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). We’ve kicked off a partnership with TIDAL, the global music streaming service that offers the highest sound quality and Fan-Centered Royalties. You’ll find our new Favorite New Music playlist updated weekly here on TIDAL.
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Was Danger Mouse ever a rap producer? He came up on the strength of an overrated early-meme mixtape, and he’s spent nearly 20 years dicking around with Black Keys and Broken Bells, avoiding rap entirely. So it’s a nice surprise to hear DM locking in a pretty nasty beat for his grand return — a murky blues-funk strut that conveys juke-joint sweat without muso slickness or museum-ready received nostalgia.
But the real show here is Black Thought, who’s been so good for so long but who still finds new ways to elegantly slap fire out of the track: “Stop. you know the cameras is gon’ see/ My hammers ain’t for brandishing if Canons is on me/ Please, you ain’t fucking with no amateurs, homie/ Philly ain’t known for cheesesteak sandwiches only.” If Black Thought is in this zone for all of the new DM/BT collaborative album, then some of us are going to have to rethink our all-timer rankings. —Tom
“Western Wind” gives off shampoo commercial vibes in the best way. Carly Rae Jepsen is luxuriantly zen on her first new song in two years. As one commenter astutely put it: “This the shit Solar Power should have been.” There’s certainly some connective tissue between Lorde’s disappointing last album and “Western Wind”: They’re pulling from sunny strains of pop that are indebted to California, and they both are a little hippy-dippy. I can’t exactly pinpoint what makes this work where that didn’t — maybe it’s the lack of pretension? Or that “Western Wind” circles around an actual hook? — but Jepsen is just as comfortable in this low-key mode as she is when she’s chronicling the high-stakes emotional roller coaster of love.
Rostam Batmanglij, the track’s producer, applies the same shaggy, unhurried casualness that he’s used in his work with Haim and Clairo. The song is intimate but not small — there’s a lot going on underneath its shimmering surface, capped off by an indelible guitar solo two-thirds of the way through. It sounds like a warm embrace. “Do you feel home from all directions?” Jepsen asks in the chorus. Instead of feeling trite, “Western Wind” manages to capture those brief but magical moments when it all really does seem connected. —James
One of the great joys in hearing Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood in a looser, exploratory, occasionally more rock-oriented mode on A Light For Attracting Attention is being able to fall in love with Greenwood’s guitar playing all over again. Throughout his career, Greenwood has demonstrated an ability to sound definitively like himself while still surprising you. With the Smile, he and Yorke are tapped into interests we’ve heard from them before, but they’re turning them over, mutating them, somehow finding new forms once more.
On “Thin Thing,” that’s in full effect. It’s one of the songs where Greenwood provides a wiry guitar line that feels both math-rock and krautrock in essence. The Smile songs like this are mesmerizing, and almost paradoxical — on various listens “Thin Thing” can feel tightly coiled and contorted, or sputtering and gasping for breath, or like a frantic-yet-graceful ripple buoying Yorke’s vocals. No matter what angle you come at it from, though, the end result is the same as many of the songs on the Smile’s debut — a gorgeous and strange hypnosis. —Ryan
“You showed me a false halo, there will be no walking back,” Sharon Van Etten declares on the slow-build epic “Born.” Part of her latest work, We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong, that line beautifully illustrates a type of breaking point in relationships. People tend to show us the most flattering versions of themselves when we first meet them, and as time goes, the mask comes off. What’s underneath can be so different from what we first encountered that it triggers cognitive dissonance. However we choose to handle that, the fact remains: What we’ve discovered cannot be unseen.
That sick realization plays out stunningly on “Born,” which is at first a somber piano ballad and finds cathartic freedom in a booming, cinematic crescendo. “Born” may signal a certain ending, but its thunderous dazzle lies in a possibility of a revival. Van Etten is the comeback kid, after all. —Rachel
By now we’ve all moved on to processing the main course: the thrilling, confounding, complicated, long-awaited Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. But those songs aren’t eligible for this week’s list, and even if they were, I’m not sure any one of them matches the splendor of the appetizer Kendrick Lamar gave us last Sunday night.
“The Heart Part 5” is breathtaking on multiple levels. It will be remembered as a multimedia piece, its video’s deepfaked imagery accentuating the music in profound and thought-provoking ways. But even viewed strictly as a musical work, the song is a remarkable dispatch from one of rap’s all-time greats.
What producer Beach Noise does with Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” is tense and cinematic, ingredients moving in and out of the frame with surgical precision. Kendrick’s voice darts through them with artful finesse, toggling between flows so smoothly that you might not notice all the technical prowess on display. The lyrics are worthy of the kind of in-depth expository writing that can hardly be crammed into a blurb; he continues to find revealing new angles for exploring grief, guilt, trauma, authenticity, and the cycles of poverty, crime, and imprisonment that plague his community.
On some level I’m punting here with the link to a longer review of a song that leaves me speechless, sometimes because I’m deeply pondering what the man has to say and sometimes because I’m simply reeling. If you aren’t a wreck by the time Kendrick starts rapping from the perspective of a dead Nipsey Hussle, expressing love for his family and empathy for his killer, you ought to figure out which part of your heart has gone missing. —Chris