Last week, we counted down the best Christmas albums of all time, because holiday music can very often be horrible and we are trying to help you out. Last month also brought some new holiday music our way, and great news: It’s not awful! Kacey Musgraves recorded a new Christmas classic, “Glittery,” as part of her Amazon special, and the melody has been twinkling in our heads so much we included it here among all the regular old non-holiday songs. Among those is a daring new song from Soccer Mommy, HAIM’s display of their folksier side, Pillow Queens’ message of fraternal devotion and Moses Sumney’s study of nature and the body. Hear all those and more below.
Listen to our Best Songs of November 2019 playlist on Spotify right here.
On “Try Again,” Shauf finds himself “somewhere between drunkenness and chivalry,” as he uses his charming storytelling style to describe a surprise interaction with his ex. His lightly sung reflections describe his character as self-conscious—attempting a bad British accent, holding a smile a little too long—and as the night continues, he realizes this reunion has caused dormant emotions to resurface. In the end, Shauf resigns himself to the strange experience, singing, “I make a silent toast to the things that I do and don’t miss.” Despite the dejection, the song conjures a cheerful atmosphere with energetic riffs breaking up each verse. —Hayden Goodridge
Frank Ocean has a way of dropping singles randomly with little fanfare, and at first listen these one-offs very often sound familiar—at least within Frank’s catalogue. But listen more carefully to “In My Room,” the second of two singles to be released this year, and you’ll find this manic, shimmery sleeper sounds like something entirely its own. Whether or not it’s a piece of a larger forthcoming project is still unclear, but, for now, this is bewitching trap number is enough to keep me satisfied. —Ellen Johnson
Superimposing a particular famous line (“Here comes the sun”) with a darkly humorous one (“Here comes the shit again”) is just one of the compelling tactics Greet Death employ on their fiery album New Hell. Surrounded by fuzzy guitars and tender vocals on “Do You Feel Nothing?,” the Michigan trio are terrified of an emotional emptiness that has swallowed them whole. If healing or escapism aren’t options anymore, they ponder whether nothing’s left but madness. They put themselves down (“I hate my friends / Cause they don’t hate themselves / And they shut me up / I want to be like them”) for their own shortcomings, but it’s hard to imagine people with this much beautifully articulated passion actually being empty. —Lizzie Manno
“I met two angels, but they were in disguise,” Danielle Haim soulfully begins her band’s new track, “Hallelujah,” written with her sisters, Este and Alana Haim, along with their friend and fellow songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr. The track is highly personal in a different way than their latest poppy single “Now I’m in It,” which the band described as highlighting experiences with dark depression. “Hallelujah” is a celebration of the highs of life that can be found in others and recognizing the luck of having such people. Lyrics like “Laughing together like our thoughts are harmonized” evoke visions of joy that sound how golden hour looks in California, and the slow simplicity, yet monumental meaning of the track makes it reminiscent of Stevie Nicks’ twangy longing on the Fleetwood Mac classic “Landslide.” —Rachel Singh
Hoops’ groovy comeback track foregrounds Keagan Beresford’s array of retro synths and Kevin Krauter’s deft bass playing, de-emphasizing the band’s trademark washed-out guitars for the most part. The result lands halfway between Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” and Passion Pit’s “Sleepyhead,” with a carefree Krauter singing, “They say / the very best in life is free / No need to compromise a thing / so, baby, wipe those tears away.” It’s good to have Hoops back.—Scott Russell
The highlight in The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show tracklist, which was also released separately as a recorded entity on DSPs, is “Glittery,” Musgraves’ new holiday original written especially for the occasion. It’s a tuneful love song coated in chocolate and bespeckled with powdered sugar which she performs here with pop singer Troye Sivan. It feels like a new romantic holiday staple à la Ella Fitzgerald’s recording of “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm,” or a much less problematic version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” These harmonies? Shiver-worthy—and consensual! —Ellen Johnson
“Fool’s Gold” is Lucy Dacus’ ode to the New Year and a high point of her 2019 mini-album. After a little glimmering piano, she comes in on warm, thrumming guitar, slowly peeling back the gilded layer covering up one of the most hollow holidays. No matter what year it is at the stroke of midnight, “He’ll blame the alcohol / And you’ll blame the full moon,” she reminds us, before declaring, “You say that it’s all the same, all glittering fool’s gold.” —Clare Martin
Miranda Lambert knows no genre on her latest album Wildcard. Her voice slips into a classic country rock squawk on the dusty railway jingle “Locomotive,” and after hearing the fuzzy heartland musings on “Track Record,” I’ll be damned if she hasn’t been blasting The War on Drugs for the better part of two years. It’s the kind of big-bodied rock song that could be all over alternative radio, but the country magic and Lambert’s down-home explanation of her heartbreak addiction are what make this tune a keeper. —Ellen Johnson
“Virile” is a term used to describe a male with a strong sexual attraction—something that Sumney has no problem conveying through his vocal and physical performances. The song opens with a strange wail from the singer before a gleefully plucked harp begins the movement. “Virile” is undoubtedly spiritual, with a focus on the connection between earth and the body: Sumney sings, “And I realize now / That none of this matters / ‘Cause I will return / The dust and matter.” The song displays opulent orchestration, with harp, flute, piano and vocal harmonies intermingling in a smooth, symbiotic bliss. —Hayden Goodridge
“Brothers” is both heartfelt and heartbroken—Pillow Queens find solace in friendship, leaning on their companions (and each other) as they bear life’s burdens together. “Hold up your hands, shoulder the week,” they harmonize, “I love my brothers and my brothers love me.” The band recorded the single—their first since the September release of “HowDoILook”—at Attica Studios, Co., in Donegal, Ireland, with producer Tommy McLaughlin, while the song’s poignant, cinematic video was directed by their regular collaborator Kate Dolan. —Scott Russell
Along with their 2018 one-off releases (“The Checks,” “White Flowers,” “Man of The Land”), “You Were In Love” is Real Lies’ first new music since their 2015 debut album Real Life, one of the best alternative-dance records of the past decade. “You Were in Love,” which comes with an accompanying video directed by Charlie Fegan, is a blurry, lovelorn reflection with frontman Kev Kharas reaching into the darkest corners of his psyche, trying to pick up the pieces of a world that’s just been shattered. Kharas has always excelled at channeling the sublime sadness and euphoria of the city in the earliest hours of the morning, and this touching, downtempo track chips away at the facade of an urban utopia. —Lizzie Manno
“Wrong” perfects the art of dreamy disarray. Its subtle guitar assault builds a brooding tension as Luke Koz’s vocals morph from sympathetic dream-pop to distorted psych-rock to unwavering hardcore. Whether they’re embracing noise rock, dream pop, gothic rock or blackgaze, Russian Baths make head-banging tumult sound elegant. —Lizzie Manno
“lucy,” the tense but sparkly five-minute track was one of Soccer Mommy’s darkest yet, finding her confronting her worst impulses in a dance with a shiny-eyed Lucifer. “yellow is the color of eyes,” kicks everything up a notch—sonically, visually and emotionally. Over seven minutes long, it boasts a visual from Her Smell director Alex Ross Perry (who also recently teamed up with Vivian Girls), plus harp and pedal steel from Mary Lattimore and Brett Resnick, respectively. —Amanda Gersten
Indie-pop duo Tennis sound fresh as ever on “Runner,” their first new music in almost three years and a romantic, groovy synth explosion that puts Alaina Moore’s soprano on full display. As per the usual, Tennis emphasizes aesthetic with this release. The “Runner” video has a forward-moving feel to it as Moore, clad in various ’70s-inspired silk suits, continuously sashays towards the edge of the frame. The pair dances around what looks like a vintage photo studio before Moore ascends above a starlit treeline. Then, the clip concludes with a passionate make-out session between husband and wife. We’ll give these two some space. —Ellen Johnson
If most of the material on The Louder I Call, Wye Oak’s 2018 album, was something like a wisp of smoke—diffuse and hazy, difficult to hold onto—”Fortune” feels like a steadily building flame, with a rawness and immediacy that recalls the duo’s 2011 record Civilian. “Fortune” takes up the constancy of change, swirling between soothing, calmly plucked guitar and churning, propulsive chaos that veers into wailing distortion. “Life is change. Change is loss,” says Wasner of the track. “This song is about how hard it is to let go, and the feeling of celebrating and mourning it all at once.” —Amanda Gersten
Listen to our Best Songs of November 2019 playlist on Spotify right here.