The 10 Best New Songs

Featuring St. Vincent, Japanese Breakfast, Ratboys and more

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The 10 Best New Songs

Between looking back on the best albums and songs of February, and looking ahead to our most-anticipated releases of March, we don’t mind telling you it’s been a busy week for Paste Music. We’re celebrating this week’s best new tracks regardless, including the much-anticipated returns of Japanese Breakfast and St. Vincent, a stylistic swerve from Chicago rockers Ratboys, and the debut of Helena Deland and Ouri’s new project Hildegard, to name a few. Get your ears on them all below.

The Armed: “AVERAGE DEATH”

Detroit’s The Armed are two for two on the road to their new record ULTRAPOP, coming April 16 on Sargent House. Like “ALL FUTURES” before it, “AVERAGE DEATH” will push your eardrums to their limits and rev your brain up into the red. Given that we’re all running on fried circuits nowadays, that may seem unappealing, but the song, in its own words, is all “Beautiful pain / Worth the exchange.” This time out, The Armed’s arsenal features a frenetic punk-rock guitar chug, vaporous synths and droning, deceptively hooky vocals, with lyrics probing the artifice endemic in everyday life (“Fame for today / Steal every scene / Dance for your captor / Always an actor”). The song features guest spots from Nicole Estill (True Widow) and singer Jess Hall, as well as a visually stunning video featuring “Clark Huge, flame throwers and a colorful cast of characters in incredible wardrobe and makeup,” as a presser summarizes. —Scott Russell

Floatie: “Shiny”

Chicago rock quartet Floatie will make their full-length debut next month, releasing Voyage Out via Exploding in Sound on March 26. The second single from the LP debuted on Wednesday, with “Shiny” following in the footsteps of lead track “Catch a Good Worm” in more ways than one. Both songs blend “piquant indie-pop and sharp math rock,” as Lizzie Manno previously put it, making the most of both the former subgenre’s sneaky hooks and the latter’s spirited, shifting rhythms. Lightly palm-muted guitars wend their way around Sam Bern’s vocals, with dreamy psych-rock riffage taking over between verses. The track’s lyrics are as intentionally considered as its instrumentation: Floatie say “Shiny” is “about finding the drive to make choices that will give you self-assurance and help you to feel worthy of others’ companionship. It is about forcing your own luck by committing to your decisions.” If Floatie are taking their own advice and faking it till they make it, let’s just say it’s working. —Scott Russell

Hildegard: “Jour 2”

Montreal-based musicians Helena Deland and Ouri (born Ourielle Auvé) have joined forces as Hildegard, sharing their new project’s first single “Jour 2” on Wednesday. The duo describe their debut track as “a psychedelic mantra that labours to reconcile the dissociated self by contrasting eeriness and softness.” That same unnerving beauty pervades the accompanying video (dir. Melissa Matos), which offers a visual representation of Deland and Ouri’s creative connection. “Jour 2” (“Day 2” from French) centers Deland’s gossamer vocals, and her lyrics have a looping hypnotism to them, gently lifting you off your feet in a way that’s both disquieting and alluring. Meanwhile, multi-instrumentalist and producer Ouri adds backing vocals and muted synth-pop touches, subtly manipulating the song’s steady tempo in places, as if the fabric of its reality is warping. “I haven’t gotten lost in such a long time,” Deland sings at one point, a line that repeats nowhere else and stands out all the more as a result. Synth chords come to the forefront in the instrumental bridge, feedback drone threatening to drown out all else. —Scott Russell

Japanese Breakfast: “Be Sweet”

Another one of Paste’s most-anticipated records of 2021 is coming into focus, as Michelle Zauner has made her forthcoming third full-length as Japanese Breakfast official. Zauner revealed the details of her new album (June 4, Dead Oceans) on Tuesday alongside the music video for lead single “Be Sweet.” The follow-up to 2017’s acclaimed Soft Sounds From Another Planet and Japanese Breakfast’s 2016 breakout Psychopomp finds Zauner moving beyond the sorrow that drove those records, and working towards hard-earned happiness. Jubilee’s first single has a retro feel similar to Soft Sounds, but also a big, bass-driven buoyancy new to the band’s output, with an almost Chic-like low end pushing the danceable track forward. Lyrically, the song connects directly to Zauner’s 2019 tweet about the album’s theme being “please just be nice to me”—“Be sweet to me, baby / I want to believe in you, I want to believe in something,” she sings on the hooky choruses, the centerpiece of an impressive vocal performance. The video, shot by Zauner’s frequent collaborator Adam Kolodny, follows those lyrics to their natural conclusion: a delightful X-Files parody in which Zauner and her fellow agent (played by Marisa Dabice of Mannequin Pussy) have a close encounter of the third kind. —Scott Russell

Mdou Moctar: “Tala Tannam”

Nigerois band Mdou Moctar announced Tuesday that their Matador Records debut LP Afrique Victime is coming on May 21. “Tala Tannam,” the latest single from the album, showcases a softer, more unplugged side of the Tuareg guitar rockers. According to the band’s frontman, “Tala Tannam” translates to “your tears,” a fitting title for a song that subverts the band’s characteristic blaring psychedelic sounds heard on songs like “Chismitten” or “Ibitlan,” with subdued, plucky guitar-backed refrains. Mdou Moctar’s latest is a lulling love song whose repetitive riffs, courtesy of Moctar and his longtime rhythm guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane, are interwoven with a soothing, almost prayerful chorus. —Adesola Thomas

Moontype: “3 Weeks”

Ahead of their debut album Bodies of Water, one of Paste’s most-anticipated albums of the year, Chicago trio Moontype—Ben Cruz, Emerson Hunton and Margaret McCarthy—shared another new single Thursday, “3 Weeks.” It’s our third preview of Bodies of Water, following Moontype’s debut single “Ferry” and “About You,” the latter of which we also highlighted as one of that week’s best new songs. The lovely new track opens with soft finger-picking and gentle vocals, evoking “the quiet place where there is love and grace.” McCarthy captures the euphoria of falling head over heels, passionately declaring (if only to herself), “I love you, and I love you even though I’ve only known you for three weeks,” elongating that last syllable as if to show she means it, and later adding, “I like the way your name feels in my mouth.” The song’s carefully calibrated instrumental peaks and valleys match McCarthy’s narrator’s struggles to obscure the scope of her feelings for fear of scaring off the apple of her eye. —Scott Russell

Pardoner: “Spike”

Bay Area band Pardoner have started a new chapter in their career. Following their signing with Bar/None Records, they’ve put out two stellar singles in “Donna Said” and Wednesday’s release, “Spike.” The songs come ahead of their third album, Came Down Different, out May 14. “Spike” finds Pardoner leaning into their punk influences, opening with a whirlwind of call-and-response guitars on the short, fast-paced track. Singer Max Freeland shouts out provocative lyrics (“They want twice the results in half of the time”) while the band thrashes against exploitative bosses who break the backs of their employees for an extra dollar. —Carli Scolforo

Pom Pom Squad: “LUX”

Brooklyn quartet Pom Pom Squad have dropped their first single of 2021 and first release on City Slang Records in “LUX,” along with an accompanying music video. The song follows a string of singles released after their 2019 album Ow, including “Red With Love” and a cover of Tommy James & The Shondells’ “Crimson & Clover.” “LUX” is a noisy, energetic showing from Pom Pom Squad. Singer Mia Berrin goes in for the kill with her riot grrrl-infused vocals against the heavy rock that band members Mari Alé Figeman, Shelby Keller and Alex Mercuri cook up on the explosive new track. The video for “LUX” shows the band in a montage of high school in suburbia, running through school grounds, having sleepovers and playing a school dance. —Carli Scolforo

Ratboys: “Go Outside”

Chicago band Ratboys’ latest single might sound like a Covid-inspired anthem, but that’s just a fortunate (or unfortunate) coincidence. The band’s newest endeavor “Go Outside” follows the release of their 2020 album Printer’s Devil. Before the band could start the tour in support of their third LP, the pandemic hit, forcing them to cancel all their dates. While “Go Outside” applies perfectly to the universal experience of a yearlong shutdown with lyrics like “I wanna be eloquent / I wanna take all my best friends / And show ‘em where I live,” the song was written a year before the pandemic started. “Go Outside” also marks a change of form in the band’s sound, leaning into the country influences that previously only peeked through their predominantly indie-rock sound. —Carli Scolforo

St. Vincent: “Pay Your Way in Pain”

For something of a concept album, St. Vincent’s Daddy’s Home’s title is quite literal. In winter 2019, on the heels of Annie Clark’s two Grammy wins for MASSEDUCTION, her father was released from prison after nearly a decade behind bars, sparking songwriting that drew from the music he had shared with Clark when she was a child: “Music made in sepia-toned downtown New York from 1971-1975. Gritty. Grimy. Sleazy,” a press release teases, lining up with Clark’s 2020 comments about the album being influenced by the likes of Stevie Wonder and Sly and The Family Stone. Lead single “Pay Your Way in Pain” bears those ‘70s influences out in a big way—it’s a slinky, sexed-up synth-funk jam that feels retro all the way down to its analog-style sound mix, which frequently shifts Clark’s sensual, rhythmic moans from one headphone to the other as regal keys, unpredictable guitars and nimble low end swirl around the track in a fashion that would make Prince proud. Antonoff, returning as co-producer of Daddy’s Home, offers further evidence of his hitmaking magic touch: The track is shockingly hooky and cohesive, despite feeling so loaded up with bells and whistles. But Clark’s vocal performance is its most critical element, as she pulls off both howling funk freakouts and woozy pop verses. —Scott Russell

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