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.
With each bit of vaccination news in the States, there’s a strange, unfamiliar feeling creeping back into daily life. Something called optimism? The five best songs of the week are below.
Here’s a curiosity: A French metal band, singing in English, declaring solidarity with the indigenous people of Brazil. Or it would feel like a curiosity, anyway, if the music wasn’t so urgent and instinctive. Gojira owe at least some of their cult-star status to prog-rock frippery, but there’s none of that on “Amazonia,” even with the band messing around with traditional Brazilian instrumentation. Instead, the track plays out like Gojira paying tribute to the thunderous groove of Brazil’s own Sepultura, who walked on this same sacred ground on their 1996 classic Roots. Like Sepultura before them, Gojira lock in hard, bellow with authority, and bring absolute sincerity to their warnings of doom. Even as they declaim environmental catastrophe, Gojira sound like they’re in awe of the Amazon itself: “The greatest miracle! Is burning to the ground!” —Tom
It’s a bit ironic that Nicole Dollanganger has returned with her gloomy, goth ballads just as the weather is getting nicer and most states are entering spring. Despite this dissonance, Dollanganger’s music defies time — and the new “Whispering Glades” is no exception. Similar to Phoebe Bridgers’ “Garden Song,” the track imagines someone’s death and burial — though, in Bridgers’ case, it was a Nazi, and in Dollanganger’s case, it’s a charming manipulator.
“You’re a nightmare disguised as a good dream,” Dollanganger lulls over soft strumming, her soprano vocals isolated and floating. She travels through complex emotions as the four-minute song progresses, addressing resentment, disappointment, and guilt. Even if the sun is out, a cloud of mortality and deceit looms over, threatening to darken everything. It seems as if Dollanganger’s songs exist suspended somewhere between a nightmare and a good dream, sometimes merging them together to create a complicated portrait of pain and pleasure. “Whispering Glades” portrays this idea vividly, overflowing with the satisfaction of revenge. —Danielle
Taylor Swift is really going through with it. She’s re-recording her first seven albums to assert control over her catalog and spite Scooter Braun, who purchased and sold her old masters. This power move is resulting in some nice bonuses for Taylor Swift fans. Unlike “Love Story,” the first song she shared from the new version of her 2008 pop-country classic Fearless, the public has never heard the original version of “You All Over Me,” an outtake from those sessions that will be included as a bonus track on Fearless (Taylor’s Version). We have nothing to compare it to. But it’s hard to imagine the teenage Swift doing better than this.
Like many early Swift compositions, “You All Over Me” is a mainstream country ballad shot through with a starry-eyed romanticism that has dimmed a bit in the years since. It has that casually sighing vibe that suggests even her post-heartbreak melancholy feels like a dream, and it’s built around a charming instance of the wordplay country radio can’t get enough of: “No amount of freedom gets you clean/ I’ve still got you all over me.” Hearing a lyric like “The best and worst day of June was the one that I met you” is like seeing a snapshot of Swift from a decade ago.
Yet this take on the song could not exist before the 2020s. Swift sings her old lyrics reverently but knowingly, far enough removed from the song’s inspiration to feel nostalgia for what once was. The National’s Aaron Dessner produced the track, lacing it with that artful indie-folk vibe he helped Swift attain on folklore and evermore. Much of it is subtle: a Bon Iver-esque percussive flicker like the one that introduced “peace,” lead guitar in the background that manages to sound both smoky and ethereal. And then there’s Maren Morris — one of the brightest stars Nashville has to offer today, who broke through after Swift had already gone pop and who has edged into the world of Top 40 crossover herself — grounding every word in gorgeous understated harmony. It’s fantastic. So, uh, thanks Scooter Braun? —Chris
Across most of her great new Flock Of Dimes album Head Of Roses, Jenn Wasner uses some of the sparsest music in her career to trace the fault lines of a failed relationship and all the personal reckoning that came out of it. When she does drift closer to the dreamier side of her songwriting, it’s still emerging from a complicated headspace. While so much of her work in Wye Oak could provide escapism or catharsis, Head Of Roses is both a plainer and more complex conversation with herself. Perhaps no song on the album better represents its layers of meanings than “One More Hour.”
“One More Hour” is actually one of Head Of Roses‘ more straightforward songs thematically. It depicts those moments after a breakup when you find yourself mulling over all the things you could do to change your life — all the things you know would make you feel better — but instead you sit alone and sink into the past, longing for the easy comfort of someone you know deeply but also know is not right for you, turning over memories from before things fell apart. On one hand, you can hear Wasner’s chorus — a gorgeous melody that seems to organically and vividly rise up from the surrounding song — as melancholy, notes slowly making their way through snapshots and yearning for just one more hour with someone you used to know. But much of Head Of Roses is also about dualities and embracing two sides of a conflict. There’s another way you can hear that chorus, not as morose but instead a warm reflection on the things that were actually good. In Wasner’s hands, the song can become something else, feeling a loss at the same time that you find resolve, the realization that you can never go back. —Ryan
Whether he’s leading Shabaka And The Ancestors or Sons Of Kemet or playing in The Comet Is Coming, the kind of jazz that Shabaka Hutchings plays is always visceral, modern, and thrillingly alive. “Hustle” barrels through genre barriers with all the force of Theon Cross’s booming tuba blasts, the same ones that form the stomping rhythmic backbone of the track’s earth-shaking percussive groove. “Feeding my soul, I go make nothing something,” London rapper/poet Kojey Radical rasps, Lianne La Havas’ silken voice providing a shadowy echo. “I was born from the mud with the hustle inside me.” It’s a beautiful paean to the power of Black artistry and creativity, and it’s badass as hell. —Peter