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.

In the cold, uncaring, and tumultuous landscape of 2020, at least we have little things to hold on to — like Bandcamp Day. What’s everyone excited about today? In the meantime, here are the five best songs of the week.

5. Isola – “Said It Again”

Third time’s the charm. Following the dissolution of her haunting singer-songwriter project Eddi Front in 2016, Ivana Carrescia teamed up with Godmode founder Nick Sylvester to release an EP of shadowy industrial dance music as Gioia. A year later, she returned to the label for an even darker and noisier double A-side single under the name IVANA. And now she’s back with her third — and most accessible — project for Godmode, Isola. “Said It Again” recontextualizes the nocturnal mystique of her earlier work as smooth, sleek, cosmopolitan club music, a minimal, persistent thump that sounds something like a dancefloor lullaby for the world’s hippest baby. This time, she won’t have to say it again. –Peter

4. Actress – “Walking Flames” (Feat. Sampha)

88, the Actress album Darren Cunningham released by surprise over the summer, was pure cinematic back-alley music, a set of ominously shadowy electronic instrumentals that creeped, clattered, blipped, and chirped their way through the fog. “Walking Flames,” the lead single from another new album called Karma & Desire, exists within some warmer corner of the Actress universe.

The beat is soft yet steady, like a 2-step garage banger falling asleep. Sampha’s voice, always a source of gravitas and emotional complexity, floats within that gentle sway, buoyed back and forth by piano chords and white noise. Although capable of surging catharsis, here he is a nocturnal spirit hovering over city blocks at dawn, drifting off over the horizon to who knows where. Cunningham’s work is too ambiguous to decipher whether all this is supposed to communicate happiness, but its effect is a bleary serenity, a sense of contentment weighed down by this world’s tragedies and trials. –Chris

3. Black Thought – “Good Morning” (Feat. Pusha T, Killer Mike, & Swizz Beatz)

Look, you don’t need me to sell you on “Good Morning.” As soon as you see these names in a row, you know what you’re in for, and “Good Morning” delivers impeccably. Here we have three rappers who have perfected their own takes on the craft and have been at it for years, three rappers that are hard and virtuosic in their own ways. What is fun to step back and consider, though, is how exactly this stuff comes together — whether it’s a small moment of magic like this or a higher-profile, break-the-internet era-defining type collab. You have a insistent, intense beat for Black Thought to do his thing over. Then you figure, who should we put him up against, and you get that trademark Pusha T snarl — two veterans from different milieus united over music that sounds like mini airstrikes.

Who else was even on the list otherwise? Can you imagine if you got that lined up and then some third rapper who phones it in? But that’s not what happened: Instead, they enlisted Killer Mike, who shows up and delivers perhaps the best verse of the track at its conclusion. The whole existence of “Good Morning” is somehow obvious; as in, how had someone not put these three together yet? But then, now that it’s happened, it’s a casual marvel that’s every bit as visceral and memorable as the combined pedigrees of Black Thought, Pusha T, and Killer Mike promise. –Ryan

2. Adrianne Lenker – “anything”

Adrianne Lenker says that she recorded her two forthcoming solo albums, songs and instrumentals, in a rented Western Massachusetts room that “sounds like the inside of an acoustic guitar.” On the first song of songs that we get to hear, Lenker’s voice almost gets lost in all those reverberations. She sounds small and insular, surrounded by the soft echoes of her own fingerpicked notes. But as with so many of Lenker’s songs, you need to listen close, since her disjointed words lay out whole lives.

“Anything” is a love song, but it’s not a simple love song. Lenker tells someone, “I wanna sleep in your car while you’re driving/ Lay on your lap when you’re driving.” She sings that she wants to be “part of your family” even though she makes it clear that this person’s family kind of sucks: “Don’t wanna fight, but your mother insists.” Lenker’s lyrics lay out sketches of dog attacks and ER trips — not exactly the stuff of romantic bliss. But maybe that’s what romantic bliss really is: Enduring life’s inevitable trials together, supporting each other through them. “Anything” is the kind of love song that makes room for ridiculous complications like those. It’s the real kind. –Tom

1. BUMPER – “Black Light”

Only in my wildest dreams could I have imagined Japanese Breakfast and Crying — two of my favorite artists of the last decade — teaming up to work together, but here we are and it sounds so good. Michelle Zauner and Ryan Galloway both have sharp pop sensibilities, though they approach pop in different ways. Zauner is more low-key and emotion-forward, while Galloway and his crew aim for maximum absurdity. With BUMPER, they’ve melded those styles together for a collection of neon sensual jams that ache with desire and desperation.

Considering these songs were written over the last few months, that drive makes sense. On “Black Light,” one of their EP’s highlights, the narrator fixates on an apartment across the street, pavement lit up in bright colors. In lockdown, everyone becomes closer. Private rituals are made public; an insomnia-induced dance party can attract eyes. “Late night, I watch from my window/ Your pane blinks pink and blue,” Zauner sings. “It’s 3AM and still at it/ Whole block’s asleep ‘cept me and you.” Through the song’s chunky synths and slinking mood, there’s a sense of community, two lost souls meeting in the night, even if they never see each other. –James

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