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.
It’s another crowded new music Friday. What’re you all digging into? The five best songs of the week are below.
“Sandman” is a new song, but it sounds like an old one, revisiting the cloud-rap aesthetic of A$AP Rocky’s early work as he looks back on his past. Clams Casino, who produced five out of 16 songs on the original Live.Love.A$AP in 2011, returns to provide the beat, and as always, it’s a thing of dazed, melodic wonder, all gasping samples and stuttering beats abstracted into a beautifully stoned fog. After the braggadocious opening verse in which he compares himself to both George Lucas and Frank Lucas, Rocky leans into the nostalgia and melancholy of Clams’ sound-world, reflecting on how far he’s come and remembering the friends he’s lost along the way. “Girl, I’m not supposed to be here still/ Rap careers last three years still,” he muses. But as long as he’s still capable of songs like this, Rocky can stick around. —Peter
Since the early Rilo Kiley days, Jenny Lewis has held very little back. “Puppy And A Truck” leaves a few details fuzzy; when Lewis sings that she was “infatuated with an older man,” for instance, we just have to gossip amongst ourselves about whether she’s talking about Bill Murray. For the most part, though, Lewis gets almost uncomfortably real on the song, working with country producer Dave Cobb to mine her own life for hard-luck lessons. She finds one, too: “If you feel like giving up, shut up. Get a puppy and a truck.”
On “Puppy And A Truck,” Lewis sings about exes who have disappointed her and roots that she hasn’t put down. She’s got no kids, no roots, no significant other. When it comes to dogs, she’s got a lot of needs: “I need a dog that’s hypoallergenic/ In the poodle milieu and photogenic/ Don’t shed, don’t bark, and can play in the band.” Apparently, though, she’s found one, and that’s the happy ending. The next time Jenny Lewis comes through town, I can’t wait to see what instrument the dog plays. —Tom
Cassandra Jenkins is a grand storyteller; the high point of her breakthrough album An Overview On Phenomenal Nature is a series of impressionistic character sketches that ache with reality. She applies those same talents to “American Spirits,” an outtake from that same album. Against a gentle whirr of atmospheric hum and keyboards, Jenkins adopts a calming demeanor to sing about a situation that’s anything but calm. Inspired by a voicemail left by a friend who was stopped and arrested at the Texas border, she recounts that incident but focuses more on the way the message was delivered. Jenkins puts it better than I can: “What resulted is the poetic ambiguity that can arise from the struggle of searching for the words to tell someone we love exactly what has happened.” “American Spirits” captures that tentativeness, the beauty at delivering a hard message in a tender way, something that Jenkins accomplishes well enough with her own music. —James
I’ll take a solo Charli XCX single any day, but the UK avant-pop innovator really shines in collaboration mode. (See: “1999” featuring Troye Sivan, “Warm” featuring HAIM, “Cross You Out” featuring Sky Ferreira, literally the entirety of 2017’s underrated masterwork Pop 2 — the list is as long as a CVS receipt.) On the bombastic “New Shapes,” Charli teams back up with two former collaborators, Caroline Polachek and Christine And The Queens (aka French art-pop singer Héloïse Adelaïde Letissier), to create a synthy sugar rush with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Over an ’80s drum-machine beat, Charli, Polachek, and Letissier trade verses about keeping someone at an emotional distance. “We could fall in love in new shapes,” Charli suggests before falling back into familiar patterns: “And when the morning comes, I’m sorry, I stayed.” That’s another strength of Charli’s. She excels at club-ready hits — she did write “I Love It,” after all — with a hint of melancholy just potent enough to hang around after the strobe lights fade. —Rachel
Jason Pierce doesn’t make bad albums, so it’s hard to really find fault with much of Spiritualized’s catalogue. That was true, as ever, for 2018’s And Nothing Hurt. The details were pristine and intricate, the melodies weathered but beautiful. All that being said though, “Always Together With You” came out of nowhere and hit me over the head with what I was missing on And Nothing Hurt.
The song is a surprise as is — given the yawning six-year gap from Sweet Heart Sweet Light to And Nothing Hurt and Pierce mulling over whether the latter could really, actually be the final Spiritualized album this time, none of us were really expecting a new Spiritualized album cycle to start up in these waning days of 2021. It’s sort of a joyful gift that “Always Together With You” appeared this week in general, but then there’s also what kind of Spiritualized song it is. After the relatively restrained nature of And Nothing Hurt, “Always Together With You” is back in full celestial bombast mode. After quiet beginnings, it swells and swells and swells, Pierce doing that thing where he layers a song up with all kinds of cosmic oomph to turn his simple, broken melodies into something greater. “Always Together With You” has the feeling of a great Spiritualized opener, and a great introduction to a new era of the project. It finds Pierce back up in space — which is to say, back home. —Ryan