The 50 Best Songs of 2023 (So Far)

Don't miss the best tracks from the first half of the year.

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The 50 Best Songs of 2023 (So Far)

Every June, we poll the Paste music writers and editors about the best songs of the year so far. Banding our unique voices together, we’ve assembled a dynamic, wide-ranging snapshot of what these last six months have offered us. That landscape includes an exuberant amount of synth-pop and disco, standouts on artist debuts and blistering rock ‘n’ roll gemstones from bands both new and eternal. It’s likely that our year-end list will look much different when December rolls around, but we are thrilled to have spent time with all of these tracks. So, without further ado, here are the 50 Best Songs of 2023 (so far). —Matt Mitchell, Assistant Music Editor

50. Youth Lagoon: “Prizefighter”
On “Prizefighter,” Youth Lagoon—aka Trevor Powers—floats above a clear-eyed piano, drum machine and subtle, almost missable, vocal samples. Through emotional boxing imagery, he fashions a story that aches over how little closure the story has for its protagonist. “Tommy left for war with no goodbye / I never got a chance to ask him why / But since Tommy always was a tough guy / I know it’s cuz he thought I’d see him cry / He had knuckles that could make the devil shy / Knuckles of a prizefighter held high,” Powers sings. He assembles a portrait of his surroundings while blurring the line between fact and fiction, and his cast of characters chronicle the underbelly of America in thoughtful, narrative-driven ways. —Matt Mitchell

49. Ezra Williams ft. Sammy Copley: “Until I’m Home”
Irish singer/songwriter Ezra Williams’ debut LP Supernumeraries arrives this month via AWAL, and teaser single “Until I’m Home” is one of the sweetest synth-folk songs you’ll hear all year. Williams writes songs that chronicle romance, isolation and catharsis in refreshing ways, paired with instrumentals that are lush, inviting and endearing. “Everyone cannot be right / That’s how I know that there’s more for me to fight / And this big list of burdens I pass onto you / Are only easy ‘til you’re home / But then it’s late and you’re alone,” they sing. At just 21 years old, Williams is quickly establishing themselves as a creative powerhouse with a deft language for how the world orbits beyond them. —Matt Mitchell

48. Being Dead: “Muriel’s Big Day Off”
Being Dead are the mythical, jazzed-out surf punks straight out of our greatest urban legends; as a singular machine, they’re rendered like a perfect amalgamation of King Krule, the B-52s, Parquet Courts and Devo. “Muriel’s Big Day Off” is a pastiche of vignettes showcasing the band’s immortal genre prowess. Weaving in and out of dream pop, art punk, bossa nova and jazz, Being Dead are collaging their interests into one big suite of ambition. It’s hard to not get swept up in the magic of this band’s presentation. Through great wordplay, delicious vocalizations and a gonzo theatricality, Being Dead are one of the coolest and freakiest acts around; a cosmic tornado of unrelenting weirdness. —Matt Mitchell

47. billy woods & Kenny Segal: “FaceTime”
Honestly, there are about four or five songs from billy woods and Kenny Segal’s Maps that could have found a place on this list. The duo’s collaborative album is just that good from top to bottom. “FaceTime” is our biggest highlight from the concept album taking direct aim at the highs and lows of touring. With a lush, twinkling instrumental rife with jazz eccentricities and the crunch of digital sampling, woods’ story, wordplay and attitude is emphasized most immensely. “Ready to die, it’s no biggie / No surprise, no pity / Lived a couple lives, g’head and slide / Hope I take a couple with me / Made a couple dollars, it got tricky quickly,” he raps. With perfect harmonies from Samuel T. Herring enveloping Segal’s production and woods’ flow, “FaceTime” is one of 2023’s slickest hip-hop offerings thus far. —Matt Mitchell

46. Anjimile: “The King”
The multi-tracked choir that opens the title track from Anjimile Chithambo’s upcoming album come to life like a dawn chorus—a near overwhelming panoply of voices and sounds popping out of a dense copse of trees or sneaking over the horizon at various locations within a flat field. The effect is as a sonic reminder of what Chithambo’s lyrics spell out in poetic detail: there are millions of Black people in America and all of them are crying out in hopes that they will be heard and respected. But our current oppressive society doesn’t want that. “The Black Death is here,” Chithambo sings, “Your silence a stain / the marking of Cain.” The damning sentiments of “The King” go down easily through the beauty of these intertwining voices, but the words are meant to stick in your system like barbs. —Robert Ham

45. Caroline Rose: “Miami”
The best song from Caroline Rose’s third album The Art Of Forgetting, “Miami” is a mountainous, magnificent benchmark in their career. Written about the period that comes after heartbreak, Rose taps into the melodrama of moving on with an earnest ferocity. “Miami” never flirts with cliché, and it’s one of the best “fuck you” tracks of the year. “I wish I could collect all of the subtle rejections / Wrap them all up in a bow / Say thank you nice to know you / I loved all of our time,” they sing. With the New Wave, electro-pop of their 2018 LP Loner in the rearview, “Miami” is a rock anthem down to the bone—all while maintaining the charm and finesse that makes Caroline Rose so damn cool. —Matt Mitchell

44. Militarie Gun: “Do It Faster”
“I don’t care what you do, just do it faster” is the rallying call of Militarie Gun’s “Do It Faster,” one of the year’s most satisfying songs. Over the last two year,s the California band has been pairing hardcore and jangle pop to massive success on the All Roads Lead to the Gun EPs. On “Do It Faster,” the lead single from their debut album, Life Under the Gun, their pop craft has never been stronger. With vocalist Ian Sheldon’s shout-sang vocals, guitar tones that split the distance between Hüsker Dü and Sum 41 and a quick song length that invokes the spirit of Guided by Voices, “Do It Faster” is a wonderful alarm clock of a song. These traits are closely paired to the lyrics, which act as part-motivational speech, half-empty frustration: “Waste my time, waste my life as I sit and wait for you” Sheldon bemoans at the top of the chorus. Few bands arrive as fully formed as Militarie Gun, and, on “Do It Faster,” they’ve created a mantra for their short, unforgettable punk sound. —Ethan Beck

43. Bartees Strange: “Daily News”
A bonus track from the physical release of Farm to Table that got its day in the sun earlier this year, “Daily News” is a fury of immense, mythical proportions. From the shining guitars that ramble beneath Bartees Strange’s soulful vocals to the cascading breakdown of octaves and horns that round out the track, it’s magical, heavy and perfect—further proof that few musicians in the world are as breathtaking, poised and magnetic as Strange, whose album leftovers carry as much power as his centerpieces. —Matt Mitchell

42. ANOHNI and the Johnsons: “It Must Change”
On the heels of announcing that her first album—My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross—with the Johnsons in over a decade will arrive in July, ANOHNI returned with “It Must Change,” a beautiful, soulful movement that plays a key part in a project that responds to, according to the singer/songwriter, “global and environmental concerns first voiced in popular music over 50 years ago.” “The city in your head / Collapsing walls and lead, it must change / The fire is cleaning / The oil from the stones / Your God is falling you, things must change / Giving you hell / The truth is that our love / Will ricochet through eternity,” ANOHNI sings atop a vibrant, dreamy guitar strum and atmospheric harmonies paired with mid-century rhythm, pulling influence from the emotional and sonic ethos of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On while making it wholly her own. —Matt Mitchell

41. Yo La Tengo: “Aselestine”
Yo La Tengo have captured the saccharine unbearability of being in love for the past 33 years, and they show no sign of stopping now. “Aselestine” is a resurrection spell that doesn’t quite work, a half-hearted go at CPR as the relationship goes cold. Georgia Hubley sings sweetly and resignedly of the love she’s losing, as though she knows not to believe that anything will change for the better. “The clock won’t tick / I can’t predict / I can’t sell your books / though you ask me to,” Hubley almost whispers over her own liquidy harmonies and soft, somber guitars. An ethereal synth adds a certain magicality to the song, that impalpable otherworldliness that makes Yo La Tengo one of the great indie rock bands of the past half-century. —Miranda Wollen

40. Jess Williamson: “Hunter”
“Hunter” is not your textbook, anthemic country tune, nor does it attempt to be. One of Williamson’s greatest strengths is her ability to captivate a room without yelling too loud to grab everyone’s attention. It’s through her vocals—which are as angelic as they are familiar, alive and airy—that move the compass’ needle on her albums, and they shine so deftly on “Hunter.” The result? A track gilded in backroad-freedom about the fractures of a relationship getting submerged beneath the faux-safety of abundant love. “When you walk as a woman whose only known love / It’s easy to miss the signs / You bowed down to me like I was sent from above / But who’s in your bed tonight?” Williamson sings. —Matt Mitchell

39. Palehound: “The Clutch”
“The Clutch” is a heavy, electrifying guitar track that puts El Kempner’s vocals at the center, as they skate atop mystifying riffs and solos in seismic fashion—chronicling a relationship on the brink of crumbling apart. “You didn’t need my help,” Kempner sings over and over, as the arrangement swells and then fades. It’s a roaring return for Palehound; a sonic triumph that feels apt in the wake of lockdown, as Kempner displayes an anger that unfurls into a revolt against personal turmoil. —Matt Mitchell

38. Durand Jones: “That Feeling”
The first single from Durand Jones without his backing band, The Indications, is a slow-burning soul ballad that serves as both a coming-out and coming-home song. Now based in San Antonio, Wait Til I Get Over is all about his relationship with his hometown of Hillaryville, La. The emotions build with screaming guitars as the cinematic video unveils a young, queer love in a rural, Black community on one of the final bends in the Mississippi River. Jones’ voice carries the weight of complications and contradictions as he digs into the past. —Josh Jackson

37. Decisive Pink: “Dopamine”
Decisive Pink, the collaborative project between Angel Deradoorian and Kate NV, is an unforgettable presentation of ‘80s New Wave and timeless synth-pop. The standout from their debut record, Ticket To Fame, is “Dopamine,” a bright, robotic lament towards a void rife with consumerism, loneliness and doomscrolling. “I’m buying stuff that I don’t need now / I’m hungry I need to feed now / Nothing seems to satisfy me / I think I’m losing my sanity,” are lines we know all too well, delivered across pulsing bleeps and bloops and a steadfast drum machine. With a breakdown featuring a phone call with an operator and Deradoorian and NV repeating “dopamine” over and over and over again, “Dopamine” cements itself as an urgent, on-the-nose examination of modern, toxic, online pleasures under the gloss of a 40-year-old, unwavering set of electronic textures. —Matt Mitchell

36. Sweeping Promises: “Eraser”
“Eraser,” the lead single from the Lawrence, Kansas duo Sweeping Promises’ sophomore album Good Living Is Coming For You is a rich punk arrangement set adrift with power-pop hooks and a gripping, catalytic back-beat. “She’s efficient / She’s so vicious / My eraser / Erase it all / Erase it away,” vocalist Lira Mondal cries out over and over. With heavy riffs and marvelous synths aplenty, Sweeping Promises are already capitalizing on the ambition and daring compositional sensibilities that Mondal and Caufield Schnug so deftly possessed together on their 2020 debut, Hunger for a Way Out. —Matt Mitchell

35. Vagabon: “Carpenter”
Laetitia Tamko—best known by her stage name Vagabon—has stayed relatively quiet since her terrific, self-titled sophomore album in 2019. But, when she returned with “Carpenter”—a perfect three-minute synth track that builds off of danceable, compelling dance-pop architecture—earlier this year, signs of a new effervescence became visible on the horizon. With similar grooves to her seminal track “Water Me Down,” it’s clear that the stripped-down, relentless and paean arrangements from Vagabon’s 2017 debut Infinite Worlds are no more. But her lyricism remains the same, as she deftly traverses across numerous emotions and articulates them like anthemic triumphs. “Keep spinning you away / Cautionary tale / It was embodiment of fear / I was embodying fear,” Tamko sings in a verse. The poetry of Vagabon speaks greatly of her transition and growth between records as, according Tamko herself, “Carpenter” is about “that A-HA moment, when a lesson from past finally clicks and you want to run and tell someone who bore witness to the old you, ‘I finally get it now.’” —Matt Mitchell

34. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: “Death Wish”
“Did you ever love a woman with a death wish / Something in her eyes like switching off a light switch,” Jason Isbell sings to open “Death Wish,” a driving Southern rock song with beautiful strings by Morgan O’Shaughnessey. “Everybody dies but you gotta find a reason to carry on.” The song flips the script on Isbell’s own experience reaching rock bottom with alcohol and drugs in 2012 and finding support and intervention from those who loved him. It addresses depression from the standpoint of a person who loves someone that’s struggling. “I don’t want to fight with you baby,” he sings, “but I won’t leave you alone.” —Josh Jackson

33. Diners: “The Power”
Across a brisk, sub-three-minute runtime, Diners—the longtime project of Blue Broderick—tightens a command on the 1970s glam, singer/songwriter songbook, which Broderick has been developing sharply since 2016’s Three. The Mo Troper-produced “The Power” is a glorious, sun-soaked slice of power pop that lives up to its title. Reminiscent of off-kilter, American Bandstand-style rock ‘n’ roll, the tune conjures iconography of Big Star and Raspberries. Yet, breaking through the retro gloss is Broderick, who taps into her own That Thing You Do! ethos with a timeless tune buoyed by a charming and unforgettable earworm chorus. “It ain’t too late to understand, too late to try / Too late to recognize the power that’s inside,” she sings. —Matt Mitchell

32. Shalom: “Happenstance”
Singer/songwriter Shalom is a progeny of Lucy Dacus, Vagabon and Indigo De Souza, though she has fully formed a sound that is uniquely her own—and unequivocally cool as all get-out. Her debut album, Sublimation is a project crafted with urgency, openness and plainspoken vulnerability. “Happenstance” builds a groove-soaked bridge toward getting away from negativity. “I feel so out of place / I’m just trying to erase myself whenever I get the chance / My need to evaporate and receive validation at the same time,” she sings. There’s a reason she was our Best of What’s Next this March: Her emotional powerhouse songwriting is heart-stopping and honest. —Matt Mitchell

31. Cheekface: “The Fringe”
Cheekface found plenty of critical acclaim since forming in 2017—at least as far as this publication is concerned. Paste named their 2021 album Emphatically No one of the best rock albums of that year, and their follow-up Too Much To Ask was one of our Best Albums of 2022. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles band returned with a new single, “The Fringe,” that questions, in that tongue-in-Cheekface way, what success really means. “Success is cringe,” Greg Katz sings, “I want to be on the fringe.” The frontman for a trio that calls itself “America’s Local Band” goes on to talk-sing about “carving massive nudes out of cold mayonnaise” and an art gallery showing of the “personal history of my runny nose,” skewering the more ridiculous elements of avant garde and the band’s own striving for success, all while he and his bandmates Amanda Tannen (bass) and Mark Edwards (drums) play catchy power-pop-punk that begs for repeat listens. —Josh Jackson

30. Mo Troper: “For You To Sing”
Troper’s big 2023 single is an exquisite amalgam of Magical Mystery Tour-era harmonies and Guided By Voices guitar licks. “There’s something I’ve been working on / Can’t wait to show you when I’m done / My heart breaks / When you’re away / Singing songs he wrote for you to sing,” Troper professes over jangling chords and a mythical bassline. It’s a searing, two-minute power pop track that embellishes his storytelling prowess even further after 2022’s MTV, and his world-building techniques are bold, beautiful and worth listening to on repeat. —Matt Mitchell

29. Tyler, The Creator: “Dogtooth”
Tyler, The Creator has been a rapper enamored with any number of beloveds for over a decade, and “Dogtooth” sees some of his most lovey-dovey lyricism yet. A treat from Call Me If You Get Lost: The Estate Sale, the single shows the best of what DJ Drama and Tyler can do together. Tyler’s flow carries the crass levity of his freestyles, but his plea for affection is as sincere as what we’ve seen in Flower Boy and IGOR. “She could ride my face, I don’t want nothin’ in return,” he purrs, “except for sum’ her time and all her love, that’s my concern.” It’s pick-me boy arrogance at its pinnacle, and it’s a glorious sight to behold. Nor does Tyler shy away from the jabs at the fakers and asides about his ever-amassing wealth, creating a jazzy boisterousness he wraps dexterously around this little love letter. —Miranda Wollen

28. Girl Ray: “Hold Tight”
“Hold Tight” is a blanket of good vibes and tasty disco archival. From their forthcoming third LP Prestige, the London trio take inspiration from HAIM and reinvent themselves with a triumph of R&B and baroque pop. The track is a plucky nightclub anthem that oozes joy through crystalline arrangements, Poppy Hankin’s airy, tempest vocals and her chemistry with Iris McConnell and Sophie Moss. Prestige is a modern pop masterpiece, and “Hold Tight” is a revelation. —Matt Mitchell

27. U.S. Girls: “Only Daedalus”
If there are no U.S. Girls fans left on Earth, that means I’m dead. On Bless This Mess, Meg Remy perfects her own world with a generations-spanning funk explosion that soundtracks social critiques and hopeful humor. Opening track “Only Daedalus” is a boisterous, bountiful R&B tune with dance-pop synths that takes aim at the tragedy of generational tragedy that, in the context of recent months, could apply to anything from Elon Musk to Succession. The Greek imagery that Remy employs here is meticulous and open-ended. Nods to the titular Daedalus and his son Icarus feel very much topical, especially in the wake of the nepo-baby discourse. “Only Daedalus coulda thought of this / You thread the shell to reveal the past / Lured by honey to the other side / And then you die / Don’t get too high / On your daddy’s supply,” Remy sings. From top to bottom, “Only Daedalus” is one of the catchiest tracks of the year and unable to be ignored. Meg Remy is one of our best worldbuilders; a titan of pop royalty. —Matt Mitchell

26. Lana Del Rey: “A&W”
“A&W” is completely and wonderfully weird. The seven-minute ballad off of Del Rey’s Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd made waves earlier this year for its pure Lana-ness, that indescribable, off-putting sexiness that has seen the songstress float above her peers in recent years. “A&W” is named after the creamsicle-colored chain restaurant and an acronym for (what else?) “American Whore,” which Del Ray continuously refers to herself as throughout the song’s lyrical odyssey. The track starts out as the signature saccharine piano ballad of the Normal Fucking Rockwell era, veering jarringly into the clashing siren-call of Lust for Life Lana and, finally, the sultry rap bars the queen of the gas station only bestows upon us on special occasions. Listen to it once, and Del Rey works her magic: you’ll be murmuring “Jimmy, Jimmy, cocoa puff, Jimmy, Jimmy ride / Jimmy, Jimmy, cocoa puff, Jimmy, get me high” to yourself for days. —Miranda Wollen

25. The National: “Tropic Morning News”
The first single from First Two Pages of Frankenstein, “Tropic Morning News,” pointed to the National taking an upbeat direction akin to their 2013 project Trouble Will Find Me. With glittering guitars, atmospheric synths and Matt Berninger’s sprawling vocals, “Tropic Morning News” is an amalgamation of everything that makes a perfect National song work: fine-tuned arrangements, contemplative yet vulnerable lyrics from Berninger and a great, soul-awakening Aaron Dessner guitar part. “I was suffering more than I let on / The tropic morning news was on / There’s nothing stopping me now / From saying all the painful parts out loud,” Berninger sings in the last chorus. —Matt Mitchell

24. Roísín Murphy: “The Universe”
“The Universe” came with the announcement of Hit Parade, the Irish dance-pop legend Roísín Murphy’s first album since 2020’s Róisín Machine. Earlier this year, Murphy released “CooCool,” which we also adored. “The Universe,” however, continues to build upon her immense, rich and poised vision of how to perfectly blend disco, R&B, soul and glam rock. The cover of the forthcoming album uses AI-generated art, and “The Universe” even touches on finding joy in the multiverse: “Giving yourself to me, how could it ever be wrong? / Giving yourself for free, it only shows that you’re strong / Giving yourself to me, how could it ever be wrong?” Murphy sings. Later, the track segues into a monologue sporting a vocal distortion reminiscent of Prince’s Camille on Sign O’ The Times. Hit Parade is set to blow us all away. —Matt Mitchell

23. Blondshell: “Joiner”
Blondshell’s self-titled debut album came out this spring, and what a gift from the budding indie-rock goddesses. Though the entire album is unbelievably sonically rich, filled with soulful guitar and rip-your-heart-out lyricism, “Joiner” is a deliciously desperate, achingly angry love song that will keep you coming back for more. “You know it’s your playground/ My home is your playground” Blondshell laments, like she knows she’s diving into a love that may not ever allow her to come up for air again. “I think I wanna join in / I think I wanna save you / Two people from the bottom of the bin,” she cries, and it rings out equal parts love-letter and C.O.D.—Miranda Wollen

22. Fenne Lily: “Lights Light Up”
A contender for the lushest opening guitar riff of 2023 so far, Fenne Lily’s “Lights Light Up,” the lead single from the Bristol-born folk musician’s third LP Big Picture, is an immaculate assembly of singer-songwriter dream pop. Big Picture is a beautiful album that tells the story of two in-love people just trying to survive together, and “Lights Light Up” couldn’t have been a more proper introduction to their story. “We held each other while everything burned up ‘round us / And inside of me, too / That’s called love,” Lily sings on the track. Lily’s impassioned lyricism has made her one of indie’s brightest storytellers, and she has quietly surrounded her brilliance with great players. The performances of guitarist Joe Sherrin, bassist Kane Eagle and drummer James Luxton, along with mixing from Jay Som’s Melinda Duterte, help make “Lights Light Up” a gravitational, wholly sublime moment. —Matt Mitchell

21. 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

20. superviolet: “Big Songbirds Don’t Cry”
The face of beloved Ohio pop-punk wailers the Sidekicks for over a decade, Steve Ciolek has shifted his gaze towards something a bit more low-key. After calling up Saintseneca’s Zac Little to help out with the production, Ciolek, now under the name superviolet, has found something calm and catchy. “Big Songbirds Don’t Cry” perfectly set the stage for Ciolek’s next big move—Infinite Spring, which arrived in April. The track is a relaxed acoustic guitar coupled with perfect harmonies and focused percussion. “Night owls don’t get green / They just get even / Jealousy’s a kickstart to an evening / Tell Trevor or whatever that his time is up / And if he walks through that door / I’m sure I’ll clean his clock,” Ciolek sings. Though the name of his main project has changed, Ciolek’s vision is as full and splendid as it was when he was penning Sidekicks tracks. In all of its glorious wordplay and thoughtfulness, “Big Songbirds Don’t Cry” is a wave of wholehearted songwriting that will stick with you. —Matt Mitchell

19. The Beths: “Watching the Credits”
“Watching the Credits” could just be a one-off track, which seems likely, given that the Beths put out their best album, Expert in a Dying Field just last September. Nonetheless, the New Zealand rockers, yet again, flaunt their power-pop prowess. “Watching the Credits” is a terrific, heat-seeking missile of glittering guitars and steadfast percussion work. Frontwoman Elizabeth Stokes delivers a hypnotic vocal performance, while guitarist Jonathan Pearce unleashes a riffing wall of prismatic, face-melting chords. There’s imagery of cinema and soundtracks, of doubts and how endings move the compass needles of our life’s direction. “It’s just a story I don’t quite believe / Full of plot holes and constant monotony / Who’s going to root for this unlikable lead? / Not them, not me, not likely,” Stokes proclaims. What makes the Beths so good is not just their chemistry, but the fact that they can make a standalone single rock so heavily. It speaks to how they endure as one of the most exciting rock bands in the world right now. —Matt Mitchell

18. Water From Your Eyes: “Barley”
“Barley” might be Water From Your Eyes’ best song to date. It’s an elevated version of the paths they’ve traveled before, a display of their evolving chemistry as a musical portmanteau that weaves sounds in novel ways. Featuring everything from shakers, woozy key samples, Lee Ranaldo-esque guitar squelches and dissonant, atonal synths, each element comes in and out of earshot intuitively. Nothing overstays its welcome, remaining for however long it pleases. The lyrics are esoteric and opaque, but the band suggest it’s about “futile attempts at attaining the unattainable.” I mean, hey, climbing the corporate ladder feels a whole lot like climbing and “count[ing] mountains,” as Rachel Brown’s refrain puts it—a physically and mentally taxing exercise that drains all life out of you. —Grant Sharples

17. Chris Farren: “Cosmic Leash”
The lead single from the internet’s most-handsome power-pop delegate’s forthcoming album Doom Singer is a volcano of hardcore and singer/songwriter that erupts into a delicious pop-punk-gleaning tempest. It’s heavy, catchy bubblegum emo that positions distorted, hooky guitars around Chris Farren’s unique vocal set. “The cosmic leash / The lava flow / My body bursting like a volcano / It’s rushing back, back to me / The time release, the afterglow / I wanna glitch out of the world I know,” he sings. Produced, engineered and mixed by Jay Som’s Melina Duterte, “Cosmic Leash” is the stunner you’d expect from a multi-hyphenate like Farren. —Matt Mitchell

16. Yves Tumor: “Heaven Surrounds Us Like a Hood”
Yves Tumor’s latest LP, Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds), was a godsend earlier this year. Many tracks from the project could have wound up on this list, but “Heaven Surrounds Us Like a Hood” has been the biggest standout with every listen. Tumor is fully on another level, blending shoegaze distortion with falsetto R&B that echoes For You-era Prince and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and, also, something generous, playful and lovingly fresh. “For a moment we became each other / We found a love that made us slowly fall apart / I see the color red in so many places / This world feels so ugly when life makes a fool of us,” they sing in a glistening, visceral, art-rock rainfall. —Matt Mitchell

15. Kara Jackson: “pawnshop”
There’s an immediate power in Kara Jackson’s voice, even as she keeps it restrained throughout “pawnshop,” a short but devastating kiss-off to a careless breaker of hearts. The Oak Park, Ill., native is a former National Youth Poet Laureate and doesn’t waste her words. “I’m not a liquidated asset, I’m sharper than a jewel,” she sings, “What kind of miner does that make you, when I’m the gold and you’re just a fool?” Her whole album Why Does The Earth Give Us People To Love is a fresh breath of cosmic-country air, but “pawnshop” is the perfect introduction for new converts. —Josh Jackson

14. Black Country, New Road: “Turbines/Pigs”
In the wake of vocalist Isaac Wood’s departure just days before releasing Ants From Up There in 2022, Black Country, New Road trudged on, touring across the world and playing new songs for adoring crowds. Since Wood left the group, the remaining members of the Cambridgeshire sextet elected to not perform any of his songs live. Thus, Live at Bush Hall is a delicate, awing live record of the new material they’ve been playing for the last year. Every song in the set is a triumph, but the treasure is “Turbines/Pigs,” a massive, near-10-minute cut that showcases pianist May Kershaw’s vocal chops. It’s a beautiful chronicling of heartbreak, as Kershaw unspools a story of loss, uncertainty and doubt. “The bubble that you left then / I think it’s safer than the cold / Not too late to go home now / I’ll chew the pill for you,” she sings. After delivering an angelic five verses, the entire band crescendos into an explosive instrumental driven by Georgia Ellery’s violin. —Matt Mitchell

13. The Lemon Twigs: “In My Head”
The Lemon Twigs’ fourth record, Everything Harmony, is their best—and most ambitious—offering of music yet. Gone are the days of amber-colored retro, as the D’Addario brothers—Brian and Michael—are enveloping themselves in a song cycle caked in their own unforgettable style. In turn, third single “In My Head” is an impossibly glamorous decadence of pop rock. When Michael gives a hypnotizing, McCartney-style “Ooo” that contorts and bends like a boa constrictor, it is immediately evident that this band, these brothers, have found their stride. When you spend your whole lives growing up together, the chemistry is already in place. But somehow, Brian and Michael have transcended even that. —Matt Mitchell

12. Mega Bog: “The Clown”
Experimentalist Erin Birgy, aka Mega Bog, released one of her best songs ever earlier this year. “The Clown,” which was the lead single off of her seventh record End of Everything, is a perfect piece of synth rock. The arrangements are mesmerizing, concise and immense. The track is apocalyptic yet beautiful, as Birgy makes sense of perspective in a relationship, examining how roles have shifted. “‘The Clown’ is about the terrible, sensual, and chaotic release of merging one’s own multitudes, showing love to the darkness and insecurities, having curiosity about what is beyond presumed perceptions—surrendering to the uncontrollables, while nourishing the small statues of what we do have control over within ourselves,” Birgy said about the song. It cannot be understated how funny “The Clown” is, too. Birgy is on another songwriting level here, penning verses that aren’t weighed down by wordiness. “Met a young man who said / ‘You are everything’ / And gave me everything / But I really scared him / Because all I talk about with him is / Beheading young men,” she sings, before a sweeping sword or guillotine blade cuts through the air. “The Clown” is playful, sublime and colorful. We are in Birgy’s shoes, feeling what she feels, dancing cautiously as the world relentlessly curls inward. —Matt Mitchell

11. McKinley Dixon: “Run, Run, Run”
The lead single from Beloved! Paradise! Jazz?!, “Run, Run, Run,” finds Virginia rapper McKinley Dixon reflecting on gun violence, especially how it affects the lives of children. The story is immense—filled with imagery of cautionary tales, like Icarus and canaries—and tackles the life-cycle of cruelty spurred by inequity. “Whole block gone cheer when he makes it home / Holding heavy heart really makes it worse / ‘Til we found the only way for us to lift that curse / If we run to a place where they know our worth,” Dixon raps in the second verse. “Run, Run, Run” is honest, painful; Dixon is a wordsmith whose pen is unyielding. —Matt Mitchell

10. boygenius: “True Blue”
Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus brought the band back together with the first full-length album from their supergroup boygenius. the record came out earlier this year, and the trio gave us three songs right at the jump. “True Blue,” a standout from the album that was written by Dacus (who takes lead vocals on the track), is the one we have on repeat the most. “I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself,” she sings. “I remember who I am when I’m with you / Your love is tough, your love is tried and true blue,” she sings, finding comfort in a forever-friendship with Bridgers and Baker. The care and craft of a month in the studio comes through beautifully in the soaring anthem built on top of atmospheric guitar that gives weight to the sisterly love Dacus celebrates. —Josh Jackson

9. Bully: “Days Move Slow”
On her fourth record, Lucky for You, Alicia Bognanno, known by her solo project Bully, returned with a heavy, electric thud. Lead single “Days Move Slow,” truly encapsulates Bognanno’s ability to conjure the blueprint of 1990s textures and arrangements and fashion them into something contemporary and exciting. The song was written after the passing of her dog, Mezzi, and reckons with agony, unconditional love and acceptance in an immense way. “And I’m stuck somewhere in between / Your death and my lucid dream / I’m no help lately, I know / But I’m tired of trying to prove my worth / To be accepted on this earth / Baby, I’m ready to go,” Bognanno sings, in a delivery spread out across the ocean of feedback-laced guitars that have come to define her massive, relentless sound. —Matt Mitchell

8. Fever Ray: “Shiver”
“Shiver,” a richly emotive cut from Fever Ray’s Radical Romantics, is, all at once, horny and eery and catchy. Karin Dreijer, better known as Fever Ray, is a Swedish singer-songwriter recognized for their intense vocal acrobatics and gripping technological mutilations. “Shiver” describes, in painful, floaty detail the loneliness of the electronic age. “I just wanna be touched,” Ray implores, “I just wanna shiver / Can I trust you?” The track’s direction is predictably unpredictable, as flashes of synths collide with rhythmic drumming and carefully positioned negative space. The song wraps around itself, a desperately animal emotion swathed in intricate electropop. “Shiver” darkens into its own cloudy lust as the feeling fades, leaving the listener trembling a bit themselves.—Miranda Wollen

7. Caroline Polachek: “Welcome to My Island”
The opening tune from Desire, I Want to Turn Into You cheekily mocks Caroline Polachek’s own interiority while sounding like the number-one song on uncanny valley’s pop station. Dayglow synths twinkle in the background as she deadpans “Welcome to my island / Hope you like me / You ain’t leaving.” The only voice accompanying Polachek is a cheerleader chanting a backup vocal of “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” cobbled together from the intro of Pang’s acoustic ballad “Look At Me Now.” Polachek screams the album’s title during the chorus with frenzied abandon and, after the half-sung, half-rapped bridge, she plays an intentionally bad guitar solo—it’s camp! As the song effortlessly blows past big swing after big swing, this overstuffed, maximalist pop song succeeds despite itself. —Eric Bennett

6. Girl Scout: “Weirdo”
Girl Scout know how to make an outcast anthem. When Emma Jansson sings “I am just a woman / Who doesn’t feel like something real / And I don’t feel like a woman / I’m just a kid / Trying to stay hid / From everyone else,” you feel it deep within you. Their debut EP Real Life Human Garbage was a reliquary that spoke affectionately of how hindsight can be an unhinged and unrelenting presence in our lives, and, on “Weirdo,” the Swedish quartet especially lean into their own cringe with a purposeful wink. Jansson translates how social interactions have become skewed post-pandemic, as have our perceptions of ourselves. It’s all painfully honest and done up in a bow of alt-rock made by Northern Europe punks who went to jazz college. How poetic and peculiar, to capture melodrama in such a lighthearted, dynamic way that obliterates the very notion of “sad girl indie” altogether. —Matt Mitchell

5. Indigo De Souza: “Younger & Dumber”
What can be said about Indigo De Souza’s “Younger & Dumber” that hasn’t been said across the internet since it arrived earlier this year? It’s De Souza’s best work, and there’s so much catharsis in the track’s four-and-a-half-minute runtime that it feels inevitable that we will be talking about “Younger & Dumber” for a long time. You could pick any line from the song and it’ll feel right, but let me highlight these ones: “Sometimes I just don’t wanna be alone / And it’s not cause I’m lonely / It’s just cause I get so tired of filling the space all around me / And the love I feel is so powerful it’ll meet you anywhere / And the love I feel is so very real that it’ll drag you down.” De Souza went through loss, and thus her world was rendered unfamiliar. She perfectly translates the give-and-go of heartbreak, how closure and moving on are not easy hurdles. Her vocals are softer; the arrangements neat and low-key. “Younger & Dumber” is a ballad to its very core. What a power move, too, to release the closing track of your new record first. All of This Will End, De Souza’s awaited follow-up to her acclaimed sophomore LP Any Shape You Take, came out of the gate at the most emotional 11 you could ever imagine, and how lucky we are to have been able to witness that. —Matt Mitchell

4. Greg Mendez: “Maria”
Greg Mendez is not only one of our favorite releases of the year so far, but its collection of brisk, endearing folk tracks make its titular craftsman one of the most-beloved DIY staples in Philadelphia. The prolific singer/songwriter works through fragmented thoughtfulness and revels in the joy that rises from the ashes of hard damage. “Maria” is a direct look at addiction and heartbreak coupled with a poised, palpable delivery and caring eye. “Come back to me, because it’s easy / Come back to me, I’ll make you happy,” Mendez sings over a hazy fog that parallels the sparse backstory that muscles the track forward. —Matt Mitchell

3. feeble little horse: “Steamroller”
feeble little horse’s sophomore LP Girl with Fish was a welcomed return from our friendly, neighborhood noise harbingers. “Steamroller” is a face-melting affair, where vocalist Lydia Slocum marauds atop a cascade of distortion and wrestles with a mountain of shame she’s hoping to let go of. “Steamroller, you / Fuck like you’re eating / Your smile’s like / Lines in the concrete / Threw the towel in / I’m tired of baking / I’m the only one / Who sees me naked,” Slocum sings, patiently. Beyond the static wall and gnarly textures, there’s a poppy guitar solo from Ryan Walchonski dancing. “Steamroller” is one of feeble little horse’s best tracks. —Matt Mitchell

2. Ratboys: “Black Earth, Wi”
Chicago quartet Ratboys are putting out a new album—The Window—in August, and their first single “Black Earth, Wi” is an electric and ambitious eight-minute cut of heartland rock ‘n’ roll. With an explosive solo from Dave Sagan, a saucy bassline from Sean Neumann and vocalist Julia Steiner’s perfect twang, Ratboys couldn’t have picked a cooler way to re-emerge. It’s not a stretch to call it the band’s best song yet; what Steiner and company have assembled here is hypnotizing. When the band collapses into a sing-along harmony with the guitars around the six-minute mark, it’s ecstasy. “And if that mockingbird don’t sing / Watch her do the twist again / Does that Black Earth freak you out? / And if she’s twisted up too tight / Let the dawn cut through the night / Taken back, don’t leave me out,” Steiner croons, taking us all home. —Matt Mitchell

1. Wednesday: “Chosen to Deserve”
If you’ve ever tumbled through a world where a fast-food restaurant is one of the top hangout spots—or left high-school dances to go vape in friends’ basements—there’s a language that Karly Hartzman employs across Rat Saw God that is niche to outsiders but biblical to those in on the joke. “I used to drink ‘til I threw up at my parents’ house / My friends all took Benadryl ‘til they could see shit crawlin’ up the walls / One of those times my friend took a little too much / He had to get his stomach pumped,” she sings. It’s a track spearheaded by Xandy Chelmis’ country-drunk lap steel where—atop the gauze of her and Jake Lenderman’s dueting, Lynyrd Skynyrd-evoking, power-pop guitar riffs—Hartzman unleashes a psalm of coarseness no western outlaw would dare speak of. —Matt Mitchell

Check out our playlist of these 50 tracks below.

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