The 10 Best New Songs

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The 10 Best New Songs

With both the 63rd Grammy Awards and the (albeit virtual) musical smorgasbord that is SXSW right around the corner, it would be understandable to lose sight of the fact that 2021 continues to pile exceptional new music on our plates. Over the past week, that included the unexpected returns of Lucy Dacus and Hiss Golden Messenger, as well as impressive tracks from rising acts like Sour Widows and Remember Sports. We’ve got all of the above (and then some) below in our latest roundup of new tracks you need to hear.

Crumb: “Trophy”

Brooklyn-based psychedelic quartet Crumb) shared a new single and music video Wednesday in “Trophy.” The latest track is their first release since their 2019 debut album Jinx. The music video for “Trophy” is as trippy and surreal as the song itself, and a welcome addition to Crumb’s discography of pleasantly hazy psych-pop. The video finds the band in a car racing championship, with a cartoon segment from Truba Animation. Haoyan of America directed and edited the latest video, and has contributed to Crumb’s portfolio in the past with videos for the band’s early releases “Bones” and “Locket.” —Carli Scolforo

Folie: “clean2” (feat. Bean Boy)

Nowadays, some of the most important musical innovation is happening in pop. Just take hyperpop, the microgenre that has seen acts including SOPHIE and 100 gecs complicating conventional pop by introducing increasingly arcane electronic textures and melodies, encompassing both ‘00s nostalgia and a distinctly futuristic feel. Upstate New York-born, Chicago-based producer and songwriter Folie (real name: Jae) is working in that same tradition, and “clean2” (feat. Bean Boy) is a particularly intense dispatch from pop’s new frontier, a fractured and unpredictable track—the first from Folie’s forthcoming mixtape 123!, due March 25 via Dylan Brady of 100 gecs’ Dog Show Records—that melds industrial clangor with house and grime touches while also maintaining a sense of melody rooted in the emo Folie grew up on. “I love dumb sounds, the sillier and more ridiculous the better,” she said in a statement, but “clean2” is far more clever than she lets on, a suggestion of how hyperpop can proceed and take root as more than a stylistic flash in the pan. —Scott Russell

Hiss Golden Messenger: “If It Comes in the Morning”

MC Taylor’s Hiss Golden Messenger announced Monday that their latest album Quietly Blowing It arrives June 25 via Merge Records. The announcement came with a new single, “If It Comes In The Morning,” and an accompanying music video. The video for Hiss Golden Messenger’s powerful, soulful single stars Mike Wiley lip-syncing Taylor’s vocals. Wiley is an actor, playwright and activist known for his works in documentary theatre covering America’s racial history. Wiley was a fitting cameo for “If It Comes In The Morning,” as Taylor wrote the song in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement’s swell in 2020. Taylor elaborated on his songwriting process for “If It Comes In The Morning” in a statement: “‘If It Comes in the Morning’ was a song that was written in the spring and early summer of 2020. The country was on fire, and I kept thinking to myself, ‘What comes next?’ Initially, I didn’t know how much hope to include in the song—I wasn’t feeling particularly hopeful myself in that moment—but I felt that it was important to remember that whatever happened, most of us were going to be fortunate enough to be given another day in which to enact what I feel are the most important and fundamental parts of being alive: joy, love, peace, the willingness to keep moving forward whether the cards fall in our favor or not. And in remembering, at least, that these feelings exist, I suppose it became a song of hope.” —Carli Scolforo

Lily Konigsberg: “Owe Me”

Brooklyn-born and -based singer/songwriter Lily Konigsberg, perhaps best known as one third of Palberta, has been releasing solo material since the band’s early days. On May 21, Wharf Cat Records will release The Best of Lily Konigsberg Right Now, a remastered compilation of the artist’s three solo releases, as well as previously unreleased material. Konigsberg marked the occasion of that announcement Wednesday with “Owe Me,” a track that couldn’t find a home on her previous releases, but now serves as her new collection’s opener. An ethereal indie-pop tune with danceability to spare, “Owe Me” captures Konigsberg feeling like “the wind against my skin is blowing me down,” yet overcoming that vulnerability to claim her place in the limelight: “Thank you all for coming to my show,” she says at one point to simulated applause, adding, “If you didn’t know, now you certainly know.” The song’s confidence is backed up by a slick, atmospheric synth-pop sheen Konigsberg credits to a little help from her friends: “I wrote ‘Owe Me’ in Petaluma on a trip with my friend Matt Norman,” she recalls. “I knew immediately that it was one of those bangers that was gonna rock people’s worlds, but after Matt added some essential keyboard licks, it disappeared into the abyss of my computer accompanying roughly 500 other songs still stuck there. When concept of The Best of Lily Konigsberg Right Now came together with my friend Trip Warner, I knew this should be released. With the help of Nate Amos who enhanced the beat, added the descriptive sounds, and basically just made it sound amazing, it was finally complete.” —Scott Russell

Loraine James: “Simple Stuff”

The first single from Loraine James’ forthcoming third album Reflection, out June 4 on Hyperdub, “Simple Stuff” is an appropriately minimalist, avant-garde electronic track that centers on one repeated, heavily effects-altered lyric: “I like the simple stuff, you like the simple things—what does that bring to me?” James deploys clattering percussion and a monotone bass bump underneath her hypnotic vocal, and repeats the whole figure again and again, making small variations as she goes, inviting listeners to explore the multitudes contained within a kernel of an idea. It feels a bit like listening to someone’s anxious inner monologue, in which they obsessively wring every drop of meaning from what began only as an idle musing, and to hear James tell it, that’s not too far from the truth: “The words for ‘Simple Stuff’ came very spontaneously but also reflects my immediate and current thoughts,” she said in a statement. Over the past year, we’ve all spent more time alone with our interior lives than ever before—with “Simple Stuff,” James offers an aural rendering of a long, uninterrupted look inward. —Scott Russell

Lucy Dacus: “Thumbs”

New Lucy Dacus means a red-letter day in Paste’s house, and on Tuesday, that was especially true: The Richmond, Virginia singer/songwriter finally released “Thumbs,” the live-set staple and fan-favorite track so beloved by Dacus diehards, it inspired a “Has Lucy released Thumbs yet?” Twitter account. Dacus wrote “Thumbs” during “a 15-minute car ride to dinner in Nashville,” per a press release, but it has the specific detail and depth of emotion of a song crafted across a far wider span of time. Dacus says of “Thumbs” in a statement: “Like most songs I write, I wasn’t expecting it and it made me feel weird, almost sick. It tells the story of a day I had with a friend during our freshman year of college, a significant day, but not one that I had thought of for years. I started playing it live a month or so later during the boygenius tour after Phoebe [Bridgers] and Julien [Baker] encouraged me to. I knew I wanted a long time to get used to playing it since it made me feel shaky, so I ended sets with it for about half the shows I played in 2019.” It’s easy to see why Dacus found “Thumbs” so difficult to be at ease with: The song finds her recalling a harrowing encounter over oceanic synth and mellotron, with little to distract from her moving vocals: “Your nails are digging into my knee / I don’t know how you keep smiling,” she sings of her friend, who’s somehow holding it together during a confrontation with her estranged father—it’s strongly implied their family history is a dark and, for her, traumatic one (“I would kill him / if you let me”). Dacus’ compassion for her friend is interwoven with visceral anger at the man who hurt her: “I love your eyes / and he has ‘em. / Or you have his / ‘cause he was first. / I imagine my thumbs on the irises / pressing in / until they burst.” Ultimately, all Dacus can do is help her friend carry on—one imagines that listeners who’ve dealt with similar trauma may feel better equipped to do so, now that “Thumbs” is out in the world. —Scott Russell

PACKS: “Silvertongue”

Canadian indie-rock quartet PACKS started out as the solo project of singer and songwriter Madeline Link, who made music between stints as a TV commercial set dresser. The band has since added Shane Hooper (drums), Noah O’Neil (bass) and Dexter Nash (lead guitar), generating buzz around their Toronto hometown via a string of Bandcamp singles and eventually catching the collective ear of Brooklyn’s Fire Talk Records, following in the footstep of rock upstarts like Dehd, Patio and Deeper. PACKS announced Tuesday that the label will release their debut album take the cake in partnership with Toronto’s Royal Mountain Records on May 21, also sharing its lead single “Silvertongue.” The song suggests that PACKS’ horizons (they have yet to enter the U.S. as a band) are soon to be expanded: Amid fuzzed-out guitar flurries, Link’s grungey vocal delivery puts a stylish edge to lyrics like, “Patience thickens to a paste / To be applied on the next cold day / Are you really trying to escape? / Silver-tongued hypochondriac.” “It’s easy to be lured into the comforts of past relationships,” Link said of the song in a statement. “What’s harder is dealing with years of exhaustion, mistrust, and always hoping. Ditch the whiplash of manipulation and decide what YOU want out of love!” PACKS appear poised to apply that same self-actualization to their full-length debut. —Scott Russell

Remember Sports: “Materialistic”

Philly-based Remember Sports released “Materialistic” on Thursday. The latest single follows “Pinky Ring” ahead of the band’s forthcoming album Like a Stone, out April 23 via Father/Daughter Records. “Materialistic” is a heavy indie-rock ballad, with a ripping, distorted guitar solo by Jack Washburn serving as the song’s breakdown. The dynamic track finds vocalist Carmen Perry reflecting on how her experiences manifest into physical objects, with lyrics like, “Archive the past with some shit that won’t last you / A lifetime / Materialistic or are we acquisitive? / Nevermind.” Perry elaborated on the song’s production in a statement: “It’s about the feedback loop of me caring about my possessions because they hold special memories, and alternately thinking I’m a bad person for caring about a mostly meaningless pile of junk. This song is special to us because we left a lot of room for Jack to do what he does best, and Nadia Hulett of Nadine made us all cry when she laid down her unimaginably angelic vocals in one take.” —Carli Scolforo

Sour Widows: “Crossing Over”

Bay Area bedroom-rock trio Sour Widows (Maia Sinaiko, Susanna Thomson and Max Edelman) released their debut self-titled EP in 2020, earning acclaim for their dynamic blend of sharp rock riffs and hushed vocal melodies (think Adrianne Lenker fronting Duster), which they control with the ease and ambition of a much more established band. The title track from their second EP, Crossing Over (April 23, Exploding in Sound Records) premiered at Paste Wednesday. “We talked about the idea of space while envisioning this EP—the physical distance between us, space in music, space that grows between experiences as time passes,” Thomson recalls. “These songs are definitely still meant to rock, but they take their time getting to those moments, and there’s room to breathe in between them.” “Crossing Over” exemplifies all of the above, from its roving arrangement and contemplative lyrics to the thunderous rock catharsis of its crescendo. Sinaiko and Thomson’s dual guitars start as ripples, slowly moving outward over the surface of a series of memories: “We caught the storm pulling in / From Ohio to Wisconsin / Let the guitars wail / And the flood take the basement / Screamed to sing above it,” Thomson sings. Before long, the song has that storm’s same fearsome force, with Sinaiko and Thomson’s guitars blowing into the mix like squalls of rain, and Edelman’s drums and Timmy Stabler’s bass the rumbling thunder in the distance. “I wish I could become / The only one that you’d love / It wouldn’t be enough,” Thomson murmurs after the storm has passed, sounding broken, yet at some kind of peace. —Scott Russell

TEKE::TEKE: “Yoru Ni”

Montreal-based Japanese psych-rock seven-piece TEKE::TEKE will release their debut album Shirushi on May 7 via Kill Rock Stars, but in the meantime, “Yoru Ni” is our second preview of the LP, following last month’s “Meikyu.” Both the new single and Shirushi draw inspiration from the Japanese art of kintsugi, in which fragments of broken pottery are pieced together to create something new and beautiful. In the case of “Yoru Ni,” those fragments include surf-rock chug a la “Misirlou,” jazzy flute and horns, whispered French poetry and lyrics about “a somewhat romantic spiritual tale about letting go of a delusional quest” (per a press release) courtesy of vocalist and visual artist Maya Kuroki, and traditional Japanese shamisen and shinobue, among other disparate touches that TEKE::TEKE somehow combine into a cohesive whole. If Quentin Tarantino directed a Bond film, it would feel something like how “Yoru Ni” sounds, but while Tarantino wears his influences on his sleeve, TEKE::TEKE guitarist Serge Nakauchi-Pelletier is more of a subconscious creator: ”’Yoru Ni’ (which translates from Japanese to ‘At night’) was literally written in the middle of the night,” he explained in a statement. ‘’I woke up suddenly and had this melody in my head, as if it had come to me from another world. It really felt like I was following some kind of spirit or ghost, it was taking my hand and wanted to take me somewhere.” The band’s sense of artistic adventure, to this point, has paid thrilling dividends. —Scott Russell

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