The 15 Best Songs of January

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The 15 Best Songs of January

January is the month that wipes the music slate clean and opens our ears to the first new sounds of the new year. With stellar new albums from Sharon Van Etten, Better Oblivion Community Center, Girlpool, Mike Krol and others already under our belt, this month also featured teases of new albums to come like Lizzo, Hand Habits and Stella Donnelly. Check out our 15 favorite tracks of January 2019 below, listed by release date and as chosen by the Paste Music Staff.

1. Noname:Song 31
Jan. 2

Noname dropped her first new song since the release of Room 25, which Paste ranked among 2018’s best hip-hop albums (not to mention its best albums, period). The song is as festive as the Chicago rapper is willing to get, calling out the capitalistic origins of Christmastime and all that it entails. “I sell pain for profit, not propaganda / I know cancer’s origin linked to Santa / I know Santa’s origins linked to money / Mass production of cattle / Slaughtering for the yummy,” she raps over smooth-soul beats from producer Phoelix. —Justin Kamp

2. Lizzo:Juice
Jan. 4

“Juice” is Lizzo’s fourth in a string of singles, including “Boys,” “Fitness,” and “Truth Hurts.” The “Juice” video, directed by Quinn Wilson, finds Lizzo performing across various staples of late-night television: talk shows, exercise videos, beauty auctions and cheesy infomercials alike. —Justin Kamp

3. Sharon Van Etten:Seventeen
Jan. 8

Sharon Van Etten shared the third single from the Remind Me Tomorrow, “Seventeen,” and an accompanying video directed by Maureen Towey. The intensity of “Seventeen” matches that of the two previously released singles, “Comeback Kid” and “Jupiter 4.” We’ve always counted on Van Etten to bring excellent lyrics and brooding melodies to the table, but we’ve never heard her like this—emboldened and chasing a darker, more driving strand of rock ‘n’ roll. “Seventeen” is almost Springsteen-esque in its grandiosity and nostalgia, though it’s more charged. —Ellen Johnson

4. Hand Habits:placeholder
Jan. 8

Hand Habits shared the details of their new album, placeholder, out on March 1 via Saddle Creek, along with the video for the title track. Hand Habits is the project of Meg Duffy, long-time guitarist in Kevin Morby’s live band, who released their debut album, Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void), on Woodsist Records in 2017. Their new track, “placeholder,” is a vessel of complex, ever-evolving emotion, warm vocals and dexterous guitar shrieks. Speaking of vessels, the Madeline Kenney-directed accompanying music video features Duffy wandering in a calming, nautical setting. —Lizzie Manno

5. Girlpool:What Chaos is Imaginary
Jan. 8

Los Angeles duo Girlpool released their third LP, What Chaos Is Imaginary, earlier this month via ANTI- Records. The latest single and title track opens with a moody organ before lyrics pour out freely like the somber, fragmentary inner-workings of someone experiencing an overwhelming onslaught of emotions. The track’s exquisite strings and sparse electronic percussion perfectly accent Harmony Tividad’s elegant cooing and Cleo Tucker’s soft, grizzly vocals. —Lizzie Manno

6. Pedro The Lion:My Quietest Friend
Jan. 9

“Quietest Friend,” is the third single from Pedro the Lion’s new LP, Phoenix—the band’s first in 15 years. “Quietest Friend” certainly delivers on the Seattle band’s characteristic sad-core indie vibe, with melancholic guitars cascading alongside introspective lyrics. According to a press release, the single primarily hangs its thematic hat on the idea of “having to be better to yourself in order to be better to others.” —Clare Martin

7. Stella Donnelly:Old Man
Jan. 9

On “Old Man,” the album opener off Beware of the Dogs, Stella Donnelly serves up more of that biting critique with extra helpings of humor and ballsiness. “Oh are you scared of me old man, or are you scared of what I’ll do?,” she sings, almost teasing, but meaning business. Another timely lyric follows: “You grabbed me with an open hand. The world is grabbing back at you.” Donnelly sings sweetly, but the men in her songs—ranging from a mean boss in “Mechanical Bull” to the powerful desk-dwellers in “Old Man”—are anything but. —Ellen Johnson

8. Taft:Winters
Jan. 10

Taft is the project of Austin-based singer/songwriter and former Lomelda member Taft Mashburn, and they’ve shared their latest single “Winters,” from their forthcoming third album, Goodnight, Plum, out on Feb. 22 via Cosmic Dreamer. There’s a graceful majesty and arresting melancholia to “Winters.” It won’t take very long for Mashburn’s striking falsetto and aching keyboards to seep into your inner core. His fragile croon is soul-stirring enough on its own, but the addition of a ravishing web of piano, atmospheric keyboards and off-the-wall percussion raises the track’s emotional impact at least tenfold. —Lizzie Manno

9. The Drums:Body Chemistry
Jan. 15

The Drums have shared the details of their fifth album, Brutalism, out on April 5 via ANTI- Records, and they’ve also unveiled the lead single, “Body Chemistry.” “Body Chemistry” was the first song written for the album, and on the track, Pierce addresses his depression and outside forces urging him to change his life. Pierce ponders what he really wants and to what extent his personal shortcomings are innate. Featuring a healthy mix of The Drums’ much-loved indie-pop spunk and bright new textures, The Drums sound as musically confident and lyrically woeful as ever. —Lizzie Manno

10. James Blake: “Mile High”
Jan. 17

Whenever James Blake collaborates with an artist outside his own genre, something amazing almost always happens. On his fourth album, the recent Assume Form, the British musician recruits a host of genre-diverse artists, including the soulful Moses Sumney, OutKast’s André 3000 and the Spanish star ROSALÍA, for appearances. The best of the features, though, is Travis Scott on the trappy slow-jam single “Mile High.” As Scott and Blake trade verses about outlasting the party, the song turns semi-psychedelic. They’re a match made in auto-tune heaven. —Ellen Johnson

11. Nilüfer Yanya:In Your Head
Jan. 22

London singer/songwriter Nilüfer Yanya announced her debut album, Miss Universe, out on March 22 via ATO Records. She also shared a new single and accompanying video, “In Your Head.” Filmed by longtime creative collaborator ENERGYFORCE, the video features the 23-year-old in Las Vegas, aka “Sin City.” The video’s overwhelming amalgamation of illuminated signs, pills, swimming pools and showers of cash gives a nod to the song’s anxious sentiment and Yanya’s warring inner thoughts. Yanya’s sassy, soaring vocals are the stuff of dreams and they blend seamlessly with the track’s funky ’80s guitars and celestial synths. —Lizzie Manno

12. Jenny Lewis:Red Bull & Hennessy
Jan. 23

Jenny Lewis’ new album On The Line is dropping on March 22 via Warner Bros. Records. The news arrived with the album’s first single, “Red Bull & Hennessy,” Lewis’ first new music since her 2014 album The Voyager. On this love song-turned-party song, she makes an invigorated return in a fit of bluesy electric guitar, “high on Red Bull and Hennessy.” She teases and taunts (“Don’t you wanna kiss me? Don’t you wanna even try?”), only to proclaim she’s “higher than you.” After five silent years, the singer/songwriter and former Rilo Kiley frontwoman is back and burning brighter than ever. —Ellen Johnson

13. Toy: “Sequence One”
Jan. 25

Toy have always dabbled in the sinister, but the British psych quintet’s fourth album, Happy in the Hollow, is their most wholehearted embrace of ominous murk. Knowingly or not, “Sequence One” provides a sturdy example of the album’s lyrical dynamic (”Smokey sentimental crush / Turns into atomic sludge”). Toy never fully commit to dewy-eyed romance or moody, winding sci-fi and instead, they occupy an arresting lyrical middle ground between the tangible and intangible. Their motorik rhythms, gloomy guitar work and Dougall’s spectral vocals result in a creepy aura while their various synths and keyboards either enhance its hair-raising quality or counteract it with shimmering pop crescendos. —Lizzie Manno

14. Mike Krol: “Power Chords”
Jan. 25

Fuzzy garage rock has rarely contained this much wistful heartache. Mike Krol’s grubby rock is better when its knees are scraped, eyes are bloodshot and heart is ripped open, and the title track to his new album, Power Chords is wonderfully grimy. “Power Chords” is the epitome of garage rock perfection. It might be a little anticlimactic to place the record’s firm top dog as the album opener, but it’s impossible to delete the fuzzy chorus from your brain. —Lizzie Manno

15. Better Oblivion Community Center:Dylan Thomas
Jan. 29

Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst unveiled their video for “Dylan Thomas,” the lead single off Better Oblivion Community Center’s self-titled debut, surprise-released last month. Sure enough, the Michelle Zauner-directed video finds Bridgers and Oberst showing up to a gig at a swanky establishment—the Better Oblivion Community Center itself—only to find they’ve been booked to perform at what looks like a very genial cult meet-up taking place inside David Lynch’s brain. The musicians and their cultist audience wear blindfolds and VR goggles interchangeably, playing eyeball bingo and doing trust falls, until Bridgers and Oberst come face-to-face with the smirking observer who would appear to be the author of all this oddity. The video ends with the duo doing the only reasonable thing: fleeing the Better Oblivion Community Center without another glance in its direction. —Scott Russell

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