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.

James is out this week (good for him!) and, despite our devotion to the sanctity of tradition here at Stereogum, maybe we would’ve wanted to give this column a week off. Then Scott informed us that “Only Congress can delay 5 Best. If there is no 5 Best decided by Friday morning, the 5 Best will be all 1975 songs.” And so, we didn’t delay our vote and here are the five best songs of the week.

(Who knows who Congress is here. It’s been a long week.)

5. Long Knife – “Night Of The Hunter”

An old review quoted on their Bandcamp page sums up the Portland punk band Long Knife like so: “Imagine Kiss playing Poison Idea, with a healthy amount of Japanese hardcore and even some British hardcore thrown in.” Because I am no hardcore scholar, my less sophisticated take on “Night Of The Hunter” is as follows: “Hell yes, this sounds like Fucked Up!” It seems no matter your degree of devotion to sludgy, guttural, furiously fast music of this ilk, Long Knife may be the band for you — even if you suspect you might be in Colin Jarrell’s crosshairs when he announces, with a voice like the roar of a thousand guitars, “You’ll never understand how we get our kicks!” –Chris

4. Ski Mask The Slump God – “Burn The Hoods”

The video has bloody, cartoonish fun with the idea of race war, but Ski Mask The Slump God is not exactly Immortal Technique, and “Burn The Hoods” is not exactly a political song. Instead, it’s a frantic knucklehead-rap sprint, a giddy and anarchic yawp. The Dutch producer YoungKio, of “Old Town Road” fame, supplies a frantic springy synth loop that reminds me of mid-period Aphex Twin, and Ski Mask, former XXXTentacion associate and part of the circa-2018 SoundCloud-rap wave, attacks it with sugar-rush verve, rhyming “platypus poop” with “Augustus Gloop” and bragging about his “Jeep seats made of crocodile nuts.” It’s over in two minutes, and it leaves your head spinning. –Tom

3. Loma – “Ocotillo”

Loma, the Shearwater x Cross Record mini-supergroup, are about to return with an unexpected sophomore album. And “Ocotillo,” its lead single, is one hell of an introduction. In the beginning, the song is a patient, slow unfolding led by Emily Cross’ gliding vocals. But “Ocotillo” takes you on a journey, and it’s one that collides beauty and ugliness, the sublime with the unnerving. Eventually, Cross disappears. And instead she is replaced by a festering, roiling chorus of horn instruments. In the beginning, “Ocotillo” is almost like an uneasy hymn; by the end, it’s a dangerous ritual. But throughout it’s a marvel of tension and arrangement and atmosphere, pulling you right into the hot desert air of its accompanying video. –Ryan

2. Touché Amoré – “Limelight” (Feat. Andy Hull)

Touché Amoré are masters of making towering tidal waves of emotion in song form — grand, stormy anthems that howl and rage and make you feel big, heaving feelings. And wouldn’t you know, that’s exactly what “Limelight” is. “I’m tired and I’m sore/ I’m not so young anymore,” Jeremy Bolm sings. “Worn down, but I’ve decided/ It’s open casket, you’re all invited.” His vocals start out ragged and intense and only get more ragged and intense until he’s basically just straight-up shouting so hard you can practically see the vocal cords straining and hear the spittle flying. And that’s right when the clangor recedes and Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull comes in, his clean, melodic vocals mixing with Bolm’s full-throated rasp as the band see-saws between all-out attack and delicate beauty. They’re masters for a reason. –Peter

1. Taylor Swift – “Seven”

Everyone has their own favorite on Folklore. With 16 tracks and a consistent mood throughout — not to mention a consistent strength in the songwriting — everyone just seems to gravitate towards songs from across the album. Some vouched for “The Last Great American Dynasty,” a sharp character sketch on an album full of many characters. The trilogy of “Cardigan,” “August,” and “Betty” have gripped many. The consensus here at Stereogum seems to be that we all love “Mirrorball,” a moving pop melody cloaked in a gossamer haze. But I’m the one writing this blurb, so the song we’re going to talk about is the one that’s my absolute favorite.

In the past week, there have been a whole lot of times when I tried to listen to a song — on Folklore, or like, by someone not named Taylor Swift — that isn’t “Seven.” And pretty much every time, I fail. “Seven” is always in my head now. Every time that happens, I have to listen to it, and every time I do that it’s somehow better than I remembered it being the last time. This doesn’t happen that often. Even a song you love gets a little worn down after dozens of listens. But the songs on Folklore are only revealing themselves more with that kind of attention, moody singer-songwriter auras that still have absolutely bulletproof songcraft at their core. “Seven,” for me, is the pinnacle of the album in that way — its melodies are a complete magic trick, alluring and heartbreaking.

The part that still levels me every time is the main melody, the sighing invitation to the past that opens the song and recurs throughout. Maybe the idea of being a child and flying through the air and imagining the expanse of Pennsylvania — the mutual home state of Swift and myself — has something to do with the personal pangs I get when I hear it. But that specificity doesn’t change the core themes of the song, a portrait of youthful innocence marred by a traumatic household, recognized in adulthood but revisited through the same lens a child would’ve perceived it through. It’s a nimble little short story within the album, recalling purity and that purity becoming ruptured and then fighting back against it. The images Swift flits between — running away together and being pirates, a love immortalized like folk songs — are crushing.

The main power of “Seven” is how Swift’s melody moves: It weaves, as if dancing through and around these old scenes. But the music underneath answers, gentle flickers of piano and guitar like sun-dappled impressions of long-lost times. If it wasn’t for the hurt running through the song’s narrative, it would of course be nostalgic. But instead, it’s a conflicted and layered thing, remembering the past and what you’ve lost but also now knowing other children learned how warped the world was sooner than you did. There are many empathetic and evocative stories on Folklore alongside “Seven.” But to me, in this past week, nothing has been as resounding as “Seven” and its complicated return to home. –Ryan

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