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.
We’ve got the big Kanye album, the big Drake album, and now… Kendrick? Maybe one of the week’s best songs is an opening salvo for his long-awaited return.
Sometimes what Silverbacks do seems simple and straightforward in its immediate likability. A bit of indie, a bit of post-punk, punchy compositions and wiry riffs and drawled earworm melodies. But there’s an alchemy going on with this band. “Wear My Medals” marks the reintroduction of Silverbacks, just a year after their debut, and all their favored tricks are here — the three guitar attack, the deftly propulsive drums, the abruptly shifting structures. This time Emma Hanlon takes lead vocals, and she coos over a song that rushes, flickers, sputters, and finally crashes down. As ever, it’s an exhilarating ride. Silverbacks move like one, wild-limbed organism, and they don’t really have a bad song to their name yet. Everything they do just hits, and “Wear My Medals” is no different. Whatever this hints at for the next chapter of Silverbacks, it’s looking good. —Ryan
Beak>, the Bristol krautrock-infused rock trio that counts Portishead’s Geoff Barrow amongst its members, have never been shy about their influences. But it’s one thing to be inspired by a musical touchstone like, say, Can, and another thing entirely to actually stand comfortably next to them. “Ah Yeh,” though, with its heavy locked-in, zoned-out groove gradually undulating out into space, is the genuine article. It lasts for six and a half minutes, but it could just as easily continue for six more hours without losing any of its intoxicating rhythmic power. —Peter
When most rappers use the word “drip” nowadays, they’re talking about their outfits. Joey Purp is talking about something else. The beat on “Candypaint” is a beautifully single-minded thing — monstrous digital bass-wobble, hammering handclaps, the “Mario hits his head on the brick and gets a gold coin” sound effect, pretty much nothing else. This is sweaty late-night house music, music for the moments when you’re too fucked-up to care how you look. Naturally, Joey Purp uses this music to get extremely horny and to talk about throwing ass like a tantrum. Over a beat that exists to jack up your pulse rate, he sounds blissfully calm. —Chris
Nine years ago, on his mostly excellent G.O.O.D. Music compilation Cruel Summer, Kanye West put his own epic spin on one of the foundational hits of Chicago drill music, bringing in a handful of all-star associates to rap all over Chief Keef and Lil Reese’s “Don’t Like.” On his new Donda, an overstuffed album that works better if you think of it as another star-studded comp, Kanye puts a similar spin on drill’s now-omnipresent Brooklyn variant. It goes pretty well!
You can tell “Off The Grid” is late-era Kanye because it credits half a dozen producers and blows out an already gargantuan-sounding subgenre to cinematic extremes. You can also tell because Kanye largely cedes the spotlight to his hungry young guest stars, the galaxy-brained Atlanta ad lib specialist Playboi Carti and Brooklyn drill’s reigning hardscrabble ambassador Fivio Foreign. Carti is all vibes: “Ayy, we just took the route to Charlotte/ I’m in the Rolls-Royce **** on—what you call it?” Fivio exudes paranoid gravitas: “I don’t get too friendly with the enemy/ You gotta move different when you in the industry.”
As for Kanye, he proves his nasal, melodious vocals can adapt just fine to this kind of rippling-earthquake beat, delivering some of the most coherent and captivating bars on the album: “First, it go viral, then they get digital/ Then they get critical, no, I’m not doin’ no interview/ Mask on my face, you can’t see what I’m finna do/ Had to move away from people that’s miserable/ Don’t wanna link you, I ain’t finna sit with you/ Ain’t finna talk to you, ain’t finna get with you/ Don’t get me mad just ’cause I don’t wanna injure you.” —Chris
Baby Keem is good. Because Kendrick Lamar is his cousin, and because Kendrick has thrown his full support behind the kid, it would be easy to assume that he’s coasting by on connections — and sure, the connections are definitely helping! A lot of people would not have listened to “Family Ties” if there wasn’t a torrid Kendrick Lamar I’m-back verse after the beat switch. It’s the on-record equivalent of Keem opening for K.Dot on tour, which he also did: “I’m grateful to Man-Man, he opened up doors/ A bunk on the tour bus to come and compose.”
On this song, Keem makes the most of the moment before the Moment. Over the kind of grandiose horn-blaring beat rappers tend to deploy when they’re declaring their own royalty, Keem delivers commanding bars in his aggressive squeak, running through standard street-rap talking points in style and establishing his own primacy in the process. He scoffs at guys who show up to the party but can’t hang. He stands mystified at corner boys who set up shop all the way out in the suburbs. He flashes back to a time before all this hype was swirling around him and relishes his ongoing ascension. “The girl of your dreams to me is a fan,” he tells us. “I netted ten million and did a lil’ dance/ I’m fuckin’ the world, I unzip my pants/ My uncle G told me that I had a chance.”
See? Pretty good. But then the music changes, and all of the sudden Kendrick Lamar is muttering about smoking on your top five, and it’s “Control” all over again. “I been duckin’ the pandemic,” he says. “I been duckin’ the social gimmicks/ I been duckin’ the overnight activists, yeah/ I’m not a trending topic, I’m a prophet.” He switches up his flow into strange, sometimes hilarious new voices and cadences. He is a blur, every bar pumping up the pressure another notch, reminding us how much we’ve been missing him, maybe without even realizing we miss him. It’s the kind of verse that makes you believe him, if only for a moment, when he calls his music a vaccine and declares “the game needs me to survive.” And when he hits us with the promise that “2021, I ain’t takin’ no prisoner”? Amazing, BROTHER! —Chris