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.
Everyone at Stereogum made a couple million on GameStop stocks this week, so we’re all quitting our jobs. (Even Scott, who owns the site. Maybe he’ll buy Pitchfork next with his GameStop money.) Thanks for reading, and for the last time ever, here are the five best songs of the week.
Leave it to Squid to kick off an album rollout with a multi-part eight-and-a-half-minute track that transforms from arty punk-funk to noise-laced passages that could almost be pretty in their melancholy if not for how Oliver Judge and Martha Skye Murphy push their voices to unnerved, shredded limits. It's a bold choice, but Squid have long since proven themselves one of the weirder groups emerging from the young generation of guitar bands in the UK and Ireland. They are hard to pin down, roiling and shape-shifting. "Narrator," like prior songs such as "The Cleaner," seems to sum up everything about the group's frenetic, restless energy.
But there's also something a bit darker at play. "Narrator" was inspired by the 2019 film A Long Day's Journey Into Night, unreliable narration, the elision of memory and dream and reality. All of that in turn was complicated by Murphy's contribution to the song's story: pointing out the interactions (and overlaps) between unreliable narrators and toxic masculinity. Just as "Narrator" is musically ambitious, thematically there is ... a lot going on here. "Narrator" suddenly twists around, so that it's not just a discursive, exploratory instrumental workout. It contorts into new shapes as deeper and darker corners of someone's psyche are allowed to manifest through increasingly insistent repetition, aggrieved screams, and, finally, the collapse into droning silence. —Ryan
Xiu Xiu's music is often difficult to get a hold on. Throughout the two decades that Jamie Stewart has been making music under the name, he's vacillated between noisy pop and just plain noise. On "A Bottle Of Rum," he gives himself over the the more accessible side of his sensibilities. Continuing a history of collaborations with Grouper's Liz Harris, here she's the centerpiece of a clanging duet that has all the haunting qualities of Grouper — Stewart wrote the music after listening to "Heavy Water/I'd Rather Be Sleeping" — and the restless pulse of being alive that courses through Stewart's own music. It's chugging and somehow murkily bright, as they echo each other in dreams and come out the other side of a self-destructive bender unashamed of sometimes needing to embrace their darkest impulses. —James
Genghis Tron quite literally aren't what they used to be: The Armed singer Tony Wolski has replaced former mookie singer man Mookie Singerman, and Nick Yacyshyn of Sumac and Baptists is on board to lend the band live drums for the first time. What "Dream Weapon" reminds us is that sometimes, 13 years after your most recent music, "not what they used to be" is a good thing. Yacyshyn's relentless bombardment creates a powerful momentum in the song, a dense web of harmonized vocals and guitars that sound like laser beams that sound like 800-horsepower engines. Wolski's deeply melodic vocals float atop the tumult, emanating an eerie calm. The music unfolds at a measured pace, intense but restrained, as if Genghis Tron are carefully assembling explosives and lighting a fuse. Then, in the final minutes, the whole thing collapses with a violent grace and beauty worthy of Hollywood's finest CGI. —Chris
Sometimes, the most concerned people in your life are also the biggest assholes. Maybe the people in your family, for instance, are worried that you aren't making enough out of your life. Maybe they really want to help you. And maybe that concern makes you dread every single interaction with them. If that's you, then here's a gloriously fizzy pop-punk banger about it. "My sister says she's proud of me, but I can hear her lying through her teeth," sings Sam Bielanski, frontwoman of the Toronto band PONY. "My Christmas card, every year, it reads, 'We'll always have a couch for you to sleep on.'" Hey! Sam Bielanski's sister! Fuck your couch! —Tom
As serpentwithfeet, Josiah Wise makes weird, arty, operatic music, a singularly avant-garde form of gospel-inflected R&B. "Fellowship," the first song off of his upcoming album DEACON, is still all of that. But it's something new and different, too, softer and warmer and gentler than his usual intensely theatrical melodrama.
"Fellowship" feels intentionally smaller stakes, focusing on mundane little snapshots of comfortable platonic love: "Our breezy Sunday afternoons/ Christmas films in July with you/ The canon of Baltimore tales/ Our crafty looks when there's nothing to wear." And it culminates with this lovely refrain: "I’m so thankful for my friends/ I’m thankful for the love I share with my friends."
You can practically hear the smile in Wise's voice as he croons the words and Sampha and Lil Silva join in. The song unfolds dreamily and deliberately, like one of those breezy Sunday afternoons, angelic falsetto floating above the clattering, experimental percussion like smoke curling up from a bonfire. Even when serpentwithfeet isn't going big, his music remains just as beautifully affecting. —Peter