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.
Here we go, it’s Grammys weekend once more! We’ve already talked about how a bunch of people are pissed at the Grammys this year, and tried to unravel the mystery of who even the fuck are Black Pumas anyway. We’ll see you back here on Sunday for the big event. Until then, the five best songs of the week are below.
It has now been at least a year since most of us have had the privilege of attending a concert in person. And while the future is looking brighter and brighter, it might still be a while before we find ourselves jostled about in a cramped room full of sweaty strangers. But when live shows are once again a possibility, Civic seem like the perfect band to lead the celebration. They play classic rock and roll rippers with garage-rock swagger and raucous punk-rock savagery, and their new song “Tell The Papers” is three and a half minutes of pure, uncut radness. The indelible hooks and the bashed-out intensity complement each other perfectly, and you can practically smell the spilled beer drying on the floor. That’s something to tell the papers about. —Peter
True love does not demand reciprocation. Otherwise it becomes something less than love, something transactional. But tender devotion to an indifferent partner is painful and often unsustainable. It represents a breakdown of how romantic love is supposed to work. Like dependence on drugs and alcohol, a one-sided relationship like that can start to feel like a trap. You want out so bad, and just as passionately you do not want to let go.
With “Addicted,” Jorja Smith, producer Compass, and their team of collaborators sketch out this scenario with a few simple, powerful phrases. It’s a portrait of a dour situation, but set to such remarkable music, it feels exhilarating. “The hardest thing, you are not addicted to me,” Smith laments on the chorus. “I’m the only thing you should need/ You should be addicted to me.” Somber keyboard chords, a stuttering snare drum, and artfully processed guitar riffs lend a sense of momentum to her melancholy. It sounds like the horizon opening up, and in a sense, that’s exactly what it is.
In the most basic sense Smith is an R&B singer, but she got some of her biggest looks on tracks by Drake and Kendrick Lamar — game-changing stars who, rather than staying in established lanes, have altered the shape of popular music. Here, with a pop song that functions like an alt-rock anthem, she proves herself far too ambitious to be relegated to one genre container. “Addicted” glides into exciting sonic territory, achieving the kind of sweet release Smith’s narrator can’t bring herself to enjoy. —Chris
Imogen Heap immediately springs to mind when hearing Xenia Rubinos’ latest single. Rubinos is clearly channeling Heap’s mid-’00s pop run on “Did My Best,” processing her vocals to sound equal parts syrupy and metallic against a minimal backdrop that lets the voice do the heavy lifting. “I did my best for you,” Rubinos insists over and over, as she tries to process a loss that leaves everything open-ended. “I never thought I’d have to write this song/ Just yesterday I woke up and heard the news,” she sings. “I still can’t believe you’re gone, it doesn’t make any sense to any of us/ I didn’t even get to say goodbye.” The effect is still striking all these years later, as Rubinos scrapes a deeper layer of desperation and regret than purely humanly possible. —James
On one hand, Doss’ first song in seven years sounds like the stuff of futuristic cityscapes — nightclubs high in the air, cars drifting through neon-lit elevated highways. But in reality “Puppy” is a deeply personal, interior song, derived from a late night drive but a real world one with a completely different vibe. The song reflects on an old relationship, and how you lose a certain version of your world along with a relationship; it reflects on reunions, and the long solitary drives where we’re left alone to mull all these things over in the quiet of the night.
Along the way, Doss is a ghostly voice over glossy, crystallized synths, crafting a melancholic-but-euphoric dancefloor banger. There’s a contrast, the fading sensation of a human voice against the sharpness of the production — getting at the ways memories and experiences fade into the backdrop, then recur viscerally. Maybe it doesn’t quite transport you to a future city, but it sends you tumbling down through time nonetheless. —Ryan
In September of 2019, the entire Stereogum staff descended on Raleigh for the Hopscotch Festival, and a bunch of us went to a crowded bar to see Lucy Dacus. Dacus was amazing that night — that was the show where she and Sarah Beth Tomberlin covered Sufjan Stevens together — and her set edged toward transcendence just as it ended.
Dacus said that she was going to sing a new song, one that hadn’t been recorded, and she asked everyone not to record it. She then sang a song about trying to support a friend as that friend goes to meet up with an abusive father for the first time in years: “I would kill him if you let me. I would kill him, quick and easy.” As soon as she hit the first chorus, I started to get a sinking feeling, like: Oh no. Oh, fuck. I’m about to cry. I am about to openly weep in this bar. Shit. Is Chris looking at me? Fuck. By the time she got to the last line — “You don’t owe him shit even if he says you did” — I was a total wreck. I am a very tall man, and I’m not really trying to be out here sobbing in full view of bar strangers at music festivals, but “Thumbs” did it to me. It fucked me up good.
A couple of months later, same thing. Dacus played Charlottesville, where I live. She played without her band, bringing out old friends and family members to sing songs with her. She sang “Thumbs” again. I knew it was coming, I tensed my whole body up, and I made good and certain that I would not cry. Didn’t work. Still wept at the club.
“Thumbs” is a song all about friendship and trauma and reassurance and strength. It’s about trying to convince someone else to accept that they don’t have to put up with terrible people, which is sometimes harder than actually putting up with the terrible people in your own life. Dacus sings it quietly, over a soft organ drone, and she enunciates every word clearly. She gives those words nowhere to hide. Depending on what you’ve been through in your life, those words might leave you weeping in public, too. —Tom