This Week’s Best New Songs

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This Week’s 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, in alphabetical order. (You can check out a playlist of last week’s best new songs here.)

Atka: “Lenny”

German singer/songwriter Atka only has two singles out in the world—but they’re both stupendous, spectral masterworks. Her latest track, “Lenny,” is glitchy and catchy and marauding. Forthcoming from her debut EP The Eye Against The Ashen Sky, the song radiates danceable anxiety with electronics that boast drum machine work not too far removed from The National’s Sleep Well Beast era. But even then, Atka distills an idiosyncratic, postmodern vibrato into her singing—which then transforms into this colorful, visceral melody. “Lenny” is triumphant and unforgettable and lyrically piercing. “You scream ‘Grow up!’ yet you sit there, frozen in time,” Atka sings. “I love you but you are bored, say you have nothing to gain from this.” There’s boldness and then there’s “Lenny,” which outpaces any such colloquism. The glitz of Atka’s second offering is undefinable yet marvelous. —Matt Mitchell

Daneshevskaya: “Challenger Deep”

“Challenger Deep” begins submerged; rain is the first sound on the track, the drops fall and introduce a gentle fingerpicking. Daneshevskaya is the project of New York based singer/songwriter Anna Beckerman, her artist name an homage to her great-grandmother (as well as a celebration of Beckerman’s Russian-Jewish heritage). “Challenger Deep” is the third single in anticipation of her debut LP Long Is The Tunnel —an eclectic and spellbinding project, featuring production from Model/Actriz’s Robin Radlauer. Daneshevskaya has spent the past months touring the US with Cambridge experimental-rockers Black Country, New Road and, after seeing her perform “Challenger Deep” with them in New York this past week, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the track and its understated captivation and soft spoken power. She made everyone stop, look and listen, as she sang “Will you wait for me / Where there is no later on? / Will you wait for me at the end, the end?,” drawing out each word and pausing between phrases. Her voice is all silk and sweetness, but she sings with desperation—reaching her hand up through the water’s surface, begging you to lend yours and pull her away from drowning. —Madelyn Dawson

Empress Of ft. Rina Sawayama: “Kiss Me”

Nothing makes my soul sing more than when two pop princesses get together to create magic. Empress Of and Rina Sawayama stole my heart this week with their new single “Kiss Me”—the lead single off Empress Of’s upcoming fourth album. The pair released this collaboration after months of being on the road in Europe together—meaning plenty of late nights to swap stories of love and heartbreak surely catalyzed this yearning electro-pop jam. The iridescent track shines with soulful harmonies and a bouncy beat paired sweetly with a promise of devotion: “If you send a flare, and I’ll be there.” The melodic keys of this pop ballad drip with ‘90s nostalgia, and the combined vocal powers of Sawayama and Empress Of make the romantic chorus melt even the most disillusioned of hearts. I’ll be spinning around my room and humming this tune all weekend long. —Olivia Abercrombie

Kacey Johansing: “Old Friend”

Kacey Johansing’s forthcoming record Year Away is floating under the radar, and it really shouldn’t be. The splendidness of her first three singles—“Not the Same,” “Last Drop” and “Daffodils”—were excellent opening chapters to what is, surely, going to be one of the most remarkable singer/songwriter albums of 2023. But it’s here, on “Old Friend,” where Johansing hams up her own starpower. There’s an excellent convergence of choral, punctuated singing and piano-driven, doo-doo-doo-backed vocalizations. It’s the grand, Laurel Canyon-inspired ballad that would fit well in a stadium-sized orbit—especially when Johansing hits another stratosphere while singing “And I’m not nothing without you, I knew someday I’d be leaving. Love is passing with the seasons, there’s a distance and I like it. I don’t need you like I did then, old friend.” Somewhere on a spectrum populated by Carole King and Kim Jung Mi, the work of Kacey Johansing is urgent and familiar and golden-warm; “Old Friend” is a dream. —MM

L’Rain: “r(EMOTE)”

The first two singles from L’Rain’s upcoming record I Killed Your Dog—“Pet Rock” and “New Year’s UnResolution”—were grand and soulful and moving in their own ways, but her new track “r(EMOTE)” transcends both. Much of the song is defined by its instrumentation, as L’Rain offers us only a handful of lines to piece through. “Don’t look too close; I’m forgetting. Don’t move too slow; wil I lose feeling?” she sings, in an effort to convey what it might look and feel like to move on from someone and no longer ache in their absence. It’s a strikingly simple presentation of the idea that L’Rain manages to maximize through experimental, glitchy and airy arrangements. She didn’t need to go big and bold to hammer the theme across, and that’s what makes “r(EMOTE)” so palpable—it doesn’t push outwards in a way that overcomplicates the narrative. Meanwhile, L’Rain’s singing feels extra punctuated and purposeful here. It’s a shining teaser to a record that will dare to break boundaries even further than her LP Fatigue did two years ago—and I can’t wait. —MM

Lala Lala: “Hit Me Where It Hurts”

Lala Lala—the project of Chicago singer/songwriter Lillie West—put out a great record, The Lamb, in 2018 and then again, with I Want the Door to Open, in 2021. I won’t lie, I’ve been waiting on new music from West for a few years now and, aside from the single “Memory” and some remixes in 2022, she’s been relatively quiet—until this week. “Hit Me Where It Hurts” is dazzling and was completely worth the wait. West has taken some distance from her indie roots to make a distinctive, earworm synth track. “I don’t want to say it, but you look at me like I don’t exist,” West sings, as she traverses numerous vocal colors and octaves. Her voice never gets saturated by overproduction, which can be a damning fate on synth-pop songs in the 21st century—and that alone is worth recognition but, with a track like “Hit Me Where It Hurts,” it’s impossible not to shine. I feel comfortable staking a claim that this is one of West’s brightest and most memorable tracks under the Lala Lala moniker—and that’s saying something, given that The Lamb was so perfect. What’s bound to come next for Lala Lala has not been etched in stone, but I’m more than content with “Hit Me Where It Hurts” holding me over until we find out. —MM


The new single from MACHINEDRUM is, like the rest of his forthcoming EP, an intentional throwback. The celebrated producer / artist was reminiscing on his days sharing music and ideas in an IRC chat and decided to mess around with some of the software he utilized in the ’90s like Impulse Tracker. With “VIOLET,” the result is a feathery future R&B track that never settles into a hard groove. It simply floats right above the ground like a layer of fog through which vocalist KUČKA shines out like bubbles of neon-colored light. When the heavy beat hits late in the game, the impact lands like a ton of cinder blocks on your shoulders. —Robert Ham

Mali Velasquez: “Medicine”

With only four singles currently under her belt, Nashville singer/songwriter Mali Velasquez is just getting started—planting her roots in the wide world of indie rock. Still, she has already carved out a perfectly Mali Velasquez-shaped space for herself. This is to say: Velasquez doesn’t sound like anyone else. “Medicine” begins slowly and softly, her voice loud and clear enough to take all the attention for itself. She holds out notes with a warbling vibrato that oscillates in and out of tune, as the words fight themselves out of her throat. The strings and percussion build and layer, thumping through the song’s climax like a heartbeat. “If I have a paper heart,” she sings, “Then you’re probably better off.” Everything Velasquez does is so raw, it’s impossible not to believe in the earnestness of the grungy, folksy and wholly physical presence of the the music she makes. —MD

Maria BC: “Still”

The angelic piano chords of Maria BC’s new single “Still” burned into their brain when they wrote it at 16, and they are finally coming to us in this hushed ballad. This is the third single off their upcoming album Spike Field—a surrealist landscape of the Oakland-based musician’s youth. Maria BC’s voice floats along the delicately plucked acoustic melody, singing, “Raised at an empty table, a backlit door / Still in the blue moon on the floor.” The wistful track is an intimate picture of how time can make us hate our past selves, but they find a way to make it a tender exploration rather than a spiteful one. It is tranquil and beautiful, exactly what Maria BC does best. —OA

O.: “Slice”

London duo O. formed during lockdown as drummer Tash Keary and baritone saxophonist Joseph Henwood happened to land in the same bubble. With ample time on their hands, they started jamming and found that, with the right amount of effects pedals and spring reverb units, they could sustain some killer grooves and dynamic songs without anyone else. Once they started gigging, the two hit the ground running, with copious amounts of touring and now the imminent arrival of their debut EP SLICE. The title track and latest single from this release was apparently written after a trip to Brazil, and it carries that same kind of bustling, effervescent energy of carnival and the dynamics of traversing Rio’s densely populated streets and neighborhoods. The whole affair builds to the kind of colorful, explosive conclusion reserved for fireworks displays or confetti cannons. —RH

Obongjayar: “Who Let Him In”

“Who Let Him In,” the second solo single of 2023 from Nigerian singer/songwriter Obongjayar (after “Just Cool”), will have you dancing into oblivion. It’s a shame that the track didn’t come out a few months ago, as it would’ve been a shoe-in pick for Song of the Summer. But we’ve got it for fall, and the clubs ought to be salivating over Obongjayar’s craftsmanship here. “Who Let Him In” was lent to the soundtrack for EA Sports’ new video game FC 24, and, honestly, that makes complete sense—but this isn’t just main menu music, it’s percussive ecstasy emphasized by Obongjayar’s irresistible singing. “I get the rhythm and groove. Go against me, you lose,” he croons. “Way too fresh, it’s not new. They’re way too pressed, it’s not news.” There’s a not-yet-released sophomore record on Obongjayar’s horizon and, if “Who Let Him In” is any inclination of its glittery buoyancy, I’m all in. —MM

PACKS: “Honey”

Toronto-based indie rockers PACKS are returning with Melt the Honey, their second album within a year—and the follow-up to March’s Crispy Crunch Nothing. Led by Madeline Link, the group has announced the new project with the unveiling of lead single “Honey”—an aptly titled sweet delight with groovy acoustic riffs. The track is a taste of radiating warmth, sunny and romantic—a mirror of Link’s newfound relationship that she delves into across the album. Inspired by her travels, “Honey” comes from watching the Chilean locals snack on honey they would melt and use in place of syrup. I’d imagine that honey is as sugary as PACKS’ single. —OA

Quicksails: “Final Walk”

The indefatigable saxophonist Patrick Shirioshi pops up once more in the stream of experimental music being released this year with an appearance on the lead track from Surface, the new album from Quicksails. His light melodic dusting is the key finishing touch to this already thick and sumptuous slab of electronic wonder. It surprisingly brings to mind that crucial moment at the end of INXS’ “Mediate” when Kirk Pengilly’s sax takes over from Michael Hutchence’s proto-rap rundown. Shirioshi works in the same manner, helping bring some sweetness and light to what could otherwise weigh down heavy on a listener’s spirit. —RH

Spiritual Cramp: “Herberts on Holiday”

Bay Area punk outfit Spiritual Cramp are one of the coolest bands out there—and they’re quickly becoming one of my favorite groups. The first single from their forthcoming eponymous full-length debut—“Talkin’ On The Internet”—was already a crystalline triumph, and they’ve opted to keep the momentum moving forward with new track “Herberts On Holiday.” There are post-punk roots alive and well across the arrangement, this much we know, but there’s also a striking amount of dream-pop panache and indie glaze—which helps Spiritual Cramp stick out from other post-punk acts attempting to make a name for themselves, like Fontaines D.C. or shame. There’s a poppiness to “Herberts on Holiday” that makes it visceral and memorable. Frontman Michael Bingham wrote the song about his wife Barb, and its irresistible catchiness only emphasizes the lyrical theme: The glumness of life might look a bit warmer if you’ve got someone by your side helping make it more bearable. “Herberts on Holiday” is the type of effort that fits perfectly into the Best New Songs mold, and Spiritual Cramp is shaping up to be a standout debut. —MM

The Mountain Goats: “Murder At The 18th St. Garage”

A list of this week’s best tracks would be incomplete without including the latest from indie-folk legends The Mountain Goats. “Murder At The 18th St. Garage” is the third single released so far from their upcoming album Jenny from Thebes , which is serving as a 20-years-later follow-up to their seminal 2002 release All Hail West Texas —where Jenny was first introduced as a character. On “Murder At The 18th St. Garage,” we see a simultaneous return to the folksy aesthetics that made West Texas so memorable, alongside a complete turning away from them—as John Darnielle and the band embrace a grittier structure, complete with explosive drumbeats and electric guitar section. The interplay between the backing and lead vocals more closely resemble that of a punk track than anything in the indie or folk genres. The storytelling, however, is the clearest throughline from the band’s earlier collection of work—and the Mountain Goats are only getting better at it. The title sets the scene, and Darnielle holds nothing back in letting us know that someone gets killed in the song, as he sings: “I’m down on the concrete with a bucket and rag / When you’ve got a big job to do / You notice how the moments drag.” With this single as the latest bit of foreshadowing, I’m certain that Jenny’s story is going to be full of eclectic mystery, underset by the Mountain Goats’ signature theatrics. —MD

Other Songs We Loved This Week: Adam Miller: “Illusion Pool”; Anxious: “Down, Down”; Armand Hammer: “The Gods Must Be Crazy”; Debby Friday: “let u in”; Marnie Stern: “Believing Is Seeing”; Sun June: “Mixed Bag”; Sweet Pill: “Starchild”; Thank You, I’m Sorry: “Mirror”; The Rolling Stones ft. Lady Gaga & Stevie Wonder: “Sweet Sounds Of Heaven”; Ty Segall: “Eggman”

Check out a playlist of these great songs below.

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