Best New Songs (April 27, 2023)

Music Lists Best New Songs
Best New Songs (April 27, 2023)

At Paste Music, we’re listening to so many new tunes on any given day, we barely have any time to listen to each other. Nevertheless, every week we can swing it, we take stock of the previous seven days’ best tracks, delivering a weekly playlist of our favorites. Check out this week’s best new songs, in alphabetical order. (You can check out the current best songs here).

AJJ: “Candles of Love”
The beloved band that forged its name on a songwriting approach that riffed on the apocalyptic societal collapse and the immoral creatures left atop the rubble has reached a new chapter. AJJ have grown into a new shape on Disposable Everything, delivering sermons on grief after the outbreak of COVID three years ago. “Candles of Love” isn’t the freight train of societal critiques that AJJ often produces, but that’s no issue. In a subtle tone, vocalist Sean Bonnette sings about the brightness of the room and how a light can change everything. “Like a hand in a glove, everything fitting just right tonight / For the year or above, Double A batteries keep them boys glowing,” Bonnette sings. Of course, the track offers a quick, cheeky jab at contemporary at the market enterprise that engulfs all: “And also thank you capitalism, never stop making stuff.” —Matt Mitchell

Crumb: “Dust Bunny”
Capitalizing on the energy of the Jonathan Rado and Johnscott Sanford-produced single “Crushxd,” the Brooklyn indie outfit came roaring back with “Dust Bunny.” Vocalist Lila Ramani’s singing shines here, as the woozy and inspired track glistens through crunchy, flickering beats and an ethereal lead guitar. The two singles pair nicely as the band’s first string of new tunes since their 2021 album Ice Melt, and “Dust Bunny” is especially memorable. Excavating more psychedelic textures than jazz ones, Crumb takes new shape on a stunnng movement of hallucinogenic language that yields no lulls. —Matt Mitchell

Dean Johnson: “Faraway Skies”
On “Faraway Skies,” the third single from his forthcoming debut record Nothing for Me, Please, Seattle singer/songwriter Dean Johnson gets reflective in his own balladeering, cowboy dreams 15 years into his career. “Down on the sidewalk, life passes me by / I’ve been too slow for these times / But now you’ll be knowin’ if ya look in my eyes / I’m a cowboy ‘neath faraway skies,” he sings. It’s a rich, euphoric song about the Western lifestyles we’ve all dream of having, and Johnson’s vocals are angelical, beautiful and timeless. With language straight out of a picture book, Johnson’s “Faraway Skies” is an earworm for anyone who loves a classic, acoustic arpeggio paired with a soothing tenor. Come for the boss cowboy imagery from the guy who looks a lot like Sam Elliott; stay for one of the most splendid and underrated country tunes of 2023 so far. I listened to “Faraway Skies” on a long drive the other day and welled up thinking about all of the places a part of me still lives in. Who better to soundtrack that reflection than Dean Johnson? —Matt Mitchell

Ellen Zweig: “If Archimedes”
Sound artist and poet Ellen Zweig has been active since the early ’70s but recordings of her work are surprisingly slim. A welcome corrective to this oversight comes next month with the arrival of Fiction of the Physical, a collection of pieces from the ’70s and ’80s. The first track to be released from this album is a crystalline example of Zweig’s aesthetic and brilliance. Led by a pulsating synth figure, “If Archimedes” gets taken over by overlapping voices intoning sensual details of a desert impacted by the nuclear tests done at Los Alamos and fragments of poetry. Weaving around them are the percussive clang of Zweig and musician David Dunn knocking on sound sculptures made by Tony Price and bits of ambient noise. It quickly becomes almost overwhelming in its density and complexity. A labyrinth of sound worth getting lost in. —Robert Ham

GHÖSH: “Devil Lady”
“Am I possessed?” rapper Symphony Spell of the Philly noise-rap duo GHÖSH wonders in a statement accompanying new single “Devil Lady.” “I might be.” Or as she puts it so pointedly amid the thrashing drum ‘n’ bass beat and nü-metal guitar antics of this track, “If the devil’s real, then you’re looking at her.” Can anyone blame Symphony for wanting to embrace the “evil” that lay in the heart of all of us, or opting to worship at the altar of all the subcultures that her Baptist upbringing insisted were the tools of Satan? That’s where all the fun stuff is. Slap some clown makeup on your face and an umlaut in your name and get in the pit with the rest of us heathens. —Robert Ham

Jess Williamson: “Chasing Spirits
Jess Williamson’s return to solo work has been on Paste’s radar big-time, as “Hunter,” the lead single from her forthcoming LP Time Ain’t Accidental was one of our favorite tracks from last month. Continuing to build on the moment with “Chasing Spirits,” Williamson is crafting a time capsule of country tunes at a time when we need them most. Chronicling loneliness in a new home while conjuring Neil Young imagery, she writes beautifully of longing: “I tried to come to you / But you didn’t like the way I asked / But there’s nothing in LA for me / Just a lonely singer at the beach.” Where Williamson goes next is uncertain, but Time Ain’t Accidental is shaping up to be an unforgettable project from one of our best lyricists. —Matt Mitchell

Julie Byrne: “Summer Glass”
American singer/songwriter Julie Byrne’s last album, Not Even Happiness, was a sight to behold: a paradoxical, inspired document of lonesomeness; a treatise of lush vocal harmonies and digital textures. But that was six years ago, and a new chapter has begun for Byrne, whose long-awaited third LP—The Greater Wings—is arriving on July 7 via Ghostly International. Lead single “Summer Glass” is a spectral, glittering affair. Positioned directly in focus is Byrne’s talismanic voice, which bellows and breaks atop a cinematic synthesizer. The keys fade out and into an orchestral climax, as Byrne sings about devotion. It’s a powerful return from one of our sharpest songwriters, who’s given us a portrait of something otherworldly on “Summer Glass.” —Matt Mitchell

McKinley Dixon: “Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?”
The title track from Chicago rapper McKinley Dixon’s new album is a reference to three novels by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. Rather lofty company for any streetwise artist to keep, but it’s clear that he’s done a deep study of the author’s work to the point of calling Morrison “the greatest rapper alive.” Dixon works references to and quotes from the titular trilogy of books into the song and they prove flexible enough to withstand being put through the wringer of his conscious rhymes and bouts of brashness. They even hold firm amid the jazzy whirlwind of the production. The execution and presentation are pure magic and, like the work of a talented illusionist, should be approached with a curious wonder. —Robert Ham

Palehound: “The Clutch”
Palehound’s first new album in four years, Eye On The Bat, arrives in July, and lead single “The Clutch” is a heavy, electrifying guitar track that puts El Kempner’s vocals at the center. They skate atop mystifying riffs and solos in seismic fashion, chronicling a relationship on the brink of crumbling apart. “You didn’t need my help,” they sing over and over, as the arrangement swells and then fades. It’s a roaring return to a beloved project, and, if “The Clutch” is any signal to the sonic ethos of Eye On The Bat in its entirety, then a triumphant, unforgettable album is set to befall upon us all this summer. —Matt Mitchell

PJ Harvey: “A Child’s Question, August”
The lyrics for this new single from PJ Harvey feels tangled and ornate — a Celtic knot of symbols and turns of phrase inspired by centuries of folk music from the artist’s home country. “Hear the grinding wheel-bird grieve,” she sings over simple, rolling percussion and a flickering modular synth glimmer. “Grief unknits my ravelled sleeve / Death of zummer, death of play / Waxing night and dwindling day.” Were it not for the modern instrumentation, the melody and words could be chanted by an ancient sect of monks as they slowly made their way around Stonehenge. The track sets the table for what should be another evolutionary step in Harvey’s constantly morphing career even as it hews a little closer to Dance Hall at Louse Point and A Woman a Man Walked By, the two collaborative albums she made with regular collaborator John Parish. He played a key role in the development of the forthcoming I Inside the Old Year Dying. Along with the producer Flood, the three played around in the studio and let the songs develop through organic improvisation. After hearing this minimalist wonder, the mind reels as to where the three went from here. —Robert Ham

Tiny Ruins: “Out Of Phase”
New Zealand’s Tiny Ruins have an album out in less than 24 hours, but that didn’t stop them from giving us one last single before the whole shebang is unveiled. “Out Of Phase” is a great fingerpicked ballad that places Hollie Fullbrook’s vocals at the center. With a flute unspooling across the arrangement, the band begins to bloom into a full machine reflecting on misalignment and unrest through beautiful imagery. “Now the pyramid darkens, you’re in a hedgerow maze / With pretty jewels of many colors, our lighthouse signals rise / Suspended points of mineral dust caught glinting by the sun,” Fullbrook sings. Alongside other singles “The Crab / Waterbaby,” “Dorothy Bay” and “Dogs Dreaming,” “Out Of Phase” is the perfect bookend to one of the strongest teaser cycles in recent memory. —Matt Mitchell

Valley Palace: “Time With You”
I discovered Nathan Taylor, aka Valley Palace, through TikTok, and I can’t thank the app enough for introducing me to one of my new favorite artists. Amid the endless scrolling through 30-second videos, Taylor’s intimate bedroom indie project stuck with me. He’s notoriously, and exclusively, dropped only singles since 2020. I’ve had “Patch” and “Victory Lap” on repeat for months, and new single “Time With You” is a delicious concoction of hip-hop beats paired with ethereal shoegaze riffs. At a brisk, two-minute pace, “Time With You” is a daydream of romance and sentimentalism. “Let’s go out / Into the deep end / Take my hand and / Close your eyes / The windows open,” Taylor sings. If you haven’t stumbled upon his videos online, now is your chance to hop on the Valley Palace train before it obliterates the station. —Matt Mitchell

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