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.
Hey, it’s Ryan and I apologize for every mean thing I’ve ever said about my home state. Pennsylvania is, as it turns out, alright.
And as always, there’s an old tweet for this:
The five best songs of this endless, anxious, but ultimately hopeful week are below.
“There’s A Ghost” is one of the first songs that Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan wrote after six months’ worth of writer’s block during lockdown and, naturally, it’s about the scary outside world getting in. McCaughan tapes up his doors and nails shut his windows but the joke is on him. The monster is inside the house. Keeping with the band’s legacy of rousing Halloween singles, Superchunk sound urgent in their need for an exorcism. “Do you ever drink and do you ever think/ Oh, there’s a ghost in this house,” McCaughan bleats in the chorus. “And it’s opening your mouth/ There’s a ghost in this house/ Let him out, let him out, let him out.” As we’ve been holed up in our homes for the whole year, it’s given us more time to contemplate our own demons — those are haunting enough without having to go outside. –James
Dave Harrington is one of those guys who require way too many genre tags, partially because his music blurs together so many of them. The adventurous musician is still probably best known for Darkside, his downtempo electronic psych project with Nicolas Jaar, but he’s sounding pretty incredible in ambient post-rock mode alongside jazz drummer Kenny Wolleson. The duo’s new improv single contains two amazing pieces of music. The cantankerous noise-bombed freakout “Investigate & Enjoy” makes a hell of an A-side, and the B is even better: a gentle emotive drift called “It’s Too Late To Look At The Blossoms” that feels like Explosions In The Sky song slowly unraveling. I need a whole album of this stuff. –Chris
Tierra Whack’s “Dora” doesn’t have all that much to do with its animated explorer namesake, but it does have enough color and whimsy to power a Nickelodeon cartoon. The song is all sunny electronic squiggles and playful Tune-Yards-esque vocal loops, Tierra Whack’s eccentric sing-song rap cadences swinging through the beat like monkey bars. “Yeah, in a Porsche/ Call me a gold digger, yes of course/ I’m in Dior,” the Philadelphia rapper flexes. “I think I just might buy me a horse/ Basketball game, we on the floor/ I need me new bags just to adore.” Just wait till she starts rapping about Birkin bags! –Peter
“Usually usually usually.” In Dua Lipa’s voice, the word becomes a bird call, a sound-effect. Lipa has a gift for strange little moments like that — offhand deliveries that lodge in your brain and elevate her generally-pretty-orthodox dance-pop. “Fever” is a team-up with the Belgian singer Angèle, and it’s a conventional song in a lot of ways. Lipa and Angèle both sing — Lipa in English, Angèle in French — about a crush as if it’s a sickness. A fleet, efficient beat from producer Ian Kirkpatrick, a regular Lipa collaborator, bubbles and twinkles under them. But the song moves, and off-kilter melodic choices, like the way Lipa sings the world “usually,” help give the track shape and dimension. “Fever” is a bonus joint for a deluxe edition of Lipa’s Future Nostalgia album, and that means it should probably be a throwaway. Maybe it is. But even Lipa’s throwaways slap hard, and this one feels like it could linger. –Tom
Big gestures are risky business. Even the bands that make their name on it, as Arcade Fire certainly have, fumble with them from time to time. But then you see them play to thousands of people and hear giant singalongs reverberating across a field, and you remember the power of music that tries for, and achieves, that reach. Then they come back in the times when their voices are most comforting and galvanizing, and you get swept up in those big gestures all over again.
Musically, Arcade Fire have had much bigger gestures than “Generation A.” The song, contrary to its central “I can’t wait!” refrain, has an insistent but controlled pulse — a beat that resolutely marches forward, little burbles of synths and guitars buoying the growing chants. It’s only at the end, when all the band members’ voices grow ever so louder, that it feels like the song might take off melodically.
Along the way, though, Arcade Fire go big narratively — painting portraits of broad generational warfare, of the frustrations we’ve all felt coursing through us these past four years alongside reminders that our fight will be far from over in these next four. Arcade Fire are bottling a whole bunch of impending existential fears into a mantra that we’re running out of time to fix these problems. But in a week that could’ve been a whole lot darker, and has the slightest bit of hope most of us have been able to feel in a very long time, Arcade Fire’s return is perfectly timed — for the moment, we’re allowed to feel triumphant once more. –Ryan