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.
It turns out this iteration of 5 Best is a celebration of collaborations — some unexpected, and each one exciting and unique. The five best songs of the week are below.
645AR’s squeaky voice is a gimmick, but it’s a gimmick that has potential. The gleeful unintelligibility of his sound is admirable. It’s texture over voice — pure melody, the sort of stuff any pop singer would mumble over an instrumental before they figure out the words. It feels like the logical endpoint of two decades worth of AutoTune.
Previously, 645AR has used this voice on songs that were just as weird as he was. What makes “Sum Bout You” works so well is that FKA Twigs acts as translator, turns the Bronx rapper’s chirp into a singalong hook. But her register is almost as high as his; she meets him on the same level. It’s surprisingly tender, a syrupy R&B duet between two aliens. I’m curious to hear what 645AR will sound like paired with other artists who are able to embrace his odd sound. “Sum Bout U” may end up being the peak of what 645AR pulls off with this gimmick, but I’d like to think this has some legs. More songs need the 645AR touch. –James
There’s a certain feeling when the breakdown kicks in and the room opens up and the bodies start flying everywhere — a panicky euphoria, like you know you might get kicked in the neck at any moment but you’re too fired-up to duck out of there. Excide are built for that moment, so it’s a cruel trick of fate that the Carolina band is really coming into itself during a time when moshing is simply not on the societal menu. On the first song from their second 7″, Excide show toughness and charisma and intensity and bounce and enough melodic sense to deliver a big chorus even through their own maelstrom. They’ve got everything you could want from a hardcore band. And when live music starts up again, a song like “Actualize” will hit like a bomb. –Tom
Freddie Gibbs sounds good rapping over just about anything. He sounds good on Madlib beats. He sounds good on Alchemist beats. And if “Kane Train” is anything to go by, he sounds good as hell on Machinedrum beats. Machinedrum is more of a dance guy than a rap guy, but you wouldn’t know it from “Kane Train.” He’s living his full chop-up-the-soul hip-hop producer fantasy here, sampled horn blasts and hard-knocking drums and all, with a slight left-of-center electronic twist. And just like any other beat, Gibbs uses it as a playground to show off his absolute mastery of his craft. Are you impressed yet? –Peter
Each song we’ve heard from Kelly Lee Owens’ Inner Song so far has done something a little different, while still existing in the grey, shadowy, cerebral world she is so skilled at creating. But “Corner In The Sky” is something else entirely. A patient, slow-burn epic, it finds her teaming up with none other than John Cale. And their collaboration has yielded a strange, transfixing song — something equal parts haunting and comforting.
“Corner In The Sky” exists on the spacier end of Owens’ music, atmospherics shot through with little pings and pinpricks of light. Her team-up with Cale has layers to it: It was about both of them delving into their shared heritage, with Cale intoning first in English and then Welsh. Along the way, some truly gorgeous synth parts rise from the murk, and contrast strikingly with the weathered gravity of Cale’s voice. He sounds ancient; the music sounds futuristic. Together, Owens and Cale made “Corner Of The Sky” a transporting piece of work, the exact kind of immersive piece that takes a person not only back to where they came from, but into the ether of history and all the ancestral remnants running through their veins. –Ryan
Earl Sweatshirt says he made Black Noi$e the first signing to his Tan Cressida imprint because the Detroit producer connects the dots: between shadows and sunlight, between Detroit electric soul and 8-bit ghosts and waterfalls. As a person, Earl says the producer is like the Grim Reaper as portrayed on the old Cartoon Network series Billy & Mandy “with a mean nollie flip and an affinity for life in all its forms,” and that his music reflects all those polarities. Surveying the beats on Black Noi$e’s SoundCloud, Earl’s words start to make sense. He’s able to conjure a whole range of sound and feeling while maintaining unmistakable sonic fingerprints like deep grooves and flittering high-end noise. Dude is legit, and as he once
“Mutha Magick,” the latest single from Black Noi$e’s Oblivion album, shows off the harder, glitchier side of his work. Compared to last month’s warm and woozy Liv.e collab “The Band,” this beat is cold and unrelenting, a reminder that he used to play bass in hardcore bands and grew up in the birthplace of techno. It’s a percussive playground fit for bbymutha taunts like “Booty so fat, D-D-D-D-Doja/ He want cat, but I want closure” and the song’s mic-drop moment: “I’m nice as fuck, I’m nice as shit, waist is tiny, ass is thick/ Masculine but so feminine, miss lady be droppin’ dick.” All that’s left to do is clank, clatter, and collapse, having accomplished more in 94 seconds than most songs do in double that time. –Chris