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.
Welp, still no Donda, but you can pass the time by revisiting Watch The Throne with us. The five best songs of the week are below.
Marlene Dietrich was one of the few performers who was able to transition successfully from the silent era to “talkies.” Conceptual English post-rockers Public Service Broadcasting have pulled off a similar feat in recent years, moving from instrumental music punctuated by archival samples to collaborating with a rotating cast of guest vocalists. Their new album Bright Magic is a kind of musical paean to Berlin, and “Blue Heaven,” named after an old jazz standard that Dietrich used to sing, is a triumphantly cathartic ode to self-determination featuring Gurr’s Andreya Casablanca singing in character as the Hollywood star. In paying tribute to an icon, PSB might just be creating something iconic themselves. —Peter
The songs of Hand Habits, the indie project of Meg Duffy, have an inexplicably serene atmosphere about them. “Aquamarine” takes this to the next level with bubbling synths and airy vocals that intertwine intimately. Its sounds have the texture of the pitter-patter of nature, and the lyrics are conflicted: “Why can’t you talk about it?/ I got used to being on the other side of truth.” It feels like an attempt at navigating the complicated; the pretty parts of the plight are the ones in focus. —Danielle
Maybe you’ve been there too. You set out from home, all set to build a new life for yourself. Then, just when you’re getting started, you find yourself back where it all began, crash landing or chasing a new dream, but wondering whether you’re actually ever going to get out again or if this is just where you’re settling for the rest of your life. That’s more or less where Ian Devaney was during the time “This Fractured Mind” is written about, a phase working service jobs in New Jersey trying to become a musician. Stuck on repeat while other people in his life were moving forward.
Nation Of Language have long since perfected the art of writing evocative, nocturnal anthems for those kinds of emotions, the listless and searching feelings of those not-quite-young anymore but still trying to figure it out. Their chosen aesthetic, primarily influenced by ’80s new wave, is perfect for that, drawing on music that had an inherent melancholia to it. But “This Fractured Mind” is a song where Devaney uses the structures themselves to depict that headspace. The rhythm of the song is a persistent, Motorik-inspired pulse — unerring forward momentum above all else. At the same time, its lead synth line has an elliptical quality to it, a dreamlike swirl that makes the song sound, altogether, like someone racing in circles waiting for someone to let them off the ride.
Ultimately, we know Devaney made it someplace else, found at least part of what he was looking for. That gets filtered into catharsis throughout “This Fractured Mind,” in the release of its choruses and its danceability and the way its synths can pivot from yearning to endorphin rush. In the end, it becomes less the sound of feeling trapped, and instead the moment when you find your way out. —Ryan
It’s all so intensely serious that I almost want to laugh at it: mournful arpeggiated scene-setting out of an early Metallica song, a somber spoken-word intro, lyrics that read like bad teenage poetry. “Chrysanthemum,” like so much hardcore, edges up against the unbearably dour. By all rights that straight-faced depressive rage should play like a parody. Coming from many bands, it would. But One Step Closer are so dynamic, so locked-in, so artfully infused with melody — so ridiculously good at translating crushing emotions into cathartic aggression — that my shitty little smirk becomes an elated expression every time I play one of their songs. They should take themselves seriously. —Chris
At some point, resistance becomes pointless. The duo of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak released the deliriously sunny and specific Philly soul homage “Leave The Door Open” back in March, and then they waited for months before finally breaking us off with another deliriously sunny and specific Philly soul homage. It wasn’t broke.
“Skate” sounds easy. That’s what stars do; they make things sound easy. (Bruno Mars makes it sound easier than Anderson .Paak does, but Bruno Mars has been a bigger star for longer, so it makes sense.) The effortlessness of “Skate” is the whole point: these two swaggering smoothies throwing pickup lines all over their own dizzy strings and get-busy congas. And sure, not all of those pickup lines would work in real life. (“You smell better than a barbecue”?) And sure, the song won’t push anything forward or challenge anyone’s musical ideas. It’s pure early-disco cosplay from two guys who clearly love the stuff. But “Skate” is also an irresistible late-summer shimmer, a song custom-built for good-smelling barbecues. I hope we don’t have to wait months for the next one, but if we do, then at least we know know that one will be good, too. —Tom