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.
Another week and still no Donda! Can you believe it? The five best songs of the week are below.
Tasha makes songs that are both soothing and emotionally harrowing, a contemplative calm that’s underlined by the slow ticking of the clock. Her latest, “Lake Superior,” is crisp like a sunny autumn day, a flurry of guitar and strings gliding through words that act as both a memorial and an expression of regret. She opens with some scene-setting — “Do you remember/ That warm fall day/ We brought Grandma’s ashes up to Lake Superior/ Down the shore we called out/ Her glorious name” — and lands on a reminder to tell those you love you admire them while you still can. “But I do/ Wish I told you/ You’re the bravest one of us all,” she sings in its chorus, her voice cutting and deep. “So much joy we can cling to/ Even if the missing don’t stop.” —James
Boldy James and the Alchemist are both on insane runs right now. The Detroit rapper and the LA beatmaker have each released four separate collaborative full-lengths in the past year, and pretty much every one of them has been good to great. But they clearly save some of their best work for each other and push each other to the top of their respective games, the Alchemist’s head-blown psychedelia wafting beautifully around Boldy’s locked-in virtuosic bars. “Turpentine” doesn’t even have a hook; it’s just a few minutes of hard-boiled drug-dealing wordplay over a few minutes of absolute vibes. “Time has got so hard,” the distinctive vocal sample threaded throughout the song proclaims, but Boldy James and the Alchemist make it look easy. —Peter
Much of the appeal of Injury Reserve is an unconventional approach that doesn’t feel like weirdness for weirdness’ sake. The Phoenix rap group intends to stir something deep inside you, they’re just more often than not approaching from bizarre angles. On “Knees” — the lead single from new album By The Time I Get To Phoenix and the first song they’ve released since the death of founding member Jordan Groggs — that applies to both the music and the message.
The beat is one of Parker Corey’s strangest to date, a woozy, wide-open loop that hits like punctuation stretched out into a sentence. Against that backdrop, Ritchie With A T and the late Stepa J. Groggs trade out their usual rapping for bluesy sing-song about the pains of aging, both physical and existential. “My knees hurt ’cause I’m growin’,” Ritchie With A T sings. “And that’s the tough pill to swallow/ ‘Cause I’m not gettin’ taller.” Groggs chimes in, “Shit, I can’t even grow no more” — an eerie sentiment for a posthumous lyric, and one that belies Injury Reserve’s continued development. He continues, “Well, at least not vertically/ But all these bottles that a n**** been killin’/ Got my stomach a lil’ bit lower than it’s supposed to be, ‘posed to be.” It’s the kind of thing anyone could relate to, but not many could communicate it like these guys. —Chris
Sometimes bands are made up of a handful of people, and it could be no other way — it is about those specific players, and their instincts and relationships, and a sound that can only result from their exact intersection. The members of Big Thief have always come across as deeply tight-knit, four musicians and friends with an ineffable bond. That’s how you get a lot of their songs, the things that seem to coalesce out of vapor and hang there right in view, cohering but always in danger of destabilizing or disappearing if one precise piece was knocked out of order. That’s the kind of song “Little Things” is.
“Little Things” is all combustion waiting to happen. An insistent, unerring, yet watery guitar underpinning the whole thing; a rhythm section keeping up with the natural course of a storm building around them more so than keeping strict time; vocals rising up above, then turning to strangled yelps, then diving into the shelter of the song’s currents. If it wasn’t these four musicians, knowing how to work with each other, you could imagine “Little Things” crash landing at so many turns. Instead, it glides, it shimmers. It remains in sight for just a few moments, mirage-like, a magic trick only these four can conjure. —Ryan
The Weeknd has actual songs with Daft Punk; in fact, producing a couple of bangers for Abel Tesfaye was basically the last thing that the robots did before riding off into the digital sunset. And yet “Take My Breath,” which features absolutely zero involvement from Daft Punk, is the greatest Daft Punk-style banger that the Weeknd has ever made. Co-producing with eternal Swedish pop overlord Max Martin and Martin’s little buddy Oscar Holter, the Weeknd has found a towering synth-streaked retro-futuristic bump, and he has chased that sound into bleary infinity.
If you’re looking for sleaze in “Take My Breath,” you can find it. The song could be about amazement, or it could be about wanting the Weeknd to choke you to death during sex. But when that stadium-status boom is working, context drips away, colors blur into each other, and thought gives way to motion. “Take My Breath” is an engine built from delicate, intricate interlocking parts — a strobing Moroder synth, a funky organ work out, a dank bass-drone, a lost and lonely tenor sob. But when the engine hums, you don’t hear the individual parts. You just feel your night peaking, or maybe you imagine the night that could peak if this song came on at the exact right moment. Either way, that’s dance-pop nirvana. —Tom