The 10 Best New Songs

Featuring Kendrick Lamar, black midi, Julia Jacklin and more

Music Lists Best New Songs
The 10 Best New Songs

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 below.

Bartees Strange: “Hold the Line

Bartees Strange has shared the latest single from his much-anticipated second album Farm to Table, “Hold the Line.” A mournful, subtly twangy slow burn, the song was written in late May of 2020, and inspired by George Floyd’s daughter, Gianna, who was just six years old when her father was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer. “I remember watching George Floyd’s daughter talk about the death of her father and thinking wow—what a sad introduction to Black American life for this young person. It was painful to watch her grow up in that moment, like all Black kids eventually do,” Strange says in a statement. “’Hold the Line’ was written over the course of three days during that first pandemic summer. Through this song I was trying to make sense of what was happening in the U.S., my neighborhood and my community at that moment. During the marches, people were trying to stop the bleeding, locked arm in arm, doing everything they could to hold the line.” Over resonant but spare guitar, keys, bass and drums, Strange puts himself in Gianna’s place (“See that baby, see that child / Can’t imagine what’s running through her young mind now”), then offers to put himself in George’s, crooning, “Take my life, trade in mine / He had everything I wish I had, I can’t even lie.” In the song’s heart-wrenching choruses, Strange asks, “What happened to the man with that big ol’ smile? / He’s callin’ to his mother now,” which later becomes, “I’m callin’ to my mother now,” with guitar and keys then mimicking the melody’s steps, as if keeping a memory alive. We return repeatedly to Strange’s guitar gently weeping, his expressive solos saying just as much as his lyrics. —Scott Russell

black midi: “Welcome to Hell

The inimitable black midi are back again, announcing their third album Hellfire (July 15, Rough Trade) just shy of a year after the release of their second, and sharing the video for its ominously titled lead single, “Welcome to Hell.” Telling the stories of “morally suspect characters” in the first-person, the album reckons with “overlapping themes of pain, loss and anguish,” per a press release. “If Cavalcade was a drama, Hellfire is like an epic action film,” says frontman Geordie Greep in a statement. In its lead single, black midi render “the story of a shell shocked soldier’s excess and military discharge” via the kind of theatrical, shape-shifting rock they’re known for, considering “The massacres of ages / Too many to recall,” as Greep croaks, through the lens of Private Tristan Bongo. About two-thirds of the way through, the track takes a turn for the nightmarish, accelerating into full-blown thrash as Greep’s praise for our good soldier becomes condemnation: “You’re lucky I don’t shoot on the spot / Bullets were made for men like you / The impotent idiots God forgot.” A fleeting euphoric high collapses back into black midi’s guttural squalls and stomps, ending the song right where it began. —Scott Russell

Danger Mouse & Black Thought: “No Gold Teeth

Two musical titans are teaming up with the announcement of Danger Mouse and Black Thought’s new joint album, Cheat Codes, coming Aug. 12 via BMG. The video for lead single “No Gold Teeth” is out now, and the track is precisely as airtight as you’d expect. Once rumored to be called “Dangerous Thoughts,” Cheat Codes is Danger Mouse’s (Brian Burton) first hip-hop album since 2005’s The Mouse & The Mask, his collaborative DANGERDOOM album with the late, great MF DOOM. Black Thought (Tariq Trotter), best known as the lead emcee of The Roots, completed his solo record trilogy Streams of Thought in 2020. The duo recruited an impressive list of collaborators for Cheat Codes, including A$AP Rocky, Run The Jewels, MF DOOM, Michael Kiwanuka, Joey Bada$$, Russ, Raekwon and Conway the Machine. On “No Gold Teeth,” Danger Mouse and Black Thought both bring their A-game: The former lays down a subtly triumphant, soul sample-driven beat, while the latter references DOOM, puts on for Philly and reminds everyone that, in terms of skill level, he’s breathing rarified air: “You ain’t fuckin’ with no amateurs, homie / Philly ain’t known for cheese steak sandwiches only / Stop, yo, I’m at the top where it’s lonely / I got everybody mean muggin’ like Nick Nolte.” Danger Mouse’s warm production is a natural fit for Black Thought’s cucumber-cool delivery and immaculate lyricism. —Scott Russell

Gentle Heat: “WDYG”

Days ahead of Chicago lo-fi outfit Gentle Heat’s latest album Sheer, the band offered up “WDYG.” With a nostalgic haze hovering above it and an effortlessly catchy groove, Gentle Heat have unlocked the rare feat of capturing the magic of ‘90s alt-rock. David Algrim’s vocals are reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr. at their poppiest, and fuzzed-out guitars wail underneath the layers of the band’s undeniable influences that make up a familiar yet fresh sound. —Jade Gomez

Hellrazor: “Jello Stars

This summer, Brooklyn-via-New Haven trio Hellrazor will release Heaven’s Gate, the follow-up to their 2016 debut Satan Smile. “Jello Stars,” our third preview of the album after May 2019’s “Landscaper” and November 2021’s “Globbed,” premiered right here at Paste on May 10. Though it’s just now surfacing officially, “Jello Stars” has been in Hellrazor’s orbit since not long after Satan Smile’s release, as the band told Paste: “We’ve played ‘Jello Stars’ in our live set since five years ago, and most of the song was tracked around then. We recently added more guitars and re-tracked the vocals. Some of the lyrics were revised to align with the dystopian themes on the next record. Most of the song is about ghosts in the machine and paranoia over potentially uncontrollable A.I.” Hellrazor itself has changed, too: Bandleader, vocalist and guitarist Michael Falcone (Speedy Ortiz, Ovlov) is now joined by bassist Kate Meizner (The Glow, Jobber, Potty Mouth touring alum) and drummer Michael Henss (HEELE). “Jello Stars” retains the lo-fi rock sensibility of foundational Hellrazor influences like Sebadoh and Guided by Voices, but those rough edges are secondary to hazy pop hooks that the band embed in rushing, rippling walls of distorted guitar. Henss’ drums race and Meizner’s bass notes fly while Falcone’s vocals sit low in the mix over an arpeggiated riff, and the trio shift into a noticeably higher gear in the track’s sticky choruses, burying those “Jello Stars” deep inside your brain. Feedback encroaches on the outro, like a flying saucer hovering just above the track. —Scott Russell

Julia Jacklin: “Lydia Wears a Cross

It’s a great week to be a Julia Jacklin fan: The Australian singer/songwriter has announced her third album, PRE PLEASURE (Aug. 26, Polyvinyl Record Co.), shared the video for its lead single and opener, “Lydia Wears a Cross,” and announced a 2022 world tour. “Lydia Wears a Cross” finds Jacklin examining religion through her childhood eyes over sparsely atmospheric drum machine and piano—at least at first. “I’d be a believer / If it was all just song and dance,” she insists over an indistinct guitar riff, unable to feel a connection to her spirituality except through the transportive power of performance. Live drums and synths kick in unexpectedly as the song builds, and Jacklin vocalizes wordlessly through its climax, as if finally finding the transcendence she was seeking. —Scott Russell

Kendrick Lamar: “The Heart Part 5

The entire world is anxiously awaiting the arrival of Kendrick Lamar’s fifth studio album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers (May 13, pgLang), his first offering since 2017’s DAMN. Since the album’s announcement back in April, Lamar’s continuously evolving website has seen many changes, most recently teasing a possible double album treatment (and a book?). Fans were treated on the evening of Sunday, May 8, to the album’s first single “The Heart Part 5,” alongside what will probably be one of the most talked about music videos of the year. Lamar’s “The Heart” series started in 2010 on his Overly Dedicated mixtape. What began with him longing to be positioned amongst rap greats such as Tupac and Biggie evolved into the rapper readjusting his dreams and reflecting upon his newfound responsibility as an artist as his fame skyrocketed. Building upon 2017’s “The Heart, Part 4” which has Lamar boasting about being “a hip-hop rhyme savior,” “The Heart Part 5” is an introspective swan song centered around Marvin Gaye’s erotic 1976 hit “I Want You” that finds Lamar embodying those he has loved, lost and admired. Lamar reflects on being surrounded by murder and gang activity, juxtaposed as a survivor amongst the many he and his community have lost. His heartwrenching chorus, “I want the hood to want me back, look what I’ve done for you,” is an earnest plea for acceptance and recognition not only for himself, but on behalf of the many characters he embodies in the song’s accompanying video. —Jade Gomez

Neighbor Lady: “Feel It All the Time”

In the past, it would be difficult to imagine Georgia-based band Neighbor Lady making an eerie torch ballad, seeing as they’re mostly known for their creative spin on alt-country. Nevertheless, the sessions for their forthcoming self-produced sophomore album For The Birds (out July 1 via Park the Van) found the quartet experimenting with the atmosphere their music could produce, which led them to create the sweeping grandeur of “Feel It All the Time.” Heavy piano hits and solid walls of horns and strings that reverberate beneath airy woodwind lines lead the track down its slow-burning spiral until it erupts in keyboard-smashing cacophony. “Take it or leave it all / Don’t make it easy on me / I can handle it,” vocalist Emily Braden insists as the song crescendos for a moment only to quickly retreat like a rushing wave that the ocean swallows before you can catch it. The cinematic sweep of it all ends abruptly, leaving you to wonder if you just imagined the last four minutes you spent floating in the band’s dream world. —Elise Soutar

Quelle Chris feat. Navy Blue: “So Tired You Can’t Stop Dreaming

Paste has been keeping a close eye on the release of Quelle Chris’ forthcoming album DEATHFAME, which finally arrives this Friday, May 13, via Mello Music Group. For the album’s final single prior to release, Quelle shares his collaboration with Navy Blue, “So Tired You Can’t Stop Dreaming.” Beautiful piano keys open up the introspective world built by Quelle and Navy, aided only by sparse drums to let the two rappers shine. They go back and forth reflecting on the duality of their lives, brought home by the song’s hard-hitting outro: “Heaven’s got a ghetto / Hell’s got a resort.” Navy’s whirlwind lyricism full of alliteration and vivid pictures of his life mesh perfectly with Quelle’s more abstract, conceptual approach, as the two come together like a collaborative dream team. —Jade Gomez

Stella Donnelly: “Lungs

Australian singer/songwriter Stella Donnelly is back with word of her sophomore album, Flood, coming Aug. 26 on Secretly Canadian, and a world tour slated for this fall. Lead single “Lungs” is out now, complete with a music video. On “Lungs,” Flood’s opener, Donnelly writes from the perspective of a child whose family is being evicted, vocalizing acrobatically as she insists in its choruses, “Don’t watch us when we leave / Won’t let you see us.” Uptempo percussion and a roomy arrangement of bass, distant guitar distortion and organ lend the song some lightness, but Donnelly’s lyrics, masked by the sing-song delivery she assumes so as to better inhabit her character, are quietly harrowing: “Stretching out the leather on your wallet / That my lungs are filling up / Long live the asbestos on the rental / Yeah it looks alright to me,” she sings, alluding to the ultimate cost of poverty. “I’ll be a child, rest of my life,” she swears as the song winds down, imploring, “History again, teach me like a friend, what you know and why.” —Scott Russell

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