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.
Once more, we have made it to the conclusion of list season. We’re done looking back at 2020, and it’s time to get excited for the moment when everything in the world is magically fixed on Jan. 1, 2021. Here are the five best songs of the week. We’ll see you in the new year.
The furiously productive Griselda collective is about to follow their particularly busy 2020 with something different: a film called Conflicted. While the movie is fictional, the first song we've heard from its accompanying soundtrack is a real story. "3:30 In Houston" finds Benny The Butcher reflecting on recent events, when he was shot in the leg during an attempted robbery, while he was in his car outside a Houston Walmart.
Over a bleary beat, Benny attacks the experience from a bunch of different angles, talking up his stature in Buffalo's rap scene but then also dismissing people who tried to spin the shooting or his reaction: "Niggas told me since this shit happened I'm lit, I should take advantage of it... Niggas would've been in my position, I bet they would've hit the panic button." We don't know about the entirety of the Conflicted soundtrack yet, but there's a chance we'll get a great collaborative Griselda album out of it. In that sense, Benny The Butcher's leading the charge with "3:30 In Houston," showcasing the gritty, matter-of-fact storytelling that's fueled the Buffalo crew's rise. —Ryan
Boldy James' inclusion on this list should come as no surprise. The Detroit rapper has been on an insane hot streak all year. But Real Bad Boldy, his fourth full-length project of 2020, isn't just a well-deserved victory lap, an easy layup. Real Bad Man, who produced all 10 tracks on Real Bad Boldy, might be a crew of streetwear designers, but "Light Bill" should put to rest any idea that these guys aren't real-ass rap producers. The beat is abrasive and delightfully weird, built around a blown-out harmonica loop that sounds like a broken-down robot singing the blues and stays just on the right side of grating. And as good as Boldy's methodical flow sounds over tingling atmospheric psychedelia, it might be even better to hear him and Meyhem Lauren go the fuck in over a track that bangs just as hard —Peter
All Charly Bliss and PUP want for Christmas is you, but you remain frustratingly out of reach. "Last year we drank so much," Eva Hendricks melodiously recalls. "We meant to open presents up/ Then laughed so hard we couldn't breathe/ And passed out on the couch asleep." Good times! Great memories. By comparison, as voiced by Stefan Babcock's nasal blare, "This whole year's been dogshit." Thanks to the pandemic, a lot more people will be a lot more isolated this year, with nothing left to do but sob while watching Elf all alone. It sucks, and now we have a song about it that rules.
Despite its 2020-centric lyrics, the two bands built "It's Christmas And I Fucking Miss You" to endure. Details aside, the sentiment is timeless. Who hasn't spent a Christmas thinking, "This holiday is not the same without you by my side"? Who hasn't witnessed a treasured relationship becoming increasingly alienated and understood that those plans to get together soon were probably empty talk? The music — a jangly, melancholy pop-rock shimmer that accelerates into high gear without sacrificing the festive vibe — also feels more classic than current. And the hooks are so catchy that they could easily be adapted to fit whatever aesthetic you please, so maybe this will even evolve into a standard. In the meantime, if you're looking for a new favorite Christmas song, don't fucking miss this one. —Chris
With a track like this, put together by so many prominent and important beatmakers, it's fun to go through and try to imagine who's responsible for what. Madlib is the lead artist here, and he's credited with "music." His music has moved in so many directions over the years, but the loose astral-organic pulse of "Road Of The Lonely Ones" is all him. Madlib's collaborator Four Tet edited, arranged, and mastered the song, so maybe that's why it has that bucolic, contemplative warmth. And then there are the samples.
Much of "Road Of The Lonely Ones" comes from the beautiful and fairly obscure '60s song "Lost In A Lonely World" by an Ohio soul group called the Ethics. Much of it also comes from J-Zone, the profoundly underrated rapper and beatmaker who has lately dedicated himself to recording '70s-style funk breakbeats. The vocals and guitar are the Ethics. The drums are J-Zone. So maybe this is just a matter of Madlib and Four Tet matching up the right source materials, making something new out of them.
But the best thing about a track like "Road Of The Lonely Ones" is that you don't have to think too hard about who made what, about how all these different parts fit together. Instead, the sound, a gooey and inviting neck-snapper, can just fill up a room. It can make the air taste different. It can give sunlight new colors. Everyone involved in "Road Of The Lonely Ones" deserves some kind of credit. But the track itself becomes its own beast once it hits your brain. —Tom
I've had a different favorite evermore track every day of this week, but right now I'm stuck on "'tis the damn season." It's the one that perhaps best exemplifies the album's strengths: Swift's emotional specificity and Aaron Dessner's laidback production, here a wiry swirl of guitars that stays out of the way and allows her story to take hold. This one is about low-stakes regret and heartache and a romance that's as fleeting as melting snow. Its narrative is loosely linked to "dorothea," another one of my favorites from the album, and they're tied together by the same pull toward where you grew up, a place you've outgrown but still holds a certain comfort.
Swift's narrator is home for the holidays, something many of us can't be this year. She's staying in her parents' house, sleeping in all day like she used to do when she was young, and it throws into stark relief everything that has changed and everything that has not. It can feel good to fall back into old fantasies, and Swift lets herself go back to December on "'tis the damn season," imagining a youthful dalliance that might have been. "Time flies, messy as the mud on your truck tires/ Now I'm missing your smile, hear me out," she sings in the chorus. "We could just ride around/ And the road not taken looks real good now/ And it always leads to you and my hometown." It's a simple escape, one that is destined not to last as the present-day creeps in, but a potent one nonetheless. —James