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.
Just another one of those weeks where you’re trying to write about pop music and instead staring at headlines about moon “wobbles” leading to catastrophic flooding next decade. Fun times! The five best songs of the week are below.
The myth of Sisyphus, endlessly rolling his rock up that hill, is one of the most potent metaphors for the human condition that the Greeks gave us. Sisyphus’ fate was intended by the gods as a punishment, but Lala Lala’s Lillie West sees something beautiful, even optimistic, in that eternal striving. “Swimming out towards my new life/ Dragged in by the undertow,” she sings as the thrumming synths on “DIVER” burst out into an exultant chorus of Kate Bush-style baroque pop majesty. “I’m Sisyphus, you’re the witness/ It’s intimate, the violence/ It’s palpable to want it all.” Lillie West wants it all, and with songs like this in her pocket, she might just get it. —Peter
The singles from Torres’ forthcoming album Thirstier so far have been unafraid, bombastic indie rock anthems. The newest, the title track, starts slow before catapulting into an unabashed chorus: “The more of you I drink/ The thirstier I get.” That line is probably the centerpiece of the album, or at least the mantra that represents what all of her songs are getting at: an insatiable desire, amplified by blazing riffs and a sense of high-stakes. Towards the end, it’s convincing when, against the one moment of quiet, she lulls, “You’ll never want another love/ As long as you live.” —Danielle
Anytime Stormzy is on a song with anyone else, he comes off like a big-brother type. At 6’5″, Stormzy is always the tallest guy in the video, and he’s been making grime for long enough to become a pillar of the genre. But it’s not just that. Stormzy has a casual elegance to his delivery. Even when he’s working hard, he sounds like he’s having fun, taking it easy.
In the London rapper Dave, Stormzy has a collaborator who can match his calm. Dave is a serious, sincere rapper, and most of his tracks are thoughtful and introspective, but he can flex with the best of them. On “Clash,” That’s what he does. Over a tense, itchy beat from producer Kyle Evans, Dave and Stormzy talk their shit. Their references are mostly British — Jeremy Corbyn, Piers Morgan, Jorja Smith, Stormzy’s running feud with fellow grime veteran Chip, Spanish Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola — but that heavy-lidded slickness is universal. —Tom
“I wrote this song a while back and made a poppy demo for it,” Sophie Allison explains. “Then I told BJ to destroy it.” The song is “rom com 2004,” and BJ is BJ Burton, who has produced inspired deconstructed indie rock for the likes of Bon Iver and Low in recent years. The resulting track clearly began as the kind of wistfully swaying big-feelings pop-rock Soccer Mommy perfected on last year’s color theory, but Burton’s clattering, noisy makeover veers sharply from that album’s well-defined aesthetic. “What does it say about me,” Allison sings, “That I’d rip out my heart for you just/ To show you a piece of the real me/ If it meant that you will, too?” It’s a savvy lyric for a song that essentially transplants the heart of Soccer Mommy’s sound into a vivid new environment. —Chris
In some ways, “Galacticana” is Strand Of Oaks’ comfort zone. It’s the sort of road-rambler Americana rock Tim Showalter has incorporated before, and in a sense the song plays like an easygoing, warm return of an old friend — verses and choruses right in the pocket of Showalter’s melodic sensibility, a sort of self-referential reintroduction with lines about walking around dressed in leather. But there’s something else afoot in this song, too. There’s a subtlety, a grainy-voiced maturity, that feels like a new chapter in Strand Of Oaks’ work. There was plenty of heaviness and strife and real shit across his preceding albums. Something in “Galacticana” sounds like a man who’s still got the same demons we’ve all got, but is finding a new sense of balance and clarity within himself.
There’s just a sense of precision with “Galacticana.” Rock ‘n’ roll abandon was part of the point and mythos for Strand Of Oaks once upon a time, but Showalter — who got sober in the interim between Eraserland and the forthcoming In Heaven — isn’t in that same place anymore. “Galacticana” boasts a new kind of focus. There are little touches throughout that are just perfect: the way the “Laughing as a self-defense” line hits opening the second verse now that the drums are in full swing, the way he wraps his voice around that leather line and the later one about solar winds pushing him further from his mother, the sigh of the chorus, the piano punctuations at the song’s finale. There’s sharp, hook-driven songwriting acumen at play here, which becomes something magical when combined with a mellower Strand Of Oaks.
In addition to being In Heaven‘s lead single, “Galacticana” is the album’s opener. This is the curtain rise on a new era of Strand Of Oaks. And all through the song, you can feel this synthesis of where Showalter’s been and where he’s going. Later in the song, he calls back to his upbringing: “Indiana tall corn straddling the time zones wishing/ Grandma’s in the backyard yelling, wrangling all the cousins.” “Galacticana” is a reintroduction, but that also means tracing back through where Showalter has been as a person and a musician. It makes a homecoming sound cosmic — exactly what one would hope for the future of Strand Of Oaks. —Ryan