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.
The Pandemic Valentine’s Day edition of 5 Best features some ruminative folk-rock, some interior house music and warped R&B head dazes, and a 19-minute track of scorched earth and far-seeing visions, and a song that asks “Aren’t you tired of being alone?” So, who knows, do with that what you will. The five best songs of the week are below.
Ryley Walker's last solo outing, 2018's Deafman Glance, was a masterful album. It was also dark and worn in many places, mirroring a difficult passage of Walker's life. In the years since, he got sober, embarking on a different kind of life. Who knows how much that will factor in to his new album Course In Fable, but it certainly seems to impact its lead single "Rang Dizzy." "I'm so fried/ Rang dizzy inside," Walker sings on the chorus. The song is still bleary — not so much in the sense that Deafman Glance had a weathered weight to it, but like the sound of waking up from a foggy, lost period. Fried from listless and self-destructive years, but newly "baptized in seltzer made from glaciers." (Maybe that last line is a bit tongue in cheek, Walker's infamous Twitter humor sneaking into his music.)
Accordingly, there's a warmth to "Rang Dizzy," all the wandering instrumentation and cascading guitar lines beginning to feel like new light creeping through the window. Walker's delivery has always been too laidback to be anthemic, but there's something resounding where he goes here anyway. As he sings at the end of that chorus, matter-of-factly but maybe still a bit amazed: "Fuck me, I'm alive." —Ryan
Jana Bahrich speaks her way through the beginning of Francis Of Delirium's new single "Let It All Go," a night of public embarrassment spilling over in a furious rush. The song lurches and stumbles, matching the pace of her whirlwind of thoughts. "I was overbearing and I'm so sorry, I thought it meant something," she spits out, the emotions coming a mile a minute: "But we were so close, so close/ Started to push away, push away/ Feeling emptier, emptier/ Results in public shame, public shame." The repetition of the words drives home Bahrich's predicament, makes you feel it in the very structure of the song as she tries to push all those feelings of inadequacies away with an angelic refrain and builds it into a central question: "Aren't you tired of being alone?" "Let It All Go" is a journey from hurt to healing in four minutes, but it still sounds like it bears some deep scars. —James.
Leon Vynehall was known as a house producer. Then, with the release of 2018's Nothing Is Still, he became something else entirely. A beautifully resonant concept album about his grandparents' emigration from London to New York in the 1960s, Nothing Is Still seemed destined more for concert halls than dancefloors, imbuing Vynehall's electronic compositions with the expansiveness of ambient music and the richly arranged grandeur of modern classical. On his new song "Mothra," Vynehall somehow steps forward and backward at the same time, with expressive, impeccably sound-designed experimental synthscapes morphing into pulse-quickening club beats and back again. It's as impossible to pin down as Vynehall himself, and it hints at a whole new world of lovely surprises. —Peter
Brent Faiyaz - "Circles" (Feat. Purr)
In the past few years, the Baltimore singer Brent Faiyaz has become a cult hero by quietly excelling in the zone of slow, soft-focus, chilled-out R&B. "Circles" is an impossible-to-ignore signal that Faiyaz has other ambitions. Released as part of Do Not Listen — a free-download link posted without explanation on Instagram — "Circles" is a soft, minimal hymn of desperation: "Only heaven knows if you can truly win in the midst of a world that's gon' end/ How am I up right now?/ I'm not. I'm still down."
Faiyaz sings tenderly in a voice that switches between angelic tenor and pitch-shifted screwed-and-chopped ghost-moan. His backing track is a minimal, hollowed-out loop that sounds like a broken music box. Then, near the end, canned studio applause interrupts the track, and it flips abruptly into a burst of psychedelic euphoria from the New York indie duo Purr. Like that, Faiyaz is gone from his own song. "Circles" is a fascinating piece of work, a series of left turns within left turns. Where Brent Faiyaz goes from here is anyone's guess. —Tom
You don't know exactly what a 19-minute Fucked Up song will sound like or where it will take you. You just know it's going to rule. Such is the case with the first act of Year Of The Horse, a new installment of the Toronto prog-hardcore legends' long-running Chinese zodiac-themed singles series so robust that it basically doubles as the full-length follow-up to 2018's behemoth double album Dose Your Dreams.
The band's Mike Haliechuk says "Act One" is "easily the least crazy side of this record," a statement that sends the imagination reeling given how wild this one gets. Before it's half over, the song has powered through riff-powered proto-thrash, punishingly violent hardcore, and medieval folk with an ethereal tint, all of it set to an elaborate "libretto" about a horse named Perceval by Haliechuk and David James Brock. By the end it has cycled through a lot more heavy-hitting bombast and dipped into something like folk-tinged psychedelic dance music? Whether you experience it as strictly music or as a multimedia art project, it's a thrilling journey — and apparently the journey is only beginning. —Chris