The 15 Best Songs of May 2019

Music Lists Best Songs
The 15 Best Songs of May 2019

This month, we heard long-awaited comeback releases from artists like Tyler, the Creator and White Reaper, but the artist who undeniably stole the spotlight was Sleater-Kinney with their St. Vincent-produced new single, “Hurry on Home,” their first new music since 2015’s No Cities to Love. If you can force yourself to stop listening to “Hurry on Home” on repeat, you should also check out recent standout tracks from Clairo, Ezra Furman, Flying Lotus, Idles and more. Scroll down for 15 of our favorite songs from May, listed alphabetically by artist.

1. Carly Rae Jepsen:Want You In My Room

Carly Rae Jepsen is the untroubled single woman chasing pleasure on “Want You In My Room,” which seems to span every age of pop from the lush new wave of The Bangles to the slippery dance-pop of ’90s boy bands to Daft Punk’s sophisticated AutoTune before a saxophone solo takes the song out on a strangely satisfying note (hello again, “Run Away With Me”). —Ellen Johnson

2. Clairo:Bags

“Bags” is a startlingly layered track, slowly adding more and more elements and instruments that complement Clairo’s conversational singing. A set of simple guitar chords, understated drum fills, plunking keys—these are all familiar elements for the bedroom-pop songwriter, but the move toward a studio with co-producer Rostam really fleshes out Clairo’s instincts in a remarkable way. —Harry Todd

3. Ezra Furman:Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone

As is typically the case with Furman’s songwriting, “Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone” just shreds. Furman has always been able to bridge this gap between pop-rock and garage meltdowns with a particular punk-rock sensibility; the immediately laid-back and groovy bass line that kicks the song off paves the way for an absolute ripper of a bridge that finds Furman yelling, supportively, at the listener to calm down. —Harry Todd

4. Flying Lotus:More

“More,” the recent single from musical multi-hyphenate Flying Lotus, features vocals from Anderson .Paak, whose soulful singing is a natural match for FlyLo’s lush funk composition. “More” is taken from his new album Flamagra, which also features George Clinton, Solange, Toro Y Moi, Tierra Whack, Thundercat and Shabazz Palaces. —Adam Weddle

5. Freddie Gibbs:Crime Pays

“Crime Pays” finds one of the best pairs in hip hop in fine form, with Freddie Gibbs slinging accelerated verses left and right and Madlib’s distinctly wobbly production on full display. All hail the dream team. The video, set on a zebra farm which appears to double as an underground drug ring, is weird and tons of fun. Gibbs fishes and pops champagne along a rushing brook, takes in the mountainous scenery and, in a brief intermission, puts the farmhands in their place. We wouldn’t want to be ones mucking out those stalls. —Ellen Johnson

6. Husky Loops: Everyone’s Having Fun Fun Fun But Me

Italian-born, London-based trio Husky Loops recently announced the details of their debut album, I CAN’T EVEN SPEAK ENGLISH, out on August 16 on Danger Mouse’s 30th Century Records. Featuring contributions from Fred Gibson (Charli XCX, Plan B), their new single “Everyone Is Having Fun Fun Fun But Me” pairs pumping trip-hop beats, icy, electro vocals and lush atmospherics for the perfect grooving, post-night-out downer. It’s for the early hours of the morning when you’re gazing out the window, still awake after a night that was supposed to be life-affirming, but instead felt stale. —Lizzie Manno

7. Idles:Mercedes Marxist

Though taken from the sessions for their most recent record, Joy as an Act of Resistance, this latest song from Idles feels distant from the more hopeful messages of the band’s acclaimed 2018 record. After ramping up with chugging, distorted bass lines, frontman Joe Talbot declares in his signature gravelly tones, “Forgive my crippled head / Our revolution’s dead.” Despite the power and fury dripping from every word, the song feels like the aural equivalent of a tiger pacing around the trapping pit in which it’s fallen. —Clare Martin

8. Mannequin Pussy: “Who You Are”

After the release of previous single “Drunk II,” Philadelphia rockers Mannequin Pussy shared the second cut from their forthcoming third album Patience, out on June 21 via Epitaph. “Who You Are” represents the noble quest to root out the sources of self-hatred. With an intensely hooky pop/rock backing, frontwoman Marisa Dabice assures listeners, “I know they want to, get you to be / The kind of person they’d rather see / But you don’t have to change.” —Lizzie Manno

9. Meernaa:Thinking of You

“Thinking Of You,” carried by Carly Bond’s sturdy soprano, slowly sinks into a subtle groove similar to that of a slinking Toro y Moi track, where some of Meernaa’s earlier singles, like “Good Luck,” might stray towards a slick neo-soul reminiscent of Benjamin Booker. But Bond’s soulful voice can be heard on all of their songs. Just as “Thinking Of You” begins to melt into a spiral of synths, “when everything is caving in,” Bond builds it back up again and reaches for Whitney Houston-level heights with a beautiful, high-pitched howl. By the time it’s over, it’s hard to believe “Thinking Of You” is the same song you started with. —Ellen Johnson

10. Miya Folick:Malibu Barbie

The first taste of new music since her 2018 debut Premonitions, “Malibu Barbie” sees Folick exploring what it means to be a woman, and how it’s ultimately “a longing for an ideal.” The song is ethereal with its minimalistic approach and dreamy synths. Folick’s vocals captivate listeners with her smooth tone and occasional whispered lyrics. —Molly Schramm

11. Sleater-Kinney:Hurry on Home

Sleater-Kinney is back with the holy, loud and vulnerable “Hurry on Home,” the band’s first new music since 2015’s No Cities to Love. Produced by Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent), the single is brassy and obsessive, and finds the band exploring a different sonic direction. “Disconnect me from my bones! / So I can float, so I can roam,” Corin Tucker cries, confessing that she’s uptownable, unfuckable, unlovable, unwatchable—and really, really wants her lover to please, please come home. —Savannah Sicurella

12. Stef Chura:Sweet Sweet Midnight

With support from perennial indie favorite Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest, “Sweet Sweet Midnight” is a steady build of a song, starting with a thumping drum beat, and slowly adding an infectious guitar riff and understated keyboards before ultimately giving way to all-out wails from the duetting singers. The song follows the narrative of moving on from a dear friend’s death, but rather than being mournful, “Sweet Sweet Midnight” relishes the dreamtime visits from those gone from this mortal plane. —Harry Todd

13. Tyler Childers:House Fire

“House Fire” is a lusty do-si-do. It’ll have you slapping your knees, stomping your feet and tossing your hair—all actions taken in the song’s tremendously fun accompanying music video, in which Tyler Childers and a pal tend a camp fire while, behind them, a pair of talented performers put a new spin on line dancing, stepping, stomping and twirling at lightning speed until the walls literally crash down around them, and the heated mingling of fiddle, banjo, mandolin and electric guitar burns out. “You can set my house on fire, baby,” Childers sings. “You can turn it into cinder and smoke.” —Ellen Johnson

14. Tyler, the Creator:NEW MAGIC WAND

Tyler, the Creator’s IGOR hits its stride when it embraces heavier, more menacing instrumentals, particularly on “NEW MAGIC WAND,” which features a beat change that ranks as one of the best of the decade, rivaling that of Kendrick Lamar’s frenzied conclusion to “DNA.” It’s one of the more traditional-leaning rap moments on the album (Tyler warned us to not “go into this expecting a rap album”), but some of the best tracks on IGOR are when he does give into these tendencies. —Steven Edelstone

15. White Reaper:Might Be Right

After announcing their signing to Elektra Records, the Kentucky rockers have shared their first new music since 2017’s The World’s Best American Band. In White Reaper’s new track, Tony Esposito’s amplified vocals coincide with Nick Wilkerson’s turbulent beats, Sam Wilkerson’s pounding bass lines, Ryan Hater’s lively keyboard chords and Hunter Thompson’s dynamic electric guitar shreds. Elements of nu-disco and pop intermingle with the band’s signature garage-punk sound. —Marissa Matozzo

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