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. You can hear this week’s picks below and on Stereogum’s Favorite New Music Spotify playlist, which is updated weekly. (An expanded playlist of our new music picks is available to members on Spotify and Apple Music, updated throughout the week.)
Alvvays - "Belinda Says"
First, I have to say that all of the singles from Alvvays’ much-anticipated third album Blue Rev sound like they’re rushing toward you. “Belinda Says,” dedicated to the great Go-Go’s singer-turned-solo-pop star Belinda Carlisle, fits right into the Toronto band’s newfound blustery tone. “Belinda Says” also happens to feature Alvvays’ album title — “blue rev behind the rink” — which makes it all the more special. The entire two minutes and 45 seconds is a pure pop wall of sound, with Molly Rankin’s just-off-pitch-enough vocals soaring across a blast of synths, strings, and crashing percussion. Adding to the excitement is a key-change and scene-stealing guitar solo. Is your heart racing yet? Just read the lyrics, which sound like someone taking a leap of faith: “Moving to the country/ Gonna have this baby/ See how it goes/ See how it grows,” Rankin sings, adding, “Bеlinda says that heaven is a place on еarth/ Well, so is hell.” Chef’s kiss. —Rachel
Mavi - "Baking Soda"
The stuttering soul loop on this one is about as warm and off-kilter as a rapper like Mavi could want, and indeed, the kid from Charlotte works wonders with it. Just as Amarahbeats and monte booker’s production strikes a perfect balance between comfort and chaos, Mavi rides the borderline between rapping and singing, painting beautiful pictures with his words and lacing his lyrics with little personal touches that add even more character and texture to the track. You can tell he’s a smart songwriter because he saves the most affecting lines for the hook: “I gave my soul away to the drum, I’ma live forever/ We ain’t come from gold spoons but gold chains, my n****s clever/ She say we either on drugs or need to be, which is better?/ She was already gone ‘fore I could see she ain’t get the letter.” —Chris
Colter Wall - "Cypress Hills And The Big Country"
This song is not about the Southern California rap group or the Brooklyn neighborhood where human body parts were found in inside a set of suitcases this week. (Sorry, that’s the first thing that comes up when you Google cypress hills.) It’s about the southwestern Saskatchewan region where the country traditionalist Colter Wall came of age. Wall, who now lives on a Montana ranch when not taking his rugged retro twang on the road, is 27 but sounds at least 30 or 40 years older than that. I’d say he was born a few decades too late to be portrayed by Sam Elliott in a biopic, but maybe casting someone a few decades older would better convey his personal gravitas.
Here, backed by trusty instrumentalist Patrick Lyons’ mandolin, dobro, and guitar, Wall situates his baritone croak somewhere between singing and talking in that Johnny Cash way, spinning a tribute to either the Scottish rock band Big Country or former Vancouver Grizzlies player Bryant Reeves. Just kidding, the song is about the simplicity of home on the range: “Cypress Hills and the big country below/ Where life is still and a man can be alone/ You can duck underneath all your trials and troubles for a time/ Like a pronghorn underneath a bottom wire.” —Chris
Björk - "ancestress"
Björk started writing “ancestress” after the funeral of her mother Hildur Rúna Hauksdóttir, who passed away in 2018, and she subconsciously styled its structure on a type of 19th-century Icelandic epitaph that attempts to encapsulate the entirety of someone’s existence in words. She said she wrote “pages and pages” of lyrics for “ancestress” before paring them down. What remains is a handful of evocative portraits that sketch out the complicated, delicate relationship one has with one’s mother. Björk recruited one of her own children, her son Sindri Eldon, to sing alongside her, creating a lineage of memorials. The song is arranged loosely and instinctively around her verses, which alternate between displaying the messy viscera of prolonging life (“The doctors she despised/ Placed a pacemaker inside her”) alongside the more existential reality of death. Björk knows no singular song could encapsulate the whole of another person’s existence — “I don’t have that story in my mouth/ When you die, you bring with you what you’ve given,” she sings — but her attempt to do so is staggering. —James
Jamie xx - "KILL DEM"
Cutty Ranks’ 1993 single “Limb By Limb” is one of those music-history miracles. Things like that happen every once in a while. In a genre of music that was only just becoming its own thing — dancehall reggae, in this case — someone will come along with a perfect distillation that will almost immediately sound like it’s always existed. “Limb By Limb” is an elemental growl over an elemental groove, and everything about it is perfect. Now, 29 years later, Jamie xx, a producer who recognizes miracles when he hears them, has built a whole new groove out of that elemental growl. On “KILL DEM,” Jamie chops up Cutty Ranks’ voice, speeds it up, and turns it into an echo of itself. On the resulting track, that warped voice trips and stutters all over a fleet, skittering house groove, making a whole new banger out of a very different old banger. —Tom