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.
We might not be getting a blockbuster movie season this summer, but at least the blockbuster albums are starting to arrive. Lady Gaga, RTJ, HAIM… while we won’t be in big communal spaces experiencing this music together just yet, there’s at least something invigorating in the idea that, someday, we will be. The five best songs of the week are below.
Trash Talk’s first new song in four years literally starts with the sound of a car engine turning over. Can’t get more on-the-nose than that. They’re back, and they’re ready to fuck around. The Los Angeles band makes the kind of immediate, elemental hardcore that’s meant to get bodies moving, bouncing off each other in cathartic aggression. For their new Squalor EP, they teamed up with producer Kenny Beats, who has been injecting that same kind of aggression into rap tracks for a few years now, and it’s a match made in hell. Lee Spielman’s vocals are yelled-out mush — “Drop the old propaganda,” he screams at one point, at another he’s chanting “Warfare!” — and it’s clear that something vile is just around the corner. Maybe it’s already here. –James
JPEGMAFIA is usually freaked-out and noisy and weird. He’s really good at being freaked-out and noisy and weird. But he’s also capable of moments of real beauty and accessibility. Peggy’s new song “CUTIE PIE!” pushes his sound surprisingly close to traditional old-school hip-hop, dropping references to everyone from Phyllis Hyman to Billie Eilish in a slick ’90s-influenced flow. And the beat straightforwardly knocks so hard that you almost don’t notice how strange it is, glimmering bits of melody and noise bubbling up to the surface before getting subsumed by the groove. Turns out, JPEGMAFIA is good at everything. –Peter
Over the decades, Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan have always pushed their indie rock in strange and fascinating directions. Even when they’ve made intimate lullabies, they’ve made intimate lullabies that explored motorik or bossa nova or noise-drone garage rock. Taken out of the context of their band, Hubley and Kaplan are now singing an intimate lullaby that’s half meditative free jazz bugout and half Knight Rider-theme synth-pulse. Together with yMusic horn vagabond CJ Camerieri and Gayngs mastermind Ryan Olson, they’ve discovered some wonderful nonexistent genre. It sounds like the first dance at a wedding in another dimension. –Tom
Like many of us, Freddie Gibbs has clearly been watching a lot of television. “1985,” the opening track to Gibbs and the Alchemist’s new hip-hop platter Alfredo, fits in references to both of the docuseries that took over social media during coronavirus quarantine, Netflix’s Tiger King and ESPN’s Michael Jordan hagiography The Last Dance. Seemingly everybody on the internet has offered up some quip about these shows, but few can turn them into art with just a few rugged turns of phrase. Over a sampled guitar loop that rises like smoke from his blunt, Gibbs slides directly back into his championship form from last year’s Madlib team-up Bandana, stitching together vivid gangland imagery and pop-cultural asides into some of the most casually brilliant rapping you’ll encounter this year. –Chris
Superstar team-ups happen all the time. Sometimes they’re saddled with too much weight, too much persona and history, too many past highs to live up to. Sometimes such songs coast by on the sheer magnitude of a couple iconic names lined up alongside each other. “Rain On Me” isn’t either of those things. “Rain On Me” is the kind of superstar team-up where two big artists know exactly what kind of power they’re wielding. They know this is an Event by its nature, but they also lean all the way into that, and create something so joyous that the Event isn’t only justifiable — it’s transcendent.
In “Rain On Me,” we have two of the most classically powerful pop singers of our time joining forces over a surging, soaring single that, of all things, conjures up bygone Eurodance aesthetics. Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande are, of course, two singers who have played with pop diva signifiers from across the decades. And, naturally, when they get together they let their massive voices loose over a song that begs to be blaring in a club, during a time when nobody can go to the club.
Maybe that, in a weird way, makes “Rain On Me” all the more potent. After all, at least some aspect of this song originates in being alone, in feeling hurt and lost. It’s a song that looks at depression and sadness and, in a sense, says bring it on — the rain coming down to make you feel something, but also to remind you that those moments of intensity can ultimately lead to cleansing. (It’s fitting that Gaga tapped Grande, who herself reached a career high by reshaping struggle and trauma into euphoria on “No Tears Left To Cry.”) “Rain On Me” follows a tried-and-true approach, exorcising pain through the release of the dancefloor. Even if people can’t literally return to that place right now, “Rain On Me” can transport you there.
When “Rain On Me” arrived at the tail end of last week, it already seemed like an anthem almost mathematically programmed to be massive — Gaga, Grande, that sing-speak “Rain. On. Me.” bit lending itself to the big singalong moments of the future or social media performance now. But ultimately, all the pre-ordained scope of “Rain On Me” isn’t purely what fuels it. This was another signal of Lady Gaga’s return to the big, colorful pop music that pulses across the fittingly titled Chromatica. And even if, for right now, she can only take over the dancefloors in people’s hearts and minds, it’s good to have her back. –Ryan