The 15 Best Songs of August 2019

Wrapping up summer with new tunes by Young Thug, Grace Potter, HAIM and more

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The 15 Best Songs of August 2019

This August some folks went back to school, others returned from summer vacations and we listened to a lot of music. Huge names like Young Thug, Taylor Swift and Bon Iver released albums with deep cuts we’ll be listening to for ages, while some of our indie favorites, like Jay Som, Whitney and (Sandy) Alex G, dropped stellar singles from their new records. Find all our favorite songs from August 2019 below, and listen to the Spotify playlist right here.

1. Big Thief: “Not”

“Not” is something of a throwback to the harder textures of Big Thief’s first album Masterpiece, in contrast to the wispy sound of U.F.O.F. Over insistent electric guitar strums and a whistling, metallic flute, frontwoman Adrianne Lenker struggles to articulate something and works her way around that tip-of-the-tongue feeling by negation: “[It’s] not a rouse / not heat / not the fire lapping up the creek.” But before Lenker can answer her own riddle, the song dissolves into three minutes of discordant guitar solos, and then 10 seconds of static-filled silence. —Substitute Thapliyal

2. Bodega: “Shiny New Model”

“Shiny New Model” folds in quiet meditations on the sterility of late-capitalist innovations and the complicated realities of the gig economy. “Tell me don’t you relate to the state of that silver sepulchre?” frontman Ben Hozie asks in relation to ATMs. “Tell me don’t you feel used? Buttons pressed in the back of a bodega.” He’s singing over a pirouetting guitar line and an intimate bass groove. It’s not quite glam, not quite grunge, but just the right combination of both. —Harry Todd

3. Bon Iver: “Faith”

Inspiration flashes again on “Faith,” a standout track from Bon Iver’s new album i,i. A distant beat propels the track with a train-like rhythm as it expands outward to include piano, synths, saxophones, strings, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and a soaring serene ecstasy, in the spiritual sense. —Eric R. Danton

4. Grace Potter: “Love Is Love”

“Love Is Love” is tried-and-true Grace Potter. Featuring a gospel choir and Potter’s dynamite vocals, the song is confessional yet comprehensive. With all its gusto and feeling, it’s the kind of song that’ll stop you dead in your tracks—that’s the power of Grace Potter. It was also the first song Potter wrote for Daylight, and she says the experience was so jarring she nearly stopped the process right then. —Ellen Johnson

5. HAIM: “Summer Girl”

Telepathic compassion is all over the heartbreaking and vulnerable “Summer Girl,” which ebbs and flows with soft percussion, a languid, funky bass and a lilting saxophone riff dreamt up by Rostam Batmanglij. Danielle’s breathy vocals are almost whispered over the unembellished, barebones instrumental: “Under the freeway overpasses / The tears behind your dark sunglasses / The fears inside your heart’s deepest gashes / Walk beside me.” —Savannah Sicurella

6. Hovvdy: “Cathedral”

Built around melancholic guitars and self-conscious vocals, “Cathedral” is a lilting groove that feels like having a series of existential realizations in the middle of a field. Hovvdy sing of finding your own spirituality and learning how to step outdoors in the face of anxiety: “Trust I’ll calm down / Always do somehow / Open my door / Brighter than before / Outside, hide,” they whisper, sunnily. —Harry Todd

7. Jay Som: “Nighttime Drive”

Jay Som mastermind Melina Duterte stars in the Han Hale-directed video as a weary traveling musician (a role she is well-equipped to play!) who, asleep in her band’s touring van, dreams she’s the leader of a group of suit-clad special agents on their way to investigate a mysterious, crop circle-esque pattern that has appeared in the wilderness. “Shifting through the nighttime drive / We’ll be just fine,” Duterte sings, her breathy vocals evoking the blurry state of being in between—sleep and waking, one city and another, late night and early morning—over gauzy guitars, playful bass plucks, and judiciously deployed piano and strings. Meanwhile, the video dives deeper and deeper into her imagination, ultimately uncovering the supernatural truth at the heart of the mystery. —Scott Russell

8. Molly Sarlé: “Twisted”

“Twisted” is the third in a series of singles from Sarlé’s forthcoming album Karaoke Angel (out Sept. 20 on Partisan Records), which was written and recorded over the span of three years and as many places, from a trailer in Big Sur to home in North Carolina to a studio in Woodstock, N.Y. “Twisted” is like what the sung part of Catholic mass would sound like if it weren’t in Latin and actually left every member of the congregation feeling full of love, ready to let it spill out over everyone they know. The lyrics read like one long sentence, but there’s nothing stiff about these words—they don’t belong on a page. “Who says there’s anything with being Twisted?” Sarlé sings over a lone guitar. “Still I’m trying to keep it straight / Trying not to get lost in judgement or hate of / Those who I have deemed to be useless.” —Ellen Johnson

9. Mura Masa feat. Clairo: “I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again”

“I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again” opens as a subtle acoustic number with warped synths and Clairo’s velvety vocals, but slowly evolves into a glitchy dance track with electric guitar flourishes. Mura Masa’s production know-how and genre-hopping abilities always keep listeners on their toes, and this new single opens an exciting gateway into indie-dance music. —Lizzie Manno

10. Omni: “Sincerely Yours”

Omni’s new single is a fitting introduction to Philip Frobos (bass/vocals) and Frankie Broyles’ (guitars/drums/keys) signature sound, with casually detached vocals draped over instrumentation you’d come away bloody if you touched. Frobos calls bullshit on everyone faking okay in the face of day-to-day alienation and anxiety, murmuring over a squeaky-clean mix of jagged shards of guitar and drums that land like an office drone death march. “Striving for self-worth / every morning,” Frobos muses, as if from a great distance. “At happy hours we talk and talk / Are you nervous for your career? / Are you insincere?” —Scott Russell

11. (Sandy) Alex G: “Southern Sky”

“Southern Sky” is a panoramic cut that soars with guest vocals from Emily Yacina. Plunking keys and a running bass line root the track underneath (Sandy) Alex G’s rhythmic guitar playing, while an impressionistic violin flickers in the distance like a hopeful mirage. “Let my memory run backwards / so together we may lie / I will remember the fire / In the southern sky,” (Sandy) Alex G sings with Yacina, as the song moseys toward its conclusion. —Harry Todd

12. Taylor Swift: “Lover”

“Lover” is gentle and minimally produced, a welcome change from the marching band drums and troll-y schmaltz of the first two Lover singles. It’s actually quite romantic and endearing, with Swift making vows to the “magnetic man” she’ll be with “forever and ever.” “All’s well that ends well to end up with you / Swear to be overdramatic and true to my lover,” she sings, before pivoting to PG-13 with the line: “And you’ll save all your dirtiest jokes for me / And at every table, I’ll save you a seat, lover.” Woah, Taylor. You might need to calm down. But in all seriousness, this is a really great Taylor Swift song, even though her idea of rebellion is leaving “the Christmas lights up ‘till January.” “Lover” is a reminder that the old Taylor—the one who was willing to risk it all for romance and who dared to venture into new sonic territory without it sounding fake or forced—is still alive and well. —Ellen Johnson

13. Vivian Girls: “Something To Do”

Cradled by Katy Goodman and Cassie Ramone’s misty vocals, “Something To Do” is the perfect fusion of scrappy and gentle. There’s a longing and restlessness to their lyrics, further underscored by the high-strung wandering of the trio in its accompanying music video, directed by Jason Lester. —Lizzie Manno

14. Whitney: “Used To Be Lonely”

“Used To Be Lonely” features soulful horns, orchestral strings, twangy electric guitar licks and dazzling piano notes all within its backing instrumentals. “Well, it made no sense at all / until you came along,” vocalist Julien Ehrlich sings with his signature falsetto on the new love song. “I’m afraid you’re letting go / ‘cause the only life I’ve ever known used to be lonely.” As a press release puts it, the track “tackles the blissful confusion that comes from seeing the way things unexpectedly change over time.” —Marissa Matozzo

15. Young Thug feat. Gunna: “Surf”

Young Thug’s new album So Much Fun lives up to its name, perhaps on the wavy “Surf” more than anywhere else. “Surf” is a flex in every sense of the word. Young Thug scolds his successors who “ride the wave” and “copy for days.” Yet, he brings one of those descendants, rising ATL rapper Gunna, into the fold to back him up. Calypso-inspired beats and an impeccable flow make this one of the most enjoyable, easy-going songs on the record. —Ellen Johnson

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