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, we had fun with our big birthday tribute to Bob Dylan, and it seems like you all did too. Whose birthday should we celebrate next…? The five best songs of the week are below.
“It was easier to sit than stand for myself/ It was easy to give in than stand for myself,” Yola sings on “Stand For Myself,” the title track off of her upcoming album. The twangy country-rock groove behind her slowly opens up into full bloom, with swaggering blues-rock guitar, a shuffling cosmopolitan beat, and climactic piano. It all comes to a head in the fiery outro, when Yola finally lets loose with her powerhouse voice just as the song achieves transcendent liftoff. “Now I’m alive, alive, I’m alive,” she belts. It’s a powerful statement of intent and an equally powerful showcase for this new version of Yola, a woman who won’t let genre barriers — or anything else — stand in her way. —Peter
In the opening seconds of “Hood Blues,” we hear Westside Gunn doing his brrrr machine-gun sound-effect ad-lib at the same time as DMX does his venerated pitbull growl, a sound that’s practically a pavlovian trigger of rap heads of a certain age. We’ve never heard those two sounds share space before, and we’ll probably never hear it again. In making what would turn out to be his final album, DMX actively sought out Buffalo’s Griselda crew, craggy-voiced up-and-comers whose neck-crank music works to evoke the feeling that DMX’s music once did. Over a hard boom-bap beat from Swizz Beatz and Lil Wayne collaborator Avenue Beatz, X joins the Griselda crew, following intense verses from all three of the Buffalo family’s rappers with a scratchy, angry attack of a verse. The DMX of 2021 does not sound like the DMX of 1998, but his sheer head-buster enthusiasm and grave presence remain undimmed. The man died making bangers. —Tom
In audiobooks’ new song, a little girl has lost her doll, her only friend. In the accompanying video, the camera follows a child walking through the world, trying to recapture the feeling from youth, when you start to become more aware and explore the environment around you. All of this could scan as nostalgic, a yearning return to innocence. But instead, as audiobooks render it, there’s a haunting desperation to “The Doll.” Evangeline Ling’s vocals are deadpan, clinical, a sing-speak relating a story as matter of fact. Behind her, David Wrench builds a steadily increasing dance track, propelling Ling toward the song’s climax: Her voice turned ghostly, singing “So hard to let you go.” “The Doll” is, in some ways, a work of contradictions: Cool detachment and arty disaffection, but with the final escape of a beat that could fill a dancefloor in the bleary hours of early morning. In the end, they learn to let go — lost in today, in the moment of that release, leaving behind friends that can’t be found and a past that can’t be reclaimed. —Ryan
“And it’s been so long!” Brendan Yates howls, “So the mystery gone!” The three-plus years since Turnstile’s last album really do feel like an eternity, but if anything the interim has cranked up the intrigue surrounding Baltimore’s hardcore crossover stars. They’ve come back sounding ready to upgrade to arenas, with a deeply poppy grunge-adjacent reminiscent of Higher Power, Narrow Head, and the 1990s. Yates’ voice is slathered in echo, achieving full-on Perry Farrell status as it windsurfs over his bandmates’ chunky power-chord riptide. A guitar solo? Sure! “Whoa-oh” gang vocals? Might as well! If you’re gonna go big, you might as well go gigantic, and with “MYSTERY” Turnstile sound like they’re about to be huge. —Chris
“Brutal,” the invigorating opener to Olivia Rodrigo’s dynamic debut Sour — an album you may be tired of hearing about at this point — mostly meditates on the disillusionment that comes with being 18. Beginning with soft, cinematic violins, the song explodes into a sharp-edged rock track reminiscent of ’90s alternative and early 2000s pop-punk, sounds that have been making a massive comeback in mainstream music.
Still, “Brutal” stands out amongst the influx of current artists riffing off of that era. The lyrics are mostly what’s drawing people in: “And I’m so tired that I might/ Quit my job, start a new life/ And they’d all be so disappointed/ ‘Cause who am I, if not exploited?” It’s bold for a Disney star to admit this, let alone on a hit song — and it immediately imbues the listener with trust. The song is full of complaints, rants, confessions, and self-drags, and it ends on a ruthlessly honest note: “Got a broken ego, broken heart/ And God, I don’t even know where to start.”
It’s a very 18-year-old sentiment; to have some semblance of power at that age (like being one of the world’s biggest pop stars) contradicts strongly with the feelings that 18 brings. All of the heartbreak that circulates the record shows that even if Rodrigo is powerful in the industry, it’s because of vulnerable songs that put her weaknesses at the forefront. For a teenage celebrity, her music is endlessly relatable, in part because everyone at any age deserves some time to revel in their disappointment. When Rodrigo sings, “They say these are the golden years/ But I wish I could disappear,” it could just as easily apply to your 20s, your 30s, your 40s. “Brutal” is an anthem for anyone who just wants to yell about how much life sucks, because it really is brutal out here. —Danielle