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.
There’s something comforting in the fact that, no matter how strange and unexpected a year can be, Bob Dylan’s still going to reemerge from the wilderness and blow your mind by talking about how much he loves the fucking Eagles. The five best songs of the week are below.
“Stone Harbor” is so brisk. It is so fun. It is contagiously joyous, but it lets that joy simmer just below a boil instead of shoving it in your face. Naeem wrote this song for his boyfriend; Stone Harbor is the seaside New Jersey town where the boyfriend’s family vacations. It sounds like everything coming together just right, in part because that’s exactly what happens on a sonic level. Led by a thudding digital bass heartbeat, the song skips ever deeper into infatuation, its subtly morphing programmed beat punctuated by slinky piano riffs and quick-hit artificial brass that end up essentially dancing with each other in the end. The longer it plays, the better you feel. –Chris
Powerful protest songs can be loud, like “PIG FEET,” the thunderous, blaring Terrace Martin hip-hop posse cut that topped this list last week. But powerful protest songs can be quiet, too. They can be gentle and wounded and warm, like “Sweeter,” the Leon Bridges ballad that Martin lends his trumpet to. Musically, “Sweeter” consists of little more than a drum machine loop and a melancholy chord progression, accented by understated flourishes that add incredible depth. It’s a gorgeous arrangement in its own right, and it emphasizes the directness of Bridges’ lyrics about living under the daily shadow of racism. “I thought we moved on from the darker days,” he laments, graceful but weighed down. “Did the words of the King disappear in the air, like a butterfly?” It’s crushing and immaculate. –Chris
As the opener to Fontaines D.C.’s sophomore album A Hero’s Death, “I Don’t Belong” has a lot of scene-setting to do. With their debut Dogrel, the group rocketed to a level of notoriety uncommon for upstart rock bands today, partially fueled by brash and anthemic songs they then took on the road all over the world. Just a year later, “I Don’t Belong” doesn’t suggest anything triumphant on the other side, but instead a reclamation through revision.
Fontaines frontman Grian Chatten described “I Don’t Belong” as the “anti-‘Big,'” referring to Dogrel’s own opening track, and a “dismissal of the expectations of other people who consider themselves loyal to you.” And it indeed sounds like the work of artists that, having experienced a disorienting whirlwind, have retreated inside. “I Don’t Belong” breaks new ground for Fontaines both sonically and thematically — insular and brooding, over murky and shadowy music that, with slightly more refined production, has space for all kinds of shades of grey. But rather than a song of defeat, there’s a quiet resolution to “I Don’t Belong,” the sound of someone who felt as if they were losing a sense of themselves and are now steadying their footing. “Writing is a great way to see yourself in existence,” Chatten told Clash earlier this week. “It’s proof that I was here. Or I am here.” With “I Don’t Belong,” Fontaines suggest that they are slowly writing a new version of themselves into existence this time, that someone else is now here. –Ryan
The real Ramesses II died in 1213, when he was something like 90 years old. He ruled over Egypt for 66 of those years, as his empire expanded deep into Africa and high into the Middle East. In his day, he might’ve been the most important man who had ever lived.
Shrines, the new Armand Hammer album, is a dense and abstract journey through pain and longing and imagination, and it doesn’t make much sense to carve it into individual pieces. But the mere existence of “Ramesses II” is its own kind of declaration of empire — a summit meeting of sharp and restless Black poets over a beautiful, mutating track that comes from two different producers, boom-bap internalist Navy Blue and ambient cosmonaut Andrew Broder. Moor Mother is “a Black Panther knife to the neck of King Leopold.” billy woods warns of “cascading communication of no significance whatsoever.” Earl Sweatshirt is weary and wary: “Wire transfer, hemorrhaging blood money bags under the eyes.” Elucid promises that “all CashApp donations go toward [his] gold fang fund.” Fielded wails wordlessly. Shit shot out the sky like Warren Moon did it. –Tom
It’s basically become a cliche to describe the current moment as the end of the world. We’ve been saying that shit for years now. “It’s been like apocalypse since I was on the teat/ Reagan worked for Satan how he preyed upon the meek,” Mereba sings over a low-key ominous funk vamp on “End Of Daze,” the new song from hip-hop supergroup collective Spillage Village. “Lived life in cycles, been here before,” Jurdan Bryant raps on his verse. We’ve become so inured to pain and suffering that even goddamn Armageddon is old hat.
But if systemic racism and police violence and catastrophic disease are nothing new, exactly, it really does feel more than ever like we’re reaching some sort of breaking point. So if it’s all ending, how do Spillage Village plan to spend their last days on God’s green Earth? EARTHGANG’s WowGr8 is going to “drank some, smoke some, fuck some, yum-yum.” JID recommends you “hit a few baddies you never smashed ‘fore y’all both die” and helpfully points out that “when the poor people run out of food, they can eat the rich.” Hollywood JB is just gonna “sit back and roll up to my tunes” and try to find “a new planet to fly to.”
In the chorus, they all come together in one big ball of eerily melodic anxiety: “It’s the end of days, end of times/ My oh my/ Up in a blaze, you can’t hide/ Why oh why?/ All the kids afraid, momma cries/ God packed his bags and said bye bye/ God packed her bags and said bye bye.” But as the song draws to a close, Olu offers a cautiously hopeful vision for the future. “Perfection is the goal these days/ But I want something pure,” he sings in a beautifully wounded falsetto. “All that life throws our ways/ A love that will endure.” Sure, things are far from perfect. But whether or not the world decides to stick around, we can still do our best to clean up the mess. –Peter