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 Bandcamp Friday, and it’s a weird one — the first since the news Bandcamp is joining a giant video game company. What did you all pick up? The five best songs of the week are below.
Like B.B. King’s Lucille but much shittier, Matilda is the name of PUP frontman Stefan Babcock’s favorite guitar. He received it as a gift from a friend when he broke his only guitar in the middle of a tour and proceeded to play it at every PUP show for seven years, until his bandmates’ constant complaints about Matilda caused him to buy a fancier replacement.
Upon realizing that he hadn’t played the instrument in over a year, Babcock felt intense guilt and regret — would you expect anything less than this kind of neurosis from the songwriter behind so many explosively tense pop-punk freakouts? So he convinced his bandmates Matilda should appear on one more PUP record, which can be heard on the bridge of the track that bears its name. That’s a cool backstory that has elevated my appreciation for “Matilda” the song, but I already loved this shit before I had any context for it. Any chance to hear Babcock’s nasal howl leading a fist-pumping gang chant over an inferno of power chords is cool with me. —Chris
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever only have a couple albums to their name thus far, but it almost feels like they’re already approaching Spoon levels of unwavering competence and consistency. “Tidal River,” the latest single from their upcoming third LP Endless Rooms, is Rolling Blackouts doing what they do best, a relentlessly driving rhythm propelled forward by their signature interlocking guitar musculature. But for all its pure pop pleasures, the song has a little more on its mind than coasting on good vibes alone: “Jetski over the pale reef/ Chase the pill for some relief/ As long as you don’t point out/ What’s underneath your feet,” Tom Russo sings. It’s an indictment of Australia’s “lucky country” myth hidden inside another RBCF jam, a one-two punch that lulls you into the very same sense of complacency it critiques. —Peter
When tragedy strikes, it can feel confusing when there is also something to celebrate. Most of the time, life just doesn’t stay put in one column; the Venn diagram is always overlapping. This is the sort of cognitive dissonance Barrie Lindsay explores on her affecting new song “Concrete,” which thematically fits right into her forthcoming new album Barbara. Evoking images of soft-focus Polaroids and other comforting ’80s relics, “Concrete” opens with discordant synths that quickly expand into a mesmerizing, drum-filled chorus led by Barrie’s gossamer vocals. Grappling with the colliding events of losing a parent and falling in love, Barrie muses about “a peace hero in wartime,” ultimately deciding, “I’m not one to fight.” —Rachel
There’s no rulebook for what Bartees Strange does. Everything is on the table. In its first few seconds, Strange’s new single “Heavy Heart” sounds familiar and maybe even a bit saccharine. He opens up by singing about sadness in direct terms: “There’s reasons for heavy hearts/ This past year, I thought I was broken.” For just those few seconds, Strange sounds like every tender emo singer ever to romanticize their sadness. That’s fine, since Strange can sing, but it feels a little easy. Then the song opens up, and things stop being so easy.
By the time its four and a half minutes come to an end, “Heavy Heart” has given us surging tangles of post-rock guitar, hard-stunting lyrics delivered in modified Migos flow, triumphal bursts of horn, and bent twinkles of Afro-pop guitar. But “Heavy Heart” isn’t a freewheeling collage; all these disparate elements arrive in their own time, and they all seem utterly integral to the song. “Heavy Heart” is a song about guilt and sadness, but that sadness never smothers its creative energy. Bartees Strange can conjure emotional desolation while twisting his sound in rich an unexpected new directions, and he seems like he could go anywhere from here. The man has no ceiling. —Tom
After going all-out for Women In Music, Pt. III, a lot has changed in HAIM-land. The sister trio has always been deeply embedded in the Los Angeles pop world, but in the past couple years they’ve upped their star power considerably, especially as youngest sister Alana is well on her way to becoming an actual movie star. The next logical step is to make their sound even bigger, but I am instead envisioning a world where they turn toward doing music that is lower-stakes.
Though “Lost Track” doesn’t seem to be part of a larger project — at least not yet; the band said they wrote and recorded it in the few days surrounding Alana’s W magazine cover shoot — it is a step in the right direction. I love the way it sounds, shaggy and casual and delightfully low-key. It’s a busy song, with a whole lot of elements chiming away in the background, but it feels feather-light. Danielle Haim’s vocals are impressively restrained, but she amps up the drama in the chorus, taking a short breath between each line: “Deepest cut that I can’t feel/ Find my grip on the steering wheel/ I know our pieces stuck/ You can sit down if you don’t mind me standing up.” There is a version of this song that could be massive, but I like how they just let it just be small. —James