The 15 Best Songs of October 2022

Featuring Caroline Polachek, Jamila Woods, Frankie Cosmos and more

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The 15 Best Songs of October 2022

We’ll cut straight to it: You’ve opened a list of excellent songs. Some of them appear on our favorite October albums, while others are harbingers of exciting albums to come. There are reworks and collaborations here. There are quick-hitters and epics. There’s rock, hip-hop, pop. Songs of love and loss. Some may already be favorites of yours, while others will be new to you. Be good to your ears via Paste’s top 15 songs of October below.

Listen to our Best Songs of October 2022 playlist on Spotify here.

Alvvays: “After The Earthquake”

Released as the fifth and final single ahead of their new album Blue Rev, “After The Earthquake” finds Alvvays picking up the pieces after disaster. Molly Rankin and Alec O’Hanley intertwine their exhilarating jangle-pop guitar riffs over drummer Sheridan Riley and bassist Abbey Blackwell’s thrumming low end, all in service of “a rapid fire recital of drive-thru breakdown, tectonic breakup and boyfriend in a coma brake failure,” as the quintet describe it. The racing song screeches to a halt in its bridge, bringing Kerri MacLellan’s solemn keys to the forefront, as well as Rankin’s plaintive considerations of the painful fallout of loving and losing: “Why would I ever fall in love again / When every detail is over the guardrail?” Before you know it, the track is back at full throttle and beyond, fearlessly moving forward into its uncertain future. —Scott Russell

Badge Époque Ensemble & Lammping feat. Boldy James and Roshin: “Naturally Conspiring”

What’s still pretty new is made newer still on “Naturally Conspiring,” the first single from Badge Époque Ensemble’s forthcoming remix project Clouds of Joy: Chance of Reign. The nine-track collaboration with their fellow Toronto act Lammping sends the Ensemble’s acclaimed September release in a more hip-hop-centric direction: “Naturally Conspiring” flips a dreamy sample of Clouds of Joy opener “Conspiring With Nature,” recruiting Boldy James and Roshin to rap over it. Their cool, collected deliveries are the ideal complement to a jazzy, ambling instrumental, which Lammping continuously tinkers with, as if in conversation with the guest emcees. If Boldy James and Roshin move slowly on this song, it’s only because they don’t have to move for anybody, and Badge Époque Ensemble and Lammping give them the hazy fanfare to match. —Scott Russell

Caroline Polachek: “Sunset”

Caroline Polachek is back with “Sunset,” her third proper single since the 2019 release of her debut album under her own name, Pang. Released alongside a music video, the track has a lot to live up to: Its predecessors “Bunny Is a Rider” and “Billions” were among Paste’s top songs of 2021 and 2022 (at mid-year), respectively. Co-produced by Polachek and Sega Bodega, “Sunset” is a bewitching, escapist swerve that sets the singer’s ethereal voice against a bright and breezy instrumental. Acoustic guitar dances across handclaps and a Balearic beat, as Polachek serenades a lover who gives her hope when nothing else feels right: “But boy, your patience is a magic and a medicine / ‘Cause every spiral brings me back into your arms again / No regrets, ‘cause you’re my sunset / Fiery red, forever fearless,” she sings, punctuating each chorus by urging, “Don’t look back, let’s ride away.” Polachek alludes subtly to the darkness of modern times, but never lets them cloud the halcyon track, instead finding peace and joy in passionate love. —Scott Russell

Crooks & Nannies: “Sorry”

There are times in life—only once in a while, if you’re lucky—when we each realize we’re not okay, and don’t know what to do about it. For Sam Huntington of Crooks & Nannies, such a time came in 2018, when she “had recently made the decision to stop ignoring the fact that I was transgender but was struggling to grapple with what that meant for me personally, and was feeling a lot of frustration toward myself for not having figured it out.” She wrote “Sorry” in one sitting, the first (and only) time she’s done so, then demoed it right away—the vocal take from that demo appears on the finished track, released ahead of the band’s No Fun EP (Jan. 13, 2023, Grand Jury Music). Huntington and Madel Rafter sing in unison about being an exposed nerve in human form, ashamed of even existing (“I’m sorry for all that I am / And everything I’ve ever done”) and unable to stop “letting feeling spill.” Meanwhile, a lone acoustic guitar explodes into a full band in the chorus, then reverts in each verse, as if the instrumental, too, is being contorted by raw emotion. But it’s in the chorus that “Sorry” shines brightest: “And fuck that’s a hard one / I don’t have an answer / I’m just glad you’re here / Hold me close larger dancer,” Crooks & Nannies sing, finding a spark of hope in each other. —Scott Russell

Dry Cleaning: “No Decent Shoes for Rain”

Dry Cleaning guitarist Tom Dowse once told Paste, “I’m not really interested in being a technical guitarist, I’m much more interested in how much I can communicate emotionally through a guitar.” His playing on “No Decent Shoes for Rain”—the fourth (and presumably final) single ahead of the band’s sophomore album Stumpwork, due out next week—is perhaps his most expressive yet, setting the track’s blearily downcast tone alongside Florence Shaw’s bummed-out vocals. Like the unfortunate, ill-prepared pedestrian its title implies, the song finds Dry Cleaning assuming the perspective of someone emotionally unprepared for what life has thrown at them—this is rooted in truth, as the quartet made Stumpwork after having lost both bassist Lewis Maynard’s mother and Dowse’s grandfather. The result, on “No Decent Shoes for Rain,” is unlike anything in the band’s burgeoning catalog: Dowse, Maynard and drummer Nick Buxton lay down a groove that warps and blurs like wet newsprint, while Shaw’s knowing non-sequiturs (“I’ve seen a guy cautioned by police for rollerblading”) cover, but can’t quite obscure the cold, hard truth: “My poor heart is breaking.” —Scott Russell

Frankie Cosmos: “Empty Head”

The new Frankie Cosmos tune and its title certainly at first feel like a shrug of the shoulders, but the song quickly reveals itself to be saturated with empathy. Frontwoman Greta Kline sings in a way where you can’t quite tell if she’s reached a languorous peace or just returned from a really good cry. She reassures the listener that, “It’s okay not to sing a song / About everything / All the time.” The track as a whole, as it lurches between quiet sections filled with piano and gently reaffirming bass, and uptempo parts perfect to wiggle around to, provides this space for a big deep breath. It asks you to allow yourself to take a break from this relentless drive for productivity built into us; making your blood levels jump with the changes in tempo and feel, it still manages to calm the activity in your veins for at least a bit. The piano lends an easily drifting, sweetly dreamy quality to the arrangement, and the instrumentals of the track make it feel like a heavy kind of floating. The lyrics are so simple, with such purpose and hope for just the smallest reprieve from stress that it sort of breaks your heart, as Kline sings, “I’m always bursting at the seams / I’ll tell you all about my dreams / I wish that I could quiet it / Accept a little silence.” The song feels like an enthusiastic drawing done by a child: simple, but full of emotion, intent and message. —Rosa Sofia Kaminski

The Go! Team feat. Star Feminine Band: “Look Away, Look Away”

Released in the truest days of autumn, this track seems to recall something playing out of your car on the way to the beach. Filled with the clamor that The Go! Team seem to know how to perfectly balance every time, there is pure fun in the release of this song. Made in collaboration with Benin-based Star Feminine Band, it feels like a song that has to be listened to as a group, dancing with friends or singing along together. Go! Team leader Ian Parton explains the collaboration: “They’re a group of girls between the ages of 12 and 19, and were formed by the father of two of the girls in the group who was hoping to inspire change in the way women and girls were treated in Benin. He founded a free music school for girls with the help of the local government, which is where the Star Feminine Band was born … A month later a team traveled from the capital of Benin to their hometown with a mobile sound recording setup to record their vocals, with the lyrics written by the band in French. They gave it a charging, all-out gang vocal that I wasn’t expecting but really love.” And there is this all-together frenzy found, a completely electric energy sparked by the two groups’ collaboration. Together with The Go! Team’s last single “Divebomb,” the band are building worthy excitement for their forthcoming album. —Rosa Sofia Kaminski

Jamila Woods: “Boundaries”

Prentis Hemphill once wrote, “Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.” This idea of walls built not to keep two people apart, but rather to keep them together inspired Chicago singer/songwriter and poet Jamila Woods, whose resulting single “Boundaries” is her first solo release since 2020’s “SULA (Paperback).” Produced by BLVK, the song builds from a sparse, yet soulful combination of Spanish guitar and tapped hand percussion, the instrumental gradually blossoming as Woods enters. Her velvety vocals wrestle with the question of “How close is too close?”—she sings, “I keep you on the outside / From far enough away you seem pristine / There’ll never be a downside / I’d hate to find a reason I should leave,” expressing these fears of loss the best way she knows how. As the beat beneath her expands and contracts like a living thing, Woods repeats her verses as if locked in an internal debate with no resolution, concluding the tune by simply insisting, “Boundaries, boundaries.” —Scott Russell

Julianna Riolino: “Isn’t It a Pity”

No matter where you are or what you’re doing, you’ll feel yourself moving to Julianna Riolino’s (of The Outfit) newest single, “Isn’t It A Pity.” It just feels easy, while not getting so simple that it’s boring. The guitar provides an easy groove, almost as if she’s asking you to sing along. “Isn’t it a pity?” she opens the song, singing so naturally that you feel inclined to agree. She continues with beautifully sensory lyrics, putting everything in tactile terms that instinctually make sense: “Isn’t it a shame / Spring has risen over this game / Memory in motion / A carpenter of sound / Awakening my ears / Lays my body down.” The soft country-rock lends a warmth to listening, like stretching out muscles you haven’t used in a while. This track is her last single before the release of her album All Blue, out Oct. 14 on You’ve Changed Records. There’s a certain resignation to it, allowing the seasons to change even through her reluctance. But her tone assures you that she remains an active participant in her life, rather than allowing it to carry her. Her vivid imagery will stick with the listener, accompanying you comfortably. —Rosa Sofia Kaminski

Midwife: “Sickworld”

Remember the early days of the pandemic, when all we wanted to know was when things would “go back to normal”? It turns out the answer was “never,” and we’re now stuck in some uncanny in-between zone—neither normal, nor abnormal, but a secret third thing. The first single from Madeline Johnston’s Midwife since her 2021 album Luminol crystallizes this strange fate in song, stretching the artist’s self-described “heaven metal” across seven minutes that are both crushing and ethereal. “Don’t tell me about the future / Don’t ask me about the past / I don’t want to stay here / But I can’t go back,” Johnston drones through the glittering dark, a hypnotic guitar arpeggio looping infinitely beneath her, with synths amassing slowly in the distance. The instrumental breaks apart into outright beauty only after Johnston has offloaded her most disturbing observations (“I’m like a disease / The whole world is sick / I think I’m coming down / I’m coming down with it”), as gorgeous strings herald the track’s mesmerizing final act. —Scott Russell

SAULT: “Angel”

The enigmatic U.K. band SAULT have once again released an unexpected new track via their own Forever Living Originals, this one clocking in at just over 10 minutes. Produced by Inflo, “Angel” features London singer/songwriter Jack Peñate and Jamaican reggae artist Chronixx, according to its credits. The song moves as though composed of three different songs, producing a total evolution over the course of just the one track. The instrumentation remains spare, with bass and guitar shifting into quiet piano as the track progresses. It often sounds as though vocalist Chronixx is singing into a large, empty hall, performing for an empty audience. “My little brother was an angel to me,” he repeats in the first third, on a track filled with tension about the gun-induced death of a younger brother, as a choir sings, “Run to save your life.” On the next portion, voices guide us toward Zion, producing a gentle, transitory interlude and continuing the storyline. Delicate harmonies make the spare arrangements seem softer, with the piano shifting into soft bass beneath a spoken-word part advising us to “Go gently, and find your way,” and easing the listener into the third part of the track. Here, the singer’s voice is raw and vulnerable, strong in that they are singing even though their voice might break at any moment. Even with simple repetitive lyrics, the story is told so intimately that it feels like it happened to someone you know. —Rosa Sofia Kaminski

Sour Widows: “I-90”

Bay Area rock trio Sour Widows are back with their second new single of the year, out now alongside an animated lyric video. Like this summer’s “Witness” before it, “I-90” was produced in collaboration with Oakland-based engineer Maryam Qudus (Toro y Moi, SASAMI, Spacemoth). Sour Widows’ Maia Sinaiko says of the song, written in 2017 after their partner’s tragic passing: “The endlessness of grief supersedes the normal passage of time and the people we lose remain in places we can never go back to. It’s magic and terrible all at once; that is what this song is about.” Sour Widows build a characteristically dynamic memorial to those lost moments on “I-90,” the instrumental marching forward unafraid, much like Sinaiko journeying back into their precious, painful memories. The band’s luminous slowcore expands and contracts like a lung, with steady bass from Will Bohrer and atmospheric synth from Qudus expanding its dimensions. Meanwhile, Sinaiko’s songwriting shines: They zero in on the kind of details that make it feel like you’re right there in the backseat, singing, “I wonder what it felt like asleep in that car / While I drove by all the cold cattle / Could you feel them breathing?” Crashing choruses let the track’s passion shine through, as do a hauntingly beautiful instrumental bridge and an explosive climax: “I’m all emptied out / Like the freeway / You keep driving down,” Sinaiko sings just before the track explodes into distorted electric strums and a vocal shout-along, one last gasp. —Scott Russell

Westerman: “Idol; RE-run”

For people the world over, Jan. 6, 2021, was a day dominated by feelings of disillusionment and anger, watching helplessly as a violent mob swarmed the U.S. Capitol like ants at a picnic. South London-born and Athens, Greece-based Westerman channeled those and other feelings into “Idol; RE-run,” his first new single in two years, which he co-produced alongside James Krivchenia. Over finger-picked acoustic guitar, skittering percussion, serene piano and synth, and contemplative trombone, Westerman considers what he calls “the compulsion towards the pedestal [and] the need to scapegoat and revere without logic,” immortalizing the sheer human suffering (“All the pain / The doubt”) that crashes against the bulwarks of society, provoked by leaders who wield outsized power in both our lives and minds. The song’s jazz-inflected folk gains momentum as it goes, while Westerman takes repeated aim at the cheap facades these figureheads erect for themselves: “There goes a juggling bear / There’s always going to be another,” he sings, mocking the falsehood of political theater without losing sight of its price: “People die waiting / For the lighting to come back / This way.” —Scott Russell

Weyes Blood: “Grapevine”

Weyes Blood’s (aka Natalie Mering) voice has always been an illumination, wavering delicately among her surrounding folk-pop instrumentals. Her newest track, “Grapevine,” upholds this legacy of hers. With an orchestral backing, complete with bells and swooping synth, this track builds up to a magnificent crescendo, with Mering’s voice guiding the way. The lyrics describe a love epic, taking place on the road, with lines like “California’s my body / And your fire runs over me” giving you a sense of place, while leaving you with goosebumps. Mering herself searches throughout this entire track, singing, “When I see the light / Shining across the freeway late at night / Start to drift over the line / And it hits me for the first time / Now we’re just two cars passing by / On the Grapevine.” Her yearning sears into you, carving through the layers of the song decisively, making everything point toward her loved one. Mering explains the tragic note embedded in the song, saying, “Technology is harvesting our attention away from each other. We all have a ‘Grapevine’ entwined around our past with unresolved wounds and pain. Being in love doesn’t necessarily mean being together.” —Rosa Sofia Kaminski

Wild Pink: “The Grass Widow in the Grass Window”

Picking up right where A Billion Little Lights left off, ILYSM finds John Ross once again staring into the cosmos and the infinite abyss, looking towards the moon as a companion and the night sky as a link to all of humanity. Early on in the writing process for ILYSM, Ross was diagnosed with cancer, and there are moments on almost every song where you can hear him grappling with this diagnosis and trying to make sense of it all. In spite of its tough subject matter, or perhaps because of it, ILYSM is a record brimming with hope and a newfound appreciation for life itself. Songs like “Hold My Hand,” a duet with Julien Baker, and the hauntingly beautiful “St. Beater Camry,” which features vocals from Samantha Crain, take a more laid-back sonic approach which, in turn, makes them all the more effective as Ross shares some of his most vulnerable lyrics to date. These tracks in particular serve as further proof that no matter how complex the band’s arrangements have grown, the humanistic qualities of their songs have always endured. However, it isn’t until “The Grass Widow in the Glass Window” that Ross delivers one of the record’s most devastating lines: “Now is not for the faint of heart / They’ll put you on a shelf / If you can’t just shut the fuck up and be alone with yourself.” —Michael Brooks

Listen to our Best Songs of October 2022 playlist on Spotify here.