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.
With all due respect to the music below, the best thing this week gave us was Coffin Flop, and if you don’t know what we’re talking about you should rectify that. Until then, the five best songs of the week are below.
It hasn’t even been a year since Taylor Swift first revealed the existence of folklore to the world. In the past 11 months, we’ve gotten two albums, a movie, a Grammy win, and assorted loosies and bonus tracks. We get it. The world was not exactly hurting for another Taylor Swift/Aaron Dessner track. And yet the two of them just make their own oblique kind of sense together. Swift can’t help but overwhelm the entire Big Red Machine project with her presence, but she sounds fully at home amidst all those intricately programmed click-whirrs and muttery Justin Vernon harmonies. And she’s still writing songs. The distance and longing on “Renegade” is clear and focused and evocative: “Is it insensitive for me to say, ‘Get your shit together so I can love you?’ Is it your anxiety that keeps you from giving me everything? Or do you just not want to?” After years of elliptical Justin Vernon lyrics, it’s hugely refreshing to hear someone come off so direct on a song like this. –Tom
A guardian angel falls in love with a lonely trapeze artist and gives up his immortality to experience the sensory pleasures of human life. That’s the plot of German filmmaker Wim Wenders’ 1987 romantic fantasy movie Wings Of Desire, the inspiration behind Sufjan Steven and Angelo De Augustine’s “Reach Out.” But if you told me that that was Stevens’ own origin story, I’d probably believe it. Sufjan has always come across as both impossibly angelic and all too human at the same time. On his new songs with De Augustine, he leaves behind the experimental electronic and ambient tendencies of his recent work in favor of more beautifully fragile folk-pop, and “Reach Out” turns the isolation and suffering of human existence into something downright transcendent. –Peter
There’s nothing not to like about this new Ducks Ltd. track “18 Cigarettes,” which precedes their forthcoming album Modern Fiction. With a Smiths-like soundscape and nonchalant vocals that resemble catchy chill-indie artists like Wallows or the Buttertones, the song is an easygoing summer ballad with a sentimental aura. The lyrics, of course, are more conflicted than the jangly atmosphere: “I’d ask you to explain/ But it’s not your problem.” It’ll probably resonate with a lot of the Gen Z kids. –Danielle
Wednesday do not reinvent the wheel. They just make great fucking wheels. More than a decade after young indie rockers started bringing back the ’90s, Karly Hartzman’s combo avoids sounding like a stale retread of a played-out trend simply by virtue of sheer excellence. On “One More Last Time,” that means leaning hard into the shoegaze side of their sound, wieding melodic noise with uncommon expertise. Lap steel player Xandy Chelmis handles lead vocals, but that celestial Loveless effect makes it sound more like otherworldly beings beaming in beauty from beyond. Against a wall of gorgeous cataclysmic guitar noise rendered with thunderous heft, it sounds like seeing the face of God, with all the terror and splendor the comparison implies. It’s the kind of transcendent noise-pop bliss many have aspired to but few are capable of pulling off. –Chris
Courtney Barnett is at her best when documenting the granular. “Rae Street,” which she wrote about looking outside a window in the Melbourne apartment she stayed at during the early days of the pandemic, chronicles a neighborhood going through the small movements of existing: A parent teaching their child how to ride a bike, two dogs getting wrapped up in each other’s leashes, a couple painting their fading house.
She’s also at her best when drawing connections between all those little things, looping the small ways we maintain our lives with the big way those things don’t really matter in the end. In one of the song’s best lines, she’s hopelessly optimistic and defeatist in the same breath: “All our candles, hopes and prayers though well-meaning they don’t mean a thing, unless we see some change/ I might change my sheets today.”
Barnett is also best when she’s unhurried and laidback, vibes that she’s gained both by virtue of getting older and wiser and more patient and hanging out with Kurt Vile a lot. “Rae Street” passes through like a warm, weary, comforting breeze, as Barnett spins a yarn that feels fine with just being. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Courtney Barnett is the best. –James