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.
For a while there, it seemed like the fall of 2021 was going to be pretty quiet before things really got back into gear in 2022. That might still be mostly true, but now we’ve also got Adele returning to blow up the internet for a while. The five best songs of the week are below.
Earlier this year, London’s Russ Millions was one of the rappers behind the antic, riotous “Body,” which became the first drill track ever to top the UK charts. On “6:30,” Russ revels in his own chart success: “Three top tens, but I soon have four.” Russ has notched up all those hits by turning the forbidding, code-heavy UK drill style into straight-up party music without skimping on menace, and “6:30” keeps that streak up. The beat is sparse and nasty, all foggy drones and jittery handclaps, but Russ throws personality all over the place. In this two-minute energy-bomb, Russ talks his shit, apparently directing that shit specifically at UK drill rival Digga. But “6:30” is a dance song, and all the talk about getting a girl to touch the floor sits comfortably next to eye-stabbing threats. That’s how outlaw music becomes pop. —Tom
Cate Le Bon really blew me away with Reward — I’ve liked her well enough in the past but that album clicked for me in a way that none of her others really had. I still listen to it constantly. And thankfully she’s off to a good start once again with “Running Away,” the lead single from her next album Pompeii. Le Bon is great at holding two contradictory moods throughout a song — this one feels depressive and joyful at the same time, fighting disaffection while sounding disaffected. “I’m not cold by nature/ But this could bring me to my knees,” her voice curls. “The fountain that empties the world/ Too beautiful to hold.” Dragged along by a drooping synth, it’s impeccably textured, with tons of cool guitarwork and echoes rippling under the surface, but the main takeaway is a sort of vortex, which is sucking you in no matter how hard you fight against it. Running away while standing still. —James
I used to think I was from the middle of nowhere. Then I went on tour, and I learned just how much true nowhere there is in America. You pass through long, yawning expanses, and then you pass through towns you’ve never heard of, in far-flung corners you never really thought of people actually living in. In American pop culture, there are, of course, a million songs about the road, and the country, and all its different corners. But even within that, we often find ourselves drifting towards the same places, certain iconographies.
In “Virginia Beach,” Hamilton Leithauser and Kevin Morby pay tribute to all the other places, the lesser-told stories of America that, in their way, are all the more transfixing as a result. On the other side of the pandemic’s stillness, two travelers use propulsive, tumbling guitar and shadowy, elusive melodies to throw their arms back around the very idea of movement across this country. They pass through Paris, Tennessee and then Paris, Idaho. All the while, there’s another trope of tour and/or travel lingering in the backdrop — racing through these forgotten places in an effort to outrun your old life, and the final conclusion that, well, that’s never possible. Leithauser and Morby are both students of this stuff, and they know how to play with the familiar forms and themes. Leithauser said he set out to make a dark country song, a bit of old-school Americana. With “Virginia Beach,” he and Morby offer up a solid entry to the canon. —Ryan
When describing the overall aesthetic for her upcoming album Valentine, Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan recently used the word “decadence” and pulled from opposing sides of that spectrum: “I wanted a big chocolate cake. I wanted a little bit of blood,” i.e., two things you’d probably find in, oh, Dracula’s castle. Ostensibly, these things don’t belong together but somehow make complete sense in relation to Snail Mail’s brand of growing pains pop. It is sweet, but also bitter; ironic but also sincere; nonchalant but also genuinely concerned. On her latest release, “Ben Franklin,” Snail Mail acutely observes that beauty in the breakdown.
A crisp, synth-lined bop, “Ben Franklin” finds Jordan going from braggadocio (“got money, I don’t care about sex”) to raw honesty about hurting and being hurt. Directly addressing the singer’s stint in rehab at the end of last year, “Ben Franklin” is about a “spring”-like “part two”: She’s out of that facility and invested in moving on. Except there’s the matter of running into a former flame who once said they’d “die for me” but now pretends not to know Jordan. “Sucker for the pain, oh honey,” Jordan’s voice cracks, before admitting, “I’ve been feeling so small/ I miss your attention, I wish I could call.” Nothing like running into an ex to put you right back at square one. —Rachel
The Alchemist has been on a hell of a hot streak lately, producing great rap albums for Boldy James, Armand Hammer, and Freddie Gibbs and releasing his own This Thing Of Ours EPs. But “Flying Spirit,” for all its effectively tingly atmosphere, is less a showcase for the Alchemist’s production and more a playground for Danny Brown’s Bruiser Brigade — also on a hell of a hot streak lately — to let loose and run amok. Brown tones down his signature hyena-yelp to play the straight man, for once, paving the way for J.U.S., Fat Ray, and a delightfully unhinged verse that turns the entire track into a scene-stealing spotlight for Bruiser Wolf. “Well baby what do you call a ‘ghini with the top off? That’s a lamb chop,” he raps, his feverish voice pitched somewhere between wild-eyed spoken-word poet and motor-mouthed auctioneer. Sold! —Peter