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.
Here in New York we’re enjoying a tropical storm amidst a summer of constantly miserable weather, because 2020 can’t ever take a fucking break. Hopefully it’s better wherever you are this weekend. The five best songs of the week are below.
Hannah is a palindrome. Turn it around and you’re back where you started. With the lead single from an album she titled after her first name, Hannah Read breaks down and reassembles the indie rock that made her an underground treasure, ending up with something similar yet intriguingly transformed.
“Wonder” presents a new Lomelda, recognizable as the band that made the timid epics of Thx and the stripped-down snapshots of M Is For Empathy but also bigger, louder, stronger, stranger. It’s a song you can air-drum vigorously to, as Read does in the video — a song for singing your lungs out, as Read does with abandon. With an entrancing repetition that reminds me of Alex G’s ability to bring slightly alien qualities to deeply human sentiments, she fulfills her mantra in real time: “When you get it, give it all you got, you said/ You got a lot/ Give it your all.” –Chris
Now more than ever, our relationships are mediated by our screens, emotions atomized into tiny ones and zeros. So it makes sense that Katie Dey obscures her voice in glitchy electronics even as she bares her heart for all the world to see. And “happiness” is as open-hearted as it gets, a stirring orchestral piano ballad compressed into an online bedroom-pop format.
“I want love/ I’m not above it/ No denying anymore/ I want love for you, too,” Dey sings in the track’s opening lines, a slight Australian accent peeking through the digital fry. “Happiness/ Nurturing/ Understanding/ Holding, touching,” she continues, as if the weight of her pure feeling gradually overwhelms any need for full sentences. You can’t help but feel it too. –Peter
The title looks like a metaphor. Maybe it is a metaphor. But the lyrics are definitely about fighting motherfuckers in prison: “I’m a dead man when I hit the yard! Another war behind bars!” And if you really were going to get into a prison-yard brawl, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better soundtrack.
Lots of bands have explored the intersection of metal, and Unreal City guitarist Robert Orr used to play in Integrity, the Cleveland band who more or less invented the version of metalcore that’s proliferated since their ’90s heyday. But few bands have attacked that combination with the style, grace, and intensity that Pittsburgh’s Unreal City bring to “War Behind Bars.” The song is a swaggering monster, fast and guttural and righteous and punishing. Singer Joseph Sanderson, also of Eternal Sleep, breathes sounds like an ogre who just woke up in a bad mood. Orr’s solo triumphantly blows flames everywhere. The mosh part hits with the force of a collapsing brick wall. This is music for throwing toppled statues into bodies of water. Get into it. –Tom
Krill were a band that always kept personal politics close to heart. Their songs were often about how to be a better person, a better friend, a better member of society, all while going through your own shit. Knot, their new project, is more explicitly political. “Foam,” the lead single from their debut album, is “really about, in an oblique way, global warming,” leader Jonah Furman explained a recent interview. “The idea that we’re all fucked, the collective feeling that we don’t have enough power and we’re not going to do what’s needed to save the world.”
Furman has always written with a wry surrealism, and the way he approaches nature’s slow fade-out is through small signs that show the world around us is falling apart — quivering foam, sand dunes appearing out of nowhere. “I should’ve come and met you on the beach,” he sings, a reminder to do all the things you want to do before there’s no there to do them in. The music answers him in a jittery wail, a cutting blast of noise that mimics choppy waves, the ocean eroding further into land as time keeps running out. –James
Long ago, we knew Wye Oak as one of the most exciting new guitar bands in an era that didn’t always produce so many exciting new guitar bands. But for over half a decade now, Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack have set out to redefine their project over and over — the only real stipulation being that all these borders don’t mean anything. Yet the premise of the No Horizon EP is still a totally new venture for the two. Like the JOIN tour earlier this year, it finds Wasner and Stack opening up Wye Oak to other voices, namely the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. And while it never comes as much surprise that whatever Wye Oak releases is excellent, it’s still impressive how an EP that could seem tangential, or perhaps even like a gimmick in someone else’s hands, immediately feels like one more natural branch of the band’s identity.
On No Horizon, there are songs that sound more like standard Wye Oak compositions and there are songs that lean further into the new music territory teaming up with the Chorus allows the duo to explore. “AEIOU,” its opener and lead single, sits in a perfect middle. It isn’t hard to hear it of a piece with the skyward sounds of The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs, but the presence and arrangement of the Chorus elevates it into something else.
Over tumbling percussion and a persistent synth pulse, Wasner begins singing, but is then answered and surrounded — chirped and clipped background vocals, eventual waves of choral melodies. Responding to a moment when the Trump administration advocated for taking the word “transgender” out of the dictionary, Wasner’s musing on language, in all of its confinements and its freedoms. Again: borders that aren’t real. “AEIOU” is a song about choosing whatever form you will take, from a band who continues to do the same, and it makes it sound like a dream taking place high up in the clouds. –Ryan