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 Oscars are this weekend — who do you want to win? Did you actually watch a single movie in a year where we couldn’t go to theaters? Did you in fact watch every movie ever in a year when we were stuck in our homes? The five best songs of the week are below.
As a lifelong indie rock dork, whenever I think of Yola I also inevitably think of Yo La Tengo, whose name is imprinted on my brain by virtue of being one of the greatest bands in music history. The Spanish phrase, which the band famously cribbed from baseball players flagging down fly balls, means “I have it!” Yola’s name has nothing to do with any of that; it’s short for Yolanda Quartey, the name her Barbadian parents gave her 37 years ago in Bristol. In a sense, though, the association is perfect. One listen to “Diamond Studded Shoes” is all it takes to figure out that Yola has it.
The lead single from Stand For Myself subtracts much of the country from Yola’s previous country soul sound, instead subbing in a smoking hot Southern gospel groove that barrels ahead with breathless momentum. There’s some twang in the lead guitar that noodles its way through the arrangement, but it also feels bluesy and lysergic and metropolitan. The rhythm section is spectacular without making a big show of it. And at the center of it all is Yola herself, belting out a rallying cry so casually you might not realize how much power she’s conjuring with that voice. “We know it isn’t/ It ain’t gonna turn out right,” she sings on the chorus. “We know it isn’t/ That’s why we got to fight!” It’s a vague enough message that you could apply it to any number of injustices in this world, and delivered in a song this contagiously likable, it that might actually spur somebody to action. —Chris
UV-TV are a beautiful contradiction. The Gainsville-born, New York-based group play bright, hooky music with the jangly melodic immediacy of indie-pop, but they play it fast and hard, with all the punchy ramshackle intensity of garage-punk. And the best part is, the way they do it, it doesn’t even sound like a contradiction. UV-TV’s new track “Back To Nowhere” is one of the band’s sparkliest and dreamiest and straight-up prettiest songs to date, but it still absolutely rips, practically hurling itself forward from the first bouncy guitar riff to the last fired-up beat from their new full-time drummer Ian Rose. “Back To Nowhere” makes nowhere sound like the perfect place to be. —Peter
One of the better moments during this awful pandemic was when Illuminati Hotties leaked their own new, unrecognizable music and had all of the indie community on Twitter and Reddit wondering who it was. That record was of course the explosive, idiosyncratic Free I.H.: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For, and this new single, “MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA,” has that same absolutely unhinged energy. Only Sarah Tudzin could get away with the most ridiculous of lyrics: “Love me, fight me, choke me, bite me/ The DNC is playing dirty/ Text me, touch me, call me daddy.” Her exaggerated tones and laughs all blend together to make the best anthem to listen to when you’re feeling petty and pissed. —Danielle
“Tragedy is comedy minus yourself,” Patrick Kindlon bellows. And then: “Tragedy is comedy when it’s someone else.” To illustrate, Kindlon barks out a story of someone else, “you,” crashing a car into a guardrail and dying, and then of all the people who really don’t care. It’s bracing to hear a song about how little life matters, and it’s even more bracing to hear it delivered in a song that’s so full of life. Drug Church smear their chugging hardcore with sneaky hooks and smeary melodies. Their guitars soar and bludgeon at the same time. They’re misanthropic and catchy at the same time. You have to be able to do both if you’re going to make a car-radio singalong about dying in a car wreck. —Tom
There is perhaps an overabundance of music nowadays that sits at the intersection of Weezer and Mitski, but when that sound is done as well as Pom Pom Squad does it, who am I to complain? “Head Cheerleader” is an exemplar of the form, produced by Illuminati Hotties’ Sarah Tudzin and with backing vocals by Tegan Quin. It’s pointed and searing and Mia Berrin channels the dueling compulsion between desire and disgust to effective ends. She uses your stereotypical high school imagery — cheerleaders, heart lockets, fooling around under the bleachers — and makes them sound seedy and exploitative. It’s a grimy song, one that sees Berrin disassociating in the chorus as she tries to separate how she feels about herself with how she’s seen by the outside world. “I’m squirming out of my skin/ Is this really happening to me?” she sings. “I’m learning how to be someone I could put my faith in/ If it really came down to me.” That Pom Pom Squad can distill such complicated, conflicted ideas into a compulsively listenable jam is a talent. —James