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.
Today marks the return of our editor Chris, who has been out on paternity leave with a new baby. Congrats and welcome back Chris! The five best songs of the week are below.
“I’m sending messages to you,” Alex Edkins wails. He’s not lying. When Edkins lets loose with that chorus, his bandmates joining him in actual harmony, it’s a sun-breaking-through-the-clouds moment. Metz, it turns out, can be pretty. They can have melodies and anthemically ringing guitars and an uplifting sense of purpose. They can sound vaguely like Fugazi, in those Fugazi moments where Fugazi sound vaguely like U2. But Metz can also fuck you up, which is mostly what they do.
“Hail Taxi” is a complex beast of a song. Maybe 80% of the time, it’s Metz in their usual bubbling-mud territory, cranking out grimy noise-rock riffs that will scrape the skin right off your face. They are great at that sound — the filthy guitar tones, the withering vocals, the lurching time-signatures. But for a few moments here and there, “Hail Taxi” also gives Metz a chance to soar gloriously over all of that. They can do that, too. And the tension between Metz’s bloodthirsty default setting and their newfound grandeur is a fascinating thing. What would happen if they just… gave in? –Tom
What a cool fucking combination. Kentucky dark-folk wanderer Emma Ruth Rundle and Louisiana sludge screamers Thou are both restless artistic souls with gifts for making supremely heavy music. But their sounds are truly different, and it’s amazing that they ever even thought to join forces. “Ancestral Recall” shows the power of that kind of unexpected combination.
With “Ancestral Recall,” we learn that the demented, demonic barf-screech of Thou leader Bryan Funck makes an ideal complement to Rundle’s spectral bellow, and that Rundle’s shadow-realm blues add whole new dimensions to Thou’s guttural riffage. The end result conjures an alternate reality where PJ Harvey came out of her Rid Of Me sessions with Steve Albini all excited about scuzzed-up Amphetamine Reptile noise-rock, where she decided to make To Bring You My Love into something that sounded like Chokebore. There is more of this coming, and I cannot wait. –Tom
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we’re in a pandemic, and life is very different right now. For some of us, that mostly means we’re spending way more time at home. For musicians like Carly Rae Jepsen, it means that an essential part of her life and her work, touring and playing live shows, has been taken away from her. That’s a loss, and it must be hard as hell. But if you listen to her new song “Me And The Boys In The Band,” it doesn’t sound like a loss. It sounds positively euphoric.
That’s one of Carly Rae Jepsen’s great gifts: taking love and heartache alike, complicated feelings from all over the emotional spectrum, and making them sound like pure unadulterated joy. “Me And The Boys In The Band” isn’t a lament but a celebration — of the highs and the lows of life on the road, all the fun and the partying and the distance and the romantic complications that it entails. “Driving all night to make that show/ I’ll be a whole new girl tomorrow/ In a new city, so pretty, eyes closed,” she sings, her voice hushed with wonder by the end. Until she, and we, can get back to that, we’ll have jams like “Me And The Boys In The Band” to dance to. –Peter
Two years of silence, and Father John Misty suddenly returns with two enigmatically titled tracks. “To S.” and “To R.” are two piano ballads, with unknown subjects. (Around here, we’d of course like to think it’s “To Scott” and “To Ryan.”) Perhaps there is some deeply personal message hidden within, but for us it remains a mystery — a pair of lost letters sent out from wherever Father John Misty is.
And as far as “To S.” suggests, the wherever in question is some kind of ether. It’s all loose thoughts: “Flying on past in your voodoo mask,” “What about life on the ground/ Makes you feel so strange.” Tillman, as ever, has a way with lyrics; the way he sings “‘I had a dream and you were in it’/ Is all you had to say” is a quintessentially crushing FJM moment. But what’s the most striking about “To S.” is the fact that while it might open as a pretty standard mellow song for Tillman — a meditative melody over piano and acoustic guitar — it becomes something subtly stranger. Eerie, airy strings start to swirl around and elevate him. It’s reminiscent of some of the further out moments on Pure Comedy, but it’s also unique for Tillman, who disappears entirely and let’s all the sounds do the talking for substantial stretches of the song. It’s gorgeous and elusive, the sound of Father John Misty up in the sky. –Ryan
News of Alex G’s involvement with the Projections EP had me expecting a surreal, deconstructed spin on Tomberlin’s solemn balladry, the sound of her 2018 debut At Weddings run through the House Of Sugar filter. Instead, lead single “Wasted” offers a different twist: It’s relatively bright and upbeat, like sunshine flowing through Sarah Beth Tomberlin’s window after one of her dark nights of the soul.
Not that this is exactly a happy song — musically it reminds me of Cat Power’s “Free,” a brisk and minimal burst of energy from an artist best known for emotionally weighty slowburn catharsis. “Wasted” feels a bit more cautious than that. Its acoustic arpeggios and scraggly faux-dancehall beat (Alex G’s contribution) are an ideal backdrop for what amounts to a weary flirtation, an attempt to pin down and an attraction that thus far has resisted definition.
“How come you only say I’m cute when you’re wasted?” Tomberlin inquires. “Baby don’t waste it/ Well maybe you could waste it…” Every little sonic touch mirrors this intrigued but tentative posture, from the playfully rolling bassline to the shivering fiddle that creeps in now and again. In the end, it’s up to the listener to fill in the gaps of the narrative and decide whether this romance is a good idea. Tomberlin doesn’t spell it out for us; she shouldn’t have to. –Chris