Best New Songs (May 25, 2023)

Don't miss this week's best tracks.

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Best New Songs (May 25, 2023)

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 last week’s songs here.)

Buck Meek: “Haunted Mountain”
On the heels of his gorgeous 2021 LP Two Saviors, Big Thief guitarist Buck Meek is back with Haunted Mountain. The title track is a big, heavy-hearted country-folk track with hypnotic guitar licks, beautiful pedal steel and wispy percussion. “I’m never coming down again,” Meek sings in a gorgeous vocal layering, paying his devotion to Mount Shasta in a metaphorical double-entendre about the genesis of a new relationship and nearby natural awe. —Matt Mitchell

Cory Hanson: “Ghost Ship”
Cory Hanson’s forthcoming LP Western Cum is one of our most-anticipated projects of the summer, and the final teaser single “Ghost Ship” only solidifies that it’s going to be one of the best rock ‘n’ roll records of the summer—maybe even the year altogether. Continuing to build on Hanson’s vivid, gonzo journalist approach to beatnik storytelling, “Ghost Ship” is a mystifying quasi-ballad oozing epic, mid-century shredding. The guitars Hanson and his band employ here are sexy, heavy and waft through the air like a controlled burn. “In a travelog written by seven dwarves / I’m gonna tell you all I’d forgotten at the bottom of the world,” Hanson harmonizes in the chorus. Bring forth thy Western Cum. —Matt Mitchell

Crooks & Nannies: “Temper”
Philly duo Crooks & Nannies have Real Life, their proper label debut on the way. Lead single “Temper” is a brilliant display of technique, as Max Rafter’s perfect twang pairs with a searing guitar, some twinkling digital bloops and a hook that’ll sink into you deep. “I don’t even know what I’m angry for / Some bullshit about not feeling powerful,” they sing. No album has kicked off quite like this, and, like every Crooks & Nannies song I hear, it’s the best song ever made! Seeing Real Life unfold across the summer is set to be a delight. —Matt Mitchell

Damon Locks & Rob Mazurek: “Yes!”

Two figures that have long circled around one another within the Chicago music community have truly joined forces at long last. Damon Locks and Rob Mazurek have made music together before with the latter providing horn parts to the former’s group the Eternals, and Locks joining in occasionally with Mazurek’s open-ended ensemble Exploding Star Orchestra. But on the upcoming album New Future City Radio, the pair are collaborating on every moment. As the first single makes clear, the results of their musical communication are wild and unabashedly political. The discord and industrial clatter of this song take from the same steely gray color palette as the artists on Chicago label Wax Trax and apply it to the rumbling spirit of the Last Poets and Gil-Scott Heron. Locks’ message isn’t particularly hopeful but the mere fact that he’s able to make a magnificent racket like this in 2023 still feels like a victory. —Robert Ham

Ichiko Aoba: “Space Orphans”
Beloved Japanese singer/songwriter Ichiko Aoba has returned with her first single of 2023, the soft, stringed, feather-light “Space Orphans.” Written and recorded as part of Brian Eno’s The Earth As Your Co-Writer” initiative, Aoba sings in her native Japanese language while glowing atop a classical-inspired folk arrangement. Written in response to Russia invading Ukraine, “Space Orphans” is a tender, intimate acoustic ballad that centers Aoba’s beautiful soprano vocals. “To all of you who are stuck in a war you never asked for. To all of you who are all alone in a place that seems safe. To all of the orphans who carry a lingering loneliness inside them,” Aoba said in a press statement. “I hope this song reaches the child inside of you.” With the whimsy mythicality that “Space Orphans” conjures, Aoba’s gift of multi-instrumentalism shines through in one of the most-empathetic, sweetest releases this year. —Matt Mitchell

Loraine James: “2003”

The flat affect of Loraine James’ vocal performance on “2003,” the first single from the U.K. artist’s upcoming album Gentle Confrontation, is a dodge, as is the stillness she exudes in the video for this track. The feelings within this haunting electronic track are that of numbness and dull pain, as James recounts the time, 20 years back, when her father suddenly passed away. The piercing tones and droning chords throughout the track become a stunning evocation of grief — a sonic sensation of one’s entire world being thrown off axis and trying to regain balance and control amid a flurry of emotions and memories. —Robert Ham

Marci: “Kity”
One of my favorite albums of 2022 was Marci’s self-titled debut, a glorious project that paid homage to the greatest pop and disco figures while also maintaining enough space for the singer/songwriter to forge her own uniqueness. I return to it so often that it’s still a new album to me, but I am deftly thrilled to have “Kity” in my rotation now, too, which is the hippest dance cut of 2023 thus far. Electronic music is having such a rewarding moment right now that almost no attempt at harnessing the greatness of Carter-era club soundscapes goes unsuccessful. With her passionate vocals glazed atop a groovy guitar riff coiled into a piano-driven backbeat, “Kity” (an acronym for “Keep it to Yourself”) is a showstopper that cements Marci’s place in the echelons of modern dance-pop; the epitome of what makes a best new songs list so rewarding to compile. —Matt Mitchell

Nora Stanley & Benny Bock: “Hawk Hill”

The musical and personal relationship that saxophonist Nora Stanley and keyboardist Benny Bock have revolves around nature. The two have spent hours together hiking and exploring landscapes around their Berkeley hometown and Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio where they both studied. The first single from the pair’s forthcoming album Distance of the Moon evokes the same sensation of languid calm and hushed awe that often arrives when faced with a breathtaking expanse of mountains or a vast field of corn. Bock provides the primary colors with a simple harmonium drone while Stanley cuts through it all with a wandering melody that feels like tracking a small bird sailing over it all. —Robert Ham

Penguin Cafe: “Galahad”

One of my favorite developments of the past decade has been Arthur Jeffes reviving the sound and spirit of his late father Simon’s unclassifiable ensemble Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Now dubbed simply Penguin Cafe, the group is a loving update of the elder Jeffes’ affecting work that blended elements of contemporary classical, world music and jazz into something truly singular. This new project folds in just the right touches of modernity, with electronic rhythms and synthesizers bolstering the material. On “Galahad,” the latest single from the group’s soon-to-be released fifth album Rain Before Seven (out on July 7), those additions bubble through a spritely rondelay of strings and woodwinds that was written as a tribute to Arthur’s beloved pet dog who recently passed away. —Robert Ham

Rhys Langston & Pioneer 11: “Amber Deception”

On their own, rapper Rhys Langston and psychedelic pilgrims Pioneer 11 were cutting daring individual paths, playing fearlessly with the building blocks of their chosen genres to create Gaudi-like sonic structures. This collaboration feels, on some level, to be an inevitability. Break enough new ground and you’ll draw the attention of like minded folks. The trio’s collaborative album To Operate This System is a melting rainbow push pop of zonked Afrofuturism. Lead single “Amber Deception” lays down the base coat with Langston jumbling up images of technology old and new (RAM chips, sound bars, Dreamcasts) and bleak landscapes while a dubby soundscape agitates and swings underneath his nimble flow. —Robert Ham

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