The 10 Best New Songs

Music Lists Best New Songs
The 10 Best New Songs

Writing a song is easy. Make some noise, maybe sing some words. You did it! But writing a good song is far more difficult, and a great one harder still. Great songs, like the 10 we’ve highlighted below, land somewhere deep inside our brains, scratching an itch we couldn’t locate if we tried. This particularly exciting release week saw the return of Big Thief with their first original material since 2019, the latest single from Indigo De Souza’s hotly anticipated Any Shape You Take, and our second preview of Magdalena Bay’s debut album, to name only a select few. Get your ears around them all below.

Big Thief: “Little Things”

Indie folk-rock mainstays Big Thief shared their first proper new songs in two years on Tuesday, “Little Things” and “Sparrow.” The tracks follow a big 2019 for the band, which saw the release of their acclaimed third and fourth albums, U.F.O.F. and Two Hands, which both landed among Paste’s favorite records of that year. Produced by Big Thief drummer James Krivchenia, “Little Things” and “Sparrow” were recorded with Shawn Everett at Topanga, California’s Five Star Studios in October 2020 and Sam Evian at Flying Cloud Recordings in the Catskills in July/August 2020, respectively. “Little Things” isn’t quite like anything we’ve heard from the band to date: Bright acoustic-electric strumming and eager bass noodling (plus Buck Meek’s grasping electric guitar riffs) shuffle atop a difficult rhythm to get a handle on, yet Adrianne Lenker’s distinctive vocals ride the lightning as only she can, as she sings to a lover about “the little things I like about you,” admitting, “Maybe I’m a little obsessed / Maybe you do use me.” In the song’s latter half, she yelps as if the instrumental’s livewire energy has literally electrocuted her, and the band jams onward as she murmurs indistinctly, the song stretching breathlessly towards the six-minute mark. —Scott Russell

Good Morning: “Country”

The Australians are coming out in full force. Wednesday, one of the continent’s finest bands, Good Morning, announced their newest album Barnyard (Oct. 22, Polyvinyl), which arrives two years after their packed 2019 that saw the release of The Option and Basketball Breakups. Alongside the announcement was the duo’s newest single, “Country.” Over an infectious guitar riff that slowly builds into a folky bounce, Liam Parsons sings of wishing to return to a simpler life and younger desires. The entrancing video is set against the backdrop of Parson’s childhood: 1st Eltham Scouts Hall. “I was always too embarrassed to admit that I was a scout to my school friends, the same way I was too embarrassed to admit that I got piano lessons,” Parsons reveals. “Both of those things are ridiculous. Scouts is cool and so are piano lessons.” Ditto “Country.” —Jade Gomez

Indigo De Souza: “Real Pain”

North Carolina singer/songwriter Indigo De Souza has shared another preview of one of Paste’s most-anticipated albums of the month. “Real Pain” is the third single from the rising star’s forthcoming Any Shape You Take (Aug. 27, Saddle Creek), following “Kill Me” and “Hold U,” which ranked among our top tracks of June and July, respectively. “Real Pain” begins in a place of radical acceptance in the face of suffering: “When pain is real, you cannot run,” De Souza sings to open the song, the lyric as devastating as her vocals are delicate. A single electric guitar and a few scattered synth notes expand into enveloping percussion and reverberant distortion while De Souza insists, “I still feel you,” allowing us to wonder whether she’s addressing a person or her pain itself, then sweetly croons, “I don’t believe the way I’ve been / going.” From there, the song is all beautiful breakdown, a symphony of screams set to a pounding, deep drum. You won’t believe the way De Souza brings it all home until you hear it. —Scott Russell

Injury Reserve: “Knees”

Following the untimely death of Stepa J. Groggs, Injury Reserve had taken some time for themselves to grieve as the future of the group was speculated upon. Now a duo, the acclaimed experimental hip-hop act has emerged with news of their forthcoming album By the Time I Get to Phoenix, which includes all of Groggs’ contributions. The lead single “Knees” is a somber look at aging with the realization that it’s more than just getting taller—it’s also forming addictions, putting on weight and losing touch with those around you. Marrying the hypnotic jazz-rap of their earlier releases with the disorienting risks of their 2019 studio debut, “Knees” is a psychedelic trip that purposefully stumbles, keeping you on edge from one moment to the next as Injury Reserve continue to evolve their artistry without any single point of reference. —Jade Gomez

Julia Shapiro: “Come With Me”

Julia Shapiro (Chastity Belt, Childbirth, Who Is She?) is back with her second solo album, Zorked, the follow-up to 2019’s Perfect Version. Set for an Oct. 15 release on Suicide Squeeze Records, the 10-track LP features co-production from Melina Duterte (Jay Som), who helped Shapiro record at home during lockdown in Los Angeles, and pushed her to explore a sound distinct from both her solo debut and her work with Chastity Belt. Lead single “Come With Me,” out now alongside a psychedelic, live-action/animation-hybrid music video (dir. Ertugrul Yaka), is our first preview of that new sound: dreamy, but dark—nightmarey, more like—with droning synths that jab your nerves, hazy and hallucinatory lyrics, and layered Shapiro vocals that evoke MGMT. It’s a sound cleverly calibrated for these times, in which we’re all “zorked” in one way or another, whether by virtue of chemical intervention, or our mental circuits simply overloading. —Scott Russell

Le Ren: “Dyan”

The lead single from Montreal singer/songwriter Le Ren’s (born Lauren Spear) debut album Leftovers (Oct. 15, Secretly Canadian), “Dyan” is the kind of song that packs overwhelming emotion into an unassuming package. Spear pays heartfelt tribute to her mother over soft acoustic fingerpicking and cymbal taps, accentuated with spare keys and strings, and her gentle, lilting refrain—“If I could look into the center of the sun / well, I think I’d see her there”—lends a cosmic scope to their timeless familial connection. At under three minutes, the song has a cheery verve that belies its all-encompassing passion: “If I go before her / Sow my ashes in her garden / Lay my body by her side / And say goodbye,” Spear urges. “If I lose my bloom / Light a candle in the darkness / Say my name / The one she gave / And shut my eyes.” You can practically feel your heart grow a size as she sings, using her musical gift to repay the life Dyan gave her. —Scott Russell

Magdalena Bay: “Secrets (Your Fire)”

When Magdalena Bay—the Los Angeles-based electro-pop duo of Mica Tenenbaum and Matthew Lewin—announced their debut album Mercurial World in late June, we were taken aback by lead single “Chaeri,” which we described as “an emotionally charged electro-pop epic,” but also “a seismic shift away from the carefree, retro-electro whimsy of the duo’s previous releases.” So we were gratified to find that their second Mercurial World single, “Secrets (Your Fire),” released Wednesday, expertly straddles the band’s past and future, integrating their children-of-the-internet whimsy with retro synth-funk and pop production so polished, you can see yourself in it. The song is serious in its examination of online overexposure, but conveys those weighty ideas in sleekly weightless electro bounce and G-funk-esque synth whistles. If Magdalena Bay can keep juggling fun and ambition like this, there’s practically no limit to how big they can become. —Scott Russell

PIERI: “Quien Paga”

With her distinct voice, frenzied style and a heavy, distorted beat, Philadelphia-based rapper PIERI seems poised for stardom on new single “Quien Paga.” Previous singles such as “Kitican” and “Pa Q Lo Sientas” have showcased the artist’s ability for delivering catchy and dynamic performances over beats that hit like a ton of bricks, but “Quien Paga” ramps up the energy even further, feeling like PIERI is taking the listener on a 1,000 mph joyride. Her fast-paced flow and vocal modulations fit tightly with a beat that sounds as though it’s rapidly degenerating, with sputtering drums and flashes of noise that work to amplify the whole experience of “Quien Paga.” —Jason Friedman

They Hate Change: “Faux Leather”

Allow Jagjaguwar’s newest signing to introduce themselves: Tampa Bay DIY production/rap duo They Hate Change, i.e., Andre and Vonne, shared a new song and video titled “Faux Leather” on Wednesday. Directed by Xandra Robyn, the “Faux Leather” video is part lyric video and part A Certain Ratio tribute, while “Faux Leather” itself is a mesmerizing display of They Hate Change’s sound, which “references footwork, drum-n-bass, jungle, and avant-garde through the veil of Tampa Bay originated Jook music—a style melding bounce, bass and dance hall,” as a press release explains. That blend is positively hypnotic here: The duo rap the song’s first verse in unison, their conjoined voices sliding from one side of the mix to the other as the song’s ethereal beat staggers ahead. Their bars about “precious metal” and “stunting in Kerby” give way to pointed commentary on the treacherous, coldly transactional nature of the music industry: “Got the Bandcamp doing handstands, selling tapes like weight, name your price for WAVs,” Vonne raps, with Andre adding, “DSPs they ain’t worth shit, I’m trappin’ like the old days.” —Scott Russell

Turnstile: “FLY AGAIN”

Paste is pretty excited about the forthcoming Turnstile album Glow On, which arrives Aug. 27 via Roadrunner Records. Wednesday, Turnstile graciously shared their last single before the album’s release, “FLY AGAIN.” The track opens with a wistful piano that leads into their signature chugging guitars and frontman Brendan Yates’ spacey screams. Much like the other singles, such as “ALIEN LOVE CALL” and “BLACKOUT,” “FLY AGAIN” displays yet another facet of Turnstile’s genre-bending philosophy. —Jade Gomez

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