The 10 Best Songs of February 2023

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The 10 Best Songs of February 2023

Artists from across the musical spectrum packed a lot of great new music into the shortest month, and we’ve compiled our favorites into the 10 best songs of February. From longtime favorites like Ben Folds and Natalie Merchant to newcomers like Indigo de Souza and Wednesday, check out the songs that stuck with us last month. And listen to our Best Songs of February 2023 playlist on Spotify.

Ben Folds: “Winslow Gardens”
After eight years, Ben Folds is returning with a new album What Matters Most. Its first single, “Winslow Gardens,” is a light, springy tune backed by his iconic keys. The lyrics hint at a couple going away for a trip and finding themselves in that place much longer than expected. Ten weeks turns to ten years, while it all feels like just ten minutes—you lose track of time as small routines with your loved ones become the only things that matter. The swirling, repetitive melody at the end of the chorus, “You started all over / We’ve started all over again,” makes you feel like you’re in a that time loop with the characters—and it’s not particularly a bad feeling, but a comforting one. —Rayne Antrim

Bully: “Lose You” (ft. Soccer Mommy)
Alicia Bognanno, better known as Bully, hasn’t put out a record since 2020. That project, SUGAREGG, was a great garage-rock moment that oozed summer anthems and made fans eager for what might come next. On her new single “Lose You,” the vibes have not shifted at all. In fact, she and Sophie Allison of Soccer Mommy have joined forces to make an energetic track that showcase’s Bognanno’s towering vocals. Even though Bognanno has been putting out albums since 2015, “Lose You” is one of the best Bully songs yet. This isn’t the first time that Bully and Soccer Mommy have come together to make tunes. Last fall, the two Nashville rockers joined Sad13 and Snail Mail to cover Pavement’s “Grounded” at the band’s NYC pop-up museum. “Lose You” sounds like a perfect blend of the two bands’ work, with fuzzed-out, simmering guitars and gritty vocals paired with a catchy power-pop hook. “My sense of self is fading somehow / I’m free from the sound / No one’s divided and nobody’s waiting,” Bognanno sings, before a powerful solo brings the track home. —Matt Mitchell

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. Now the Los Angeles band returns 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

Indigo De Souza: “Younger & Dumber”
What can be said about Indigo De Souza’s new single, “Younger & Dumber,” that hasn’t been said across the internet over the last 24 hours? It would be too premature to call it De Souza’s best work yet, but 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 has gone through loss, and thus her world looks unfamiliar now. 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 lowkey. “Younger & Dumber” is a ballad to its very core. What a power move, too, to release the closing track of your forthcoming record first. All of This Will End, De Souza’s awaited follow-up to her acclaimed sophomore LP Any Shape You Take, comes out of the gate at the most emotional 11 you could ever imagine, and how lucky we are to have that. —Matt Mitchell

Jason Isbell: “Death Wish”
Jason Isbell is back with a new album, Weathervanes, his sixth with his Muscle Shoals band the 400 Unit—Sadler Vaden, Jimbo Hart, Derry deBorja and Chad Gamble—and his ninth overall since leaving the Drive-By Truckers. “Did you ever love a woman with a death wish / Something in her eyes like switching off a light switch,” he sings to open the first single, “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.”

Mega Bog: “The Clown”
Idaho experimentalist Erin Birgy, aka Mega Bog, is back with one of her best songs ever. “The Clown,” 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 in a statement. 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. “The Clown” is playful, sublime and colorful. Turmoil is clearly on Birgy’s mind. Lucky for us, she’s translated it into something wonderfully digestible. We are in Birgy’s shoes, feeling what she feels, dancing cautiously as the world relentlessly curls inward. —Matt Mitchell

Natalie Merchant w/ Abena Koomson-Davis: “Come On, Aphrodite”
In the years since we’ve last heard from Natalie Merchant, the former front woman for college-rock mainstays 10,000 Maniacs and celebrated solo artist, her voice has become seasoned and artfully weathered. The bell-like tones have evolved into a sound that is thicker and brassier. However that voice sounds, it still carries a great deal of emotive weight and it pairs well with others, such as her duet partner on “Come On, Aphrodite” the latest single from her forthcoming album Keep Your Courage. Merchant and Abena Koomson-Davis, a poet and performer best known for her work in the off-Broadway production of Fela!, trade off verses seeking guidance and assistance from the titular goddess of love and beauty. The combination of voices is enlivening and sneaks plenty of sharp edges in among the smoother elements of this folk-pop delight. —Robert Ham

Rodrigo y Gabriela: “Descending to Nowhere”
Mexican guitar virtuosos Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero are back with their first album in four years. The duo produced the upcoming album, In Between Thoughts… A New World, at their studio in Ixtapa, and it sees them “expanding their traditional approach to include inventive electronic and orchestral elements,” according to a statement from the band. The first single, “Descending To Nowhere” boasts an irresistible groove that builds and ebbs as it showcases delicious electric licks and the promised orchestral swells. —Josh Jackson

Wednesday: “Bath County”
After “Bull Believer” and “Chosen to Deserve,” North Carolina rockers Wednesday are back with another heatseeking missile of a song before the release of their fourth album in as many calendar years, Rat Saw God. “Bath County” claws tooth and nail at your ears, as the track swells like a nasalled indie folk arrangement before crescendoing into a blistering breakdown of grunge and shoegaze. Karly Hartzman’s vocals strain and crackle power, while Jake Lenderman’s guitar work is sludgy and unforgettable. Like most of Wednesday’s songs, this one contains vivid, evocative imagery, like “piss-colored bright yellow Fanta,” courtesy of Hartzman’s sharp eye for the sublime details and poetic grit. Inspired by a true story, “Bath County” ditches Hartzman’s normal M.O. of writing about the past. “This is a song I wrote on a porch in Bath County, Virginia, when me and Jake were visiting Jake’s mom’s hometown. It includes some imagery I saw on that trip as well as a description of a guy we saw overdosed in a parking lot early one morning on our way to Dollywood,” she explained in a statement. With Rat Saw God on the near horizon, few acts are as captivating as Wednesday at this very moment. —Matt Mitchell

Whitney: “For a While”
It hasn’t been long since Chicago outfit Whitney released their fourth LP, SPARK last fall. Even so, in the wake of that record’s singularity, color and intimacy, the band bring forward “For A While,” a track they’ve been playing live for over seven years. They’d written it around the time of their 2016 debut, Light Upon the Lake, but had never given it a proper studio recording. The song, in its purest form, is an emblem of the first two Whitney records: sun-soaked and brimming with clean, airy guitars that contort delicately. Drummer and vocalist Julien Ehrlich’s singing is in peak form, as he races across the octaves of a lush falsetto, while Max Kakacek plucks richly beside him. Though SPARK took big swings at electronic glory, here we get Whitney going back to the basics. It’s not a signal that they’re retreating back to their old sound for good; rather, it’s them giving a beloved live tune its day in the sun. And how lucky we are to watch “For A While” swallow it whole. —Matt Mitchell

Listen to our Best Songs of November 2022 playlist on Spotify.

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