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.
Whether because of COVID delays or the usual autuman pile-up, we’re amidst some pretty crowded release weeks now. What’re you all into on this new release Friday? The five best songs of the week are below.
The dance music James Blake made in his youth was cold and refracted and elusive, a way for a perilously introverted talent to keep himself hidden in the shadows. In the decade since he first began attracting critical acclaim, Blake has become a lot more comfortable with the spotlight. He’s also honed his pop songwriting acumen, both by pioneering a new strain of melancholic singer-songwriter music and by lending his signature ambiance to loads of collaborators, from A-list pop and rap stars right on down your average festival poster.
All that experience comes to bear on “I Keep Calling,” the spectacular entrypoint into Blake’s new Before EP. It’s still no one’s idea of straightforward dance pop, but the song feels like Blake putting his best foot forward, aligning his gifts for inventive beatmaking and richly emotive vocals into a prismatic banger that never lets itself get stuck in a rut. –Chris
We’ve all been to those shows. Performances where, after it’s all said and done, you end up wandering around in a daze, your whole brain reconfigured by what you just witnessed. It can be a rare occurrence — especially lately — but when it happens, it’s magic. Sun June’s “Karen O” was inspired by one such show in Brooklyn, where the Yeah Yeah Yeahs leader performed at what sounds like an intimate basement show, presumably the ones she did in support of her solo album Crush Songs.
The song flickers in and out of consciousness as Sun June vocalist Laura Colwell is swallowed up by memories and the gentle trudging of her feet taking her who knows where. “I stayed up all night/ Walked across the bridge,” she sings. “Saw the city come down/ Watched you fade into it.” It perfectly captures those potentially transformative personal moments that music can induce, when it recontextualizes everything that came before it and everything that could come after. –James
The Bug and Dis Fig refer to the style of music on their upcoming collaborative LP In Blue as “tunnel sound.” It might not be the most informative genre descriptor, but it fits. “You” is nominally dance music, with a muffled dancehall beat pulsing steadily beneath the haze of Felicia Chen’s narcotized vocals, but it’s not really the kind of dance music that inspires sweaty collective catharsis. Instead, it’s a solitary, nocturnal, subterranean form of dance music, drawing strands of dub and soul and industrial into its foggy grasp. It’s two singular artists coming together to make something equally singular, a blurry snapshot of the kind of isolation and longing that’s all too familiar these days. –Peter
Rhythm + Flow did Cakes Da Killa no favors. A year ago, the New York rapper Cakes was a contestant on the Netflix rap-competition show. Beyond an early audition moment with Cardi B, Cakes disappeared into the pack and left the show early. A show like that pulls a rapper like Cakes out of his proper context, presenting rap like it’s a sport with a judges’ table. But rap is not that, and context matters.
“Don Dada” is Cakes seizing on his context and doing something great with it. The track, from New York DJ/producer Proper Villains, is frantic, pounding house. And Cakes digs into that, seething and growling and sprinting over the beat. It’s a testament to how hard hip-house can be, how club-rap doesn’t have to sacrifice one iota of guttural intensity. It’s the kind of thing that couldn’t possibly come from a reality show. –Tom
I loved the last Weather Station album. “Thirty,” its signature track, become one of my favorite songs not just of last decade, but pretty much ever. Already an accomplished songwriter, it was clear Tamara Lindeman had climbed up to a new level. The melodies, the lyrics, the new modulations to her arrangements — everything on The Weather Station aligned with the fact that her fourth album was her self-titled, a final moment of becoming exactly who she was supposed to be as an artist.
I remember seeing her on those tours. I remember how good those shows already were. And I also remember small moments, in the weird rhythmic roiling of “Impossible” or the dramatic crests of “You And I (On The Other Side Of The World),” where I could almost hear Lindeman pushing towards something else, something that was hard to visualize quite yet but felt like a whole new horizon. I thought I was just imagining it at the time, some other sound extrapolated by a wandering mind during a gig. But then she released “Robber.” It was the version of the Weather Station I heard in that Brooklyn club years ago, suddenly come to life.
At the same time, “Robber” stunned and shocked upon its arrival. Has Lindeman just been mainlining Blackstar nonstop for the last several years? Her folk-rock DNA has almost been completely expunged, replaced by gracefully skittering rhythms, sputtering guitar and organ interjections, flickering sax and strings. “Robber” pulls off a bizarre trick: Everything is twitchy and fragmented, but all the shattered pieces are put in just the right order, so the song becomes one steadily rising current. It’s the sound of Lindeman corralling and coasting through chaos. Just when we thought knew what Lindeman was becoming, where she could go, she’s become someone else entirely — and wherever she’s leading us now, it’s completely transfixing. –Ryan