The 15 Best Songs of April 2021

Featuring duendita, Lucy Dacus, McKinley Dixon and more

Music Lists Best Songs
The 15 Best Songs of April 2021

Here in early May, the Paste Music team is looking back at the best new releases of April, kicking off the week with our favorite albums of last month and following that up today with our favorite tracks. Lucy Dacus, The Armed and McKinley Dixon were among the artists who continued their killer runs of output in April, while acts like duendita, Mattiel and UV-TV snuck up on us a bit more with knockout songs of their own. Take some time out of your Tuesday to listen to it all below.

Ade: “Another Weekend”

Ade harkens back to a tried-and-true trope of infectious grooves with nihilistic undertones. “Another Weekend,” off his recently released debut Midnight Pizza, features a drum kick that burrows deep into your mind, thumping like a heartbeat on the dance floor. The vinyl crackles and fuzzy vocals pull you back under the covers as he sings about finally settling into the groove of being locked inside. Ade is the friend to tell you that there’s already food at home, and he’ll eat it if you won’t. —Jade Gomez


Ahead of their new record ULTRAPOP—one of Paste’s favorite April albums—Detroit, Michigan’s The Armed shared a third and final single, “AN ITERATION,” following “ALL FUTURES” and “AVERAGE DEATH.” The enigmatic hardcore collective remain true to their stated purpose of maximum intensity on “AN ITERATION,” the opening moments of which feels like being shot out of a cannon, all rib-rattling drum flurries and serrated guitar noise. The Armed’s Dan Greene describes their album as “a joyous, genderless, post-nihilist, anti-punk, razor-focused take on creating the most intense listener experience possible,” and on this single in particular, they live up to that promise, melding hardcore instrumental firepower with a slyly precise sense of pop melody, like they’re fishing with hooks and dynamite at the same time. Consider us caught. —Scott Russell

Bruiser Wolf: “Dope Game $tupid”

Bruiser Wolf has garnered significant buzz as one of the newest signees of Bruiser Brigade Records, a new label founded by Detroit rapper Danny Brown. Wolf’s debut album, Dope Game Stupid, is a whimsical and introspective introduction to the rapper, complete with metaphors that range from genius to outright ridiculous. The album’s title track’s hypnotizing psychedelic loop serves as a funhouse mirror reflection of Wolf’s biting recollections of his illicit activities. His distinct delivery dances between a whisper and a sermon as he raps, “Stupid, when you get indicted by the feds / Those stories get made up like beds / And oh yeah, the game starts where it end / So if you get caught, don’t you talk, like an imaginary friend,” painting vivid portraits of his fascinating life straight out of the beginning stages of a film script. —Jade Gomez

duendita: “bio”

Queens native duendita’s second release of the year is a gorgeous, swirling piece that defies easy categorization. Her voice brings soulful R&B to a psychedelic “existential dance song … reflecting on a distaste for involuntary experiences as a human,” as the artist herself described in a statement. “Bio” (pronounced “bee-yo,” according to duendita’s helpful ‘90s-inspired educational video) is complex and dynamic, sometimes favoring organic sounds like piano and bass, and other times allowing chill-inducing sonic textures to take the spotlight. duendita elaborated in her statement that the song entertains the idea that one must “find/cultivate joy in order to survive,” and her four-minute-long exploration seems to do just that. —Carli Scolforo

illuminati hotties: “MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA”

Sarah Tudzin’s tenderpunk project illuminati hotties is back with their first new music since their acclaimed 2020 release FREE I.H.: This Is Not the One You’ve Been Waiting For, and the music-industry rigmarole that has dogged the band in the past is now behind them. In addition to sharing the video for their first single of 2021, “MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA” (pronounced “Moo!,” they say), Tudzin announced her own new label, Snack Shack Tracks, in partnership with L.A.-based indie label Hopeless Records, so when the one you have been waiting for comes out (a release window has yet to be revealed), you’ll have her to thank for it. “Somebody told me my music is too ‘CUTE’ to take seriously” Tudzin says of the band’s new single. “So I wrote them a love letter. I hope they’re laughing their patoots off.” “MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA” kicks “cute” to the curb with queasy guitars and synth stutters, with Tudzin contorting her voice as she sneers at pushes to make her art more “palatable” (read: profitable): “You think I wanna be a part of / Every self-appointed startup? / Every brand-approval markup? / Place that precious pretty product,” she mocks, having a blast as she colors outside the lines. —Scott Russell

Jessie Ware: “Please”

Jessie Ware’s What’s Your Pleasure? was a rare instance of nostalgia sounding fresh. The British singer’s ability to tap into such a rare, universally appealing groove landed her album on multiple year-end lists, ours included. “Please,” off the forthcoming deluxe version of the album, yearns for a return to the clubs Ware was anticipating her album filling before the pandemic took over as she sings, “I want a place / Where golden moments last forever.” Produced by James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco, Ware’s soft-spoken flirtations can be heard over even the deepest of bass as she creates these gorgeous utopias of dance and sound. It’s a song that foresees better times, on a deluxe version of an album that will accompany us through them. —Jade Gomez

LSDXOXO: “Sick Bitch”

LSDXOXO is a globetrotter, taking pieces of European dance scenes, American house staples and African elements, amongst a slew of other influences, to create some of the most compelling dance music of the past decade. His recent single “Sick Bitch” is a tribute to the raunchy Chicago ghetto house movement. LSD turns moans and body-thumping bass into a club banger that will someday make its way across ballroom battles and dance parties alike. —Jade Gomez

Lucy Dacus: “Hot & Heavy”

It’s official, folks: New Lucy Dacus is on the way. The Richmond, Virginia singer/songwriter and boygenius member announced one of Paste’s most-anticipated 2021 albums on April 13, detailing Home Video (June 25, Matador Records) and sharing the music video for its lead single, “Hot & Heavy,” which she performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert that night. “Hot & Heavy” begins as memories often do, quiet and indistinct, with only Lucy Dacus’ voice over gentle mellotron: “Being back here makes me hot in the face / Hot blood in my pulsing veins / Heavy memories weighing on my brain / Hot and heavy in the basement of your parents’ place,” she sings, focusing her mixed, yet visceral emotions on a specific person from her past, and acknowledging, “Try to walk away but I come back to the start.” There’s something about her home that’s always with her, like the blood in her veins, and it’s as if the song—jangly guitars, percussion pounding like a nervous teen’s heart—swells along with Dacus’ emotions, intensifying as she continues to dwell on it. Between this and “Thumbs,” the fan-favorite track Dacus released last month, it would appear she has another knockout album on the way. —Scott Russell

Markis Precise & Mick Jenkins: “Sleep”

There is something to be said about the magnetic, lazy haze that Mick Jenkins exudes. It’s a style many have tried and few can master. In his newest collaboration with Fresno-based producer Markis Precise, Jenkins’ Chicago roots shine through. “Sleep” is an apt title, with Jenkins’ languid flow rambling through his slow awakening into political awareness. “I played the fool / Removed the wool / over my eyes, remove the drool” is a hook that simmers with each listen as the minimalism of Precise’s production slowly begins to make sense. Precise’s keyboards and subtle synthesizer pings allow Jenkins to slip in and out of consciousness without ever losing the beat. This is a track that shows its soul more with each listen, and its energy lingers for far longer. —Jade Gomez

Mattiel: “Those Words”

Mattiel’s latest song “Those Words” is an exercise in simplicity. Taking cues from bands such as The Cure and The Smiths, this indie anthem slowly boils to a satisfying, comforting peak. The Atlanta-based band combine their bouncy guitars and drums with lead singer Mattiel Brown’s rich, commanding vocals for a warm and inviting tale of “choosing who to give you energy to,” as Brown reflects in a statement. In the sea of brooding acoustics and high-intensity punk songs filling summer playlists, “Those Words” is a great song to cool down to. —Jade Gomez

McKinley Dixon: “Bless the Child”

Richmond, Virginia’s McKinley Dixon has been a fixture on our Best New Songs lists in the lead-up to his much-anticipated new album, For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her, out May 7 on Spacebomb. The record’s fourth and final single might just be its best: Loosely inspired by Toni Morrison’s God Help The Child, “Bless the Child” finds Dixon traveling through time to process a lifetime of loss, regret and love, with rich instrumentation reflecting each stage of his journey. Over Timothy Erbach’s urgent bass and spectral backing vocals from Jaylin Brown and Ali Thibodeau, Dixon catches up with a fallen friend in a bittersweet dream, but later looks inward with anger, “starting to regret not being more of a threat / ‘cause then you could just protect the ones you love.” Easy answers evade him as he reckons with cycles of violence (“Watch them cut down a family tree in just one night” is a particularly searing line), transforming his pain into ambitious, life-affirming art. —Scott Russell

Overcoats: “The Hardest Part” (feat. Tennis)

Brooklyn alternative-pop duo Overcoats announced a new EP on April 7, featuring a new single with fellow pop innovators Tennis. Used To Be Scared Of The Dark features contributions from Middle Kids, Lawrence Rothman, and Ryan Hahn of Local Natives. The EP is based on self-growth and the quest for stability, and all of the collaboration was done remotely to show how trust transcends physicality. Lead single “The Hardest Part” is a summery folk-pop jam aided by Alaina Moore of Tennis’ buttery-smooth vocals and sparkly keyboards to create immersive harmonies that are easy to get lost in. Reflecting on the making of the song, the Overcoats said: “This song is about coming to terms with a relationship being over. And the hard reality that you may never know where that person ends up or what they do. It’s about letting go. We brought this song to Tennis because it needed their nostalgic retro pop sound to help tell this story. And it needed to be cooler.” —Jade Gomez

Pom Pom Squad: “Head Cheerleader”

Mia Berrin-led, Brooklyn-based indie-rock outfit Pom Pom Squad announced their debut album Death of a Cheerleader, coming June 25 on City Slang Records, and shared its latest single, “Head Cheerleader,” along with a self-co-directed video. The record is produced by Sarah Tudzin of Illuminati Hotties and co-produced by Berrin, while Tegan Quin of Tegan and Sara contributes vocals to “Head Cheerleader.” In a statement, Berrin describes “Head Cheerleader” as “a celebration of the discomfort that comes with stepping into your new skin—your own power”—on the song itself, she lays claim to that power over cascading power chords and nimble low end, declaring, “I’m learning how to be someone I could put my faith in,” and tossing off clever, self-deprecating one-liners like, “My worst decisions are the ones I like the best” and “My feelings always make a fucking fool of me.” It’s only fitting that a song about Berrin coming into her own also finds her doing exactly that as a songwriter, rising to the occasion of Pom Pom Squad’s much-anticipated first full-length statement as a band. —Scott Russell

Rosie Tucker: “Barbara Ann”

Los Angeles-based rock singer/songwriter Rosie Tucker’s knack for witty, yet bruising lyrics and impeccable melodies is back in a big way on “Barbara Ann,” the opening track and second single (after March’s “Habanero”) from their third album Sucker Supreme, released April 30 on Epitaph Records. Tucker drew inspiration for the single from roaming their grandparents’ Illinois farm as a kid, where they “laid an open palm on the electric wire that ran around the property even though I’d been told a million times not to. I desired the knowledge more than I feared my parents.” “Barbara Ann” has much more on its mind than Tucker’s coming-of-age trial by lightning, including their family and the agricultural industry they built their lives on, but the song is shockingly (no pun intended) light on its feet nonetheless, particularly in its hyper-catchy choruses, where Tucker promises its namesake, “No one’s gonna hurt you now.” It’s a tough-love song, a chuck under the chin that charms and comforts without coddling. —Scott Russell

UV-TV: “Back to Nowhere”

It’s Always Something with New York City-via-Gainesville trio UV-TV, who are gearing up to release their third album—their first entirely written and recorded since their NYC exodus—on May 28 via PaperCup Music. Written and recorded under lockdown in early 2020, the follow-up to their 2017 debut Glass and 2019 second effort Happy promises post-punk angularity, new-wave sheen and jangle-pop hooks, if singles “Distant Lullaby” and this week’s “Back to Nowhere” are any indication. You’d expect “Back to Nowhere” to find the band overwhelmed and on edge, but instead, they sound more clear-eyed than ever, with songwriters Ian Bernacett and Rose Vastola (now joined by drummer Ian Rose as a full-time member) intertwining their vocals and guitars with slick precision; meanwhile, Rose’s drums and tambourine keep the energy high. The track feels like a modern-day take on The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary,” a fitting kinship, given UV-TV’s drive to find peace in a chaotic world on Always Something. —Scott Russell

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