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.
This week, amidst promises we’re gonna have enough vaccines for any adult who wants one by the summer, we found out New York venues are going to start reopening with limited capacity, and some festivals claim they’re still going to happen this year. Can you imagine … actually seeing live music in 2021? For now, here is the best of what recorded music had to offer this week.
The best songs are full of indelible moments — a phrase, a riff, a melody that makes your hair stand on end. On Jordana’s “Doubt Of Revival,” a collaboration with Ryan Woods, that moment comes almost exactly halfway into the track. The insistent bassline drops out, the entire song seems to hang in the air for a split second, and then the drums explode as the righteously crunchy ’90s guitar kicks in. “Doubt Of Revival” is a song about being haunted by intrusive thoughts, paralyzed by one’s own memories. But that beautiful moment is the sound of everything finally clicking into place, of shaking off the doubt and the uncertainty and just going for it. Jordana knows what she’s doing. —Peter
Here’s what Gulch vocalist Elliot Morrow screams on the opening line of “Bolt Swallower”: “Kings of the leech, swallowing whole.” Here’s what it sounds like: “KIRUURRURLUUUUH AARRRAAAHHHLURRUUHHH.” This is the Gulch style: freaked-out, jagged hostile-world poetry, presented with as much urgency and violence as possible. In a very short period of time, the San Joes hardcore enigmas have mastered a sort of landmines-exploding expressionism, ripping and burning with all the ugliness that they can muster. But even in a small and hectic discography, “Bolt Swallower” stands out.
At four minutes, “Bolt Swallower” practically a marathon, and it takes that time to bulldoze through the walls dividing a whole lot of forms of heavy, antisocial music. In this shrapnel-storm, we can hear echoes of grindcore, of black metal, of scuzzed-out ’90s noise-rock, of chest-beating goon music, of screamy basement punk, and of probably a half-dozen other things. It all blurs together into one vast, overwhelming whirlwind of disgust. Then it all ends with a couple of soft, ominous guitars winding their way through each other — the deep breath after the onslaught. —Tom
Some of the great Japanese Breakfast songs deal with loss, some of the great Japanese Breakfast songs deal with bad relationships of the past. That’s not where Michelle Zauner is at this time. Her third J Brekkie album is called Jubilee, and apparently she’d planned that for a while. The album’s lead single seems to sum up everything this new era of Japanese Breakfast is supposed to be about — a slinky disco indie groove, funky guitar ripples, ebullient synths, and Zauner channeling joy and ecstasy just as she once so devastatingly channeled grief.
That’s not to say “Be Sweet” is all pure euphoria. “Be sweet to me baby/ I want to believe in you,” Zauner sings on the chorus. Elsewhere she calls out for a partner to comfort her. The song isn’t runaway infatuation, it’s asking for something. But the way the song bubbles and pops around Zauner, you’re left thinking that “Be Sweet” is a great Japanese Breakfast song that ends a little happier than the great Japanese Breakfast songs of the past. —Ryan
For all intents and purposes, “Spinning” is a 1975 song. That’s not a shot at No Rome, the band’s close collaborator, who is credited as the lead artist, or at Charli XCX, the avant-pop icon who makes herself at home here. It’s simply an acknowledgement that Matty Healy and George Daniel produced the track, and that they could have easily slipped it onto last year’s endless Notes On A Conditional Form without anyone knowing the difference. It is a very good 1975 song at that, one that expertly strikes their signature balances: between pop and rock, past and present, organic and synthetic, swaggering confidence and self-doubt.
True to its subject matter, “Spinning” is a sonic whirlwind. It sounds like the kind of fast-paced life that many of us have left behind during the pandemic, a blur of neon lights and thundering bass and clinking bottles and pulsing hormones. (Indeed, evidence suggests the track dates back to 2019, before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19.) Over an exultant dance beat straight out of early ’90s pop radio, a barrage of manipulated vocals swirls in and out of the frame, Rome and Charli and Matty joining forces to sketch out a character who can’t seem to slow down. Or maybe, given the multiplicity of voices, they’re all calling each other out? However we’re supposed to hear it, it’s a rush. —Chris
The rainforests are devastated. We’ve known this for decades but are powerless in our individual capabilities to change it. But there are those out there who can, those who hold the purse-strings and have more money than they know what to do with. Noname argues for the eradication of the billionaire class on “Rainforest,” makes the catastrophe of climate change into a call for universal action. “They turned a natural resource into a bundle of cash/ Made the world anti-Black, then divided the class,” she says in her pointed way.
The track would almost sound soothing if what Noname was rapping about wasn’t so harrowing. “Because a rainforest cries, everybody dies a little,” she sings. There’s disaster all around us but to think about it all the time can be numbing. So “Rainforest” finds Noname taking a moment for herself: “And I just wanna dance tonight,” she admits, letting herself go in the chorus for just a few seconds before hopping back into more pressing matters. Hers is a considered revolution, one born from anger, yes, but also one that has the energy and capacity to go the long haul. —James