The 10 Best New Songs

Featuring Iceage, Julien Baker, Tkay Maidza and more

Music Lists Best New Songs
The 10 Best New Songs

We’re taking a slightly different approach to our latest best songs roundup, taking stock of this week’s new drops on a Thursday and saving everything from tomorrow’s forthcoming album releases for the following week, once we’ve had some time to spend with them. Rest assured, though, that the past four days have been chock-full of worthwhile new material on their own, including must-hear new singles from Scandinavian rockers Iceage, Tennessee singer/songwriter Julien Baker (featuring her boygenius bandmates Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus), and Zimbabwe-born, Australia-raised rapper and singer Tkay Maidza. Enjoy our top 10 tracks of the moment below.

The Armed: “ALL FUTURES”

Detroit, Mich., punk collective The Armed are anonymous no more: The band not only announced a new album ULTRAPOP (April 16, Sargent House) and shared its absolute shredder of a lead single “ALL FUTURES” on Thursday, but also revealed their lineup for the first time in a live video for the track. “ALL FUTURES” very much aligns with The Armed’s stated mission “to create the most intense experience possible, a magnification of all culture, beauty, and things”—the rollicking electro-rock track overwhelms by way of pummeling drums, fuzzed-out synths and shouts, and a big, blown-out production sensibility. The Armed’s instrumental firepower is in direct proportion to their ambition, as the song also seeks to catalyze ULTRAPOP’s namesake micro-genre, somehow managing to leave room for melody amidst its sweep-you-off-your-feet squalls of sound. The Armed’s Dan Greene says of this concept, “ULTRAPOP seeks, in earnest, to create a truly new listener experience. It is an open rebellion against the culture of expectation in ‘heavy’ music. It is a joyous, genderless, post-nihilist, anti-punk, razor-focused take on creating the most intense listener experience possible. It’s the harshest, most beautiful, most hideous thing we could make.” —Scott Russell

Cloud Nothings: “Nothing Without You”

The latest preview of Cloud Nothings’ impending seventh album has arrived in the form of new single “Nothing Without You,” plus an accompanying videogame. Out Feb. 26 on Carpark Records, The Shadow I Remember is one of Paste’s most-anticipated releases of 2021. For their new record, Dylan Baldi and company reunited with legendary alt-rock producer Steve Albini for the first time since their 2012 breakout Attack On Memory, and that’s reflected in this new single’s sound. “Nothing Without You” would’ve fit in well on that album by virtue of its serrated guitars and breakneck percussion, as well as Baldi’s vocals, which are less throat-shredding than usual, though just as hooky. And speaking of vocals, Ohmme’s Macie Stewart is prominently featured on the song’s choruses, a standout element that feels fresh. “‘Nothing Without You’ explores both the negative and positive aspects of dependency, whether it be on a person, a place, an object, or nothing at all,” Baldi says of the band’s new song. —Scott Russell

Iceage: “The Holding Hand”

Danish punk outfit Iceage have signed to Mexican Summer and shared their first single for the label, “The Holding Hand.” It comes with a Anders Malmberg-directed video, and it follows their 2020 single “Lockdown Blues.” Iceage’s languorous, beatific rock frequently embodies the pain that arises when things are just out of reach, and “The Holding Hand” is filled with a similar anguish. Throughout the song, Elias Bender Rønnenfelt sings in a near-stupor, as if his emotions are overwhelming to the point of incapacitation, about feeling powerless in a harsh scene of mythological proportions. The over-five-minute track is cloaked in a shadowy echo, slightly unsettling wind chimes and, for added drama, slowly pounding guitars and strings that match the gravitas of this tale. “The song lives in a slurred world, movements are elastically stretched out and strength is found in weakness while you find it hard to tell the difference between fume and matter,” Rønnenfelt says. “Gently the swaying intensifies, feel it escalate. Reach out for the holding hand, it seems almost within scope now.” —Lizzie Manno

Indigo Sparke: “Colourblind”

The third single from Australian artist Indigo Sparke’s forthcoming debut album echo (Feb. 19, Sacred Bones), “Colourblind” is an intimate, yet expansive indie-folk track on which Big Thief songwriter, solo artist and echo co-producer Adrianne Lenker makes her presence felt. Sparke’s stunning vocals are sandwiched between soft electric guitar on one side and rustic acoustic chords on the other as she sings, “There’s a knowing in your eyes / There’s a truth behind my lies,” stretching that last syllable for what feels like miles. Indeed, the song has a distinctly pastoral, wide-open appeal to it, particularly in the whistled outro—you half-expect a tumbleweed to blow through the track, and its Paris, Texas-inspired video (co-directed by Sparke and DP Monica Buscarino) only adds to the effect. It’s rare to encounter a young singer/songwriter with that sort of transportive power. “I think there was a period of time when I was almost laughing at how sad I was in the space of ambiguous liminal love. If you don’t start laughing, you just cry more,” Sparke says of the song. “Its a feeling when you are kind of sick to your stomach and anxious but excited and not knowing what the fuck is going on. The space of waiting. Waiting to know someone else’s truth, or waiting to see someone, or waiting to see what the future holds for you and that person, or waiting to see if it’s even real. Everything becomes that person, everything reminds you of that person, everything speaks that persons name. It’s a bittersweet thing.” —Scott Russell

Julien Baker: “Favor”

The third album from Julien Baker is nearly here, and ahead of Little Oblivions (Feb. 26, Matador Records), the singer/songwriter has shared its third single, “Favor,” featuring her boygenius bandmates Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, and a lyric video created by Sabrina Nichols. “Favor” finds Baker looking backwards and inwards over shuffling drums and winding guitars, singing, “I used to think about myself / like I was a talented liar / Turns out that all my friends were / trying to do me a favor.” It’s there Baker’s friends come in, with Bridgers and Dacus joining their voices to hers on the cathartic choruses as they collectively stretch towards redemption. “Julien is one of those people whose opinion you want to hear about everything. A true critical thinker with an ever-changing and ridiculously articulate worldview,” says Bridgers in a statement. “Her music changes in the same way, and this record is my favorite thing she’s ever done. I’m sure I’ll think the same about the next one.” “We sang on ‘Favor’ in Nashville the same day we recorded vocals for ‘Graceland Too’ [off Bridgers’ album Punisher] and a song of mine. That day had the same atmosphere as when we recorded the boygenius EP,” Dacus recalls. “Making music was just a natural result of being together, easy as can be but also rare in a way that feels irreplicable.” “I love the song for its stark but sensitive picture of friendship, what it looks like to recover from broken trust,” Dacus says of “Favor” itself. “Makes me think about how truth only ever breaks what should be broken, and how love is never one of those things. I’m always honored to be brought into Julien’s life and music.” —Scott Russell

Lauren Auder: “Heathen”

The third single from London-based singer/songwriter Lauren Auder’s forthcoming third EP 5 Songs for the Dysphoric (Feb. 12, True Panther and Harvest Records), “Heathen” is utterly mesmerizing, blending dark dance-pop and noise-rock sounds, with only Auder’s deep baritone vocals to guide you through the haze. Produced by Clams Casino (Vince Staples, Lil B) and Dviance, the song pulls the tension tight in its verses with thrumming bass and skittering drums, only to release it in the transcendent choruses, collisions of grunge guitar noise and trip-hop accents that loom large in the mind’s eye, and only grow more explosive as “Heathen” crescendoes. “I think this may be my favourite song I’ve ever worked on,” says Auder. “It’s about longing for a test run before life proper. Learning to accept that all we get is a 9 month long bomb shelter before you’re very much in the world.” —Scott Russell

Moontype: “About You”

Chicago trio Moontype have announced their debut album Bodies of Water, out on April 2 via Born Yesterday Records. They’ve also shared a new track, “About You,” which follows their debut single “Ferry.” “About You” is a snappy, easygoing indie-pop tune, and its giddy tempo changes mimic the excitement of being drawn to someone who’s an instant mood-booster. Lead singer/bassist Margaret McCarthy’s vocals are trustworthy and sweet, as she beams about touching memories with a close friend over peppy guitars. “When I wrote ‘About You’ I was sitting in my apartment missing my friend who had gone abroad for the semester and thinking about all the moments that made our friendship so special. The friendship began as a crush but it slowly melted into something more lasting—we made a synth together, we wrote songs together—and I really just wanted to be around them most of the time!” McCarthy says. “There was this feeling of being two magnets, pulling towards each other, but the pull doesn’t stay that strong forever and I wanted to remember what it felt like at the start. I’m grateful I wrote it down in that way because now me and my friend fall in and out of touch but every time we play that song I remember how special they are and how important they are to me.” —Lizzie Manno

Skullcrusher: “Song for Nick Drake”

Helen Ballentine’s indie-folk project Skullcrusher continues to come up here in early 2021, releasing her first new material of the year Monday (Feb. 1). Out now via Secretly Canadian, standalone single/video “Song for Nick Drake” follows the June 2020 release of Ballentine’s self-titled Skullcrusher debut EP, as well as her October single “Farm” b/w “Lift,” the latter track a Radiohead cover. “‘Song for Nick Drake’ is about my relationship to the music of Nick Drake,” Ballentine explains in a statement. “It recalls moments in my life that are viscerally intertwined with his music, specifically times spent walking & taking the train. The song is really my homage to music and the times I felt most immersed in it.” “Song for Nick Drake” itself is one to get lost in, as Ballentine recalls quiet times in a bookstore and on a train over dreamy acoustic chords, with gossamer synth and banjo backing. “I walked home alone / With your song in my head / Finally understanding something,” she sings, her voice layering over itself as the song crescendoes, as if to reflect the force of her epiphany. Like a warm blanket on a cold day, “Song for Nick Drake” is particularly resonant in these solitary times, not to mention as deceptively complex and effortlessly hypnotic a song as anything Skullcrusher has released so far—here’s hoping it’s a harbinger of new material, as opposed to just a one-off. —Scott Russell

Spirit of the Beehive: “THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN’T DO”

Spirit of the Beehive have announced their new LP ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH will be arriving Apr. 9 on Saddle Creek, their first release via the esteemed indie label. Ahead of the album, the Philadelphia band has shared their latest single, “THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN’T DO,” with an accompanying music video. The new LP marks a period of change and growth in the band: They’ve moved to a new label, are joined by a new member in Corey Wichlin, and have modified their approach to recording music. While 2018’s Hypnic Jerks was recorded in just a week, the band took their time with ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH, planning the album for four months before self-producing and recording the latest tracks. The result in single “THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN’T DO” is mesmerizing shoegaze with a more electronic bite than the band’s previous work. —Carli Scolforo

Tkay Maidza & Yung Baby Tate: “KIM”

The artist behind one of 2020’s best EPs is back with a new single this week: 4AD-signed chameleon Tkay Maidza teamed up with Grammy-nominated Georgia rapper Yung Baby Tate for “KIM,” Maidza’s first new track of 2021, as well as her first release since her acclaimed Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2. Producer Dan Farber lays down a minimalist, yet booming beat with grimy synth and massive bass, while on the mic, Maidza and Tate serve up unadulterated swagger, likening themselves to iconic Kims including Possible, Lil’ and Kardashian. “The idea for the song came from Kim Possible, an iconic figure in my childhood—she always came out on top,” said Maidza in a statement. “I thought why not make a song to remind those who question me that I will always figure it out like Kim.” As long she keeps making music like this, Maidza doubters are liable to end up an endangered species. —Scott Russell

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