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.
Welcome to the first installment of 5 Best on the relaunched Stereogum! Like the rest of the site, it has a bit of a new look. We hope you like it, and we hope you like the best songs of the week. Check them out below.
I've never experienced anything like what I witnessed in New York on Saturday. I was settling into what I figured would be a long, uninterrupted work day, sure that at that point it'd be several more days before they called Pennsylvania and my home state tipped the election to Biden. Then one moment I heard every car outside honking, and it took a split second to realize it wasn't the usual traffic jam but something in the air. For the rest of the day, Brooklyn was one giant street party. Strangers passing by and congratulating you, people cheering from windows, a chorus of car horns throughout the day. People congregating and dancing in parks, drum circles and mini-marching bands leading them in chants to the "Hey Jude" refrain or "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye." Dozens of cars blasting "FDT," which felt a whole lot better now than it did when it was first released. I saw someone online joke that New York looked like the end of The Return Of The Jedi, and that's pretty accurate. Friends in Europe called me from new eras of lockdown measures abroad, remarking how it had been so long since the world, as a whole, had gotten some good news. I've never seen such a public, communal outpouring of joy and relief.
I've also never really experienced anything like the day I woke up to the news that Trump had won, four years ago. (People compared it to 9/11, though to me they felt like different breeds of trauma.) The despair, the collective mourning — everyone realizing at once that we'd been complacent about the center holding, had missed the rot at its very core. That's when Ian Devaney wrote the new Nation Of Language song "A Different Kind Of Life." That's the time it was born from, and you can still hear that in plenty of its lyrics: Shock that we could've been so blind, a man who "checks all the boxes of a racist troglodyte." There's a line about being in "the waiting room of history," a feeling perhaps new to many of our generation. We'd already been through 9/11, and the Recession, but this time we were older and could feel the fact that we were in a seismic moment. We could look at ourselves and ask how we let it get away from us. We could sit and wonder how many years it would take to exit that waiting room, to find a different kind of life.
Now, on the other side of it all, Nation Of Language have have released the track into a tentative dawn on something else. "A Different Kind Of Life" now registers as a recap, or an echo of how we felt in those bleak days at the beginning of Trump's presidency. At the same time, the context and impact of the song are totally altered — one of the more ebullient tracks Nation Of Language have released this year, it might catalog the defeat we felt all those years ago but now it sounds like the euphoria that coursed through the streets last weekend. When the band released it, Devaney acknowledged we still have a long way to go, that the song still yearns for a better country, a better world, one that will require that much more work after one little victory in a much longer war. But that, in a sense, is what makes "A Different Kind Of Life" feel so poignant. When it was written, the phrase seemed a distant possibility to all of us, almost a willful dream state escapism from the grim realities at hand. Now, for the first time in a long while, a different kind of life feels just a bit more reachable. —Ryan
"Day Dreaming" is more than just a daydream. It's a full-on swoon, a dazed, lovestruck reverie that captures that magical feeling of giving yourself over to someone — or something — new. "Daydreaming about you/ I'm falling, it's true," Brijean Murphy sighs. "Do you need what I need too? Do you feel what I feel too?" Murphy is a percussionist who's played with people like Toro Y Moi and U.S. Girls, and while the shimmering keyboards from Chaz Bear set the mood, it's the irresistible rhythmic pulse of the conga- and bass-driven groove that really transports you to some distant paradise. By the end of the song, you might have a new obsession of your own. —Peter
"I looked at my wrist two times and caught pneumonia/ I hopped out the coupe with Nina Ross, she is a smoker." With this tribute to his jewelry and his gun, Drakeo The Ruler begins his first song since being released from prison. His voice barely rises above a mutter. It doesn't need to. There's lived-in gravitas in the LA rapper's words at any volume, enough to pierce the static when he rapped a whole album over the phone from the penitentiary. Drakeo is so magnetically unflashy, in fact, that he forwent the "First Day Out" pageantry that typically accompanies a rapper's return from behind bars and got right back to the boastful street talk he does best. Against a similarly understated beat from Thank You Fizzle from Al B Smoov, he sounds so in the zone it's like he never left. —Chris
Rico Nasty and 100 Gecs' Dylan Brady are proving themselves to be a match made in heaven. Their first team-up, "iPhone," sounded more like Rico meeting Brady where he was at, rapping on top of a glitter-blasted beat that wasn't far removed from what was on 1000 Gecs. "OHFR?," their next track together, feels like more of an even-handed collaboration — Dylan channels the aggression that Rico has expressed over her many other projects, a warning siren punctuating her flippant posturing. "They said Rico put a 10-piece in her grill/ I been moving how I want, fuck how you feel," she snarls in the chorus. "I was told to get how you live/ Oh, for real? I coulda got her hit, I let her live." And with that there's yet another entry in Rico Nasty's growing pantheon of shit-talking snaps. —James
Fifteen years is a long time, and the members of System Of A Down have lately given the impression that they are always deeply annoyed with one another. So the idea of new System Of A Down music existing in 2020 seems truly unlikely — almost as unlikely as a metal band this bugged-out rising to arena stardom in the first place. But SOAD are back, and they're shooting lightning from their eyes.
The members of System Of A Down may be deeply divided on how to respond to tyranny at home, but they're a unified front when it comes to tyranny abroad. "Protect The Land" and "Genocidal Humanoidz," the band's two new songs, have raised $600,000 for the Aremenia Fund and given the band a chance to make a loud public statement about the conflict between Armenia and the Turkey-supported Azerbaijan. The new songs find the band once again operating at full strength — angry and focused and weird. "Genocidal Humanoidz," in particular, is a top-shelf bugout. That tornado riff, those chanted incantations, those feral blastbeats — it's all fast and merciless and passionate and proudly insane. Nobody else sounds remotely like this, and it's remarkable to hear a band this divided suddenly snapping into attack mode once again. —Tom