Best New Songs (Feb. 16, 2023)

Music Lists Best New Songs
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Best New Songs (Feb. 16, 2023)

At Paste Music, we’re listening to so many new tunes on any given day, we barely have any time to listen to each other. Nevertheless, every week we can swing it, we take stock of the previous seven days’ best tracks, delivering a weekly playlist of our favorites. Check out this week’s 11 best new songs, in alphabetical order. And check out the best new albums from the current week.

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

Bill Orcutt: “A Natural Death”

Indefatigable guitarist Bill Orcutt has a new album coming in April and returns to solo acoustic mode, something he hasn’t done in at least a decade. But unlike his previous record in that vein—a deconstruction of American standards—he’s restrained and lyrical here, playing with an understated grace that evokes the work of Leo Kottke and William Ackerman. —Robert Ham

Listen on Bandcamp.

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

Ezra Williams: “Deep Routed”

Perhaps you are more familiar with Williams’ former stage name, Smoothboi Ezra. Nonetheless, the Irish singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has returned with not just a new name, but their first single since their debut EP Stuck, too. “Deep Routed” is a lovely nugget of blissful indie rock. Williams’ vocals are lush and perfect, as they examine heartbreak and trauma through a long line of questioning. “Why can’t I let myself like it / If it’s what I dream I need / Why am I so scared to keep it / I’m only numb to the touch that’s not meant to cause pain / I don’t recognize the feeling so it just goes away,” they sing. “Deep Routed” is the perfect introduction to Williams’ next chapter. When they sing “Why can’t I change” three times over, there is such an unshakable notch of truth, hope and agony in their cadence. “I wrote this about trying to deal with things from past relationships while also trying to give your all to someone new,” Williams said of the track in a statement. “Deep Routed” is beautiful, to say the least. A brisk four minutes of serene guitars and echo chamber vocal contortions, the song will stick with you—and I swear, if you don’t let it… —Matt Mitchell

JFDR: “Spectator”

JFDR, the stage name of Icelandic experimental artist Jófríður Ákadóttir, has a new record, Museum, on the way in late April. The second single, “Spectator,” is a shuddering, monumental slice of baroque chamber pop. Across the entire track, JFDR’s vocals carry like wind. “I’m caught in between / Feeling the feelings / Of everyone except my own,” she sings. JFDR is truly marvelous and singular here in a performance that is chilling and cathartic. And, as the title suggests, she is outside of herself, looking in on a life where her needs and wants have grown secondary. “‘Spectator’ is an anthem for the codependent, a lullaby for the ones slightly codependent and for those who have never felt it, a mirror into the raw thought process of someone deep in the trenches of it,” JFDR said in a statement. With arrangements like a Joanna Newsom suite and vocals like Carrie & Lowell-era Sufjan Stevens, JFDR delivers a sermon on healing that perfectly pairs with the dainty, harmonious lead single, “The Orchid.” —Matt Mitchell

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

Pile: “Lowered Rainbow”

With the release of All Fiction on the very near horizon, Boston rock outfit Pile have offered one final single: “Lowered Rainbow.” The track is a bit of a slowburn. There is no climax. No swell of gargantuan, cosmic guitars and percussion. Instead, it’s a patient, mesmerizing dream of post-punk. Kris Kuss’ drum work is top notch here, while some flickers of piano hum ever-so-delicately. “Musically, this one took a bunch of different shapes before it landed the way it did on the record,” vocalist Rick Maguire said in a statement. “The structure of the song didn’t really change much from when it was written so most of the alterations made were textural, and we pushed it further than a lot of other songs we have. Lyrically, it’s about cults, conspiracy theories, and the trend toward increasingly imaginative beliefs about reality.” Indeed, it’s a highlight of the record, as it deviates from the more industrial, jagged tones of “Poison” and the atmospheric falsetto harmonies on “Nude with a Suitcase.” Pile are at an all-time high here, even though they’ve opted to not arrive so loud. —Matt Mitchell

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

Scree: “Beautiful Days”

Arab-American guitarist Ryan El-Solh leads a new trio whose sound suggests jazz but never truly settles into one tidy genre category. Their debut album, as proven out by this gorgeous track, meanders all over the map, stopping briefly in ambient, avant-garde and near-ppp territory. Sparking their creative pursuits is Mahmoud Darwish, a poet from Palestine whose seemingly simple verses drip with the joy and anguish of being alive in our modern age. — Robert Ham

Steve Mason w/ Javid Bashir: “Brixton Fish Fry”

Have you missed out on the work that Steve Mason has done since the dissolution of his polyglot ensemble Beta Band? It’s time to play catch up, then. And the perfect starting point is this new track from his forthcoming solo effort Brothers & Sisters (out March 3). Working with Pakistani singer Javid Bashir, Mason cooked up a rolling track inspired by his love of South Asian culture and his frustration of the direction his home country is headed post-Brexit. Rather than bemoan, however, he finds the beating heart of the nation, which has been kept alive through the marvelous array of cultures that have blended together on the island. —Robert Ham