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.)
Stormzy - "Toxic Trait" (Feat. Fredo)
Stormzy can make pop-rap and self-examining therapy music, but he’s always at his best when he’s talking imperious, magisterial bullshit. The title “Toxic Trait” implies more of that therapy music, but that’s not what Stormzy is doing here. Instead, Stormzy turns his worst qualities into flexes. Over producer Dave’s foggy, rattling track, Stormzy calls himself “the Black Kate Bush,” asks Greta Thunberg to excuse his luxury-car carbon footprint, and details his own absurd consumption habits: “Careful, bro, that’s an AP ashtray, man’s gotta ash this spliff in style.” But the nastiest line — both the most toxic and the best — goes to fellow UK rap giant Fredo: “She’s hangin’ around, I know that you miss her/ I know that you kissed her/ Yeah, they call me Family Guy ’cause she let me fuck and so did her sister.” —Tom
Slow Pulp - "Slugs"
Slow Pulp have always been a bit more moody and muted than the other bands of their ilk that use shoegazey textures to make melodic rock songs, and they use that lower energy to great effect on “Slugs.” It’s the kind of song that displays the quiet confidence of a band that knows what they’re doing: There’s no roaring show-offy hook, just a satisfying hum that dissolves into a chorus that sticky and sweet. Emily Massey’s voice is staticky; she’s surrounded by infectious oohs when she reaches the song’s chorus, “‘Cause you’re a summer hit/ I’m singing it,” which comes across like a self-fulfilling prophecy. —James
Sampha - "Spirit 2.0"
It’s been six years since Sampha released a track of his own, and “Spirit 2.0” was well worth the wait. His debut album Process was a meditative marvel, one that’s only grown in estimation with time; “Spirit 2.0” sounds cleaner, more immediate, more enveloping than just about anything on there. The skittering minimalist production lets Sampha’s distinctive voice do the work, each vocal twist sounding like a buoy: “Waves will catch you/ Light will catch you/ Love will catch you/ Spirit gon’ catch you.” It’s an ode to friendship, and his friends are in the mix here — “Spirit 2.0” features contributions from El Guincho, Yussef Dayes, Owen Pallett, Ibeyi’s Lisa-Kaindé Diaz, and a tantalizing vocal coda by Yaeji. Every moving part feels like Sampha is being lifted up, transcending. —James
Ratboys - "The Window"
The title track from Ratboys’ tremendous new album might knock you over even before you know the backstory. Julia Steiner sings such tender words with such soft-eyed twang, and the band builds up so rapturously behind her, that the sheer power of the music is enough to elicit strong emotional reactions. But then you find out what she means when she sings, “We locked eyes through the window.”
In a statement accompanying the song, Steiner explains, “I wrote this song a few days after the death of my grandma in June of 2020. She didn’t have COVID, but because of the pandemic my grandpa wasn’t able to visit her in person at the nursing home to say goodbye. He ended up standing outside her room and saying goodbye through an open window. A lot of the lyrics are direct quotes of things he said to her in those final moments.”
Holy shit. “How could I have known you wouldn’t come back home,” Steiner sings in the second verse. “I felt you with me,” she intones just against a rising tide of jangly guitar. Then the bridge hits: “Sue, you’ll always be my girl.” I’m not crying, you’re crying. OK, maybe we all are. —Chris
The Armed - "Sport Of Form" (Feat. Julien Baker)
The Armed remind me of Heath Ledger’s character in 10 Things I Hate About You: very hardcore and positively swirling with rumors. (The Armed have not lit a state trooper on fire or eaten a live duck, I don’t think.) But experimental collective does have a longstanding reputation as being intentionally obtuse and mysterious, changing up the names of their members and bringing in guest collaborators on a whim. That veil is ostensibly lifted on their forthcoming album, Perfect Saviors, which promises transparency and purports to be the “biggest, greatest rock album of the 21st century.” Thundering lead single “Sport Of Form” delivers on the album’s promise, hurling itself into an industrial maelstrom of crushing noise before pivoting to a spare — dare I say calming?? — chorus of “Does anyone even know you? Does anyone even care?” Julien Baker’s breathy vocal helps bring “Sport Of Form” to full catharsis-nirvana, and the visually arresting music video features Iggy Pop playing God, which he basically is within punk circles. If the Armed are our Perfect Saviors, then for goodness’ sake, let’s get this rapture started. —Rachel