most proper pop albums, and her new collection of Dedicated castoffs sound mighty good as we approach summer. “This Is What They Say” is an early highlight, boasting a Dev Hynes co-writing credit and a funky synth that explodes into a million pieces like the broken hearts that Jepsen is trying to ignore as she falls headfirst into another love. The song feels like beach vacations and holidays we’re no longer going to be taking, waking up to a room service breakfast in bed and knowing it’s a little naughty. “Sweatin’ like it’s summertime, yeah/ And when you hear me calling your name/ It’s always different, never the same,” Jepsen sings. She builds the song into a swirling roundabout, her call-and-response a reminder of how captivating a presence Jepsen can be. –James
As nightclubs across the world sit dark and vacant, we can only imagine how a song like “Only” would sound in its natural habitat. But close your eyes, and you can see it, hear it, feel it. ZHU, the San Francisco singer and producer, puts together a tense, chilly deep-house throb. He surrounds his four-on-the-four thump with ominous ’80s-horror-movie keyboard tones and brittle counter-rhythms, and then he sings over all of it in a wounded falsetto. Tinashe, the Los Angeles R&B singer whose voice always sounds best when she’s got at least one foot in the club, answers him back. The two voices circle each other, dipping in and out, as the track builds and subsides, builds and subsides. It sounds like fleeting eye contact across a dancefloor — a sensation that we simply cannot have right now. –Tom
In college, the first semester of my freshman year, Julianna Barwick came to my school to play a show at the chapel. I didn’t go. This was a mistake. A chapel is pretty much the ideal setting for Barwick’s ambient beauty, drifting synthesizers washing over the pews as curlicues of looped vocals echo up towards the vaulted ceiling. Her songs are basically secular worship music, vast oceans of sound that are awesome in the colloquial sense and the Old Testament sense. “Inspirit” begins as an airy choral soundscape, all gorgeous wordless emotion. And then a huge, visceral thrum of bass comes in like a lightning bolt, electrifying the air around it, imbuing everything with some grand, ineffable sense of meaning and importance. It’d kill in a chapel. –Peter
Phoebe Bridgers is one of those young songwriters who frequently displays radically different sides of her personality — heartfelt (and usually heartbreaking) music balanced by a sardonic, dryly hilarious public persona. But often, she can sit between the two in her lyrics as well. She has a way of writing songs that can be darkly skewering at the same time that they’re deeply earnest and poignant. Take, for example, her latest single “I See You”: a breakup song that renders the dissolution of Bridgers’ relationship with her drummer in all its multifaceted complications.
“I’ve been playing dead/ My whole life/ And I get this feeling/ Whenever I feel good/ It’ll be the last time” vs. “I hate your mom/ I hate it when she opens her mouth/ It’s amazing to me/ How much you can say/ When you don’t know what you’re talking about.” “‘Cause I don’t know what I want/ Until I fuck it up” vs. “I used to light you up/ Now I can’t even get you/ To play the drums.” The banal and profound, the vicious frustration and the confessional self-accounting. All it takes is a couple snapshots, not even a concrete narrative, and Bridgers captures the head fog of contradictions and yearnings and regrets and resolutions that come with a breakup. And that means locating the bleak humor in strife, too, and emerging with a few brutal punchlines. –Ryan
There are many ways to conclude an album: a swooning ballad, a jarring outburst, a lengthy fadeout. Sometimes they just… end, as if the artist put no thought into the sequencing whatsoever or figured no one would actually make it that far in. And then there are the epics, the sweeping dramatic gestures that really could only function as album-enders — tracks like “Ohio Tpke,” the proper grand finale that closes out Jeff Rosenstock’s NO DREAM.
“Ohio Tpke” is a multi-part saga about the struggle to hold a relationship together when you make your living on tour, the sense of displacement that can start to haunt you whether you’re stationary or on the go. Musically, the song transforms several times over, mirroring both Rosenstock’s emotional tenor and the shifting sights and weather patterns outside his car window. For about four minutes, it’s a pop-punk snot-rocket gone classic-rock anthem. Then it finds a spaced-out second wind something like peak Built To Spill. Then it morphs a somber piano outro that seems to disintegrate into thin air like Wilco’s “Reservations.” It bounces, it glides, it rages, it sighs. It rules.
We begin with our protagonist on the road, “counting the dash lines bringing me back to you.” Quickly, his enthusiasm is tempered by the realization that reunions rarely go as smoothly as we imagine. The conflicts we leave behind are still there when we return, sometimes exacerbated by our absence. And so somewhere in the middle of the chaos Rosenstock concedes, “I’ll let you go now,” and suddenly he’s looking back achingly on all the same things he used to anxiously anticipate. The climax arrives when Rosenstock, pierced by regret, launches into his electrifying shout-along refrain: “You’re the only person that I wanted to like me! All these other motherfucking dipshits can bite me!”
It’s one of this year’s most breathtaking holy shit moments, and somehow the falling action maintains that level of catharsis. “I miss coming home to you,” Rosenstock repeats as the comedown unfolds, his voice threatening to crack under the weight of the memories. Yet even as he longs for what he’s lost, that same central tension that’s been driving the narrative — that relational friction that can set two hearts on fire or burn a relationship to the ground — finds its way to the foreground for one more frustrated crescendo. “I hate coming home,” Rosenstock laments. “I hate leaving home.” –Chris