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.)
Hatchie - "Rooftops" (Feat. Liam Benzvi)
Every element in this song’s shimmering groove makes itself matter: The crystalline low-end guitar. The smoothly rumbling bass. The tambourine! Either steel drums that sound like a keyboard or a keyboard that sounds like steel drums. Amidst those impeccable details, Hatchie and Liam Benzvi’s voices combine into droning shoegaze beauty, like a shoegaze ballad broke out in the rave tent at some early ’90s UK fest. When the chorus hits, those vocals soar into the kind of massive, effervescent hook Hatchie has ridden to indie stardom. Yet there’s a melancholy streak to “Rooftops,” a baked-in sadness that dovetails with the looming goodbye implied by the lyrics: “When I reach that high/ When I think of you and I/ It’s such a rainy sky/ I don’t want to let this die.” —Chris
Angel Olsen - "Nothing's Free"
Angel Olsen has entered her impassioned-saxophone-solo era. Whereas Big Time delved into dreamy retro country, “Nothing’s Free” is a swooning piano ballad steeped in jazz torch songs, classic pop, and retro soul. Olsen deploys that finely tuned breathy whisper she’s been honing for years, softly cooing about her passion for a lover, conjuring a smoky aura as subtle organ, piano, and sax parts waft through the background. Then, about two minutes in, the song breaks open, and each of those instruments gets a chance to shine — including and especially that sax, which goes full Kenny G in its spotlight moment, as if we’ve stepped through a portal into deepest ’80s. It’s startling and confusing at first, but when it hits, it hits just right. —Chris
ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT - "WE LIVE ON A FUCKING PLANET AND BABY THAT'S THE SUN"
“‘We live on a fucking planet and baby that’s the sun’ is a lyric that’s been floating around in my head for a couple decades.” This is how Ariel Engle — the Canadian musician best known as one of the vocalists powering Broken Social Scene’s second chapter — introduced the lead single from her project ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT’s debut album. What a phrase!
Unabashedly ambitious and lying in wait, “WE LIVE ON A FUCKING PLANET AND BABY THAT’S THE SUN” is a 10-minute orchestral odyssey, otherworldly and beguiling, at times peaceful and other times teeth-chatteringly apocalyptic. Engle started the group a couple years ago as a collaboration with Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Efrim Manuel Menuck, and they combine that project’s widescreen vision with a sense of harmony and brightness, manifesting in a glittering conclusion that makes the two decades that lyric spent clattering around Engle’s head feel worth it. You can’t even really hear it amidst the clamor, but you can sure feel it. —James
Guardian Singles - "Chad And Stacey"
Fast drone. It sounds like a contradiction in terms. It’s not. Drone music doesn’t have to go on forever, and it doesn’t have to lull you into a stupor. “Chad And Stacey,” the new single from Auckland’s Guardian Singles, drives hard in the opposite direction. The guitars have that staring-into-infinity grandeur that we expect from the spaciest bands. But everything else — the bass, the drums, the bark-it-out vocals — is set to jackhammer pummel. The effect is strange and intoxicating, like Spacemen 3 trying to become the Ramones. The song is over in less than two minutes, but by the time it ends, you feel like you’ve been whipping around the galaxy, surfing on a comet. —Tom
Ratboys - "Black Earth, WI"
I once read an article that outlined how indie-rock bands (or indie-styled bands, anyway) were morphing into jam bands. The piece cited chronically chillaxed types like Kurt Vile and the National’s Day Of The Dead tribute record. At the time, I railed against that article’s thesis, mainly because I once spent the longest night of my life at an Umphrey’s McGee show, which involved too many bong rips and becoming trapped in a prison of my own mind.
But I digress; when a technically-not-jam band like Ratboys drops an ambling, eight-minute journey like “Black Earth, WI,” my outrage and distress over the prospect of indie-rock jam bands dissipate ever so slightly. Across nearly two song’s worth of time, Ratboys wind their way through a rootsy, mid-tempo rock landscape, which slowly morphs into a masterful (dare I say noodling?) guitar solo before settling back in. There’s no question how well “Black Earth, WI” will translate to a live setting or a long, destination-less drive. Ratboys are single handedly helping heal my jam-band trauma, and that’s a tall order. —Rachel